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Worthing Birdman comes within 15m of scooping jackpot
Fearless flyers flocked to Worthing over the weekend for the International Birdman competition.
Crowds packed out the beach for both days and cheered as the intrepid aeronauts attempted to defy gravity by flinging themselves off the pier.
The birdmen and women were given a stormy reception with thunder and lightning in the sky, but the rain failed to dampen their feathers.
In most cases gravity won easily, as the flyers in the 2012 Worthing International Birdman competition plummeted straight down into the sea.
But some swooped close to the 100m mark and a £10,000 prize.
Closest was Ron Freeman who was named the 2012 Worthing Birdman with the longest flight of 85.7 metres.
Less streamlined competitors included fun class winner Joel Hicks, who took to the skies in a giant wooden dog alongside co-pilot Andy Dunlop.
With tongue firmly in cheek, he said: “We have gone through an intensive training programme and we’re ready for this.
“Our dog is a highly flying machine and we’re going for the record.”
Sadly their mighty machine may have needed a few more tweaks as it plunged straight down into the waves.
Brothers Mike and Phil Smith from Worthing dressed as reindeer and flew inside Santa’s sleigh crammed with Christmas presents.
Mike said: “We have been waiting for months for this and we’re extremely confident. Our sleigh is made from happy thoughts, children’s wishes, the magic of Christmas – and cardboard boxes. So we can’t lose.”
Their craft also met a quick and watery end, with presents strewn across the sea.
On Saturday grandfather Andrew Jarvis, 65, a retired Worthing Hospital orthopaedic surgeon, came second in the Leonardo class, for modified hang gliders, flying 12.2m.
Unfortunately his wings were too damaged for a second run on Sunday.
More than 10,000 people attended the event, which cost more than £60,000 to run.
There was no repeat of the accident in 2010 when TV presenter Holly Walsh broke her arm - but one flyer was taken to hospital after being winded.
The competition, which originated in Bognor, was moved to Worthing for two years in 2008 amid fears over the safety of diving off a shortened Bognor pier.
But when the event returned to Bognor in 2010, a Worthing version continued to be run.
Worthing Borough Council leader Paul Yallop said: “This fantastic event is really popular with families, not only from Worthing but from afar as well.
“This event really helps to put our town on the map.”