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NZ Shearer Rowland Smith Attempts a World Record in Wales

New Zealand shearer and former World champion Rowland Smith is preparing for one of the busiest times of his life with a World record attempt and two test matches against Wales in just six days.

Smith will skip the first two of the four CP Wool New Zealand team tests against Wales on Friday and Saturday to prepare for his attempt on the solo eight-hours strongwool ewes record of 605 sheep in Cornwall on Monday, but will then join black singlets teammate and fellow Hawke’s Bay shearer John Kirkpatrick for the third test two days later at the Royal Welsh Show and the last match at the Corwen Shears on July 29.

Such a busy lifestyle is nothing new to the 30-year-old father-of-two, soon to be three, who grew-up around Ruawai in Northland and who in addition to shearing for a living runs about 30 hectares at Maraekakaho, near Hastings, with wife and fellow shearing record breaker Ingrid (nee Baynes), from Wairoa.

In the space of six months from October to April, he shore in more than half the 63 Open shearing competitions that were held throughout New Zealand, reaching 30 finals and winning 26.

He also shore for New Zealand in tests in Australia and in Masterton, and the NZ Rural Games Speedshear in Palmerston North, where he was also named inaugural Rural Sportsperson of the Year, a few months after being acclaimed as a Master Shearer by Shearing Sports New Zealand.

Crowned World Champion in Ireland in 2014, he just missed out on a place in the New Zealand team to defend his title, but still beat the best in the World in the open-entry Southland All Nations final during the 2017 World Championships in Invercargill in February.

It was one of 19 consecutive wins he amassed in just over 10 weeks to the end of the season at Easter, from Invercargill in the south to Auckland in the north. It included an unprecedented cleansweep of the Golden Shears and New Zealand Open titles and the events’ two all-breeds championships, the PGG Wrightson National and the NZ Shears Circuit.

Just days after winning in Invercargill he won on successive days at Gore and at Pukekohe, where he posted his 100th Open-class wins, in a career that started in the Spring of 2006 after a successful lower grades career which included winning the Golden Shears Junior and Senior titles.

He completed the season with an another inter-island dash, winning two days apart at the Royal Easter Show in Auckland and the Mackenzie Shears in Fairlie, South Canterbury.

In January 2011 Rowland Smith shore 562 as he and brother Doug shore a two-stand ewes record of 1066 at Waitara Station, between Napier and Taupo, where third brother Matthew Smith had shorn an eight-hour solo record of 578 a year earlier. In 2009 Ingrid Smith shore 470 lambs I eight hours as she and mother Marg, of Wairoa, set a two-stand women’s record of 903.

It’s Matthew Smith who has set the scene for Monday’s record bid. Settling in Cornwall on the family farm of wife Pippa he on July 26 last year, using sheep mainly from the property, launched the first World shearing record bid in the Northern Hemisphere and claimed the ultimate prize of a new solo nine-hours strongwool ewes record. He shore 731, beating the previous record of 721 shorn by fellow Hawke’s Bay shearer Rodney Sutton more than nine years earlier.

The eight-hour record being attempted by Rowland Smith on Monday had also gone unbettered for almost six years after Te Kuiti shearer Stacey Te Huia shore 603 in December 2010.

Southland shearer Leon Samuels set the new mark of 605 with successive two-hour runs of 149, 153, 151 and 152 at Argyle Station in Northern Southland on February 20 this year.

Smith will have to shearer an average of at least 151.5 per run (75.75 an hour) to break the record.

That’s an average of 47.52 seconds a sheep, but given that 5-7 seconds elapse switching off, despatching the shorn sheep, catching the next and switching-on again, the target average shearing time is under 42 seconds a sheep.

The sheep must average over 3kg of wool each, which will be tested in a pre-record sample shear on Sunday (UK time), the record being overseen by four World Sheep Shearing Records Society referees from three countries. The referees are Eddie Archer, from South Africa, Welsh officials Martyn David and Arwyn Jones, and New Zealand team manager and qualified judge Johnny Fraser, of North Otago.

A special feature will be that unlike with the larger flocks of New Zealand, the romney sheep will be drawn from four properties up to an hour apart, although about two thirds are from Trefranck Farm.

In the planning for a year, costs include a records society single-stand challenge fee of $US1800 (currently $NZD2466), but with considerable other costs in feeding an army of helpers and the “shout” for the team at the end of the day.

Record attempt spokesman and shearing commentator Huw Condron says they’re starting to gather in Cornwall and will include Ingrid Smith, Doug Smith, woolhandlers Lianna Wharerau, of Hastings, and Gwennan Paewai, of Wales, “gear man” Ants Bryant, of Taumarunui, major sponsor Heiniger Australasian shearing machinery research and development manager Selwyn Williams, and shearer’s dad Allan and wife Lyn, and in-laws Colin and Marg Baynes.

Several New Zealand names are among the sponsors and supporters, including meat company Affco, Levno/Ensol dairy and fuel tanks, livestock identification tag specialist Allflex, outdoor clothing specialist Swazi, Hastings shearing contractors Shearing NZ and principle Colin Watson Paul, Dannevirke butchery The Meat Company, and Hawke’s Bay farmers Lloyd Holloway, of Waitara Station, and John Sorensen, of Maraekakaho.

The British Wool Marketing Board are also major supporters, with farm fencing specialist McVeigh Parker, animal nutrition specialist Biocell Agri, and North Devon farm bike distributors OHG Quads Can Am also involved.

Funds raised on the day through donations from spectators will go to the Little Harbour Children’s Hospice in nearby St Austell.

The record attempt will start on Monday at 7am (6pm NZST) and will end at 5pm (4am Tuesday NZST), with Smith taking mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks of 30 minutes each and an hour for lunch, in a routine based on the standard eight-hour day in New Zealand woolsheds.

Te Kuiti shearer Jack Fagan, recent winner of the French Open, the 2015 Royal Welsh Open champion and son of Kiwi shearing legend Sir Dabid Fagan, will substitute for Rowland Smith in the two tests against Wales on Friday at Cothi and Lampeter on Saturday.


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