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Right back into it – record-breaking shearer Pauline Bolay

Canadian shearer Pauline Bolay is back at work in a Waikato woolshed today little the worse for wear from a World Record 510 lambs in a day on Saturday and growing international media interest in her achievement.

The 33-year-old Bolay, whose family moved about 15 years ago from Westlock, Alberta, to Fairford, in Manitoba, was the first female from the Northern Hemisphere to attempt a World shearing record, nd came-away with the women’s solo 8-hours strongwool lambs record at Whitford Farms in the Waikaretu Valley, between Auckland and Hamilton.

Beating her previous best one-day tally by about 100 lambs, she passed New Zealand shearer Kerry-Jo Te Huia’s eight-year-old record of 507 with less than three minutes to go, and it could have been better. Two other lambs shorn during the day were disqualified on quality grounds by the panel of World Sheep Shearing Society judges, including convenor Grant Borchardt, from Australia.

Te Huia have been there to support the effort, had it not been for Friday’s closure of State Highway 1 near Kaikoura. As a result she missed the inter-island ferry, part of a journey from the South Island which would have taken about 24 hours, a road trip of over 1400km plus an inter-island ferry voyage of over three hours.

The coopworth lambs which, unusually for record attempts in New Zealand, came from three different properties, comfortably met the minimum requirement of 0.9kg of wool each, with n average of over 1.1kg when 20 were lambs were shorn in the statutory wool-weigh on Friday.

Bolay had huge support, in particular from employers and record-bid managers Emily and Sam Welch, both also record-holders. It was in the same woolshed in 2007, just days after first arriving in New Zealand, that Bolay watched Emily Welch shear a nine-hour record of 648.

Starting at 7am on Saturday and finishing at 5pm, with the four two-hour shearing runs separated by 30-minute breaks for morning and afternoon tea and an hour for lunch, Bolay needed to average under 56.7 seconds a lamb or at least 63.5 lambs an hour, caught, shorn and dispatched.

With Sam Welch right beside her as coach and clock-watcher for all 480 minutes – during which temperatures reached well over 20degC, compared with about minus 20degC back home in Canada – Bolay was right on target with 127 in the first two hours.

She followed up with 125 in the two hours to lunch, and afternoon tallies of 131, and 127 in front of a woolshed packed with spectators and supporters at the end.

Records society secretary Hugh McCarrroll said it was an emotional end for Bolay, who nevertheless had 24 hours later recovered, saying: “I’m feeling pretty good, still on a high…Everything’s (going) crazy.”

“I was pretty emotional because it was a dream come true,” she told a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation journalist two days later. “So many people were cheering me on and supporting me. It was just like….We had done it.”

She spoke of the camaraderie of the woolshed, saying: “I just love working and the challenge of improving every day. You can always shear a sheep faster. You can always shear a sheep cleaner. There’s always something you can do better, so it’s never boring.”

She’d wanted to shear from a young age growing up in Westlock, where the family ran a feedlot about an hour north of Edmonton.

From her arrival in New Zealand, shearing the mainshear season through the southern summer, she was soon also into the competition shearing scene, making several and following in the footsteps of Canadian shearing trailblazer who won the Junior final at New Zealand’s World-famed Golden Shears in 1988 and remains one of only three women to have won any of the four longest-standing titles at the championships which in March celebrate a 60th year..

But it’s all come together in 2019 with Bolay winning a “ladies” final in the UK, representing Canada at a World championships for a second time (in July in France), and becoming the first woman to win the Calgary Stampede’s North American championship in her home country.

The glaringly-humble Bolay wasn’t daunted by the fact that the target on Saturday was 25 per cent more than she’d ever done before in the woolshed and said: “It was a big number to get to, for sure. But it was do-able, and Sam was very valuable. He told me beforehand he’d get me through all the lows.”

“It was one sheep at a time, all day,” she told another broadcaster.

She’d seen several others going through similar ordeals, from Emily Welch’s record 12 years ago, to the first women’s eight-hours record in 2009, and Kerri-Jo Te Huia’s success in breaking it.

Among others in the large team of helpers on Saturday was New Zealand-based Scottish shearer and 2012 World Champion and 2018 Calgary Stampede shearing winner Gavin Mutch, controlling the sheep pen for the day, and Ants Bryant, preparing her combs and cutters, while among those in the crowd was a sister who had flown from Canada.

Sam Welch said some “very clever calls” were made in what was the “most-strategic shearing record attempt he’d seen.

“I knew she had to be on the mark by lunch,” said Welch, who in 2012 shore 674 ewes in a two-stand record over nine hours, shearing with Te Huia’s brother, Stacey. “I had to give the same speech that Stacey and I were given at lunch at our record. If you want this record you have to empty the tank this run, and then run on momentum in the last.”

Two other World record bids are expected in New Zealand this summer, with Stacey Te Huia to attempt a merino wethers (finewool) record near Ranfurly in Central Otago on January 4, and four women gather for rare women’s multi-stand record bid at Waihi-Pukawa, near Turangi in the Central North Island, on January 23.

Bolay, now intent on improving her daily tallies at work, returns to Canada for a family wedding at the end of January, but is tempted to return for New Zealand competitions later, including the Golden Shears in Masterton on March 4-7.


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