Meet Kiko Matthews: the incredible woman attempting a World Record solo row across the Atlantic

In 2009, Kiko Matthews was diagnosed with a life-threatening pituitary tumour, which left her barely able to get up the stairs or out of the bath.

Kiko Matthews

Eight years later, Matthews is pushing her physical and mental boundaries in the hope of creating a new world record for rowing solo across the Atlantic – at total of 3,000 miles. Having never rowed before, Matthews hopes to break the French female world record of 56 days, by completing the challenge in just 45 days – knocking 11 days off. If she is successful, she will become only the seventh woman to complete the crossing.

In order to support her throughout the challenge, Matthews creating the 100TOGETHER campaign. 100TOGETHER is a community of women, promoting challenge, community and collaboration – showing other women that they can achieve anything if we work together and support one another.

Matthews is looking for 100 women to support her, both emotionally and financially, in her world record rowing attempt. Matthews also hopes to raise £100,000 for Kings College Hospital, for saving her life in 2009.

Speaking about the 100TOGETHER campaign, Matthews said, “During my TransAtlantic journey, I have learnt so much and met so any people and had some amazing experiences which would never have happened if I hadn’t set out on this crazy challenge.”

“I am growing in confidence everyday and want every woman to be inspired by that and go and set themselves a challenge utilising the amazing women around them and recognising what happens to them along the way.”

“I am already thinking about the future of 100TOGETHER and creating a sustainable model for it where the members can network but also mentor and lead other women through challenges – essentially women enabling women to become empowered. I have a long time at sea to come up with the exact idea but I definitely want this to be something that continues into the future.”

Below, we speak to Matthews about how she’s feeling about the challenge and the reasons behind it:

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background

I studied molecular biology at university and went on to become a science teacher. When I was diagnosed with a life threatening pituitary tumour, life took a turn for the better! I was treated and ‘cured’ and chose to set up a charity based around education and the outdoors and a stand-up paddleboarding company. At the end of the summer 2016, I felt confident enough to take on my next big challenge – a physical one this time – to solo row the Atlantic in a world record attempt to be the fastest woman to make the unsupported 3000 mile crossing. In October i started to learn to row!

Tell us a bit about the 100TOGETHER campaign?

As a team player (ironically) and having been single for most of my adult life, I have always been drawn to women for community and support and have really discovered the benefits of collaboration. Challenging myself has really lead me to be a confident and empowered woman and I am passionate about every other woman discovering and experiencing what i have. I set up 100TOGETHER, avoiding corporate sponsorship, to involve 100 (or more) women, in the record attempt and promoting community and collaboration – showing that any challenge can be overcome or achieved if we work together and support one and other. With the photos of every woman inside my cabin, the team will be incremental in not only getting me to the start line but also emotionally powering me across the Atlantic. Each ‘woman’ (can be a group, business or individual) is being asked to donate £1k in exchange for a package of goodies as well as being part of a community of awesome women and the world Record team.

Kiko Matthews

Why did you decide to embark on the campaign?

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.

As time has gone on and my journey has developed, I have reflected on a lot and have really fallen in love with the message that I am trying to promote – the power of challenge in overcoming adversity, developing resilience and becoming empowered as well as the importance of collaboration and community amongst women. I have always wanted the best for other people and I am hoping that this will be an opportunity to develop 100TOGETHER with a future, but also inspire other women to do what they want and challenge themselves in some way. The whole challenge, for me, is now far more about this than it being about my personal achievement.

Have you ever rowed or done anything like this before?

No to the rowing and no to such a massive physical endurance challenge! However, much of this challenge will be mental and I have overcome many challenges in life, of some form or other, so feel I am now ready to take on that aspect of the challenge. I was fortunately born with muscle, a love for the outdoors and sport so this bit has been the easy part! I’m also very determined and a little competitive so that helps. Fundraising and setting up the campaign has been the hard bit! So much learning but this is the whole purpose of challenge – learning!

How have you been preparing for the challenge?

Lots of training – cycling, paddleboarding, gym, British Military Fitness and some rowing of course! I am being trained by an Olympic rower, Guin Batten and world record holder Charlie Pitcher, who did the crossing in 35 days. I’m using his boat too – it’s the best in the world and I love it! There is a training program all set out so by the time I leave, I’m sure I’ll be ready to break the record (56 days but I’m aiming for 45!)

In terms of constructing the brand, the fundraising etc, I have just had to ask, ask, ask, trying every avenue and person possible. I am also living off cheese sandwiches and water! I’ve given up all the usual nice things that someone my age should be having – no holidays, going out or shopping! But I am rewarded in many other ways by the people I meet and the opportunities that have come my way since embarking on this. I’m a very fortunate woman!

Kiko Matthews

What are the biggest challenges you are anticipating?

Being at sea alone for so long! To be honest, I think getting to the start line is probably the hardest challenge. What’s more, I’m currently having tests again for the recurrence of the tumour. The disease is a long way off where I was last time when I nearly died, and they are under strict instructions to get on with it, take it out and let me get back to what I have planned! It picked the wrong woman to come back on! It helps that I’m fit and healthy and have an attitude that won’t let this stop anything.

Who is supporting you in this challenge? Do you have a mentor/sponsor?

I have a great team of people involved. Some help more than others and interestingly, 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 part of it. In terms of sponsors, the idea is to stick to the 100TOGETHER. I have moments where I freak out and worry I am going to have to go corporate, but then I take a step back and my faith returns. It’s going to be hard work but it will be worth it in the end when I have an incredible woman powered boat and campaign. I want to make history twice fold – it will be the first ever challenge done like this.

How can people help you complete the challenge?

Obviously, I’d love every woman to Join 100TOGETHER – as a group, an individual or through their business. But I understand that’s not necessarily possible for everyone so equally important, is to raise the money for King’s College Hospital. I also need contacts, networking, talk opportunities, PR, someone to sort the filming, and just people to support me on social media (all @Kikomatthews). Moments like these, when I write down what I’m doing and talking about the power of collaboration and community, it makes me very excited! Fingers crossed, we can prove that any challenge can be achieved, whatever the odds!

To find out more about Kiko and how to get involved in the 100TOGETHER challenge, click here or watch the video below:

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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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