This month sees the return of the International Bognor Birdman.
Some magnificent men (and women) took to their flying machines (and Action Men in tuxedos!) to launch themselves off the end of the Bognor Regis pier all in the name of good humoured competition and charity. The original Birdman competition started in 1971 and the aim is to achieve the longest jump by any man-made means possible. The event has achieved a cult status with competitors coming from across the globe (including Sir Richard Branson) and some lavish contraptions all eventually reaching a watery conclusion. Of course this type of event calls for a visit from Action Man!
So I did, a few years ago, the date fell nicely for a stag do to my friend Tom’s wedding and as Best Man I therefor signed up the entire stag party to the event. We joined the Kingfisher class which is not judged on distance but on costume, performance & crowd reaction. The plan was to host a wedding ceremony at the top of the pier before all leaping the 30-40ft into the English Channel.
As Best Man I was to play the part of the groom, Tom (original groom) was the bride to which we supplied a suitably ill-fitting dress, Kevin (usher) was the vicar with Tristan, Joe, Shaun, Dom, Chris & Mark as wedding guests. We had all travelled from various corners of the country, costumes purchased with some lovingly handmade and stayed in a “lavish” B&B, giddy with excitement to the weekend’s events but the following morning… DISASTER!
We awoke on what should be a bright, warm July morning to an almost apocalyptic scene of grey skies, driving rain and worst of all gale-force winds, the event had to be cancelled. Undeterred when the event was rescheduled for October Kevin (vicar) Tom (bride) and I (groom) made our way back to the South, on event day it was like we were in a different place.
The sun shone, the sky was blue the beach was packed with spectators. It was our turn to jump, the ceremony was beautiful, for dramatic effect the instruction “you may kiss the bride” was even followed, then in a hail of confetti the 3 of us lept and eventually hit the water with quite a thud. The crowd liked it as did the judges, we sealed 3rd place in the competition and donated our cash prize along with our sponsor money to McMillan cancer support. For further info see www.birdman.org.uk.