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Offshore racing yachtsmen Hedley Calvert dies in Hobart

by Peter Campbell on 23 May 2013
Hedley Calvert photo for Hall of Fame Peter Campbell
One of Tasmanian most prominent and successful offshore racing yachtsmen over a sailing career spanning five decades, Hedley Calvert, died in Hobart today in his 80th year, after an extended illness.

Calvert was the eldest of the sons of Chas Calvert, a Huon Valley orchardist and yachtsman, with four generations of the Calvert family becoming successful yachtsmen, nationally and internationally.

Hedley Calvert followed his father as a prominent orchardist but sailing was his passion from boyhood, in Cadets and Rainbows before moving up into the Derwent keelboat class and then as a helmsman of many fine ocean racing yachts. His brothers, the late Barry Calvert and Don Calvert also became champion yachtsmen, with great success in the International Dragon class for both Barry and Don, and at the Admiral’s Cup for Don.

In 1965 Hedley had built the Huon Lass, designed by British naval architect Robert Clark who had designed the famous Caprice of Huon for his father 15 years previously. Huon Lass was a most competitive yacht in her class and with her began Hedley’s annual ritual of competing in Sydney Hobart races, 15 in total.

His second custom-designed boat was Huon Chief which he sailed to victory in the Australian One Ton Cup, also representing Australia in that class in the world championship at Newport, Rhode Island.

Huon Chief stands as an icon of Tasmania’s post-war yachting history in terms of sailability and construction.

Over his extended career as an offshore racing skipper, Hedley Calvert won each of Tasmania’s major ocean races: the Mewstone Race twice with Turua, the Bruny Island Race four times with Huon Lass and once with Huon Chief, and the Maria Island Race twice with Huon Lass.

One of Hedley’s most notable contributions to the sport of yachting was his autobiography ‘Always a Competitor’ which underlined his much-loved reputation as a Tasmanian yachtsman, orchardist and raconteur.

With such a heritage behind them, as a family, it was an exciting move to see Hedley embark on this project to record his own sailing experiences, in particular, for posterity, but also recording the history of a remarkable family of orchardists and yachtsman.

The book not only traced the history of the Calvert family from 1830 onwards as orchardists and yachtsmen, and Hedley’s own sailing career, but was full of invaluable hints to fellow competitors as an extensive of his regular column ‘Clewed Up’ in the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmanian magazine.

In 1974, he was awarded the Tasmanian Star of Sport and in 2010 he was inducted into the Tasmanian Yachting Hall of Fame for his contribution to yachting.

Following his racing career, Hedley cruised extensively including a voyage to New Zealand, Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Hedley and Judy also lived in Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for several years where Hedley was an active member of the Mooloolaba Yacht Club.

Hedley was a 53 year member of the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and also a member of the Huon Yacht Club.

Hedley Calvert is survived by his wife Judy and daughters Susan and Louise and by his brother Don. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

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