The New Zealand influence will again be strong despite the limitations of the global pandemic, as English shearer Stu Connor attempts the world nine-hour strong wool lamb shearing record in Cornwall, England, on Wednesday.
Oxfordshire shearer Stu Connor will attempt to break the record of 867 lambs at Trefrank, St Clether, a farm run by UK award-winning farmer and former Northland and Hawke's Bay shearer Matt Smith and his 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, (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.
The pre-record wool-weigh will take place on Wednesday morning, where 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.
Harris will have already tuned in for up to three hours before the wool weigh has even started.
"They're pretty obnoxious hours," he said.
With requirements for at least one judge to not come from the shearer's home country, it's not the first time refereeing from a distance had been used.
For a World Sheep Shearing Records Society record attempt in January, Australian official Mark Baldwin oversaw Southland shearer Megan Whitehead's women's record of 661 lambs by Zoom from his office in Tocumwal, NSW.
There was also a test-run for Connor's record attempt about six weeks ago.
Harris said the record attempts would not happen without the remote judging.
The current men's record was also set at Trefrank by Irish shearer Ivan Scott, on July 31, 2016.
He beat the previous record set by Hawke's Bay shearer Dion King by a single lamb.
King's attempt was in January 2007 in a King Country woolshed, in New Zealand's central North Island.
It was the first attempt at which referee Harris officiated.
Scott opened with 193 in the first two hours to breakfast – three 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. However, it still produced a British record of 785 at Fern Hill Farm, in Compton Martin, Somerset.
Connor has dedicated both attempts to daughter Grace, who died at the age of 3 in April 2018 from mitochondrial disease.
Connor and his wife Kira have worked 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 will stage an agricultural open day on the farm the following day, with proactive trade stands, retail stands and hospitality.
However, Covid-19 restrictions have put-off an attempt by New Zealand shearers Aidan Copp and Cameron Hicks - the world 2-two stand eight-hours crossbred lambs record, which would have been staged in Australia this Saturday.
The shearers hope to be able to make the attempt next year.