International Gay Polo Tournament Returns to South Florida
The International Gay Polo Tournament festivities kick off in Wellington on Friday, April 12 and spectators can expect higher quality players than ever and lavish new social events.
Established in 2006, the Gay Polo League is an international organization and the only known gay polo league in the world. This is the fourth year the tournament is headquartered in Wellington.
“I drive a great deal of satisfaction to see what [the GPL] has evolved into,” said GPL founder Chip McKenney. “We are players that compete as gay-identified polo players in non-gay specific tournaments… That’s a big sense of pride.”
The tournament has been gaining momentum, with a record six teams signing up for 2013’s contest. Teams are categorized in two brackets: one for top-level players, and one for developmental players.
Competitors will vie for the Senator Cup Trophy in the championship match, and the Founders Cup for the consolation match winner.
A new addition to the roster was once was the queen of the world polo scene. Veteran polo player Caroline Anier will be flying in from Paris, France to compete.
“Chip has begged me to come for three years and could never make it because of my French polo season that starts in April,” Anier said. “I decided to do it this year because it seems like one of the most fun events in the year, and I want to support gay athletes – especially in polo.”
Anier was the highest-ranked female polo player in the world from 1999-2002, where she established her impressive career with a four-goal outdoor rating – the highest at the time for any female player.
The goal rating – known as polo handicap – ranks players from minus-2 to 10 to create more evenly matched games with players of various playing abilities. There are fewer than a dozen of the elite-ranked 10-goal players in the world. Players with a handicap of five and above are generally of the professional level.
The Gay Polo Tournament typically features participants in the 1 – 2 goal range, but this year, spectators will see a sprinkling of 7-goal, 6-goal and 4-goal players.
The game aside, polo matches are as much about the sport as they are about the socializing.
“The social aspect of a polo event is a draw as much as the polo aspect, people go and have a wonderful time socializing while they engage in the sport,” McKenney said. “We have at tailgate competition that people plan for a year how they’re going to decorate.”
The Jewels and Jeans kickoff party at starts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 12 at the International Polo Club Pavilion. The party will feature a DJ, buffet dinner, three-hour open bar, Chinese auction and live auction.
The tournament begins the next day with a noon tailgate and the first chukker slated for 1 p.m.
“It’s a very spectator-friendly game, you know right away who made a goal and made a foul,” McKenney said. “The crowd can feel the adrenaline as the horses go thundering by at 35 miles per hour.”
Socialites will revel in a new addition to the weekend’s festivities – the Elite tent. Decorated with a plush, upscale equestrian theme, the tent will house food, drinks and entertainment and be open to all of the tournament attendees throughout the matches.
For the ultra-exclusive polo goers that wish for tableside service of hors d’oeuvres and beverages, a limited number of VIP tables are available for purchase.
Spectators will also enjoy a performance by Voices of Pride, The Gay Men’s Chorus of the Palm Beaches, who will be singing the national anthem.
If you Go:
What: Fourth Annual International Gay Polo Tournament
Where: Grand Champions Polo Club
On the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road
When: Saturday, April 13, 2013
Time: Polo Matches start at 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Gates open at noon
Cost: General Admission $25; Tailgate Price – $225, includes eight tickets and one field side parking place; VIP Tables – $1,000 includes seating for eight center field, four beverage tickets for each, gourmet food ticket for each, tableside service, including hors d’oeuvres, throughout the polo matches
Jewels and Jeans Kick-Off Party: Friday, April 12, International Polo Club Pavilion, 3667 120th Ave. S., Wellington, FL Start Time: 6:30 p.m.
More Info: 561-753-3389 or go to GayPolo.com/the-event/
For Tailgates and VIP Tables: Call 561-753-3389
By International Polo Club Palm Beach
Scholars believe polo originated in China or Persia as many as 2,000 years ago, and the game was originally used for training cavalry. The first recorded polo match was played between the Turkomans and the Persians (the Turkomans won), and the game was played from Constantinople to Japan in the Middle Ages. Then, thanks to the Persians and the Monguls of India, polo spread across the eastern world by the 16th century.
The modern age of polo began when the British discovered the game in Manipur on the border of India and Burma and founded the world’s first polo club at Silchar. Many other clubs followed and today the Calcutta Club, which was founded in 1862, is the world’s oldest. British soldiers and tea planters in India quickly took up the sport, prompting its spread to the West, and today the oldest clubs outside of India include The Malta Polo Club, the All Ireland Polo Club in Dublin, England’s Monmouthshire Polo Club and the Meadowbrook Polo Club on Long Island in New York. From there, the sport headed south to Argentina and around the globe to Australia, making polo the international sport that it is today.
