THE countdown to the glamorous Sandbanks Beach Polo event is almost over, as dozens of the British Isle’s most skilled players converge on Poole.

This year, for the first time in the competition’s five year history, riders battle it out on the sand after nightfall.

“We have introduced a world first with night beach polo,” said organiser Johnny Wheeler from Sandpolo Events. “The Asahi British Beach Polo Championships are constantly evolving so we can bring a better and more exciting event to Sandbanks each year.”

For the first time since the annual two-day tournament came to Sandbanks, riders from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales will be locking mallets.

Day one gets underway tomorrow and includes an evening beach polo exhibition, with the arena illuminated by giant lighting balloons, which organisers hope will wow the crowds.

Event spokesman Caron Khan said: “Of all the elements new to the championships this is the one that promises to be a stunning sight.”

Organisers are hoping for sunny weather but light rain was forecast for both days as the Daily Echo went to press.

Celebrated chef Mark Hix will cook in the Sunseeker Hospitality Lounge tomorrow. Meanwhile, international polo, beach volleyball and a Help for Heroes charity race between an Audi Q7 car and a pony also takes place.

Earlier this year Help for Heroes ambassador Neil Heritage, from Poole, was among the guests who attended the event’s launch. The former soldier was injured in Iraq in 2004.

On Saturday the event theme is white jeans, with Sandpolo Events donating £1 to Help for Heroes for every pair donned.

The final teams go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon, before live music and international house DJ Colin ‘StarRocker’ Pereira entertain at the evening party.

Caron said: “This exhilarating two-day event promises to be a non-stop feast for the sensations.”

Continental evenings with fireworks

POOLE Quay’s first Summer Breeze event of the year, which promises a “continental atmosphere,” takes place tonight.

Every Thursday in July there will be a mix of live music, entertainment and family fun on the quay – culminating with a spectacular firework display over Poole Harbour at 10pm.

Among the highlights will be exotic belly dancing with dance group Belly Fusion and live music and dance from local band Black Sheep.

Children’s rides, street magic a circus workshop, juggling and plate spinning will also help to create a carnival atmosphere.

Poole tourism partnership chairman Bruce Grant-Braham said: “Enjoying the fabulous music at Summer Breeze whilst dining al fresco at one of the great pubs, cafes or restaurant is the perfect way to soak up the quay’s continental atmosphere.

“So come on down, support local businesses and enjoy Poole’s fun-packed summer of free entertainment.”

Breeze Volkswagen managing director John Corderoy said: “We’re pleased to have the opportunity to support such an established series of event which both locals and visitors to the area can enjoy throughout the summer.”