Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Zita's Simply Oarsome; Shirley Sinclair Reports on a Dynamo Who Is about the Best in the Long Boat Business

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Zita's Simply Oarsome; Shirley Sinclair Reports on a Dynamo Who Is about the Best in the Long Boat Business

Article excerpt

GOOD TO KNOW

Three airlines fly to Samoa

weekly out of Brisbane and Sydney: Air Pacific, Air New Zealand and Polynesian Blue.

See your travel agent for details.

SOMETIMES the best man for the job is a woman. And that certainly applies to Samoan long boat racing where Zita Martel rules the ocean.

The director of inbound tourism operator Polynesian Xplorer and matai (chief) is a human dynamo in business, church and village life but the male-dominated sport is her passion.

C[pounds sterling]It's an absolute passion Co an addiction,C[yen] she said in the lead-up to the annual Teuila Festival Fautasi Challenge last September.

The fit-looking 50-year-old remains the only woman in the sport Co the rose among the thorns Co but her record speaks for itself.

C[pounds sterling]I'm the pain in the side of all the skippers,C[yen] she said.

And only a fool would take the first and only female long boat captain in Samoa lightly.

The wife and mother of four boys, who is also honorary consul of France for Samoa, came into the sport by accident.

Her church in Siusega village on Upolu Island had built a boat but had no skipper and was floundering.

Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi Co chairman of Zita's church and now Samoan Prime Minister Co nominated her, she thought, as a joke because it is a traditional sport for men.

Sure, she had rowed while a student in New Zealand's Canterbury University where she met her husband Francois 27 years ago.

She had even tried her hand at outrigger canoeing, windsurfing and sailing in New Zealand and the Caribbean. But this was completely different.

She had never set foot in a long boat but you get the feeling she has never backed away from a challenge. And this was no different.

As skipper, her job is to stand and steer at the stern, with the drummer sitting at the bow at eye level, setting the pace of the oar strokes according to her instructions throughout each race, which is like chess in strategy. …

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