Beach polo festival celebrates 10 years in style

Watergate Bay basked in three days of sunshine as Aspall Polo on the Beach brought high goal polo, jousting displays, fireworks, beach parties and a host of family entertainment to the north Cornwall beach.

The tenth edition of the event, which took place from Friday 19 to Sunday 22 May, proved to be a vintage year. The largest festival to date featured two beach polo matches, involving some of the UK’s best-known players, and two nights of live music right on the sand.

A packed schedule of entertainment drew large crowds to the beach on all three days. Des Smith, CEO at Aspall, said: “Aspall Polo on the Beach has truly established itself as an unmissable event, and has really put Watergate Bay and Cornwall in front of a nationwide audience.

“One of the things we love about the event is its determination to create a community festival and make polo accessible to everyone. To see a packed beach over the weekend shows that this has been achieved. There is nothing quite like standing amongst the crowd and hearing the cheers of fans as ponies race past just a few metres away.”

Headline sponsor Aspall celebrated its involvement by creating the Aspall Apple Orchard, featuring an apple press bike, family treasure hunts, apple bobbing, children’s arts and crafts, and giant Jenga and Kerplunk. Joules returned with the ever-popular welly wanging, while Segway taster sessions ran all weekend.

There was plenty to eat and drink, with an Aspall cyder bar, Champagne Jacquart bar, Tarquin’s Airstream and street food stalls, including a Treleavens ice cream horse box. Fifteen Cornwall also ran pasta making demonstrations on the beach.

The event began on Friday afternoon with a Segway polo match, mixing professional polo players with Segway polo specialists. In a match that also featured Watergate Bay Hotel managing director Will Ashworth, Team Southwest Polo took the victory.

This was followed by an explanation of the rules of beach polo, and a demonstration of what spectators could expect to see ahead of the Treleavens Trophy match, where Team Tarquin’s Cornwall looked to retain the trophy for a fourth consecutive year against Team Rest of the World, playing four chukkas of fast, furious and highly-competitive polo.

Team Tarquin’s Cornwall was captained by Polo on the Beach veteran Andrew Burgess, with Tim Vaux and newcomer Dorian Baulteau completing the lineup. Team Rest of the World was led by the highest-handicapped player, Andrew Blake Thomas, who was joined by Ben Marshall and Daniel Loe.

Rising star and French international Dorian Baulteau looked very comfortable on the sand, scoring five times in the third and fourth chukkas. However, a last minute goal from Andrew Blake Thomas secured a narrow victory for Team Rest of the World, beating Team Tarquin’s Cornwall by ten goals to nine and a half.

On Friday evening, the tenth anniversary of the event was celebrated with free live music and fireworks, as well as an authentic Argentine asado barbecue – with local lamb and beef cooked slowly throughout the day over a wood fire.

Saturday saw a first for Polo on the Beach: jousting on the sand with The Knights of Middle England. It was a spectacular display of medieval entertainment, with sword fighting, spear throwing, pyrotechnics and a jousting tournament.

Anticipation built for the weekend’s headline event: the Aspall Trophy polo match, with Team Joules taking on Team Champagne Jacquart.

Baulteau, Burgess and Vaux saddled up as teammates once again for Team Joules, and looked dominant from the off, thanks to yet another impressive display of skill from the young French player.

Team Champagne Jacquart, made up of Marshall, Loe and Blake Thomas, put up a good fight in the second and third chukkas, building a small lead in a breathless period of play. But, in the fourth and final chukka, Team Joules powered ahead to win the match by nine and a half goals to six.

Team Joules captain Andrew Burgess said: “It was a great game. The ground wasn’t quite as quick as it was on Friday, but we played much better as a team. We marked better, we got the ball into open space better, and ultimately had no trouble finding the goalposts – so a great result.”

Baulteau picked up the most valuable player title, for both the match and the whole tournament – an outstanding accolade for a player who had never before played on the sometimes unpredictable sands of Watergate Bay.

Following the trophy presentations, the day was closed in style with the Polo on the Beach party.

As the sun set, polo players celebrated alongside hundreds of fans, with with live performances from William The Conqueror, The Andy Quick Band and Molotov Jukebox creating an electric festival atmosphere.

The event concluded on Sunday with a family dog show, hosted by St Francis Home for Animals, raising more than £700 for the charity. 350 dogs entered, with prizes awarded in 12 categories, including best pedigree, waggiest tail, best rescue, and dog the judge would like to take home. The best in show prize went to Lola, a German Shepherd/husky cross, with Gordon Setter Darcey named the reserve; both received a Joules dog bed.

Will Ashworth said: “We put this event on simply for the love of it. Looking back over the ten years since we started this, it feels like it’s stepped up both in scale and quality every year – and 2017 was no exception.

“The standard of polo played this year was particularly high, as was the rest of the entertainment staged across the weekend. Thanks to the support Aspall and all of our sponsors, we are able to keep the event free and provide a great weekend of fun. Here’s to the next ten years.”