Monday, February 26, 2024

How Sacha Bond clipped her way to a worldwide victory

Neal Wallace
It took a year for Sacha Bond to prepare for her world record shearing attempt, but the event itself was “just another day at the office”.
Sacha Bond set a new world lamb shearing record in Southland earlier this month. She eventually smashed the record held by Canadian Pauline Bolay with an hour to spare. Photo: Sacha Bond/Instagram
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Having just smashed the world lamb shearing (kutikuti hipi) record, Sacha Bond dreaded what lay ahead.

More stressful than clipping 601 lambs (reme) of their wool in under eight hours at Southland’s Fairlight Station earlier this month was the speech after the event to friends, family and supporters.

“I was more nervous about giving a speech than shearing the sheep,” Bond says.

“I told one of the boys to pen up another 150 lambs as I’d rather shear them than give a speech.”

She was proud of her achievement and grateful to those who helped her achieve the mark but shuns the spotlight, preferring to let her actions speak for her.

Bond absolutely smashed the previous solo women’s eight-hour strong wool record of 501 set by Canadian Pauline Bolay in 2019, surpassing that mark with an hour to go.

Needing to shear 127.5 lambs in each of the four runs to break the record, Bond clipped 150 for each of the first three runs and 151 for the fourth.

“I was nervous shearing the second to last sheep and I had to calm myself down. The point of relief was when I put my hand on the door for the last time and I knew I could relax.”

Bond’s aim of setting a new world record had been fermenting since the early days of her shearing career when she witnessed the fitness and discipline required by a friend as he prepared for a record attempt.

Sacha Bond clipping her way to victory at Fairlight Station, Southland earlier this month.

Bond was born in Woodville, where her parents were involved in the shearing industry, but she never went to sheds with them when they worked.

When she was 16 years old, the family moved to Australia. There, given the distance between stations, shearing gangs lived on the properties until the shed was cut out.

Bond describes them as communities of about 30 people living together for weeks at a time, a mix of shearers, shed hands, support and station staff.

“Travelling with my parents, I got bored pretty quickly, so they decided to teach me to be a rousie.

“I didn’t like it much but it was really good money for a 16-year-old.”

The job took her to the New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria outback, where she began a relationship with shearer and presser Charlie White.

As a 17-year-old Bond picked up a handpiece and began to learn to shear, but as a rousie she was obligated to perform her primary task before learning a new skill.

It was then that she witnessed Charlie’s identical twin Bob secure the three-stand Merino ewe record, an effort that Bond observed intensely.

“He was a very good shearer but when he started to train, he went to the next level.

“I saw change in his physical state and his persona. He was really cool to be around, it was inspiring.” 

As an 18-year-old she got her first stand, achieving the landmarks of 100 Merino ewes and 200 Merino lambs in her first season.

Together with Charlie, Bob and another brother, Tui, they started their own shearing gang in New South Wales and also bought the general store in the town of Conargo in the Riverina region.

Bond took two years away from shearing to manage the store. She soon tired of the role and returned to the sheds.

“I like physical work.”

At 1.7m and 56kg, Bond, now 29 years old, says she quickly realised to succeed as a shearer she need technique not brawn.

“It’s more of a thought process to manoeuvre the handpiece around the wrinkles of a Merino to get the wool off as fast as you can.”

After a season shearing in the United Kingdom in 2018, Bond ended up in Tasmania helping her sister, before moving to work in Western Australia, where she nurtured the idea of tackling the first-cross Merino lamb shearing record.

The team that helped Sacha Bond (sitting in middle front row with her daughter Ember) set a new world lamb shearing record in Southland earlier this month.

She started training and while working with a number of Kiwis, was convinced to include a summer shearing in New Zealand as part of her preparation.

Her April 2020 record attempt all came unstuck when covid struck.

Bond had met a fellow Kiwi and shearer Coel L’Huillier from Taumarunui and as

the virus took hold, they decided to return to NZ where they were able to keep working.

In August 2021 their daughter Ember was born.

By November her employer, Mark Barrowcliffe, had eased back into shearing.

Bond and  L’Huillier followed the NZ season, ending up in Southland working for Andrew and Carolyn Clegg at Te Anau Shearing.

The unfinished business of attempting a world record still loomed large and when a gang went to shear at Fairlight Station, they returned singing the praises of the quality of sheep and facilities.

Research into the history of the 3800ha Northern Southland station, the breeding of the flock and the timing of lambing, reinforced in Bond its suitability as a venue.

Bond says station shareholders and managers Simon and Lou Wright were enthusiastic and supportive of hosting the attempt.

Then began nearly a year of preparation under the guidance of a UK-based personal trainer.

He focused on cardio and strength conditioning and mobility but, given her small stature, not at the expense of body mass.

That was challenging, given she was still working, so they had to achieve a cycle of work, rest, recovery and work again.

Days began at 3.30 or 4am with a gym session before breakfast and then a day’s shearing.

After work she would snatch a few crucial hours with Ember.

Sacha Bond’s daughter Ember encourages her mother to set a new world lamb shearing record. Seated at left is her father Shaun and at right is the convening judge, Peter Artridge.

Bond says her motivation has always been to be the best she can be, but to also show what female shearers can achieve.

She was inspired by shearing record holders Emily Walsh and Megan Whitehead and wanted to inspire a new generation of women shearers.

Bond says the day of the record attempt was not stressful.

“I had been preparing for this day for a year.

“It wasn’t stressful shearing the sheep in front of people or the judges; it was more stressful ensuring friends, family and supporters were having a good time.”

She enjoyed the event and once the record was secured found her friends and family were more emotional than she.

“I looked at Coel and how proud he was and the team who were also proud and I saw my friends who were in tears.”

As for the future, Bond expects to continue shearing, following the Australia and NZ shearing seasons, but she also hopes to again own a business.

Their future will involve more time in Piopio where her partner has an interest in a farm.

As for another record attempt, she says the commitment, pressure and strain on family and friends will be factors in any decision.

“You have to be totally selfish,” she says. “The training was good for my mental health along with time to myself, but it was particularly hard on my family.”

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