The aprobane Elephant Polo Club (TEPC) proudly hosted the Ceylon Elephant Polo Association (CEPA) championships
THE TAPROBANE ELEPHANT POLO CLUB (TEPC) PROUDLY HOSTED THE CEYLON ELEPHANT POLO ASSOCIATION (CEPA) CHAMPIONSHIPS
'TAPROBANE TROPHY' TOURNAMENT ON TAPROBANE BEACH, WELIGAMA, SRI LANKA. MARCH 1-3, 2002.
Following the famous inaugural CEPA victory of Chivas Regal,WEPA over
Sri Lanka,CEPA in February 2001, Geoffrey Dobbs, President of CEPA and the TEPC once again hosted the 2nd ever CEPA 'Taprobane Trophy Tournament' between March 1-3, 2002.
The event this year saw a dramatic increase in participating teams from 2 to 6, with the new additions to Chivas Regal and Sri Lanka being Thailand, Hong Kong, England, and a glamorous international ladies team known as 'The Ladyloves', captained by international celebrity party planner Miss Sophie Lillingston.
The Weligama to Galle tourism coconut corridor had never seen it so good since before the Tamil Tiger times - with villas and hotels alike booked up by international elephant polo celebrities, their roving followers and Elephant Owners’ Associations from across the board. The event was robustly supported by both The Ministry for Tourism and The Sri Lankan Elephant Owners’ Association.
ELEPHANT POLO Highlights of CEPA 2002 were undoubtedly:
THE FIRST EVER HOME VICTORY for the TAPROBANE ELEPHANT POLO CLUB, representing the island paradise of Sri Lanka. They beat England 7-0 in a final threatened only by the rising tide, with ex-Argentian pro Dominic Moynihan scoring 5 goals on rookie star elephant 'GERALD' in the first of the two chukkas.
Despite a gallant rearguard effort by England star Chris Walker (Wiltshire), Sri Lanka wrapped up the Taprobane Trophy with 2 second chukka goals by Moynihan and his team captain and CEPA host, Geoffrey Dobbs - Dobbs scoring possibly the slowest non-assist goal in WEPA history after 3 minutes and 12 seconds of chaos in the England defensive ‘D’.
CHIVAS REGAL GOLDEN GOAL AWARD went to Dominic Moynihan for his 30 yard acute angled, under the trunk effort in the first game of CEPA 2002 against a plucky but inexperienced Hong Kong defense. Chris Stafford, captain of Thailand, nearly pulled off the goal of the century from a goal hit against Chivas Regal - missing the Chivas goal by 3 inches in their tense opening encounter of League B.
THE GAME OF THE TOURNAMENT was undoubtedly that between CHIVAS REGAL and ENGLAND - the old foes from Great Britain. Having lost the crucial toss and been given the faster 'A-String’ elephants for the first chukka of this massive semi-final affair, Chivas Regal desperately needed to leverage the 'GERALD' factor and score more than 4 goals by half-time.
Three in three minutes by captain (and 16 year WEPA veteran) Pete Prentice augured well until a combination of startling defense, and a Royal muddle in the middle between Chivas No'1, His Grace, The Duke of Argyll and England's No'3
Ian Secret, saw Chivas just manage 1 more goal in the remaining 4 minutes.
4-0 to Chivas at half-time.
CHIVAS REGAL, the hotly fancied favourites and reigning WEPA Grand Slam Champions were now in deep trouble. The second half script went perfectly for England. Despite their lesser experience, Chris Walker played with impressive INTELLIGENCE to accumulate 3 goals in 6 minutes. With only a minute left, he and 'GERALD' side-stepped the impressive Samantha Prentice on board 'LOVE BUG' and, with just 11 seconds remaining on the clock, England equalised.
On 'GERALD' and the ‘A-String’ of elephants for the extra time golden goal play-off, the victory for England was inevitable, and it soon came to pass.
CONTROVERSY IN THE INDIAN SUB-CONTINENT is never far from the surface,
and at CEPA 2002, this increasingly murky element in international sport was also apparent. Not that there was any official complaint, nor would one want to accuse anyone of match fixing, but there were two games in which dynamo elephant 'Gerald' (on the A-String) appeared slovenly when playing against teams with 'SRI LANKA' written on their shirts. Also, 'Love Bug' (on the B-String) was usually quite hopeless until she was noticed by a non-partisan spectator playing a ‘well ahead of her game’ while representing a Sri Lankan-shirted team.
To add to the confusion, Thailand boasted one charming Sri Lankan player, while England wore Taprobane, Sri Lanka T-shirts having lost their own England strip en-route from Heathrow to Colombo. Even Sri Lanka themselves appeared to perform much better once they changed shirts from their official 'CEPA Taprobane' strip to the Sri Lanka shirts worn in Hua Hin at the Thailand King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament held back in September 2001.
