By Alasdair McIntosh
Mr Francis Highton, an Old Hamptonian and geography teacher at Hampton School, is a very passionate rower and swimmer. He was a national swimmer in his teens, and took up rowing at the age of 15 to help with swimming and to find a new sport that he enjoyed. “At that stage I started rowing,” he told HSC, “because I wasn’t good at any other sports.” But after trying rowing for the first time, Mr Highton found out not only that he enjoyed the sport – he adored it. “I sort of just fell in love with rowing,” he told HSC. Soon, swimming took a back seat and Mr Highton became a very skilled rower.
After graduating from university, Mr Highton decided to take his rowing to the next level. He moved down to Henley-on-Thames and joined Leander Club, hoping to make it into the GB senior rowing team. At that point, Mr Highton had already had experiences with GB rowing. When he was at school he raced in the Coupe de la Jeunesse, and in 2013 he competed again as an under 23.
With his university, Mr Highton became a two time Henley finalist. The first time he was beaten by Harvard by one length. (One length roughly equals to one and a half seconds.) The second time was against Yale University. This time he lost by two lengths.
Whilst at Leander Club, Mr Highton became involved in all sorts of experiences. He rowed in Vancouver and Hong Kong, and also took part in RowZambezi. This was where he rowed the 2,574km river, facing dangerous animals such as Hippos and Crocodiles. “Rowing here (in the UK) there is no chance of ever running into something that could potentially eat you,” said Mr Highton as he explained his biggest fear of the Zambezi River. “Going there I was very aware that animals such as hippos and crocodiles can kill you and can eat humans.”
Since Mr Highton moved back here to work at Hampton, he had to leave Leander Club but he still rows a lot. Now he rows for Tyrian Rowing Club. Although rowing was Mr Highton’s main sport, he still swam throughout all his experiences. He told HSC that, at this point, he probably swims more than he rows.
“Every time you got out of the water the environment changed, the weather changed it, was fantastic. It was a brilliant experience and I sort of just fell in love with the sport from that moment on. I had some great coaches that helped me do everything.”