When daredevil Steve Elkins took off in the Worthing Birdman, he didn’t expect to land in a £30,000 row over 14cm.

But that is just what happened when judges ruled that Mr Elkins' flight had splashed down just short of the 100m distance which would have bagged him the jackpot.

He maintains that he did make the distance before hitting the water.

The 47-year-old, who designs hang-gliders for a living, made the gravity-defying leap at about 2pm on Saturday, watched by a crowd of thousands from the beach.

He claims that the triangulation measuring methods used by the judges were not accurate enough to gauge his flight to the nearest centimetre and is sure that he managed to get more than 100m west of the town's pier.

Mr Elkins, who lives in Hope, Derbyshire, said: “I feel that I went the distance.

“When I came up in the water I was right next to the buoy.”

Birdman judge Jim Brooks said the distance awarded to Mr Elkins was the furthest of the organisers' calculations.

He defended the triangulation technique used but conceded that it was only accurate to between one and five metres.

That means that the actual result of Mr Elkins' flight will always be up in the air.

Mr Brooks said: “It was a brilliant flight. If he had just gone a couple of metres past then it would have been a clear win.

“We judged that the buoys were being dragged back towards the pier at the time and that he fell short of the 100m mark.

“Everyone wants to see it won. It would be such a fantastic achievement and great publicity for the event.”

Mr Elkins said the inaccuracy of the judges' measurement technique meant his flight was within their tolerance and should have been deemed a winner.

He said: “If they can be up to five metres out then I have clearly flown the distance.

“What I object to is having to fly well past the 100m mark to be awarded a prize for flying 100m.

“I was very lucky to get things coming together on the day and the chances of that happening again are slim.”

Mr Brooks, who flew in the inaugural Birdman in Selsey in 1971, said a final meeting of the judges would be held to re-examine video footage of Mr Elkins' flight.

But he added that their ruling was almost certain to remain the same.

The judges used triangulation and trigonometry, developed by Greek mathematician Pythagoras, to measure the distance flown by the birdmen.

Three observers, one on the pier below the flyers, one on the promenade at the base of the pier and one on the promenade at the 100m mark, measured the angle between their points and the landing spot of each contestant.

Knowing the distance between each of the three measuring points, they then calculated the distance flown using mathematical equations governing the angles within triangles.

But the system is not perfect and with the buoys used as distance markers tethered to the seabed and therefore at the whim of the tide, it can never be 100% accurate.