The scenes were, thankfully, nowhere near those of the acrimony witnessed in Galle last year during the First Cricket Test between England and Sri Lanka, nor those of Eden Gardens during the recent One-Day Internationals between England and India. However, sporstmanship related issues amongst mahouts has been noted as an area for the CEPA Committee to work on between now and the next 'Taprobane Trophy Tournament' scheduled for March 2003.
THE NATURAL ELEMENTS came in to play on two critical occasions:
- The TIDAL SWINGS were intense this year, with the full moon being celebrated on March 2nd. As a result the high tides were significantly higher than usual, hence resulting in a need to shorten the pitch by match as the day went along. The final was therefore played on a shorter pitch than the semi-finals, but since there is no specific rule against this at CEPA, there was no issue. In view of the inevitability of tidal swings in nature, flexibility on pitch measurements will be accepted in the future for as long as TEPC hosts the CEPA Tabropane Trophy on the beach at Weligama.
- A NEW ATHLETIC looking elephant called 'ELTON' was introduced to play for the evening session of DAY 1, having arrived late from the tea plantations of Newara Eliya. Elton came on as a reserve replacement for 'TURBO' (B-String) for the SRI LANKA v LADYLOVES final match in League A. During this match Sunny Kalaan playing for the LADYLOVES, fell off Elton, breaking her heel in the process. Elephant Polo can be, like all sports, a dangerous activity - and his incident once again came as a reminder to us all of the need to treat sports such as elephant polo with the needful respect.
THE ELEPHANTS were once again the true stars of the tournament, as they always will be. These remarkable, intelligent and patient animals are facing a major crisis in Sri Lanka now that the logging industry has been abolished. Not only this, but the Sri Lankan elephant's natural habitat in the North of this beautiful Island Republic has been devastated and traumatized by over a decade of political turmoil and civil war. This is why elephant polo, albeit small today, is being supported by the Sri Lanka Elephant Owner's Association and Ministry for Tourism alike, since it offers a new lease of life for Sri Lanka's elephant population.
THE TOP ELEPHANT this year was undoubtedly 'GERALD'. Gerald was neither the youngest nor smallest of the CEPA 2002 string, but with an electric pace, the turning circle of Rudolf Nuryev, and his uncanny confidence, Gerald left all other elephants in his wake. Back this up with the tactical acumen of his mahout, 'Semanta', and together they created one of the finest mahout/elephant polo cocktails ever seen in WEPA history.
TO GRADE THE ELEPHANTS at the beginning of the tournament - and hence determine 2 EVEN teams of 3 consistent elephants - a CONTEST of two 50 yard dashes were arranged. The aggregate timings across the races were recorded and the elephants were graded and teamed up in order of speed capacity as follows:
- GERALD : A-Team
- LOVE BUG : B-Team
- RED ROCK : B-Team
- BIG DICK : A-Team
- TURBO : B-Team -substituted by Lay Down Sally on day 3.
- CRUISE CONTROL : A-Team
- LAY DOWN SALLY : substituted Turbo on day 3.
- TOP GUN : not used.
THE WEEK’S GLAMOUR was of course, and as ever, a major talking point of any elephant polo championship. This year was no exception with Geoffrey Dobbs once again hosting the event on the majestic grounds of Taprobane Island, arguably the most glamorous and romantic private island in the world.
Special features of CEPA 2002 was the introduction of elephant polo to His Grace, The Duke of Argyll, taking time off from his stately duties in Scotland to play for his favourite Scotch Whisky, Chivas Regal. He brought with him Mohan Tissanayagam, The Prince of Jaffna, an old friend and business partner for Chivas. Also on parade was Indian polo legend and Delhi celebrity, 'The Silver Fox' Raj Kalaan, once again invited especially to play for Sri Lanka.
In addition to the Duke of Argyll, CEPA also played host to a bevvy of beautiful Chivas SuperBabes, headed by the glamorous Sunny Kalaan and Sangeeta 'Anjou' Singh from New Delhi and Santa Barbara, with a supporting cast of Melissa Walker (Wiltshire), Sophie Lillingston from Ireland, Champagne Aficionado Veronica Wonky from London, Sandra Santac from The Philippines, the peripatetic, nomadic Holly Wilmot, Didi Didi Dum Dum (ex-007 babe and en-route from Saigon to Hong Kong), and the wild Jessica Prentice (from the idyllic village of Elstead, West Sussex).
ON THE PARTY FRONT there was a rich plethora of terrific entertainment arranged for the CEPA nightlife - another critical component along with Chivas Regal to any world class elephant polo event.
HIGHLIGHTS of the social & sporting party scene were three parties:
Hosted by Thomas Buchan of Auchmacoy and the England team at Crystal Villas on the first night. This was largely an England, Chivas, Sri Lanka affair in which the finest Weligama chickens were served with a delicious local Weligama BBQ sauce. A great evening made especially memorable for the triumphant return of Sunny Kalaan from Galle Hospital having broken her heel earlier in the day. Her brave performance making mockery of any suggestion that the Ladyloves had fallen foul of the ‘Jitters’.
