Fun on the sand as European beach tracks forge alliance
In Britain and Ireland, racing on the beach is associated with Laytown and only Laytown – but that may soon change after the newly formed European Beach Racing Association held its first meeting in Brittany on Monday.
Formed under the auspices of the European and Mediterranean Horseracing Federation (EMHF), the new organisation sprang from the more practical considerations unique to staging a race meeting on the sand.
"The idea came to me last year when it occurred to me we didn't know how many tracks across Europe held official thoroughbred beach racing," explained EMHF secretary-general Paull Khan.
"It turns out there were seven tracks and that most of them were unaware of each other's existence."
The first official meeting, which included representatives from six of the seven tracks, took place in Plestin-les-Greves in Brittany the day after their annual beach fixture last Sunday.
"It made sense to get these tracks together to share the unique experiences of organising beach racing that traditional tracks don't have to consider; crowd controls and such," said Khan.
"We also realised, on a visit to Brussels on separate business, they could apply for funding under the EU's rural development policy in order to promote beach racing."
He continued: "Representatives from the tourist office were there and they were very interested in promoting the beach racing and creating some sort of brand around it. If we were to create the idea of a circuit around beach racing in Europe and raise awareness, that would be excellent."
The most exciting part for sun-seeking racing fans – or those who enjoy Laytown! – is that the prospect of taking in a tour of Europe's beach fixtures, which run from May to September but this year have been concentrated between mid-July and mid-August, might soon become a reality.
Khan said: "It would depend on timings, because tracks have to consider things like the tides when planning their fixtures, but if a week falls so that it would make sense to travel from one to the other we'd look to run a tour. I hope it would be popular."
Beach racing meetings in Europe 2017
May 20: La Laredo, Cantabria, Spain
July 16: Duhner-Wattrennen, Cuxhaven, Germany
July 23: Loredo, Cantabria, Spain
July 30: Plestin-les-Greves, Brittany, France
August 3: Plouescat, Brittany, France
August 3 - August 19 (six fixtures): Sanlucar de Barrameda, Cadiz, Spain
September 5: Laytown, County Meath, Ireland
Enthusiasm for beach racing is evident and Khan said: "These meetings already punch above their weight in terms of attendance. Sanlucar, which holds six meetings a year, can draw 30,000 people, as can Cuxhaven in Germany."
Sanlucar will host its six meetings between now and August 19, before Laytown concludes the 2017 beach racing season, as it can now be called, on September 5.