Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Sunday, 23 August 2009 18:27 UK

Birdmen fall short of cash prize

Birdman 2009 competition
Competitors dressed as Laurel and Hardy "take off" in a model plane

Winged contestants in bizarre costumes and makeshift contraptions have spent a second day trying to flap or glide off Worthing pier in West Sussex.

In front of thousands of spectators, the more serious-minded aviators vied for a £30,000 prize for the person able to fly furthest over 328ft (100m).

They were attempting a mechanically-unaided flight during the Worthing International Birdman.

Steve Elkins came the closest in his modified glider with 327.4ft (99.8m).

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

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

Mr Freeman, 53, from Newbiggin-by-the-sea, Northumberland, flew the furthest on Sunday with a flight of just over 206.6ft (63m) in his glider dubbed the Geordie Flyer.

He came second to Mr Elkins on Saturday with a distance of 282ft (86.04m), and described it as one of the best Birdman contests to date.

The family camaraderie in the town has been great and it is wonderful to see such a buzz around here
Sharon Clarke, organiser, International Worthing Birdman

"It is on a par to 2003 when I competed against Richard Branson when he sponsored the competition," Mr Freeman said.

"We could have done with a bit more wind to carry us a bit further but overall it has been fantastic."

Other entrants included Michael Keen flying as a Hobbit from Lord of the Rings, James Wigglesworth as Inspector Gadget and John Donnelly in full Highland dress.

Ian Usher, 44, originally from Darlington but now living in Australia, also took 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.

Birdman 2009 competition
An entry from Five TV's the Gadget Show takes off from Worthing Pier

Having sold his life, he devised a list of 100 things to do in 100 weeks, which included the birdman contest.

He said: "Mine was more of a plummet than a flight. I think I got somewhere between one and two metres.

"The platform that we had to jump from is scarily high but it was great fun."

Sharon Clarke, organiser of the International Worthing Birdman, said: "The family camaraderie in the town has been great and it is wonderful to see such a buzz around here.

"This weekend has been a total success."

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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