International Birdman

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International Birdman Series
Genre Birdman Rally
Dates Bognor Regis 2014 event cancelled[1]
12–13 July 2014 (Worthing)
Location(s) Bognor Regis, West Sussex
and Worthing, West Sussex
Years active 1971 - Present
(1971-1977 – Selsey)
(1978-2007; 2010-2013 – Bognor Regis)
(2008-present – Worthing)
Bognor Birdman
Worthing Birdman

The International Birdman is a series of two competitions held in Bognor Regis and Worthing, in West Sussex, England. The competition which involves human 'birdmen' attempting to fly off the end of a pier into the sea for prize money. The event began in 1971 and has always been held on piers in West Sussex, on the south coast of England. First held in Selsey, the event moved to Bognor Regis in 1978. In 2008 and 2009 the competition relocated to Worthing Pier due to renovations of Bognor Regis Pier. From 2010 Bognor Regis and Worthing have both held Birdman competition, forming the International Birdman Series. [2] [3] It is the oldest Birdman Rally in the world.


The competition involves running off an elevated ramp of 20 to 35 feet high at the end of a pier and attempting to 'fly' the furthest distance. There was an initial prize of £1,000 for anyone who could travel beyond 50 yards (46 m). Since starting, the prize money and qualifying distance has increased and in 2009 at Worthing it stood at £30,000 for reaching 100 metres (330 ft). The competition is divided between serious aviators mainly flying hang-gliders Condor Class, inventors with home designed and built machines, Leonardo da Vinci Class, and people in fancy dress with little or no actual flying ability, Kingfisher Class, raising money for charity.


The event started in 1971 as the International Bird-Man Rally in Selsey on the coast of Sussex. The event was initiated by George Abel, as part of a fund-raising activity for the Selsey branch of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) Club. Abel, a former RAF photographer, emigrated to Australia shortly afterwards, where he also helped to organise Birdman events.[4]

In 1978 organisers were informed they could no longer use the pier at Selsey and the event was moved to Bognor Regis.[5] By 1983 the competition had attracted European teams and the attention of the BBC. In 2008, because of the demolition of an 18 metre (60 ft) length of the end of Bognor pier, the 2008 Birdman event was not staged in Bognor, due to safety concerns over water depth at high tide being 13 feet (4.0 m) at the new end of the pier. The 2008 and 2009 competitions were held in Worthing as a result of the safety concerns. After safety checks in 2009 the water depth was cleared by the Health and Safety Executive as safe for competition. Events have subsequently been staged in both Worthing and Bognor Regis, creating the International Birdman Series, but Bognor's 2014 event was cancelled.[1]


In 1984 Harold Zimmer (Germany) flew 57.8 metres to claim the top prize, which then stood at £10,000. By 1990 the record was 71 metres, the prize distance had been increased to 100 metres and the prize money was £25,000. The prize money now stands at £30,000 for successfully reaching 100m.

Year Venue Competitor Distance
1984 Bognor Regis
West Germany Harold Zimmer
57.8 metres (190 ft)
2007 Bognor Regis
United Kingdom Ron Freeman

2008 Worthing
United Kingdom Ron Freeman
85.9 metres (282 ft)
2009 Worthing
United Kingdom Steve Elkins
99.86 metres (327.6 ft)

2010 Bognor Regis
United Kingdom Ron Freeman

2010 Worthing
United Kingdom Toby Quantrill
81.0 metres (265.7 ft)
2011 Bognor Regis
Not awarded due to poor weather

2011 Worthing
United Kingdom Tony Hughes
65.4 metres (215 ft)
2012 Bognor Regis
United Kingdom Ron Freeman

2012 Worthing
United Kingdom Ron Freeman
85.7 metres (281 ft)
2013 Bognor Regis

2013 Worthing
United Kingdom Ron Freeman
141.5 metres (464 ft)


All International Birdman events are included. (As of 24 April 2013)

Category Competitor Record
Farthest jump (Worthing 2013) United Kingdom Ron Freeman 141.5 metres (464 ft)[6]
Farthest jump (Bognor Regis 1992) United Kingdom Dave Bradshaw 89.2 metres (293 ft)

In 2013 Ron Freeman beat the previous record of 99.86 metres (327.6 ft) set by Steve Elkins in 2009 at Worthing, achieving a distance of 106 metres (348 ft) on day one of the event[7] and finally a distance of 141.5 metres (464 ft)[6][8] on day two. Freeman believed that the flight constituted a 'world record' for birdman events, both in terms of distance and time in the air (17 seconds).[8] Freeman beat Tony Hughes who flew what had been a record 132.5 metres (435 ft).[8]

2009 distance measurement[edit]

In 2009, Steve Elkins flew a distance of 99.8m, 20 cm short of the 100m distance required to win the £30,000 prize. Organisers said that he had fallen just short of the 100m marker, but Elkins claimed that video footage showed that he had exceeded the distance.[9][10][11] Elkins took the event organisers to court, but in February 2014 a judge ruled against him, saying that he was ‘not satisfied’ that the competitor had crossed the mark.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "Official International Worthing Birdman Website". Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "Official International Bognor Birdman Website". Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  4. ^ "Jetstar Birdman Rally". City of Melbourne News and Media Centre. 9 November 2006. 
  5. ^ "History of Birdman". Official Worthing Birdman website. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Worthing International Birdman Flyers Results 2013". Worthing Birdman. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  7. ^ "Worthing Birdman sets new distance record". The Daily Telegraph. 12 August 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c "Worthing Pier Birdman 'Breaks World Record'". Sky News. 12 August 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  9. ^ "Birdman 'cheated' of £30,000 win". BBC News. 25 August 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  10. ^ "elkinsextendedslowmo". YouTube. 2009-08-26. Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  11. ^ "Worthing Birdman daredevil's £30k row over 14cm (From The Argus)". 2009-08-25. Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  12. ^ "Judge clips wings of £30,000 birdman: Champion loses court battle for prize money he said he was owed after 'flying' 100metres from pier (when he only managed 99.86m)". Daily Mail. 27 February 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Truman, Peter (26 February 2014). "Worthing Birdman devastated to lose 'spurious' flight fight". The Argus. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 

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