Meet Rachel

Rachel Smith: Keynote Speaker, After Dinner, Awards & Educational Talks

#GuinessWorldRecord   #AtlanticRower   #Motivation   #WomenInBusiness

Rachel Smith is an Atlantic rower & World champion in Dragon Boat Racing.

Rachel made the news when she rowed across the Atlantic Ocean and set a new Guinness World Record in the process.  Rachel Smith has also represented Great Britain at 10 World and European Dragon Boat Racing Championships where she won an astounding 25 medals.  Many are surprised to learn that Rachel has achieved all this while balancing a successful, full-time career.

Rachel draws on her marketing and business background to ensure that messages arising from her sport and adventures have real resonance as well as practical application. Rachel delivers conference keynotes, after dinner or lunchtime talks, and inspirational presentations at a broad range of corporate events.  Engaging and modest, Rachel’s enthusiasm is infectious as her testimonials demonstrate:

‘The theme of our Conference was “Reach for the Stars – realising organisational and personal potential” and you were a fabulous illustration of what can happen when you look beyond the ordinary and challenge yourself to do the extraordinary. A truly exceptional account of a truly amazing and awe-inspiring achievement.‘ 


Rachel has the ability to reach audiences no matter what their age or status. Speaking regularly for corporate clients across all sectors, Rachel also enjoys working for The Prince’s Trust, schools and universities to encourage young people to make the most of opportunities and believe they can set and achieve their own goals.

What Clients Say

‘We always knew you would be a fantastic speaker and you proved us right. It was such a polished presentation of an enormous achievement and not a dry eye in the house.  You so deserved your standing ovation. I have had numerous letters and phone calls all of the same opinion "superb speaker, truly inspirational."’   
Eddisbury Tangent


'We were so pleased that Rachel could come and speak for us. She was fantastic company at the meal – a real conversational delight and then her talk was superb. She really spoke to the themes we had discussed, introduced some humour which put people at ease and used a relaxed style to deliver some really inspirational stories.'



‘Rachel was brilliant and extremely engaging. Absolutely amazing.’
Allen Carr’s Easyway (International)


‘Your story is extremely exciting, yet demonstrates clearly just what can be achieved with determination and by setting the right goals. Your delivery used humour, emotion and fantastic imagery to get messages across. The audience was captivated and inspired.  All attendees rated the presentation good or excellent and they are still talking about it round the offices!’
Croyden Council


‘Rachel amazed the audience with her tales of endurance and determination - they couldn’t wait to see what the next slide revealed.  Her talk was both inspiring and funny - she has a great natural warmth and immediately connected with the audience.’
East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce


'It is always difficult to pitch a talk at the right level for any audience but Rachel got it right. Judging from the amazing amount of questions (technical as well as amusing) from the audience at the end Rachel was a great success.’
British Heart Foundation


‘Sincere thanks for the wonderful speech you gave at our dinner.  Not only was your talk extremely interesting and informative but also so entertaining.  You are an inspiration for all of us.’
Women in Business Event


‘You were a fabulous illustration of what can happen when you look beyond the ordinary and challenge yourself to do the extraordinary. A truly exceptional account of a truly amazing and awe-inspiring achievement.‘


‘I have been bowled over by the feedback from the team and our guests, who were profoundly moved and inspired by the courage and dedication of Rachel on her journey.’

The Haven


‘Rachel provides an inspirational story of a lady on a mission to do something different. She tells a great tale of the trials and tribulations that go with leaving behind a steady job to embark on an adventure of epic proportions.  Anyone lacking in motivation should go listen to Rachel. She's the epitome of when you put your mind to something you can achieve great things.’
Adventure Travel Show


‘Rachel your talk was of the best we have ever had and I assure you we have had some good speakers.  Everyone really enjoyed the evening and you were indeed inspirational!’
Women’s Institute

Speaking for Schools

School Testimonials

Rachel has spoken at school Career Days, given motivational talks to children of all ages and delivered inspirational talks as the guest speaker at Annual Awards and Speech Days.  Rachel is available to give talks at staff INSET days and she has also given talks to university and college students.


