If you were to see a man dressed in a ridiculous costume with enormous paper wings running off the end of a pier attempting to fly, you might make the assumption that he has a few screws loose. However, if you were in the seaside resort of Bognor Regis in West Sussex, England in July, you might assume that he is taking part in one of the city’s strangest and most entertaining festivals.
The International Bognor Birdman Competition is an event in which human “Birdmen” attempt to take flight off the end of the pier and into the sea so that they can win prize money. It began as a fundraising activity for the Selsey branch of the Royal Air Forces Association Club.
Some of the competitors are serious aviators, who are flying hang gliders and actually have the ability to sail through the air for several seconds or minutes. Others are dressed in costumes that give them little to no actual ability to fly – they simply take the leap for comedy’s sake and to raise money for charity.
Those who compete with actual hang gliders are known as “Condor Class.” There is a category for those who take part in the competition with homebuilt machines they designed themselves – known as “Leonardo de Vinci Class.” The category for fancy dress with no flying ability is Kingfisher Class.
The original prize for the Bognor Birdman Competition was £1,000 for anyone who could travel further than 50 yards. However, over time the prize money for the event has grown as it has become more popular. The winning participant will now receive £30000 if they can reach 330 feet (100m). This is because the event was moved from Selsey to Bognor Regis in 1978, which meant an increase in the height of the platform and an increase in the distance that competitors could fly.
The current record stands at 141.5 metres, which was achieved by a man named Ron Freeman in 2013.
The event started in 1971 and has been held in West Sussex since then, originally at Selsey and then moving to Bognor Regis in 1978. It is the oldest Birdman Rally in the world and one of the most well-known, with participants coming from all over in order to participate. Also, there are many other Birdman competitions all over the world, including in Australia and China.
Attending the International Bognor Birdman Competition
Do you want to witness the entertaining escapes of the International Bognor Birdman Competition this summer? To get to Bognor Regis you can take a train from London, which takes approximately an hour and a half, or alternatively rent a car. The town is small enough to cover on foot, so you don’t need to have your own transportation.
Make sure that you book your accommodation in advance, as this is a popular event and it is attended by many people. Since Bognor Regis is a popular seaside holiday town, there is a wide range of B&B accommodation.