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Will Birdman Rally fly home for Summer?

By 14 August 2014 16

birdman-stock

It was just the other day I was chatting to an old friend, over beer of course, reminiscing of the fun events we used to have in Canberra. The V8 Supercars was the first to stir up passion before the conversation flew towards the hilariously entertaining Birdman Rally.

It didn’t take long before we were YouTube-ing 80’s videos of the Birdman Rally in all its glory. Erupting into laughter at the hyper-colour shirts, stack-hats, mullets and oversize reading glasses.

We were amazed as a massive rally of leaping idiots entertained the nearly 100,000 Canberrans that had flocked to the shoreline of Regatta Point and Lake Burley Griffin. The aim was to fly from a 10m platform in a custom designed craft and sore 50m into the icy lake. Now that’s a recipe for laughs.

Whatever happened to this epic, annual Canberra outing?

When I think of our biggest events here in Canberra I think of Floriade, Summernats, Skyfire and the Multicultural festival. Each year these events grow in numbers to a stage where they become somewhat exhausting to attend.

With warmer weather and longer days on the horizon, wouldn’t it be brilliant if we had more big events to entertain us instead of having to visit Sydney or Melbourne.

As you read on you’ll discover some of the information I unearthed about why the outrageous annual event flew its coop…

The Capital 7 Birdman Rally had its wings spread for 7 years form 1985 – 1992. The rally was designed to offer Canberra an event that would appeal to families. There was a mixture of home engineers and drunken larrikins that competed for the $10,000 – $20,000 prize money.

The platform that competitors leapt from was 10m high or the same height as top tower of civic pool. ACT Water Police used the Rally as a training exercise for their divers. On the 6th year George Reekie crossed the 50m line and was begrudgingly awarded $20,000.

The event organisers were very reluctant to hand over the prize money and onlookers nearly became rioters as they waited nearly an hour before George’s win was finally confirmed. We enjoyed one final event the following year before it was plucked and thrown in the deep frier.

Many rumours have emerged about why the Rally stopped; Public liability insurance, event organisers not wanting to pay prize money, Channel 7 being bought by Southern Cross Broadcasting.

Whatever the case it was a massive event for Canberra and one that had nearly half the town out to enjoy. I wonder how it would be different now with kids filming the antics on their phones and uploading straight to YouTube. Everyone’s Facebook would be flooded with outrageous footage and we’d no doubt pull out-of-towners to join in the antics.

The only other thing that I can see stopping the Birdman from returning home would be the high levels of algae that poison our lakes during summer. That’s kind of a deal breaker.

What fond memories do you have of forgotten Canberra events? If you have any old photos of Canberra when we didn’t take ourselves so seriously, please send them in for me to share.

For links to National Film and Sound Archive footage from the 80’s click through this link

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16 Responses to Will Birdman Rally fly home for Summer?
#1
watto234:29 pm, 14 Aug 14

I remember it. I thought there was one still running in the Moomba festival in Melbourne. I imagine insurance would be a problem, but often that is covered by individuals paying a fee for their own insurance, much like insurance for any sport. The risks of death are probably lower than playing weekend footy.

I’d love to see a soapbox/billycart derby in Canberra. That would be entertaining to watch. Again I’m thinking saftey and insurance are the real killers here.

#2
John Moulis5:28 pm, 14 Aug 14

As I remember it, the Birdman Rally was run in conjunction with the Food and Wine Frolic (Alcoholic Frolic). An ice throwing riot erupted at the 1994 Frolic and Chief Minister Kate Carnell canned the event. A fenced-in event called Taste where an admission fee was charged was held in 1995 but this was a flop and no further events were held.

#3
HenryBG7:04 pm, 14 Aug 14

John Moulis said :

As I remember it, the Birdman Rally …..

We used to watch, hold our breath as they leaped off, but bever ever ever did any of them soar up into the sky, Icarus-like, to singe their contraptions against the Sun. Disappointment.

Another thing you might recall, John….
http://musicfeeds.com.au/news/radio-birdman-national-tour-2014-announced/

#4
Casiola10:40 pm, 14 Aug 14

John Moulis said :

As I remember it, the Birdman Rally was run in conjunction with the Food and Wine Frolic (Alcoholic Frolic). An ice throwing riot erupted at the 1994 Frolic and Chief Minister Kate Carnell canned the event. A fenced-in event called Taste where an admission fee was charged was held in 1995 but this was a flop and no further events were held.

That deserves a thread of it’s own. I remember how rough the frolic was.

#5
VYBerlinaV8_is_back7:57 am, 15 Aug 14

This was a genuine Canberra-culture thing, the Birdman Rally. It’s a real shame it stopped. Heaps of fun and laughs and then real excitement when someone finally cracked it.

