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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).


Lanes have been drawn for next week’s Flag Day race on Wednesday morning, April 16.  Lane #1- Aeto (closer to the Tafuna International Airport), #2-defending champion, Fua’o, #3-Fa’asaulala, #4-Manulele Tausala ll, #5-Fealofani Samoa lll, #6-Paepae O Ulupo’o ll, #7-Manulele Tausala l, #8-Ise’ula, #9-Fetu Ole Afiafi, #10-Matasaua.  According to chairman Faoa, the prize for the Flag Day race championship fautasi, is $20,0000.


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Today, Coors Light features the 2013 Flag Day race champion, the Fua’o from the village of Vatia.


“The sport has become the battle of the minds,” says Ga’ote’ote


The Senate president, Ga’ote’ote Pala’ie Tofau is new to the faigamea ile tai, yet in just two years and with four races behind him, the Vatia captain has achieved a good record—two championships in one year (2013 Flag Day and DOC tu’uga va’a).


In his first year as captain of the Fua’o, Ga’ote’ote came third in the preliminary heat and fourth in the main Flag Day regatta of 2012. But one of his mua was controversial as one-fautasi captain and some eyewitnesses claimed his fautasi had jumped the gun, resulting in the Fua’o coming in first place. 


Ga’ote’ote did not address the controversy, but pointed out that it was not fair for one fautasi to be in front of all others. “It gives that kapiteni an unfair advantage. I talked about this issue every time the captains met with the Fautasi committee. I want to discourage this practice and I call on Faoa’s committee to please disqualify those fautasi that break this rule. ”


Speaking of his fautasi’s two first places in last year’s Flag Day and DOC faigamea ile tai, Ga’ote’ote said it was not something to brag about. “We worked hard for those championships. Now that we’re the defending champion, our village auva’a has worked even harder. Defending a championship is something that we take seriously, but we are ready to defend our title.”


The Senate president enjoys the competition and welcomes the challenge posed by all fautasi. “Every captain that’s taking part in next week’s race has prepared his auva’a well. Everyone wants to be the champion. This sport has become the battle of the minds. All skippers are trying their best to out maneuver the other, and fight for a better position to win.


“My biggest worry is that with all the commotion going out in the open waters, a serious accident might happen, causing a loss of a life. My advice to all my fellow kapiteni is to fai fai lemu le faiva (play the game in a gentleman’s way)”.


The Fua’o leader, said faigamea ile tai has become a bridge of friendship, as it has formed a bond of togetherness among auva’a from villages taking part.


“Over the years, fautasi competition has established a close relationship between the kapiteni and their auva’a as well as their opposition. After a heated battle, the fautasi crews that did not get top places cheer those that just beat them in the tu’uga va’a. I see the faigamea ile tai as a vehicle to promote unity and harmony among participating villages and American Samoa as a whole.


“Tu’uga va’a is a good way to occupy the young people’s time and not waste their lives dealing with other bad stuff like drugs, alcohol, stealing, breaking and entry, disturbing the peace. It will only land them in the arms of the law,” he said.


The defending Flag Day fautasi crew has had over two months to prepare for next week’s race. Vai’olo Taliga, the former captain of the Matasaua from Manu’a, who joined his cousin, captain Ga’ote’ote’s auva’a as a foemua last year told this correspondent that their auva’a was fit and ready to compete.


“We have been training since February. There are 50 potential rowers in our camp. There were others who left the squad just this Sunday because they could not cope with the pace of our training.”


According to Vai’olo, the captain and fautasi committee will make their final selection for the 45 auva’a that will represent Vatia in the tu’uga next week.


Vai’olo, who is the Deputy Director of the Territorial Energy Office, said he joined the Vatia camp a year ago when his cousin Ga’ote’ote asked him. “I think I’ll retire after the race this year. The good thing about this sport is it makes you lose pounds fast. But the hardest part is keeping those pounds off the waist-line after the tu’uga va’a.”


Mapo Tavita, the Fua’o’s foe lagolago (assistant anchor rower) said the auva’a was using their boat shed as headquarters and for sleeping. Tavita has been with the Vatia auva’a for three years. According to him, the auva’a is selected from the Vatia aumaga only. “There are no outsiders in our auva’a camp.”


The Fua’o has a large committee that looks after its affairs, cooking and feeding the rowers three meals a day, soliciting food items, raising funds, and policing the auva’a during curfew hours. They are: Agalemanu Ga’ote’ote, Vaituliaitu Fesili, Feagai Joe Tua’olo Fruean, Tofau Pekeli Ga’ote’ote, Sa’olele Stare Simeona, Uta’i Roberts, Filoiali’i Gaoia, Momoe Mitchel.


Kapiteni Ga’ote’ote has been the Senate president for close to six years. Prior to that he served eight years as a faipule in the House of Representatives from district #3. According to Ga’ote’ote, he was in the Army for 22 years and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Washington and in Hawai’i. He retired as a Sgt. Major.


In his final words, the Vatia kapiteni would like to thank all villages, fellow captains and their auva’a for taking part in this year’s tu’uga va’a as the territory celebrates 114 years of close association with the United States.


“This is a life of service. We live to serve our people, government and our God. This year the village of Vatia and other ala’alafaga are offering their tautua to the people of American Samoa by competing in the fautasi race to mark the 2014 Flag Day. Other villages are presenting their services through pese and siva. 


“Ia iai sau ma’a e kogi mo le auaugaga ile akugu’u (do what you can for the welfare of the territory). 


As for his Fua’o’s chance to win the championship race next week, Ga’ote’ote said, “The faigamea ile tai is different from all other sports. You have one rower, one oar but you have to synchronize your efforts with your auva’a. It is a team sport. I told my auva’a that if we are not successful in defending our championship this year, don’t get disappointed. Every fautasi wants the mua. There will be other tu’uga va’a. We learn from our mistakes and move on.


“I’d like to thank my village of Vatia, the traditional and church leaders, families and friends for their patience, love, prayers and support as Tole’afoa ma le aumaga strive to serve you to the best of our ability. If we have erred through our actions and deeds during our preparations for the fautasi race, please forgive us. We’re ready to represent your interest in the faigamea ile tai and humbly ask for your blessing.”


Ga’ote’ote would also like to wish every kapiteni and auva’a a competitive race. “Let us have a clean, fair, and good tu’uga va’a. I hope we will have good weather and we pray that God will protect all those involved in the faigamea ile tai this year”.


The Senate president would like to extend his best wishes to Governor Lolo M. Moliga and pray for his speedy recovery. He would also like to wish the government visitors, and people of American Samoa a joyous and safe Flag Day celebration.


“Ia manuia le sisigafu’a a Tutuila ma Manu’a,” Senate president Ga’ote’ote concluded.