A record number of spectators enjoyed a spectacular display of equine entertainment last weekend at Watergate Bay’s Veuve Clicquot Polo on the Beach. Now in its eighth year, the award-winning event hosted by Watergate Bay Hotel delivered an expanded programme of three polo matches and more entertainment than ever before. Headline sponsor Veuve Clicquot brought their Airstream and Champagne Bar to Watergate Bay alongside delicious food and drink from The Beach Hut barbecue.
Following an action packed day which included riding displays from the Stampede Stunt Company, First Great Western earned a narrow victory over rivals Joules in the flagship high goal polo match on Saturday evening.
The opening game of the event showcased the UK’s first professional all-ladies beach polo match with teams from South West Polo and Veuve Clicquot starring a line-up of rising female players from across the UK. Former Miss Wales and TV Gladiator Amy Guy captained Veuve Clicquot, joined by team mates Emma Boers and Charlotte Sweeney, who both hold a two-goal handicap. Rosie Ross, playing with a three goal handicap, captained Team South West Polo with Georgia Sweeney and Phillipa Fitz-Henry.
The match consisted of four closely-fought seven minute chukkas with competitive play from both teams. At half time, Veuve Clicquot held a narrow lead of half a goal, but in the fourth and final chukka South West Polo fought back, led by Phillipa Fitz-Henry, who harried the opposition to secure the seventh and winning goal for her team. Rosie Ross completed a lap of victory in the arena, waving the flag of St Piran to mark South West Polo’s victory of 7 goals to 5.5.
Phillipa Fitz-Henry, who was awarded the most valuable player trophy, said: “It was hard work out there today. The adrenaline was pumping and it was very competitive, but so much fun. We were incredibly lucky to play in such a perfect setting.”
Following supercharged displays from the ladies teams, the high goal Watergate Bay Trophy match between teams from First Great Western and Joules got underway. Representing First Great Western was Caspar West (+3), Andrew Blake Thomas (+5), and captain Jamie Le Hardy (+7). Tim Vaux (+4) returned to the sand as captain of Joules with team mates Daniel Loe (+3) and Richard Blake Thomas (+5).
Joules started with a two goal handicap advantage, but after intense back and forth play First Great Western scored their first goal of the match through Jamie Le Hardy. Richard Blake Thomas quickly retaliated, scoring with a long-range shot from 25 yards just before the hooter sounded.
Both teams scored in the first two minutes of the second chukka, with Jamie Le Hardy tapping in another goal for First Great Western as the chukka drew to a close for half time treading in, Joules leading 4-3. First Great Western pulled level for the first time in the third chukka thanks to a penalty scored by Jamie Le Hardy. A goal from Richard Blake Thomas restored the lead for Joules, before his brother Richard scored for First Great Western with a spectacular long-range shot. A penalty for Joules before the hooter saw the chukka end with them leading 6-5. A thrilling fourth chukka ensued, with the scoreboard level at six goals each following an early penalty from First Great Western. As the clock ran down both teams fought for the winning goal, with a great move involving all three players from First Great Western resulting in a decisive strike from Tim Vaux to take the win at 6-7.
Picking up the trophy for Most Valuable Player, Jamie Le Hardy said: “We played a strong game despite the bad winter storms affecting the field but we worked the ball well. It was a very close, competitive game. Joules had a two goal handicap start and they were working away, making it quite tough on us, but it was a fantastic team effort.”
Torda, ridden by Daniel Loe, was presented with a horse blanket as the Best Playing Pony by Shelley Fletcher-Bryant of Cornwall Farmers.
The weekend ended with a final polo match between Cornwall, sponsored by Cornwall Farmers and Patch & Acre, and HSBC’s Rest of the World team. Captain Daniel Loe (3), Tim Vaux (4) and Ben Marshall (1) were flying the flag for Cornwall against Amy Guy (0), Algy Sim (3) and team captain Richard Blake Thomas (5). Chasing an initial lead by HSBC, the Cornwall team fought back to level the scores at four goals apiece going into the final chukka. In a dramatic move Tim Vaux scored a victory goal seconds before the final hooter blew, with Cornwall winning by 5 goals to 4 to the delight of the crowd.
Since 2007, the annual Veuve Clicquot Polo on the Beach event has been attracting thousands of spectators to Watergate Bay in north Cornwall with spectacular exhibition matches of beach polo. Some of England’s top international players take to the sands of the famous surfing beach to compete for the Watergate Bay Trophy. A Veuve Clicquot Champagne Airstream bar and barbecue are available on the beach as well as music and entertainment.
Watergate Bay Hotel’s Will Ashworth spoke of the event’s success: “This is our eighth year of hosting Polo on the Beach, and we continue to attract a record number of spectators with an estimated 10,000 people joining us this year. It’s fantastic to organise an event which captures the imagination of locals and visitors from further afield.”