Wayne Bretsch, who will run Circle 4, has been a fixture on the sailboat racing scene for over three decades. He’s been an active member of race committees at events up and down the East Coast – and occasionally in the Great Lakes Region. He's the only person to have served as PRO at events that won US Sailing’s St. Petersburg Trophy in two consecutive years – the National Hospice Championship Regatta at Rochester, NY and the Beneteau 36.S North American’s at the Annapolis Yacht Club.
Bretsch, who now lives on Dataw Island, SC, grew on the Thousand Islands of the Saint Lawrence River in Northern New York State. He was always intrigued by sailing and bought his first sailboat at age 14 after working all summer to raise the funds. After marrying his wife Gretchen in 1972, Bretsch and Gretchen crewed on other people’s boats on the Chesapeake and eventually bought their own boat.
He owned and campaigned a series of boats from a Pearson 30 to a Beneteau 345 to a J/24 and J/22. “We always had a great crew and were very successful on the water,” he recalls. Now retired from a career in public school education, he continues to compete when he has time, racing in the MC Scow Class.
Bretsch is one of the most experienced race officers around. Highlights from his career as a race officer include nearly 20 years as a PRO at Key West Race Week. He’s also held that role at Block Island Race Week, the J/22 Worlds, the Lightning North Americans, the Beneteau 36.7 North Americans (five or six times) and the Can Am Cup, as well as helping at the Melges 24 Worlds and North Americans and countless other events.
He has been a PRO at Sperry Charleston Race Week at least eight times over the years. For him, the allure of this regatta lies in the format and the special nature of Charleston. “Charleston is one of the premier regattas in the country, and it’s really an honor for me to be part of it. Some of that is due to the people involved, and a lot of it is due to the fact that a three-day regatta is just about the perfect length for most competitors. Of course, Charleston is a great place to race. The regatta venue right there on the beach, well, you really can’t beat it.”
As for his philosophy regarding race management, Bretsch says it’s all based on keeping one key question in mind. “Always ask yourself and the other members of your committee, ‘if I were a racer, what would I want the committee to do right now?’ That’s always prevalent in my mind when I’m running races. And the other important thing is to be transparent. You do that by openly communicating specific information to the competitors. You don’t want them to be guessing, so let them know very clearly what is going on and why. You have to keep them informed. When it comes down to it, why are any of us out there on the water? We’re out there to provide fair, fun racing, and that means keeping the competitors outlook firmly in mind.”