Thursday 23 March 2017

Birdman competitors take the plunge

A competitor leaps off the pier at the Worthing International Birdman competition in Worthing, West Sussex
A competitor leaps off the pier at the Worthing International Birdman competition in Worthing, West Sussex

Fearless aviators in the eccentric Worthing International Birdman competition have leapt for glory into the English Channel in makeshift contraptions.

Fun flyers in joke outfits went wing-to-wing with serious contenders by hurling themselves from a specially-constructed 35ft-high platform on Worthing Pier, West Sussex.

In front of thousands of people who had crowded on the seafront, the seriously-minded adventurers vied for a £10,000 jackpot on offer to anyone able to fly the furthest over 100 metres (328ft).

On Saturday, the first day of the event, high winds forced the abandonment of the contest after just two of nine attempts by serious competitors as gusts hit almost 20mph. But on Sunday there was bright sunshine and the wind speed was limited to around 14mph, proving to be ideal weather conditions for the madcap aviators.

They included Joel Hicks who jumped off the side of the pier dressed as David Hasselhoff, complete with a yellow Baywatch vest and a specially-made Knightrider car.

He was followed by Kerry Jennings and Lee Murray as Buzz Lightyear and Jessie from Toy Story, then later Hugh Wastnage as a bacon, lettuce and tomato Subway sandwich.

Before leaping to raise cash for the Chestnut Tree House children's hospice near Arundel, he said: "If there is ever a last sandwich to have before a jump, then this is it."

Hazel Smith walked up to the platform clutching dozens of balloons after being inspired by movie character Carl Fredricksen from the 2009 CGI film Up. She wore a grey wig, a suit and a bow-tie bought from a charity shop before performing a bizarre jig and leaping into the sea in aid of the Children's Integrated Playscheme.

None of the serious contenders managed to grab the £10,000 jackpot, with final entrant Bill Brooks going closest by flying 78.4 metres after spending 14 seconds in the air. He won prize money of £3,250.

Initially, reigning Worthing Birdman champion Toby Quantrill took the lead by reaching 42 metres, well short of the 81 metres he managed last year. New Zealander Roger Warren went for 53.5 metres and Birdman veteran and former winner Tony Hughes, flying his X plane, reached 65.4 metres.

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