The pull of the fencing competitions

Three judges checking the fences last year. Photo: Roz Anderson Photography.

The fencing competitions at Fieldays is very serious stuff. So serious in fact that once, a number of years ago when the Queen was visiting and she stopped to ask one of the fencers a question, he said: ‘Sorry Ma’am I haven’t got time to stop and chat’ and he kept fencing.

Paul Van Beers is chairman of the New Zealand Fencing Competitions and has won the Golden Pliers at Mystery Creek, sponsored by WIREMARK, 14 times. He’s now retired from fencing and is one of the judges.

“I was introduced to the fencing competitions by one of the judges, who was my boss at the time so it was natural to enter the competitions.

“It was one of the best things to happen to me. Through the competition I improved my fencing skills, met other like-minded people and contracted more fencing jobs. With my wife Wendy, we were able to buy an 800ha sheep and beef farm at Porangahau in the Hawke’s Bay. We run 2000 ewes and 500 head of cattle,” says Paul.

Fencers in the competition are judged approximately on one-third speed, one-third appearance and one-third strength. The first person finished is not generally the winner. There are usually 30 entrants in the singles competition and 16 in the doubles. There are mostly male competitors but there has been women competitors in the past.

“There are 12 people in the judging team and two judges check each aspect of the fence. The wires have to be the right tension, the footings have to be done properly, a good appearance and last a lifetime. A fence’s main purpose is to contain stock so it has to be strong,” says Paul.

For the Golden Pliers the fence has to be 50m long, have nine wires, a post at every 4m, a wooden batten every metre and then swing a gate and latch it on to the gate post. The competitors have up to six hours to complete the job.

The top eight competitors go into the Golden Pliers, the next six go into the Bill Schuler competition, named after the ‘father of fencing’.

“Although it is a competition the experienced guys like to encourage the newcomers and keep them interested in fencing. It can be very rewarding, and can be the start of a business.

‘We are all like-minded people, love the outdoors, hunting, cycling and quite often the views are pretty good too,” says Paul.


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