Winds ground the daring mad men in flying machines

THOUSANDS of spectators were left disappointed after high winds forced the cancellation of yesterday's Worthing International Birdman contest.

Gusts of almost 20mph meant only two out of nine serious contenders were able to fly their human-powered flying machines in the fourth annual competition in West Sussex.

They had hoped to claim the 10,000 jackpot prize by flying the furthest over 100 metres (328ft) with wingspans of up to 40ft, but, despite bright sunshine, the wind speeds proved too dangerous.

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Organisers are hoping for lighter winds today when fun flyers in more outlandish flying machines are due to defy gravity along with serious contenders.

Entrants will include John Ewing, who will dress up as a house with balloons attached, inspired by the 2009 CGI movie Up. Other machines have been inspired by Star Wars, Knight Rider and Doctor Who, complete with Tardis.

A Birdman spokesman said: "It's a little disappointing, but it's unavoidable. Our main concern is safety, but hopefully the wind speeds will be kinder to us."

The spectacle of seeing grown men fling themselves from a specially-constructed platform on Worthing Pier had drawn crowds of around 4,000 people.

Proceedings got off to a promising start when Sam Sheppard set the benchmark distance without any wings, leading to him gaining just a couple of metres distance from the 35ft high platform.

He was followed by seasoned Birdman competitor Ron Freeman, who flew 61.6 metres (202ft) with a contraption featuring a 40ft wingspan.

Before he set off, he admitted: "I'm terrified. If I don't get the launch right I could come back right into the pier."

Next up was Bill Brooks, who gained a distance of 27.2 metres (89ft) with a creation he last used 26 years ago. He said: "I've tried to get a few museums interested in it, but none have wanted it."

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The wind speeds picked up considerably after he landed in the water, forcing the day's action to come to an abrupt end.

Spectator Jill Turner, 58, said: "We'll keep our fingers crossed that we'll have a full day of activity."

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