North East ‘birdman’ Ron Freeman has landed a £10,000 prize after beating the record for the furthest distance unassisted flight in a competition.
Ron soared 159.8 metres in the Worthing International Birdman competition on Saturday, passing his 141.5m record set at the event last year, organisers said.
“I feel like I’ve won the lottery,” he said.
“I dedicate this flight to Derek Trotman, who was one of the organisers who sadly died of cancer earlier this year.”
In the event, it was competitor Tony Hughes who became the first man to fly over the jackpot line in the competition’s history, soaring above the waves to 117.1m.
But his friendly rival Ron smashed it moments later, registering his 159.8m flight.
Blustery conditions yesterday meant serious competitors were forced to fly in line with the pier, towards the beach, meaning they could not compete with Saturday’s money-winning forward distances.
Ron, the reigning champion, won the £10,000 top prize at the event, which sees people throw themselves off the Sussex seaside town’s pier in machines and costumes of varying airworthiness.
A spokesman for the event confirmed his distance, adding that his adapted hang glider the Geordie Flyer had a large wingspan.
He said: “He overlapped the edge of the platform that the competitors jump off.”
On its official Twitter feed, the competition said: “Ron Freeman got an official score of 159.8m well done another new record for Worthing Birdman.”
The event is as much about the eccentric fliers, often in fancy dress, who more often than not plunge into the sea barely a few feet after take off.
Ron, from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, was one of the competitors in the Condor Class for serious attempts and have their final scores based on flights on both days of the event.
He has been hurling himself off seaside piers and plunging into the English Channel at international flying competitions on the south coast for 16 years.
The hang gliding instructor has totally dominated the events - held at Bognor Regis and later Worthing - ever since he first entered in 1997.
Before this year he had won 14 times at Bognor and four times at Worthing, and also won the Eastbourne birdman contest the last time it last held in 2004.