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2012 Fautasi Committee has new chairman

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The new chairman, Suiaunoa (second from left) with members of the 2012 Flag Day fautasi committee. [photo: FV]

The 2012 Flag Day official committee has appointed Pala’ita Tusi Suiaunoa as the new chairman of the fautasi committee. He replaces Senator Pagofie from Pava’ia’i who held the post for over three years.

Suiaunoa chaired his first meeting with the fautasi captains recently to talk about preparations for this Flag Day faiga mea ile tai. The retired military personnel is not new to the job. He served as an assistant to Pagofie overseeing fautasi races and has a lot of experience in the running of fautasi regatta in the territory. He has over five members in his fautasi committee.

The new chair, committee members and the Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Lefiti Pese, and his deputy, Nanai Afuola discussed various subjects with the fautasi captains at the Samoan Affairs conference room where they agreed on some issues and left others to be resolved in another meeting scheduled for this week on Thursday, April 5.

They debated whether there should be one or two heats to determine the final six fautasi that will advance to the main championship final race slated for April 18.  Suiaunoa explained that since there were 10 confirmed fautasi that would take part in the Flag Day tu’uga va’a, it would be extremely difficult for his committee to control the large field at the starting line and during the race.

“Safety is our number one priority and the committee feels that holding heats will make it easier for us to carry out our responsibilities and to ensure a safe and entertaining tu’uga va’a,” Suiaunoa explained.

There are nine local fautasi and one invited one from Salelologa, Savai’i that will compete for the Flag Day championship Cup. Another invited Apia fautasi, the Segavao will not take part. According to captain, Vaemasenu’u Zita Martel, her fautasi is under going major body repairs and the work would will not be finished in time for them to prepare for the race in American Samoa.

“I would like to thank Governor Togiola and the Flag Day committee for the invitation but we just simply can’t honor it because our Segavao is damaged and cannot be repaired in time.  But I’ll be traveling to American Samoa to watch the fautasi race on Flag Day,” Vaemasenu’u spoke to this correspondent from Apia in a telephone interview. She also said that a new Segavao ll was under construction and would be ready for the 50th Independence tu’uga fautasi in Apia in June.

Captains and fautasi officials held a long debate over the issue of holding heats. Some wanted the nine fautasi to be divided into two heats while others wanted all the local fautasi to be in one heat. “The first six fautasi that cross the finish line will go into the main championship race on April 18,” explained Suiaunoa. “The other three will hold their final on Monday, April 16, before the dedication ceremony of the government’s fale Samoa in Utulei.”

Pago Pago captain, Va’amua Sesepasara, a faipule in the House of Representatives wanted two heats with the four high tech boats, Aeto, Nu’uuli, Fagasa’s Fealofani Samoa lll, and the District of Manu’a’s Matasaua to highlight each heat.

“Let the committee decide which two high tech fautasi should be in each heat. I think that’s a fair solution to our discussion,” Va’amua added. The skipper wanted the heats to start from the shores of Pago Pago heading toward the deep ocean in the first part of the race.  Then the fautasi would turn around at a marker about two miles outside Pago Harbor and race back to the finish line in front of the ASCO Motors in Pago Pago.

His suggestions did not carry weight as most captains spoke out against his idea because of the difficulty many fautasi would face as they try to negotiate the turn way out in the deep sea for the final push to the tigi.

Mapu Paopao of the Matasaua camp proposed that all fautasi should race in one heat and the first six long boats that reach the tigi should advance to the championship final.

A majority of the captains voted for Paopao’s idea and the committee endorsed it.  It was also agreed that the fautasi heat and the two finals will also start from about five miles out of Pago Harbor should the weather prevail.

The Mata’upu Tau Samoa Office secretary put forth a motion that the Tolotolo O Tama Uli should not compete in the heats but automatically earn a place in the championship final by virtue of Salelologa’s status as the special guest of the government of American Samoa.   The captains and the committee agreed.

It was resolved then that there would be one heat of nine local fautasi to be held on Saturday, April 14.  The six first placed boats will go forward to join the Salelologa fautasi for the 2012 Flag Day race the committee has scheduled for Wednesday April 18, a day after the official Flag Day of April 17.

However, another final for the three fautasi that will not make the main tu’uga va’a will be held on Monday, April 16 to mark the dedication of the Fale Samoa at the Su’iga’ula ole Atu Vasa beach village in Utulei.

“We want the people of American Samoa to have an entertaining and happy 2012 Flag Day celebrations,” explained Secretary Lefiti. “Villages and their supporters have devoted time and spent money on their fautasi campaigns but are seldom rewarded for their dedication.  Holding a fautasi for all nine boats heat and two subsequent fautasi finals are just some of the incentives, we offer the people of American Samoa to ensure an enjoyable Flag Day fautasi race.

“We hold faigamea ile tai once a year, and why not go all the way to make use of this opportunity.”

Meanwhile, the Salelologa village will arrive in Tutuila this week and the district of Manu’a will host the special guests, according to Malemo Lafo Tausaga, the government’s Budget director, and one of Manu’a’s influential to’oto’o.  He told this correspondent that the party from the big island of Savai’i will stay at Governor Togiola’s chief of staff, Pati Faia’i’s guesthouse in Tafuna.

In an overseas telephone interview with the captain of Salelologa’s fautasi, Pauli Ivan Williams said their long boat that won two consecutive championships in Samoa would not be brought here as its structure was not suitable for the deep ocean of Pago Harbor.

“We are however using the village of Lepea’s fautasi, La o Samoa.  We are borrowing the Segavao’s scooped oars to use for the race in Pago,” Pauli explained.

The Salelologa skipper said his village was preparing to entertain the people of American Samoa with their fa’afiafiaga. “We have about 100 villagers coming over. The auva’a is close to 60 and the rest are men and women that will perform cultural items.”



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