Moomba and the Birdman Rally

It’s March again and so once more we welcome the Moomba festival to the banks of the Yarra River in Melbourne. Celebrated as part of the March Labour Day weekend, the Moomba festival is now in its 60th year, having started in response to Queen Elizabeth II’s first visit to Melbourne in 1954. Moomba, loosely translated as “let’s get together and have fun” is lauded as a ‘festival for the people’.

Moomba festivities take place over four days and include wake boarding competitions, carnival rides, fireworks, live music and the Moomba parade, where the King and Queen of Moomba are crowned. However, one of the most anticipated events of each Moomba festival is the Birdman Rally, incorporated into the festival since 1976. The Birdman Rally is a contest whereby entrants design and build their best human-powered aircrafts (or flight inspired costumes) then launch themselves off a platform and into the Yarra River to see who can ‘fly’ the furthest. The Birdman Rally is not unique to Melbourne, having originated instead in Selsey , UK. There are now several Birdman rallies held around the world. In celebration of the Moomba Birdman Rally here are five other Birdman events held  around the globe each year:

International Bognor Birdman Rally: Commencing in 1971 in Selsey, UK, the International Birdman Rally offered a £1000 prize for anyone who could fly 50 yards. The Birdman idea was conceived by George Abel who was inspired by a man who tried to fly across the River Nene. The initial event was designed as a fund raising activity by the local RAFA club. The competition moved to Bognor Regis in 1978 where the increase in the height of the ‘take off’ platform, saw the increase in contestant’s flying distance. The greatest distance made was by Dave Bradshaw in 1992 who flew 89.2 metres.

International Birdman Worthing, UK: In 2008, the International  Bognor Birdman Rally was forced to move from Bognor to Worthing as a result of structural problems with the Bognor pier. When in 2010 the Bognor Rally moved back to Bognor Regis, the town of Worthing continued to run an International Birdman Rally of their own. Steve Elkins holds the record for the farthest straight jump at Worthing with a distance of 99.86 m set in 2009.

Japanese Birdman Rally (Tori Ningen): The Japanese Birdman rally is held annually at Lake Biwa, in Hikone City. Established in 1977, entrants to the rally often consist of university engineering students and thus the quality of the competition is often far more high-tech than other rallies. Accordingly, competitors often reach far greater distances, with the rally’s record sitting at 23.68 km. The record was set by Yamaha’s Team Aerocepcy and saw the team cross to the other side of the lake.

Taiwan Birdman Contest: Held along the Breeze Canal in New Taipei City’s Lujhou, the Taiwan Birdman has been held off and on since 2004. Modelled on the Bognor Regis event, the Taiwanese event has a record of 33.6 m.

The Redbull Flugtag: Whilst it does not go under the Birdman Rally name, the Redbull Flugtag (Flugtag being German for Flight Day) is a similar concept; competitors compete for the furthest distance in their home-made flying machine after launching themselves off a pier. The Redbull competition started in 1992 in Austria and has since been held in various locations around the world. In 2013, the USA launched the First National Red Bull Flugtag which sees the event held in five cities around the country all on the one day. The world-record holder for the Redbull Flugtag is 78 metres.


The following sources have been used:

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