International Birdman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
International Birdman Series
GenreBirdman Rally
DatesBognor Regis 3 and 4 September 2016[1]
Worthing event cancelled
Location(s)Bognor Regis, West Sussex
and Worthing, West Sussex
Years active1971 - Present
(1971-1977 – Selsey)
(1978-2007; 2010-2013; 2015 – Bognor Regis)
(2008-2015 – Worthing)
WebsiteBognor Birdman
Worthing Birdman

The International Birdman is a series of two English competitions held in the West Sussex towns of Bognor Regis and Worthing. 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. Bognor's 2014 event was cancelled,[1] but the event returned there in 2015.

Birdman competitions have also been held in Eastbourne, East Sussex.[6]

Recent events[edit]

In February 2016 the organisers of the Worthing event announced its cancellation for the foreseeable future.[7] Bognor Birdman took place on 3 and 4 September 2016, although the second day's flying was curtailed because of safety concerns over high winds and choppy sea.[8]


In 1984 Harold Zimmer from West 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 later stood at £30,000 for successfully reaching 100m, and for three consecutive years - 2013, 2014 and 2015 - that record was broken at Worthing.

Year Bognor winner Bognor distance Worthing winner Worthing distance
1978 George Cavarra 29.1 metres (95 ft)
1984 Harold Zimmer 57.8 metres (190 ft)
2007 Ron Freeman
2008 Event not held Ron Freeman 85.9 metres (282 ft)
2009 Event not held Steve Elkins 99.86 metres (327.6 ft)
2010 Ron Freeman[9] Toby Quantrill 81 metres (265.7 ft)
2011 Not awarded - bad weather Tony Hughes 65.4 metres (215 ft)
2012 Ron Freeman[10] Ron Freeman 85.7 metres (281 ft)
2013 Ron Freeman[11] 206.4 metres (677 ft) Ron Freeman 141.5 metres (464 ft)
2014 Event not held Ron Freeman[12] 159.8 metres (524 ft)
2015 Tony Hughes[13] 88.5 metres (290.3 ft) Tony Hughes[12] 106 metres (347 ft)
2016 Ron Freeman Event cancelled

2009 Worthing distance controversy[edit]

In 2009, Steve Elkins flew the 100m course entering the water at the finishing markers. A £30,000 prize was offered to any competitor completing the distance. Organisers said that he had fallen at 99.8m, 20 cm short of the 100m marker. However, Elkins claimed that video footage showed he had exceeded the distance.[14][15][16] 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.[17][18]

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. ^ "Birdmen line up to jump from pier". BBC. 2006-08-12. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  7. ^ "Worthing Birdman competition grounded over increasing costs". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  8. ^ "VIDEO: Bognor Birdman, 2016". Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  9. ^ "International Bognor Birdman - Previous%20Results%202010". Retrieved 2016-02-27.
  10. ^ "International Bognor Birdman - Previous%20Results%202012". Retrieved 2016-02-27.
  11. ^ "International Bognor Birdman - Previous%20Results%202013". Retrieved 2016-02-27.
  12. ^ a b "Worthing Birdman competition grounded over increasing costs". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-02-27.
  13. ^ "International Bognor Birdman - Previous%20Results%202015". Retrieved 2016-02-27.
  14. ^ "Birdman 'cheated' of £30,000 win". BBC News. 25 August 2009. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
  15. ^ "elkinsextendedslowmo". YouTube. 2009-08-26. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  16. ^ "Worthing Birdman daredevil's £30k row over 14cm (From The Argus)". 2009-08-25. Retrieved 2013-02-11.
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ Truman, Peter (26 February 2014). "Worthing Birdman devastated to lose 'spurious' flight fight". The Argus. Retrieved 18 March 2014.

External links[edit]