BRITISH POLO DAY
This exclusive, invitation-only event debuts in Australia... Let the games begin!
The scene is understated elegance: Akubra hats, white shirts and breezy summer frocks, with nary a fascinator or stiletto in sight. Children slide down a grassy slope on cardboard boxes, squealing with excitement, while picnic rugs in the shade of spreading gum trees are the seating of choice.
The spectators are sipping Taittinger bubbles and Royal Salute whisky; in the carpark, vehicles are stately Range Rovers and European classics.
We are on the sidelines of one of six immaculately groomed polo fields, graced with its own viewing pavilion. No need to stomp divots here – between games, elaborate machines mow and flatten the pitch. Surrounding us are thousands of hectares of lush grazing lands; while on a hill surveying the grandeur is an architect-designed art gallery housing the most outstanding collection of Aboriginal art in Australia.
This is Garangula, the private estate of the Schwarzenbach family, located at Harden, around 100 kilometres from Canberra; and the occasion is the inaugural British Polo Day Australia event, coinciding with Australia’s premier high-goal polo match, the final of the Garangula Spring Polo tournament.
It’s an auspicious marriage indeed: the pinnacle of Australian polo meets the best of British luxury, creating a unique platform for networking and elite commercial opportunity based around one unifying element: the horse.
Capital affair in Canberra
The brainchild of former British Household Cavalry friends, Ed Olver and Tom Hudson, British Polo Day was launched three years ago and has since staged 35 events in 14 countries. These hugely successful events have garnered enormous international interest, hosted 12 royal families, 100 billionaires (including Richard Branson and Vinod Kunar) and over 10,000 leading business figures, and raised over US$1.2 million in charitable donations.
Far from being a stiff and formal affair, however, the emphasis of British Polo Day is on fun, friendship and sport. Presented as a four-day ‘road trip’ (with international travel arrangements courtesy of partner Abercrombie & Kent),
the mood is convivial and buoyant as we head off from Sydney’s InterContinental Hotel in a fleet of luxurious new Range Rover Sport SUVs (chauffeur-driven, of course) towards our base for the weekend, Hotel Hotel in Canberra.
Since it opened in December 2013, this ‘industrial chic’, eco-friendly hotel has challenged Canberra’s staid and conservative image, injecting the capital with a much-needed sense of style. From its spacious guest rooms, each individually decorated with bespoke retro furniture, to its hip restaurant, Monster, Hotel Hotel is Australia’s most talked-about new property.
Our first meeting with the polo entourage is far from formal: rather, an evening cocktail reception and dinner at Hotel Hotel is full of laughter, fun and copious amounts of Royal Salute whisky, a 21-year-old Scotch traditionally served in a silver ‘quaich’ goblet then turned upside-down on your head once the wee dram has been devoured!
After a well-deserved sleep-in (or an empowering yoga session presented by Hotel Hotel’s in-house guru), we once again hit the road in our Range Rover limos for a quintessentially Aussie event – the local Harden picnic race meet – before heading to Garangula for stick and ball practice, a crucial warm-up for the following day’s polo.
Gourmands in an art gallery
Several hours later, however, jodphurs, boots and mallets are discarded as 100 VIP guests converge on Garangula’s magnificent art gallery for the official British Polo Day Gala Dinner. Designed by the same architects responsible for Hotel Hotel and Tasmania’s MONA, this contemporary masterpiece houses an awe-inspiring private collection of rare Aboriginal and Australian traditional art.
After good food, good whisky and an entertaining ‘Golden Egg’ share-plate dessert courtesy of the InterContinental’s Executive Chef Tamas Pamer comes British Polo Day’s serious side – an auction raising US$48,500 to be split between two charities: Head Injury Through Sport (HITS) and the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence.
But it is on the polo field the following day that the true spirit of British Polo Day shines. Following the final of the Garangula Polo Tournament, where the home-team defeated Ellerston Black eight goals to six,the fun begins with a demonstration ‘bicycle polo’ match, conducted on lightweight, foldable Brompton bicycles. There are spills galore in this highly entertaining spectacle, which results in a three-all draw and several bruises.
The main event is slightly more dignified, with Garangula once again coming up trumps over the British Schools visitors. But the real winners of the day are our hosts: British Polo Day, and the luxury brands that celebrate British heritage, the sport of kings and the finer things in life.
01 01 Giles Adams, 3RD HOME founder, and Murray Lang, Royal Salute Brand Ambassador 02 Colonel Simon Ledger and His Excellency Paul Madden 03 Hosted by the Schwarzenbach family 04 HIgh-goal final action
05 05 Garangula’s home-team triumphant