Birdman entrants prepare to fly

Ron Freeman and Tony Hughes
Ron Freeman and Tony Hughes
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MORE than 40 men and women from across the country will launch themselves off of Worthing Pier at the weekend, as the famous Worthing International Birdman competition flies in for its seventh year.

The first flight will take place at 11.30am on Saturday, from a specially constructed platform high above the sea.

A big screen will be located on the beach for those who want a closer look at the action.

In addition to watching the flyers, spectators will be entertained by the Salvation Army Band, singers, a market and a movie on the beach. The Xtreme Action jet ski display return for another year and, on the Sunday, world freestyle champion Ant Burgess will take to the sea. There will also be a flyboard – a type of water jet pack – display.

Chris Spratt, chairman of the Worthing Town Centre Initiative, which organises the event, said: “Since the Town Centre Initiative was successful in negotiating the move of the International Birdman Competition to Worthing, we have enjoyed the most marvellous publicity around the world for the event. I hope everybody agrees it is now an enhancement of the seafront fun during the Worthing summer months, has attracted tens of thousands of people to spectate, as well as international media coverage. Not least, the event has given the most effective springboard for local charities to raise money for good causes. We are delighted to continue to put on the event for the benefit of Worthing town centre.”

Compères for the weekend are ‘Mr Worthing’, Dave Hunt, and British kitesurfing champion Lewis Crathern.

On Sunday, the first flight will be at mid-day.

An independent film documenting the story of the flyers who tackled last year’s Worthing International Birdman will premiere at this year’s event.

Meet the Birdmen, co-directed by Joe Venables and John MacDonald, was filmed prior to the 2013 event and focuses on three competitors – Andrew Jarvis, reigning champion Ron Freeman and his long-time rival, Tony Hughes.

Joe said: “It’s certainly given me a real sense of the magic of what it must feel like to be a human-being flying with no power but your own and nature, essentially. I’m not much of a daredevil but I can certainly see the enormous appeal of flying like that.”

Cameras were fitted to some of the gliders to ‘give a real sense of the exhilaration of a flight over the water’.

“We are looking forward to showing it to people,” said Joe. “We thought the timing was good for us to present it at this year’s event. We are really excited to see it on the big screen in a nice space.”

Following the premiere, Joe said the plan was to submit it to film festivals.

All three of the competition’s classes – Condor, Da Vinci and Kingfisher – are featured in the film. Tony and Ron have competed in the Condor Class for serious aviators, flying modified hanggliders for years, while widower Andrew flew the craft he designed for last year’s event in memory of his wife, as part of the Da Vinci Class. The Kingfisher class is for ‘fun’ flyers in fancy dress who want to raise money for charity.

Meet the Birdmen will screen at the Connaught Studio Cinema at 4pm on Saturday. Tickets cost £4 and all proceeds will go to the World Cancer Research Fund. They can be purchased via or from the cinema, in Union Place, Worthing, from 3.30pm on Saturday.

To find out more about the Worthing International Birdman, go to