RAF Cranwell Polo Tournament
I'm fortunate to be in the position of being able to spend much of the summer watching or umpiring cricket and photographing polo.
I haven't always photographed polo, I started in 2007 after bumping into the polo manager from RMA Sandhurst when I was taking photos at Royal Windsor Horse Show. I was invited along to photograph at Sandhurst, one thing led to another and then I was photographing military polo.
The season opener is a tournament played at RAF Cranwell in early May and I've been fortunate enough to cover that event a few times. For obvious reasons, this season's tournament has been pushed back to September, but for now, here are some photos to give a feel for what goes on.
Going to Cranwell for the event is a treat, I'd applied to join the RAF but had been turned down because I have asthma, so spending a few days there is rather special. As a photographer, it's one of the event's I'll cover for the sheer enjoyment and not for the income.
The tournament usually has entries from several local clubs, usually a team from Ham in south London, two or three RAF sides, the Hackett Army Polo Team and the Army Reserves, so there are two days of play with a formal dinner in the middle. As weekends go, it's pretty good.
The first time I turned up, I didn't have a clue where I was going. I pulled up at the gates in front of College Hall and looked around for an idea of where to go. fortunately, someone was getting a pizza dropped off and I was able to ask. The guardroom is half a mile further up and once I'd been there, finding my way to my accommodation has been easy. Although I did drive in through the wrong entrance once.
Although the main gates are in front of College Hall, the gate guardians are on the other side of the road, there's a a Jet Provost and one of the 55 Squadron HS Dominies. The Dominie was a thrill to see. My father had been a flight inspector at the De Haviland/Hawker Siddeley factory at Broughton and was likely to have worked on this airframe. I lived about a mile from the end of the runway as a teenager and although I didn't see this one fly, I saw most of them.
Polo is played at the back of College Hall on a very nice ground that gives some very good sight lines for taking photos.
The games can be really very fast and entertaining although for some others, not so fast.
Something to watch out for during the RAF Cranwell polo is the gliding, the next field along is used for a gliding club and it's busy throughout both days of the event.
Sometimes you can get really lucky with air traffic.
I'm sure it's coincidence, but I have only seen the Battle of Britain Memorial flight aircraft at the polo when the RAF is playing.
Between games, it's good to catch up with friends and take the kind of team photos that sponsors like to see.
Between the two days play is the tournament dinner. It's a good opportunity to wear a black tie (although I wear an MCC tie) and celebrate. The more robust players keep going into the small hours, but I'm a snowflake and duck out relatively early.
At the end of the tournament, as many teams as possible gather in front of college hall for tournament photos.
I really hope I can get there in September.
Stay safe, stay well.