'Rachel is a gifted, inspirational speaker who effortlessly captures the interest and full engagement of her audience, irrespective of age. She conveys the awe and wonder of her accomplishments, alongside great determination, resilience and optimism.  All of us were moved to tears as she immersed us in her story and we all stepped of the boat with her, as she sailed in to Antigua!  Put simply, Rachel captivates and enthuses her audience, filling everyone with the utmost belief that they too have the capacity ‘to row their own ocean’ and realise their dreams and ambitions in life!'
Woodlands Primary School


‘The children absolutely loved Rachel's talk, as did the staff.  Indeed the Headmaster has mentioned her twice in assemblies since Friday (and we have only had two!)’
Port Regis School


‘Rachel was absolutely amazing.  She did everything that we asked and more!  Her story was fantastic and if the dragon boat story was not enough the rowing of the Atlantic was just mind blowing.  An inspirational young lady who has achieved more than one person could ever imagine.  The girls found her amazing.’
Burgess Hill School for Girls


‘I am not sure I can describe adequately in this email just how wonderful Rachel was.  Her talk was pitched perfectly at the audience and her delivery was absolutely spot on.  I don’t think we have ever had a speaker that has connected so well with the candidates at one of our presentation evenings.’
Duke of Edinburgh Awards Evening


'Rachel was able to engage a very wide-ranging audience that included children and family from 5 to about 80.  I have heard another Head describe her as the most ordinary extra-ordinary person she had met. This is a very true description of a person who has achieved great things but is modest and understated in her approach.  As she tells her story you feel as though you are on her boat with her.  I think we will all remember to give things a chance and to step out of our comfort zones!'

Castle Court


'We certainly will be inviting Rachel back.  She pitched her talk brilliantly and held the students' attention throughout.  Even our handful of 'macho' boys were spellbound.  I have had excellent feedback.'

Reigate Grammar School


‘Rachel spoke at the opening ceremony of our National Championships in front of 2500 college students. To hold the attention of that number of teenagers from all areas of the UK is a triumph in itself but added to her inspirational and uplifting story, the whole event was a tremendous success.  I challenge anyone not to be moved and then inspired by Rachel.’
British Colleges Sport



Rachel Smith has represented Great Britain at ten World and European Dragon Boat Racing Championships and holds an astounding 25 medals. In 2008, Rachel joined the small group of elite women who have successfully rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, setting a new Guinness World Record in the process. Many are surprised to learn that Rachel has achieved all this while balancing a successful and full-time career.
At her speaking engagements, Rachel draws on her marketing and business background to ensure that the messages arising from her sport and adventures have real resonance as well as practical application. Engaging and modest, Rachel’s enthusiasm is infectious and she has the ability to reach audiences no matter what their age or status. In addition to corporate clients, she has worked regularly for The Prince’s Trust and a number of schools, encouraging young people to make the most of opportunities and work towards goals.
Rachel wasn’t particularly good at sports but at her school in the North West of England she was introduced to kayaking and dragon boat racing and loved it. Following studies in Equine Science and Business, Rachel worked in Italy and the USA before changing career and returning to the UK to work for the Bank of Scotland in telemarketing. A year later, Rachel put forward an idea that resulted in a move into marketing to research and launch a new product on behalf of the bank.
An opportunity to pick up Dragon Boat Racing again saw Rachel at the first World Championships in China in 1995, and inspired by Olympic coaches such as David Hemery, Rachel realised what could be achieved if you really want to do something and are prepared to focus on taking the steps to succeed. She uses the powerful coaching question of ‘What’s stopping you?’ to help identify and overcome personal barriers.
As part of the GB team as a paddler and helm, Rachel won 25 World and European Championship medals, a world-record for the 1,000m Women’s event and a host of other international titles. Rachel knows that winning at competitive sport can only come with a real understanding of teamwork, staying focused during tough times, and using techniques such as visualisation to achieve goals.
It was friend and solo trans-Atlantic rower Debra Searle who encouraged Rachel to take on the Atlantic challenge. Rachel decided to row in the two-handed Atlantic race with her friend Lin to raise funds for Breast Cancer Care having lost her Grandmother to the disease. For Rachel, raising awareness and funds was taken as seriously as training to row an ocean and she raised over £65,000 for the charity.
During talks, Rachel brings alive the experience of rowing the Atlantic – two hours on and two hours off, day after day and week after week. In February 2008 after 76 gruelling days at sea, Rachel and Lin arrived in Antigua having survived a terrifying capsize just 300 miles from the finish line. They won the Women's pairs class, setting a new world record which still stands today.
Following sixteen years in financial services marketing, Rachel took voluntary redundancy. She spent 6 years working on a variety of contracts for employers as diverse as the UK Hydrographic Office, The Prince’s Trust, Chester Zoo and a multi-million pound start up business, NextGear Capital! She was also an ocean rowing and sailing correspondent for the online boating community, YachtPals.
Rachel joined Cheshire Search and Rescue team as a volunteer in 2010 and is now an accredited Search Manager, Trustee of the charity and heavily involved in the day to day running of a team, whose primary function is to search for missing people. Through CSAR and a part time role with Jigsaw Medical Services, she has regularly worked and trained with medical professionals, and over the last few years, this has provided the motivation for her to embark on a new career in 2015 training as a Paramedic with West Midlands Ambulance Service.
Rachel’s book about the rowing challenge is called ‘Antigua or Bust’.
Continually challenging herself by setting goals and wishing to try new things, Rachel has acquired her full motorcycle licence and is an advanced driver, is qualified to scuba dive, sail and drive a power boat. In her ‘spare’ time she enjoys surfing, horse riding, and walking. In the summer of 2009 she took part in a 39-mile kayak marathon with her cousin. Together they paddled the length of Loch Lomond, Windermere and Bala Lake in just 14.5 hours (including the driving) and raised over £2,300 for Christie's Hospital.


