Kiko Matthews breaks Atlantic rowing record eight months after brain surgery

Kiko Matthews

Kiko Matthews has broken an Atlantic rowing record, eight months after having brain surgery.

Matthews, 36, arrived in Port St. Charles, Barbados late on 22nd March 2018, smashing the World Record as the fastest woman to complete a solo trans-Atlantic row.

Matthews finished the 3,000 mile journey, from Gran Canaria, single-handed and un-supported in 50 days, breaking the previous record of 56 days.

Born and raised in Herefordshire, Matthews, who only learnt to row last year, tackled the Atlantic in the 21-foot long Soma of Essex for up to 16 hours a day for seven weeks, slept in two hour shifts, dealt with 70-foot waves, sharks, hand and feet blisters and the least prevailing winds.

She has been her own doctor, mechanic, skipper, friend and worst enemy in one of the toughest physical and mental challenges known to man. Only six women have previously completed the journey solo.


In June 2017, WeAreTheCity spoke to Matthews about her decision to attempt the challenge.

She said, “It started as a personal challenge – something to keep me out of mischief but also, having been at a point so close to death, I wanted to show people how life can change what can be achieved with the right attitude and support.”

“I also hadn’t done any fundraising for King’s College Hospital, so this was a great opportunity to say thank you and give back to them for saving my life.”

Speaking about her support network, Matthews said, “I have a great team of people involved.”

“Some help more than others and interesting, mostly women but some men too.”

“There’s a real range.”

“It’s incredible how supportive everyone has been and I maybe don’t quite realise the enormity of what I am doing, but everyone seems to think it is inspirational and wants to be a part of it.”

Read Kiko’s full interview here.


Speaking about her achievement, Matthews said, “The thought that eight months ago I was lying in hospital having my brain operated on and now I am here having rowed the Atlantic, I guess I am a bit proud.”

“I have shown that anyone can attempt anything given the right attitude, belief, and support.”

“I want to use my story to inspire women to challenge themselves.”

“I didn’t get scared by the adverse conditions, I just got on with things.”

“What can you do about it?”

“You have no choice but to carry on, like in life.”

“It was a temporary relentlessness.”

“If I did ever get down, I thought of the people willing me on, I wanted to do it for them.”

“The stories they sent me supported me incredibly.”

“By the last two weeks, I was just totally content and at peace; I didn’t even listen to music.”

In completing the challenge, Matthews has so far raised over £70,000, of her target of £100,000, for King’s College Hospital Intensive Care Unit who twice removed a brain tumour from her. In 2009, she was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, a rare condition that made walking up stairs impossible. The tumour on her pituitary gland caused severe memory loss, psychosis, diabetes, osteoporosis, insomnia and muscle wastage. The second was removed in August 2017 whilst she was in training for the Atlantic crossing.

On land, she has been virtually powered by a team of women, through her 100TogetHER initiative. The collaboration of women from all walks of life, have come together to support Matthews financially and with skills highlighting what can be achieved through community, challenge and collaboration and it’s their names which adorn the boat.

Part of 100TogetHER is Britain’s most successful female Olympian, Katherine Grainger and Tracy Edwards – who skippered the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. She was also coached by Guin Batten, the 2000 Olympics silver medalist.

To donate to Matthew’s cause, click here.

Alison Simpson
About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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