To get the most out of polo, it helps to understand the ins and outs of the game.
The field: The polo field is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide (the area of nine football fields). The goalposts are eight yards apart. The boundaries of the field can either be “boarded” with 12-inch boards or marked with white lines.
Two teams of four compete on the field. While each player plays both defense and offense throughout the game, each player’s number indicates his or her actual role or position. Number 1 is a forward player responsible for offense, Number 2 plays offense and supports Number 1 in addition to playing defense, Number 3 tries to take possession of the ball, passes and hits the ball downfield, and Number 4 defends the goal and returns the ball to teammates.
Similar to soccer, the objective of polo is to drive the ball (which is made of white plastic and weighs 4.5 ounces with a 3.5-inch diameter) downfield and between the opponent’s goalposts. The game is divided into six seven-and-a-half-minute play periods called “chukkers.” The “line of the ball” is the imaginary path the ball travels on, and it represents a right-of-way for the last player striking the ball. (Crossing “the line” is the most frequent foul in the game.) When the ball is hit between the goalposts, a point is scored and the teams switch ends of the field.
Both the players and the ponies are outfitted with the tools they need to win the game.
Bandages: The ponies’ legs are wrapped in order to prevent contact with the polo ball.
Breeches: The rules state players’ breeches (pants) must be white, and they are double-seated to provide a cushion from rough riding.
Bridle: This headgear is comprised of a collection of straps and supports that allow the player to steer the pony.
Draw reins: Made of strong yet supple leather, the reins provide an effective method for controlling the pony and making fast turns and stops.
Helmet: Covered in linen, the helmet protects the player from oncoming balls that can travel up to 100 mph. Some players wear helmets with metal face guards.
Mallet: Made of bamboo or cane with a hardwood head, polo mallets range in length from 49 to 53 inches to accommodate the player’s swing and the size of the pony. As a rule, the mallet is always held in the player’s right hand.
Martingale: This reinforced strap steadies the pony’s head.
Riding gloves: Leather gloves give the player a better grip on the reins and the mallet.
Saddle: The polo saddle is an English saddle with a wide, deep seat and a cantle (rear portion) designed for easy movement.
All players are rated on a scale of -2 to 10, with 10 being the best. This rating is based on the player’s ability and has nothing to do with the number of goals scored. There are many factors that determine a player’s handicap, including his or her horsemanship, hitting, quality of horse, team play, game sense and sportsmanship. The team handicap is the sum of the players’ handicaps. In handicap matches, the team with the lower handicap is awarded the difference in goals at the beginning of the match.
- -2 to -1: Beginner
- 0: Average
- 1 to 3: Good
- 4 to 8: Very good
- 9 to 10: Elite
THE POLO GLOSSARY
Brush up on the polo jargon so you’re sure not to miss a second of the action.
Appealing: Players express their desire for a foul by raising their mallets overhead, with or without a helicopter motion. Overzealous appealing is frowned upon.
Backshot: This backhand swing is one of the basic strokes that sends the ball in the opposite direction to change the flow of play.
Bowl in: When the umpire starts or resumes play by rolling the ball down a lineup of the players. (Also known as a throw in.)
Bump: When a player rides into another to disrupt his shot or remove him from play.
Check and turn: To slow the pony and turn safely.
Hook: When a player catches an opponent’s mallet in swing below the level of the pony’s back to turn or leave the ball for a teammate.
Knock in: If a team hits the ball across their opponent’s backline, the defending team gets a free shot from the backline.
Line of the ball: The imaginary path the ball travels on after it is hit.
Made pony: A seasoned, well-trained polo pony.
Near shot: Shot from the left side of the pony.
Neckshot: Shot made by hitting the ball under the pony’s neck.
Off shot: Shot from the right side of the pony.
Penalty: Numbered from one to ten, a penalty awards a free shot to the fouled player from a set distance determined by the severity of the foul.
Pony goal: When a pony causes the ball to go through the goal posts.
Ride off: When two riders make contact and attempt to push each other off the line of the ball to prevent the opponent from striking the ball.
Safety: When a defending player hits the ball across his own backline. Also known as Penalty 6.
Stick and ball: Personal practice time.
Sudden death: Overtime play where the first team to score a goal wins.
Tack: All of the equipment used on the pony.
Tailshot: Shot made by hitting the ball across the pony’s tail.