Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Saturday, 22 August 2009 17:44 UK

Crowds flock to birdman contest

Birdman competition
The contest was first staged in Worthing in 2008

Thousands of people have flocked to the birdman contest in Worthing to watch winged contestants try to flap or glide themselves off the town's pier.

The aviators have been attempting mechanically-unaided flight during the Worthing International Birdman which takes place on Saturday and Sunday.

It was moved to Worthing in 2008 after Bognor pier was shortened by 80ft (24m), making it unsafe for flyers.

There is a £30,000 prize for the person who flies furthest over 328ft (100m).

Competitor Steve Elkins came very close in his modified glider with his distance of 99.8m (327.4ft).

The weather has been lovely and there has been a fair bit of wind, which is what the competitors need
Sharon Clarke

But despite his disappointment he broke the event's long-standing record of 89.2m (292.6ft), set by Ron Freeman in 1992.

Singer Jonathan Ansell, a former tenor with the group G4, has been named as the event's benchmark flyer, the competitor who sets the distance that determines whether other contestants have flown or flopped.

Other contestants flying for fun, including Michael Keen, who will be dressed as a Hobbit from Lord of the Rings, Steven Bond as a giant puffin, James Wiggleworth as Inspector Gadget and John Donnelly in full Highland dress, will take part on the second day of the event on Sunday.

Ostrich costume

Ian Usher, 44, originally from Darlington but now living in Australia, will also take the plunge dressed as an ostrich.

He hit the headlines in 2008 when he put his "entire life" up for sale on auction site eBay after he split from his wife.

Sharon Clarke, organiser of the International Worthing Birdman, said: "This year has been fantastic. The weather has been lovely and there has been a fair bit of wind, which is what the competitors need.

"It's a real family event and is a little bit eccentric too."

She added: "The serious contenders will be wanting to get out there again tomorrow after Steve Elkins' close effort today. He has proved that it is possible to get close to the 100 metre mark and get the £30,000 prize on offer."

The contest raises thousands of pounds for charity every year and has attracted interest from around the world, even inspiring a similar event in China.

The first contest was held in 1971 at the nearby resort of Selsey with a £1,000 prize fund, rising later to £3,000, for a flight of 150ft (46m).



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SEE ALSO
Tenor to contest birdman flight
14 Jun 09 |  Sussex
Rough seas end Birdman contest
06 Jul 08 |  Sussex
New venue saves Birdman contest
09 May 08 |  Sussex
Council gives 15,000 for Birdman
07 May 08 |  Sussex
Bognor Birdman contest cancelled
09 Apr 08 |  Sussex

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