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Double-hit On Lambshearing Record

A shearing record which has gone unchallenged for more than a decade will be up for grabs twice in three days in the central North Island this week.

The target is the eight-hours solo strongwool lambshearing record of 744, set by Irish shearer Ivan Scott at Opepe, near Taupo, on January 9, 2012, and being tackled by two shearers who 12 months ago shore together in helping break a five-stand record for nine hours..

Taihape shearer Reuben Alabaster, aged 19, will be first out of the blocks with his attempt on Tuesday at Te Pa Station, 859 Oruakukuru Road, Waimarino, in a wilderness south of Raetihi and Ohakune.

It was there on December 22 last year that Alabaster shore 774 during a successful bid on the five-stand record for nine hours, averaging a lamb every 41.86 seconds, caught, shorn and dispatched, or 21.5 lambs a quarter-hour.

On Thursday, the focus will move to Puketiti Station, Mangaotaki, near PioPio, where the record will be challenged by Te Kuiti shearer Jack Fagan, who shore 811 in the nine-hour multi-stand record last year.

Alabaster’s best eight-hour tally in the woolshed is a “can’t remember when” 615, but his recent woolshed sprint training has seen him shearing on pace to meet the target of over 23 a quarter-hour needed to break the record.

He’ll be in good hands, with the record managed by Southern Hawke’s Bay farmer and shearing instructor Justin Bell, who has held both the eight-hours and nine-hours records.

In December 2002, Bell set an eight-hours mark of 731, during a two-stand record, and two years later he set a nine-hours record of 851.

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Bell’s eight-hours record stood for six years until Scott shore 736 in December 2008 at Rerekawhaaitu, south of Rotorua, and Central Hawke’s Bay shearer Cam Ferguson lifted the bar to 742 in a King Country woolshed in January 2011, in a triumphant period of just over 10 months in which won the 2010 Golden Shears Open Championship in Masterton and the World championship in Wales.

In Alabaster’s corner monitoring the time will be Te Kuiti-based Welsh shearer Delwyn Jones, who also shore in the five-stand record 12 months ago, and looking after the gear will be Scottish 2012 World champion, 2015 Golden Shears champion and Southern Hawke’s Bay farmer Gavin Mutch.

Alabaster has a real shearing pedigree as son of shearer and farmer Ricky Alabaster, cousin of World champion woolhandler and Taihape schoolteacher Sheree Alabaster, and great-great-nephew of the late Ray Alabaster, who shore at the first Golden Shears as a teenager in 1961 and shore nine times in the Open final, twice finishing runner-up.

The current prodigy is also no stranger to competition success.

He first won a Junior final at Te Puke in February 2017 and 14 months later, at the age of 14, became the youngest winner of a major title in the Junior-to-Open grades when he claimed the New Zealand Shears Junior title at Te Kuiti.

It was one of six wins in the 2017-2018 season, and he’s now had 16 competition wins, including seven in the Senior grade in 2020-2021.

Despite the indifferent weather and unusually regular rain this year, Alabaster said: “The preparation’s been good. I’ve trained for 6 and a half months. Feeling fit and ready to go. Can’t wait to get it over and done with.”

The record bid is over the standard eight-hour day of four two-hour runs, with half-hour morning and afternoon tea breaks and an hour for lunch. In 2012 Scott shore runs of 187, 189, 186 and 182, and he hopes to keep track of the event challenge from his home in Kilmacrennan, County Donegal, via live-streaming and social media posts.

“It’s all achievable if the lambs are good,” said Scott, whose nine-hour record of 867, shorn in 2016, was broken in July 2021 by English shearer Stu Connor.

Tuesday’s attempt will be overseen by a World Sheep Shearing Records judging panel of four, convened by David Brooker, from Australia, and assisted by New Zealand officials Paul Harris, Ronnie King, and Bart Hadfield.

It will be the first of five record bids scheduled in New Zealand over the next seven weeks.

On January 4 the two-stand record held by Bell and Whanganui shearer Sean Edmonds will be challenged at ‘The Shades’, 3593 Mangamahu Road, Wanganui, by local shearer Simon Goss (brother of World champion Women’s rugby star and former shearer Sarah Hirini) and Rotorua shearer Jamie Skiffington.

Two women’s record will be targeted in the following weeks, with Tararua District shearer Amy Silcock after the women’s eight-hours ewes record of 370 on January 27, at ‘Ross Na Clonagh’, 7 Balance Road, Pahiatua, and eight days later, on February 4, King Country shearer Sacha Bond will attempt the lambs record of 510 at Fairlight Station, Northern Southland.

© Scoop Media

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