‘It is now or never’ says Birdman competitor

DM17737117a.jpg Sam Neal has been building his flyng machine for the Bognor Birdman competition and now it's been cancelled. Photo by Derek Martin. SUS-170726-135854008
DM17737117a.jpg Sam Neal has been building his flyng machine for the Bognor Birdman competition and now it's been cancelled. Photo by Derek Martin. SUS-170726-135854008

‘Incredibly gutting’, that is the reaction one Birdman competitor said he had to yesterday’s announcement the 2017 event has been cancelled due to a lack of sponsorship.

Yapton’s Sam Penny, who has been building the Zephyrous 2 to fly with friend Scott L Wallis, added: “It is more disappointment than anger, I have put so much in to this – it has been my life for the last six months.

“I have been planning this since last year. I had hoped to build on the 2016 result, my aim was 2km – it would be nothing like Birdman has seen before.”

Sam admitted he was ‘just mortified’ to hear it might not go ahead and revealed he saw it as his only shot.

“This thing is so humongous, I don’t have the storage for it. It is in the lounge, we have a campervan and it is in there too. Long term it would have to go, it is now or never, I don’t think I have it in me to make another.”

Meanwhile student Jayne Toyne, who has been following Sam’s work as part of a project for her masters degree, has spoken of her ‘total disappointment’ at the news and her fears over the ‘massive hole’ that it could leave in her studies.

“I’m not sure how I will work my documentary if the event truly is cancelled due to lack of funds,” she told the Observer.

“I’m in the last two weeks of my final major project for a masters degree which is part of a lead up to my PhD. I’ve have been documenting the progress of Sam Penny and others who are inspired by the Birdman event to create works of wonder and modest genius in their spare time.”

Jayne said Sam and Scott have ‘worked tirelessly’ to create the ‘frankly epic flying machine’, and that the process of following the build has led her to meet previous entrants ‘who have gone on to create other weird and wonderful contraptions’.

“It’s a fascinating local event that has broad reaching consequences not just for the event on the day but for those taking part, the local community and those who might be inspired by those taking part. It’s a community event, tradition and should be protected as part of British social heritage,” she added.

The comments come as an online funding page has been set up in a bit to raise the necessary funds and save the event.

Set up by Alan McTernanan, a spokesman for JustGiving said the page has already received 12 donations and been shared 193 times on Facebook – making it one of the most shared on social media this week.

One donor wrote: “Here’s to all the caffeine-fuelled overly-eccentric madmen & women who date to take a long flight off a short pier.”

Another donor and competitor wrote on the JustGiving page: “As a previous Birdman, and entry for this year- I’ve put a lot of effort into the new craft, and want to give it its chance to spread its wings and fly.”

The spokesman said: “At the time of writing the JustGiving page had reached £330 of its £10,000 target.”

Sam said the news the event could still be saved was ‘very encouraging’.

“I am still building it, I am not giving up in that respect. It is not a ridiculous amount of money, it is achievable if everyone puts a small amount in – someone could swoop in and save it,” he said.

Visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/birdman

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