Navy Lieutenant Commander Juliet MacLean is making history for a second time, as part of the New Zealand Defence Force rowing squad to compete for the King’s Cup.
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 to their home countries after the First World War.
In July 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.
It will be the first time men and women have raced in the same boat at the elite, international event, and Lieutenant Commander MacLean said that was a “huge deal”.
“It’s 100 years since it was raced, and it’s the first time there will be mixed-gender boats, so it does feel like a big deal,” she said.
She was particularly pleased to be showing daughter India, 10, and son Jacob, 12, that women should not be held back simply because they’re women.
“I want India to feel as if she can do anything. Just because she’s female there’s nothing that should be unavailable to her, including physical hard work,” she said.
Lieutenant Commander MacLean is no stranger to making history, and both times have involved rowing at Henley-on-Thames. In 1996 she rowed for Oxford University against Cambridge in the 50th women’s Boat Race — the first time it had been televised.
She said she rowed intensely while at university and for a few years after joining the Royal Navy as a helicopter observer. She served for 12 years before moving to New Zealand with husband Commander Graham MacLean nine years ago and settling in Khandallah, Wellington.
“Now I will return to represent New Zealand and our Defence Force. I think it is fantastic that the team is represented by all three services, officers and other ranks, and men and women. It just feels really inclusive, and I am very proud to be part of it,” she said.
“We talk about an integrated Defence Force, and here we are doing it.”
The NZDF squad for the event is: 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).