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Birdman lovers make a splash

Past glory: “Birdman” Aaron Eidelson nose-dives into the Yarra River in the Birdman Rally in 2008. Photo: WILLIAM WEST Deb Ware as Birdwoman jumps into the Yarra River. Photo: Tracey Nearmy
Nanjing Night Net

Birdman Rally contestant Ben Langford-Jones was determined to make a splash when he proposed to his girlfriend.

So, high up on the four-metre platform in front of thousands of contestants, dressed as a rubber  ducky in an inflated pool, the train driver from Brighton East dropped to one knee to ask Georgina Cloak to marry him.

She said yes, but he jumped anyway, plunging straight down.

“Everyone kept asking me if I was nervous about the jump – the jump was a piece of cake,”  said Mr Langford-Jones, who swore he decided to pop the question only hours before the event.

What did have his palms sweating was ringing Ms Cloak’s father, Ian, to ask for his permission.

The Birdman Rally is a crowd favourite at Moomba Festival and this year featured a dozen entrants, who collectively raised $32,000 for charity.

This year’s winner, Deborah Ware, had a different purpose – she jumped to celebrate International Woman’s Day. It may have been a giant leap for womankind, but it was only a small jump for Ms Ware, who came dressed as Birdwoman in red and orange feathers.

Though her five metre flight was not the longest distance achieved, her fund-raising scored her the most points.

She raised more than $7000 for Tear, a christian charity dedicated to helping people in some of the world’s poorest communities.

“It’s International Women’s Day so how great is it that a woman won the birdman competition,” she said.

While the aim of the game is to soar the furthest, the flock of competitors came closer to flopping than flying.

Contestant Penny Purdie wore 99 helium-filled balloons while Scott Pollard struggled underneath a 30 kilogram elephant made of timber and cardboard.

“I was trying to think of the least aerodynamic animal possible,” Mr Pollard said of the inspiration behind his air craft.

Pilot and hang gliding enthusiast Michael Paul flew the furthest with a distance of 15 metres.

His craft was made out of polystyrene and aluminium and had a wingspan of eight metres, the maximum allowed.

The veteran Birdman contestant, now in his 12th year, said he flew shy of his best flight – 25.5 metres – but that he would return next year.

MOOMBA – WHAT’S ON

MONDAY

Moomba Parade, Swanston Street – 11am

Ashton’s Circus – four shows a day at 11.30am, 2.30pm, 4.30pm and 6.30pm

VANS Drop Your Hammers Skateboard Competition – 3pm-9pm at Riverslide Skate Park

Men’s and women’s night water-ski jump – 8pm

Hoodoo Gurus on main stage – 8.30pm

Fireworks – 9.30pm

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