THE Australian and Tasmanian rowing communities are in mourning following the death of Reginald Free on Saturday.
The 67-year-old's achievements rank him as one of Tasmania's finest oarsmen, having represented the state 11 times and Australia three times from 1962 to 1977.
After leaving Tasmania, Free became one of Queensland's greatest rowing coaches, helping his son Duncan to become an Olympic champion.
Rowing Tasmania president Jim Gibson said the news cast a shadow over the weekend's state championships at Lake Barrington where many of the trophies presented had Free inscribed among the previous winners.
"A lot of people were very upset," Gibson said.
"He played a big part in rowing in the state and not only did he leave a legacy to his son but the whole Tasmanian rowing community."
Born on May 6, 1943, in Tasmania, the Buckingham club member rowed in more King's Cups than any other Tasmanian oarsman and was just 19 years old when first selected in Ballarat.
In 1967, Free became the first Tasmanian oarsman to be chosen to row in the Australian men's eight, his crew finishing sixth in the world championships in Vichy, France.
After concluding his career and coaching in Tasmania, Free moved with his wife Helen and three children Marcus, Anita and Duncan to Queensland in 1983 and it is from here that he began coaching his sons to state, national and international victories.
Free coached numerous Queensland King's Cup crews in the 1990s, taking Duncan to a record seven wins in the President's Cup (interstate men's single scull).
One of Free's unique achievements was coaching sons Marcus and Duncan in the men's double scull at two world championships, winning a bronze medal at Aiguebelette, France, in 1997.
Duncan also won a bronze medal with Australia's quadruple sculls crew in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and then a gold with Drew Ginn in the coxless pairs in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Rowing Australia high-performance director Chris O'Brien said: "Reg was a stalwart of not only Tasmanian and Queensland rowing but of Australian rowing as a whole and his presence will be sorely missed. He was a passionate and dedicated coach and the rowing community has lost a true champion of the sport."
In 1987, Free was inducted into Tasmania's Sport Hall of Fame and in November 2014 was awarded Gold Coast volunteer of the year in recognition of his efforts in building the sport of rowing.
Reg Free's funeral will be on Thursday at Newlife Uniting Church, Robina, Queensland.