From the business desk: do the ‘birdmen’ need new challenge?

Sean Frawley competes in Worthing Birdman
Sean Frawley competes in Worthing Birdman

BONKERS Birdman is a huge attraction for Worthing –but it is time to change the format to keep the excitement in the spectacle.

For decades, brave competitors tirelessly and unsuccessfully strived to cross the 100 metre line to win the elusive £10,000 jackpot.

That was part of the magic.

But after an enthralling battle between avid aviators Ron Freeman and Tony Hughes last year, both managed the jackpot distance, with Mr Freeman eclipsing it with a 159 metre flight.

Last year’s heroics were followed by yet another prize-winning distance by Mr Hughes, meaning the £10,000 has now been awarded for two consecutive years.

Now it is time to set a new challenge for the birdmen that will lay down a marker for the next 30 years.

After last year’s heroics, organisers deliberated over whether to increase the target distance but decided against it.

In my view, it is now time to take that step.

As to the distance, Mr Freeman’s freak record may put a spanner in the works, as changing it to 150 metres may not achieve the required ambition – it has already been done.

While 200 metres may be too far, I would fully support a distance increase to give Birdman’s most skilled pilots a challenge akin to the previously unachievable marker.

If a distance change is not supported, it may be the modified hang gliders that require a second thought.

For me, the true enjoyment of the spectacle is seeing the zany flying machines, painstakingly-built by competitors convinced they have built the winning craft.

These entrants are different to the prize-winning gliders that Mr Freeman and co use and are rarely successful.

But this is the true spirit of Birdman and it would give me far greater viewing pleasure to see one scoop the winnings over the serious competitors.

Be under no illusion – the glider pilots are of the highest skill – and it takes far more than the craft itself to achieve the distance but now the 100 metre mark has been broken, it is time for change.

The Town Centre Initiative should be applauded for delivering such a fantastic event year after year, so I have full faith in them to keep the excitement ticking over.