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Is it a bird? Is it a bird?
by Asa Butcher
Issue 6
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Bored this August? Why not fly to the UK, head to my hometown, dress up in a funny costume and jump into the English Channel? You can do it for charity or you do it for financial gain, either way, you will end up bobbing in the cold waters with the cheers of the crowd ringing in your ears.

The Bognor Regis Birdman is “a flight competition for human powered flying machines” that involves individuals (or pairs) launching from Bognor’s 140-year-old pier and trying to fly/glide/plummet/tumble the furthest distance before plunging into the sea below. There is a generous reward of £25,000 for the furthest flight over 100 metres, although the record currently stands at 89.2 metres.

The origins of this crazy contest began in Selsey 1971, another seaside resort on the south coast, but the crowds were becoming too large by 1978, so it was moved to its current location. Moving further down the coast provided a higher take-off platform and slightly warmer water for the serious competitors, while the event also began to attract the attention of the world press and D-list celebrities, such as Eddie the Eagle.

Every year almost 30,000 people watch from the shore and millions tune in watch worldwide, while in excess of £70,000 has been raised for charity. This year there are 20 serious entries selected from all over the world, including USA, France, Australia, China, Canada, Taiwan, Ireland, Japan, Scotland and England to name just a few, which is a new record for the contest.

Following a technical error the first year, the contest is now held at high tide and flyers can rely upon sophisticated measuring equipment to triangulate their exact distance. Many of the charity flyers manage only a few metres, such as the Birdman’s first blind competitor last year who dressed as a flying piano.

Bognor’s Birdman takes place over two days this year, so try to attend and witness a spectacle that guarantees to bring a smile to your face. If you are interested in entering, then check out their website and ask for an application pack for 2005.

Happy flying!

www.birdman.org.uk
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