On March 2nd, Dom ‘Flashman’ Moynihan hosted his annual garden party 'chez Cap Coco', on the beautiful Cap Coco peninsula between Galle and Unawatuna beach. A splendid evening of fresh, BBQ'd local tuna, with a heady cocktail of free-flowing Chivas Regal and local Wyborow Moscow Mules just to get the party really swinging.
The arrival of Jack and Jo Eden (Suez revisited) and 'The Galle Ten' 'When You Know' crowd added a touch of local class and elegance to this much talked about evening, one that swung through to the early hours of the morning to the eclectic ballads of unplugged Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Harry Belafonte.
To complete the CEPA festivities, and with Sri Lanka the newly crowned champions of the Taprobane Trophy, the President of CEPA, Geoffrey Dobbs, orchestrated and hosted a spectacular evening on Taprobane Island itself. Starting at exactly 6.38pm with a colourful 'Beating Retreat' by the massed band of the Sri Lankan Navy on the shores of Taprobane, the assembled dignitaries migrated the 3 feet deep 20 yards stretch of Indian Ocean to the steps of Taprobane Island from whence the night of CHIVAS REGAL Regal, champagne and fine wines was to continue til the sunrise of March 4th.
With Geoffrey Dobbs and his CEPA Committee, The Duke of Argyll, The Prince of Jaffna, The Chivas SuperBabes, the assembled teams, and The Galle Ten - now only one element was missing - The 'Colombo Seven' crowd. Were they to come, this would be the final icing on the cake on a memorable CEPA 2002, and sure enough, there they were, arriving in their own exclusive droves in all their finery and with gay abandon.
The dancing was fast, furious and quite magnificent – International Dance Guru Vanessa Birrell of the Chivas SuperBabes described it as the finest and most engaging representation of the art of group dynamic dancing that she had ever seen……………………….She was telling no lie.
About 250 special guests of the TEPC and CEPA enjoyed a very late night of spectacular scenery and hospitality from their saronged and generous host, Geoffrey Dobbs. By sunrise the tide was once again up, allowing the guests to enjoy the same Indian Ocean experience on departure as on their arrival 11 hours earlier.
The Taprobane Ball, like the CEPA 2002 Taprobane Trophy Tournament, was another memorably unique global event that those present will remember for as long as they can enjoy a delicious glass of CHIVAS REGAL, quite simply the SMOOTHEST SCOTCH WHISKY IN THE WORLD.
The World Elephant Polo Association was founded at Tiger Tops, Nepal in 1982 by AV Jim Edwards and James Manclark.
The CEPA (Sri Lanka) and TEPA (Thailand) Elephant Polo associations were affiliated to WEPA as Associate Members in 2001.
For further information about elephant polo check out the Taprobane Island website, and the official WEPA website www.elephantpolo.com.
PRESIDENT CEPA and TEPC : Geoffrey Dobbs.
Vice-PRESIDENT CEPA and TEPC : Dominic Moynihan.
CEPA Committee Member (WEPA) : Peter Prentice.
CEPA SECRETARY : Rajah Tilak of Matara.
Colonel Raj Kalaan
Colonel Raj Kalaan
OFFICIAL PITCH MEASURERS:
OFFICIAL FINE WINES AND SPIRITS SUPPLIERS:
Chivas Bros & Chivas Regal.
OFFICIAL CEPA BABYSITTER:
A -Team B -Team
Gerald Love Bug
Big Dick Red Rock
Cruise Control Turbo
League A League B
Sri Lanka Chivas Regal
Ladyloves Hong Kong
Sri Lanka 7 v England 2 Chivas Regal 6 v Thailand 4
England 3 v Ladyloves 2 Chivas Regal 5 v Hong Kong 5
Sri Lanka 1 v Ladyloves 1 Thailand 6 v Hong Kong 0
League A Table P W D L Points League B Table P W D L Points
Sri Lanka 2 1 1 0 3 Chivas Regal 2 1 1 0 3
England 2 1 0 0 2 Thailand 2 1 0 0 2
Ladyloves 2 0 1 1 1 Hong Kong 2 0 1 1 1
Chivas Regal 4 v England 5 * After Extra Time (England won toss).
Sri Lanka 7 v Thailand 1 * (Sri Lanka won toss).
CEPA TAPROBANE TROPHY FINAL
Sri Lanka 7 v England 0 *(Sri Lanka won toss)
Scorers - Dominic Moynihan 6.
- Geoffrey Dobbs 1.
CEPA TAPROBANE WOODEN SPOON
Ladyloves 2 v Hong Kong 3 * After extra time (Ladyloves won toss).