Helping Hands From Downunder In UK World Shearing Record Bid
The New Zealand influence will again be strong despite the limitations of the global pandemic as English shearer Stu Connor attempts the World 9-hours strongwool lambs shearing record in Cornwall, England, on Wednesday.
Oxfordshire shearer Stu Connor will attempt to break the record of 867 at Trefrank, St Clether, a farm run by UK award-winning farmer and former Northland and Hawke’s Bay shearer Matt Smith and English wife Pippa.
Chief referee Paul Harris will monitor the event via Zoom from his home at Balcairn, near Amberley in North Canterbury, from two cameras at the event – one focused on the shearing board and one on the shorn lambs in the pens. Former Canterbury farmer and now England-based Johnny Fraser will officiate at the scene along with Welsh judges Martyn David and Arwyn Jones.
It will be a long night, with the attempt starting at 4pm NZST, or 5am in the UK, and spanning 12 hours, with breaks for breakfast, morning and afternoon tea and lunch, according to the standard rules set by the World Sheep Shearing Records Society.
Harris will have already tuned in for up to 3 hours early on Wednesday morning for the pre-record wool-weigh, when a sample shear of 20 lambs from the flock must produce a clip averaging at least 0.9kg per lamb for the attempt to be able to go ahead.
“They’re pretty obnoxious hours,” he said.
With requirements for at least one judge not from the home country of the shearer, refereeing from a distance was first used in a World Sheep Shearing Records Society record attempt when Australian official Mark Baldwin oversaw Southland shearer Megan Whitehead’s women’s record of 661 lambs by Zoom from his office in Tocumwal, NSW, in January.
There was also a test-run about for Connor’s record attempt about 6 weeks ago and Harris says the record attempts would not be happening without the remote judging.
The current men’s record was set also at Trefrank by Irish shearer Ivan Scott, on July 31, 2016, beating by a single lamb the previous record set by Hawke’s Bay shearer Dion King in January 2007 in a King Country woolshed, in New Zealand’s central North Island – the first attempt at which referee Harris officiated.
Scott opened with 193 in the first 2 hours to breakfast – 3 behind the pace of King’s opening run. He then shore successive 1hr 45min runs of 170, 169, 169 and 166.
Averaging 37.37 seconds a lamb or 96.33 lambs every hour – caught, shorn and dispatched – Scott caught the crucial record-breaking lamb with just seconds to spare..
It’s Connor’s second attempt, the first in September 2019 having fallen short but still produced a British record of 785 at Fern Hill Farm, in Compton Martin, Somerset.
He has dedicated both attempts to daughter Grace, who died at the age of 3 in April 2018 from mitochondrial disease, he and wife Kira working tirelessly to make a difference for other families affected by the disease, with Team Grace helping raise tens of thousands of pounds for the Lily Foundation in Grace's memory.
Connor shore in New Zealand early last year, before heading back to the UK ahead of the first Covid-19 lockdown in mid-March 2020.
It will be a busy week for Matt and Pippa Smith, who on the following day will stage an agricultural open day on the farm, with proactive trade stands, retail stands and hospitality.
The Covid-19 crisis has however put-off an attempt by New Zealand shearers Aidan Copp and Cameron Hicks the World 2-two stand 8hrs crossbred lambs record, which to have been staged in Australia this Saturday. The shearers hope to be able to make the attempt next year.