Sophie’s Channel Challenge

By Monica Ilett and edited by Sophie Etheridge. August 2023

This year the Lido has welcomed a number of new swimmers with various disabilities. With the closing of St Georges Hydrotherapy pool and several unfortunate periods when the City’s Regional pool had to close, a number of swimmers found or returned to the Lido. 

One such lady however was not a city resident, but had travelled to the Lido from Godmanchester about 20 miles away. She first appeared on opening day, the 1st of April, introducing herself as the founder of Adaptive and Disabled Open Water Swimmers, a group that aims to improve accessibility in open water swimming. She promptly signed up to become a member of the friends. 

Her name is Sophie Etheridge, an ambulant wheelchair user with multiple health issues. Sophie is an adaptive athlete with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, an is a disabled endurance swimmer and swimming coach based in Huntingdon. On her first visit to our Lido she promptly joined the Lido Friends even though the distance she needs to travel would daunt many abled bodied people. 

Sophie told us “It’s really great to have a lido that’s fully accessible, I shall be training here this season for my first solo English Channel swim, which is to raise awareness for swimmers with disabilities”. 

Sophie was in training and aimed to swim the English Channel in August to help raise the awareness of disability sport and to help raise funds for the Swimming Teachers’ Association (STA) charity campaign titled STARLIGHT. 

Despite the unseasonable chilly weather this summer Sophie was often to be seen swimming lengths of the pool as her training for her Channel swim challenge progressed In July while she was attempting a long 7500m swim in the Lido there was a thunderstorm which meant everyone had to get out of the pool. 

Her training progressed through the summer and Sophie travelled to many different open water and sea training events. On July 25th she officially completed her Channel swim training. On August the 15th we heard that BBC Radio Cambridgeshire had nominated her for one of the BBC ‘Make a Difference’ awards. 

In the second week of August she travelled to Dover to await the opening of the Channel swimming window (16th – 22nd August). Sophie’s stay in Dover was nerve-racking, wondering if she would get to swim or not but finally, on August 22nd a window in the weather meant her wait was over and at a little past midnight with the support team on the following boat, Sea Satin. She began her Channel challenge that was to be a world record-breaking epic swim.

..swim Sophie swim..

The tides and the winds in the channel swept Sophie in long curving sweeps until a heroic 29 hours and 4 minutes later she hit the French coast and crawled up the sandy beach in Calais.

The tides and weather determine her route.

We, the Friends of Peterborough Lido, followed your progress, Sophie; cheering you on at every stage and we were elated when you, not only smashed your challenge, but also broke record for the longest Channel swim for a female swimmer! We feel both honoured and privileged that you are part of our membership and hope to see you back in Peterborough Lido when you’ve recovered from your epic swim. 


If you would like to support Sophie’s campaign by a donation go to

https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/starlight-channelswim


A post script – words from part of Sophie’s reasons for her swim statement, inspirational words that sum up what she achieved.

To show people with and without disabilities to never put a limit on your abilities. If you want something, are willing to work for it and have the right support and people around you, you can achieve amazing things.

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