Read Rachel's Book


Discover more of Rachel's story in Antigua or Bust! The Atlantic Rowing Challenge - 3,000 miles, 76 days, a 24-foot boat and 2 determined women

This book takes you on an honest and emotional journey as Rachel recounts the months of planning and preparation with its many ups and downs, before the pair faced 30-foot waves, wildlife with big teeth and rowed naked during their life at sea together for eleven weeks in a 24-foot boat!  Highly recommended.  Rachel is happy to offer a book-signing following a talk when appropriate.  Contact us if you'd like to organise signed copies for your delegate packs or to give to clients as a special thank you at an after dinner event.


In The News

Rachel Smith has appeared on This Morning, Ready Steady Cook and Granada Reports in addition to numerous interviews about rowing the Atlantic and Dragon Boat Racing on television, radio and in newspapers and magazines.

‘Even when their boat capsized, Rachel Smith and her rowing partner continued with their quest to row the Atlantic for charity.  Bobbing up and down in their rowboat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as she gazed up at the stars, it suddenly dawned on Rachel the she was finally living her dream.  After three and a half years of planning, training and raising sponsorship money, Rachel and Lin had embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. With just each other for company for 76 days, 11 hours and 12 minutes, they overcame injuries, sunburn and even a capsized boat.  Stepping off the boat she could barely stand and couldn’t walk without assistance. Not only unused to being on a surface that wasn’t constantly moving, but her leg muscles weren’t working properly because she’d been rowing for so long.’  Daily Express


‘Towing their bright pink and heavily logo-ed boat into a service station, Rachel Smith had just climbed out of the car when a woman suddenly thrust a £20 note into her hand. ‘I think what you’re doing is marvellous,’ she said, ‘Good luck.’  Most sailors are wary of crossing the Atlantic in a well-found yacht, so imagine doing the same trip in a 7m (23ft) open boat, powered by just two pairs of oars. But for Rachel, the lure of 2,935nm of open ocean was just too hard to resist.’  Practical Boat Owner


‘Rachel Smith recently returned from the European Dragon Boat Racing championships in Poland with three gold and two silver medals. This takes her medal tally to an astonishing 19 – five gold, six silver and eight bronze.’  Boating Business


‘Chester based Rachel Smith was part of the victorious Great Britain Dragonboat Team that returned from the 2000 European Championships in Malmo, Sweden with a clutch of medals.  As well as collecting three gold, six silver and four bronze medals, Britain also took the Nations Cup for the first time. The championship was particularly sweet for Rachel who came back with two Golds – medals that had so far eluded her.’  Chester Chronicle


How to book Rachel?

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to check Rachel's availability and to discuss how she tailors her talks for corporate and educational audiences.  Rachel is based in NW England and travels to engagements throughout the UK and Europe.