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Coors Light, the major sponsor for the 2014 American Samoa Flag Day Fautasi Race is pleased to present the 10 long boats that will compete on April 16. They are: Fua’o (Vatia), Paepae O Ulupo’o (Aua), Aeto (Pago Pago), Fealofani Samoa (Fagasa), Iseula (Fagatogo), Fetu Ole Afiafi (Faga’alu), Manulele Tausala I/II (Nu’uuli), Fa’asaulala (Vailoa), Matasaua (Manu’a).


“Our Reserves are available for $500 per rower”, Va’amua offers


The Pago Pago village is not used to being beaten twice in tu’uga va’a in the same year. Not when it has the means, and the know-how to defend against any opposition. After all Pago possesses perhaps the best and one of the most expensive fautasi ever built.


Pago Pago went to great lengths and spent over $300,000 in the construction of what the residents and supporters believed to be an unconquerable fautasi that they had hoped would reign supreme on the waters of American Samoa for a very long time.


The Aeto is always favored to win every race it enters because of its superior high tech design and well-known history. But when something unthinkable like this happened twice in a row and in the same year to the Aeto, die hard fans and fautasi aficionado noticed and began to wonder.


However, captain Va’amua Henry Sesepasara explains in not so many words, why such a near impossible feat was achieved against the Aeto, the most storied fautasi in the history of tu’uga va’a in American Samoa.


“We’re not used to racing from inside the harbor. That was a disadvantage to us in both races.


Last year, the Fua’o, a $30,000 fautasi from the village of Vatia that was skippered by the Senate president, Ga’ote’ote Pala’ie Tofao ruled the battleground as they fought and won two tu’uga va’a: the Flag Day (April), and the DOC (November). The Aeto came second in both faigamea ile tai.


“Pago Harbor is our battlefield,” the Pago Aeto captain once told this correspondent. “We’ve fought many wars there and won.”


The Fua’o may not be as celebrated a bird as the Aeto but for now it is the defending champion, holds boasting rights and owns the combat zone.


The two 2013 races started from Pago Pago heading toward the open seas. The fautasi then turned around about two miles out of Pago Harbor and headed back to the finish line across ASCO Motors.


This year, the new chairman of the Flag Day fautasi race, Faoa Lualemana has announced that the faigamea ile tai will start from five to seven miles out in the open ocean.


“We’re comfortable with this year’s race course,” the Aeto captain says. In fact, Pago’s fautasi rarely loses from that distance.


In this year’s Flag Day regatta, skipper Va’amua, his committee, and the Aeto crew are focused on their main goal of regaining the #1 position.


“I believe we have the strongest crew of all the ten boats competing. We’ve been training for more than six weeks and I have every confidence in the strength of our auva’a. We are ready for this year’s race and are set to bring back the honor and glory to our village of Pago Pago.”


Aeto’s captain is also conscious of the challenges that will come from new fautasi like the Paepae o Ulupo’o from Aua, Nu’uuli’s Manulele Tausala and of course, the 2013 Flag Day race champion, the Fua’o from Vatia.


“All fautasi captains want to come first in any tu’uga va’a and I’m very much aware of the heavy preparations each village has put into this year’s race. Still, I insist that the Aeto crew is the strongest because we are committed and dedicated to our cause.”


Va’amua is so self-assured of the success of the Aeto that he is propositioning the captains of other sa to loan them his reserves for a price.


“When we make the final selection on who will be in our first string auva’a, our reserve rowers will then be available for rent and we’re offering all eight of them to any village that wants help with their fautasi for $500 per rower.”


Va’amua says there were many potential auva’a that turned up when their trainings began. “We started off with 68 rowers, then some dropped out leaving the current 44 man group that has gone through rigorous road trainings and rowing practices for more than two months.


“Every rower knows his responsibility and is fighting for that chance to make the final 36 man elite squad. Each and everyone of them is required to pass our fitness test that will be administered soon to determine who will represent our village on the Flag Day race,” Va’amua explains.


“We regret not having all 44 rowers on our boat as any one of the eight substitutes is capable of stepping in and taking over should one of our selected auva’a not be able to perform, because of sickness or other circumstances.”


There are 12 new young au va’a in the squad with ages ranging from 17 to 20. The oldest rower is Kolio, who is 53. The Pago crew uses Mageo’s guesthouse as its headquarters and for sleeping arrangements.


Pago Pago has a full committee that overseas the everyday affairs of its fautasi camp. Leader of the aumaga, Utaife’au, Bill Kalasa is the chairman. Others are: Wallie Taufa’asau, Simi Sausi, Junior Poutoa, Eddie Hussein, Sam and Poia Samuelu, Alofa Etelani, Ailao Tualaulelei, and Sunny Lefaoseu.


Lefaoseu has been involved in the Aeto campaign for many years and his company, Pacific Printing, has supplied uniforms and provided other services for a long time.


Va’amua says a fautasi campaign is a very expensive endeavor.


“We buy cases of water bottles for the crew everyday, and will start feeding them three meals a day when we begin our 24-hour camp soon. On top of that we provide them with different uniforms every day for training.”


Va’amua, who is also the faipule from Pago Pago in the Fono, says he is grateful for the support from many businesses as well as the tama fanau in Pago Pago and off-island for their support and the generosity they show every year.


“We have a saying, ‘e lele le Aeto ae iloa mai a Pago Pago’ (wherever Pago Pago’s true flesh and blood are, they know where their roots originate from).


“I wish to thank the leaders of our village, heads of different religions, families, and friends for your endless support and prayers as we prepare everyday for the ultimate goal of representing Pago Pago in this year’s Flag Day race. Every village wants the mua, but the Aeto auva’a is more than ready to fight for that honor as well.


“I hope we will have good weather on the day of the race and I request that all captains obey the rules and that the committee enforces what it preaches,” Va’amua advises.