Royal New Zealand Air Force Flying Officer Connor Broughton chose flying over rowing when he left Rotorua's John Paul College, so he's rapt to be combining the two as part of the New Zealand Defence Force King's Cup squad.

It's 100 years since six nations – New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and France – competed for the cup as troops waited to return home after World War I.

This year those six nations will be joined by Germany and The Netherlands to race for the cup as part of the Henley Royal Regatta at Henley-on-Thames in England from July 5 to 7.

It will be the first time men and women have raced in the same boat at the elite, international event – something Broughton is embracing.

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The NZDF rowing eight training at Lake Karapiro. Photo/ Vera Bucsu | Art of Rowing NZ
The NZDF rowing eight training at Lake Karapiro. Photo/ Vera Bucsu | Art of Rowing NZ

"I think it's fantastic that it's a mixed boat. You need a balance in all organisations, men and women, and times are definitely changing for the better."

Broughton grew up in Rotorua, where mother Paula is a cardiac clinical nurse specialist and father Evan a firefighter.

Sister Olivia is a police officer in Rotorua, while brother Jack works with a dive company in Australia.

Broughton joined the RNZAF after finishing at John Paul College, where he was a rower and a prefect.

"I talked to a few coaches at universities in the United States with a view to getting into study over there and getting into rowing.

"But I've always wanted to be a pilot, so that took precedence over rowing," he said.

He hasn't done any rowing for the past three years, focusing solely on becoming a pilot, so jumped at the opportunity to try out when he found out about the King's Cup.

"It's not just joining a rowing team – it's joining a rowing team for a big event. I have put in the hard work in training and will hope for the best in the race," he said.

"Both the regatta and the race are rich in tradition and to be in the place of the original crew, well, there's no excuse for not training."

The NZDF squad for the event is: Leading Aircraftman Alex Hill (coxswain), Major Emily Hume, Lieutenant Commander Juliet MacLean, Corporal Rebekah Salt, Flying Officer Connor Broughton, Sub Lieutenant Rob Creasy, Lieutenant Ricky Daniel-Nield, Lance Corporal Mark Evans, Private Ryan Flintoft, Second Lieutenant Ashton Lovell, Lance Corporal Jack Proudfoot, Ordinary Rate Cathan Tamarapa, Rachel Gamble-Flint (coach), Wing Commander Rhys Taylor (manager).

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