#6
Bosworth9:40 am, 15 Aug 14

why wasn’t the birdman rally brought back for the canberra centenary?

the birdman rally was one of the best things about canberra.

#7
justin heywood9:53 am, 15 Aug 14

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

This was a genuine Canberra-culture thing, the Birdman Rally. It’s a real shame it stopped. Heaps of fun and laughs and then real excitement when someone finally cracked it.

+1. There’s something very Australian about sitting in the sun watching heroic fools fail spectacularly. And great for Canberra’s image as well. If money IS the issue, surely the local government could find the funds. If the prize was upped to, say $50,000, I think a lot of people would have a go at it.

Paddling around in one of the bays near Yarramundi reach, I once came across a large, semi-submerged structure. I was told that this was the old Birdman platform.
Does anyone know it that is true?

#8
what_the12:43 pm, 15 Aug 14

My uncle was one of the ‘competitors’! Loved every year of it. I’m sure it will never be held in Canberra again due to liability insurance. You have to have red bull money, they ran the flugtag in Sydney a few years back.

#9
p11:21 pm, 15 Aug 14

This is not the first time the subject of reinstating the birdman rally has graced the pages of RA. Former Mayor of Canberra Jon Stanhope even pledged to jump first if it happened.

Having “competed” in an event in 2008, in Sydney, called the Redbull Flugtag, and having a great time, I would certainly love for it to be revived. I imagine it wouldn’t be all that hard to do, it would just take a heck of a lot of work to organise, with no way to monetise (that is internet startup for “make money from”). So, either one (or several) big corporate sponsors (a la Redbull Flugtag), Government pays (in which case people whinge both that it isn’t good enough, and it is too expensive, or it doesnt happen.

#10
wildturkeycanoe5:28 pm, 15 Aug 14

No chance. Once fun is taken away, it is never given back. We also used to have speedway/sprint car racing at Tralee, fireworks in backyards, nice warm wood fires during winter and many other pastimes that were eradicated due to complaining minorities. I blame the law and its ridiculous number of loopholes enabling some tight wads to sue people and corporations for ridiculous amount of money, just because they can. Hence the need for millions of dollars in public liability insurance, personal insurance and whatever other insurance you can think of. Some things now can’t be done regardless of what insurance you have in place, the Birdman Rally probably one. Fun police have killed the good old days and left us wondering what else there is to do in life, except stress every day about keeping between the lines that society has painted around us.
I say stuff the rules, the laws and risks…let people be crazy once in a while and see how far they can fly. You never know, from these crazy bird people may be born ideas that propel us into a brighter future and if they fail, the rest of us can laugh ourselves silly and remember that we are human again.

#11
Hercsie9:04 pm, 15 Aug 14

Does anyone remember the formula 1 (?) Hydroplane boat race held on Lake Burley Griffin? 1980 or ’81

It was awesome, the noise, the speed and the crowd!

Would be great to see that again

#12
JC10:31 pm, 15 Aug 14

John Moulis said :

As I remember it, the Birdman Rally was run in conjunction with the Food and Wine Frolic (Alcoholic Frolic). An ice throwing riot erupted at the 1994 Frolic and Chief Minister Kate Carnell canned the event. A fenced-in event called Taste where an admission fee was charged was held in 1995 but this was a flop and no further events were held.

Not quite. The Birdman rally was part of the Canberra Festival not the Food and Wine Frolic which was also a Canberra Festival event. They were held on the same weekend but not the same day.

#13
Pork Hunt12:51 pm, 16 Aug 14

Hercsie said :

Does anyone remember the formula 1 (?) Hydroplane boat race held on Lake Burley Griffin? 1980 or ’81

It was awesome, the noise, the speed and the crowd!

Would be great to see that again

And when the 18 foot sail boats came, they were nearly as exciting…

#14
bundah10:50 am, 17 Aug 14

Pork Hunt said :

Hercsie said :

Does anyone remember the formula 1 (?) Hydroplane boat race held on Lake Burley Griffin? 1980 or ’81

It was awesome, the noise, the speed and the crowd!

Would be great to see that again

And when the 18 foot sail boats came, they were nearly as exciting…

Ha not, this is what I want to see on the lake, nitro!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVbJWgqsZt8

#15
justin heywood6:01 pm, 17 Aug 14

bundah said :

Ha not, this is what I want to see on the lake, nitro!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVbJWgqsZt8

Ha! awesome, and why not, once a year?

#16
CapitalYarns9:27 pm, 26 Aug 14

Thanks, brings back memories for me too. My own (fictional) take on the old Bird is here:

http://www.capitalyarns.com.au/rallying-call-return-birdman/

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