Sydenham High’s rowers have made a virtual transatlantic crossing to raise money to support rower and Cushing’s disease survivor Kiko Matthews’ attempt to become the fastest female to row the Atlantic, solo and unsupported, in aid of King’s College Hospital in South London. Kiko is hoping to raise £100K for a new Critical Care Unit at the hospital.
Twenty Sydenham High year 9 rowers plus Sixth Form captain of boats, Phoebe Emburey, and year 12 rowing scholar Darcy Quist, took to the school’s ergo machines to row the equivalent of the 3,000 miles that Kiko will be travelling when she sets off on her solo voyage in January 2018. They rowed during their regular training sessions and in break times to clock up the necessary miles and reach their target of £1,000 in sponsorship to donate to Kiko’s cause. The journey was tough but they were certainly thankful not to be encountering the 40ft waves that Kiko will face during her crossing!
Kiko decided to challenge herself to make the solo record attempt after being diagnosed with, and surviving, a rare and life-threatening disease caused by a pituitary tumour in 2009. She also determined to use the attempt to raise money for the new Critical Care Unit at King’s College Hospital, where she received her life-saving care and which successfully treated her for a second time this summer when the tumour returned.
The Sydenham High team was inspired to support Kiko after she was the guest speaker at senior school prize giving in July. They are one of one hundred female supporters and groups being recruited by Kiko through her 100TogetHER fundraising campaign.
In fact, when Kiko sets off on her journey she will not exactly be alone; the images of all her 100TogetHER supporters, including the Sydenham High rowers, will cover the inside of her tiny cabin to inspire her to keep going and achieve her goal when times get tough.
Only five women have ever crossed the Atlantic solo. Kiko is not only aiming to add her name to this prestigious list; she has also set herself the goal of making her crossing in just 45 days – 11 days faster than the current French female record holder. Sydenham High’s rowers will be right there with her, willing her to succeed.
“I am delighted to have Sydenham High’s rowers on board with me,” said Kiko. “This challenge is about them too; it proves that anyone can attempt anything given the right attitude, belief and support. I want to use my story to inspire women to challenge themselves on many levels. Whether a physical, social or mental challenge, recognising the journey and developments you make, is key to developing confidence and independence.”
“It was a privilege to hear Kiko’s inspirational story in July,” said Headmistress Katharine Woodcock. “Kiko certainly embodies our motto of Fear Nothing and we are very proud to be supporting her on her amazing journey for such a worthy cause.“
Rowing has been going from strength to strength at Sydenham High and is now one of its most popular sport options. From a half dozen rowers two years ago, the school is now accredited with GB rowing and has over 40 students from year 9 to year 13 actively enjoying the sport each week. A senior crew recently had the privilege of rowing the Queen’s barge Gloriana alongside a crew from Dulwich College.