Skipper Vaiolo: “The Matasaua is not afraid of any fautasi”
The new captain of the Manu’a District fautasi, Matasaua ll boldly proclaims that the “Matasaua is not afraid of any fautasi”.
“I state this because our crew is different from past ones. The present auva’a is made up of young sons of Manu’a and others who have shown interest in representing the Manu’a District to the tu’uga va’a this year. Our fautasi was the first to be on the water (since the beginning of February) and we have been training hard ever since. The crew is fit and the rowers are ready to represent the district of Manu’a with hearts and guts,” skipper Vaiolo explains.
The Manu’a kapiteni is not new to faigamea ile tai. Vaiolo rowed for the Manu’a Islands fautasi under the leadership of the late Sotoa Savali when they acquired their boat from the village of Pago Pago.
“That was about six years ago if I remember correctly. Fu’ega Moliga took over as skipper after Sotoa and I served under him until this year when the leaders of Manu’a, Fa’atui and To’oto’o decided to change direction and I was appointed as the new captain of the Matasaua,” the 50-year-old Vaiolo tells this correspondent.
Vaiolo is now in command of close to $400,000 extravagant fautasi that was built with government handout money to stimulate the Manu’a district’s economy and improve the qualify of life for its people. Despite its gigantic size and superior design, the three-year old Matasaua ll has yet to scare any fautasi off the water.
The Matasaua has not cracked the top three positions since it started racing three years ago. Compare that to the Aeto, another extremely high priced high tech fautasi, Pago Pago took the Flag Day championship faigamea ile tai Cup in its maiden tu’uga three years ago.
How do you justify your dare and fearlessness with your bold proclamation that the “Matasaua is not afraid of any fautasi”, captain Vaiolo?
“Let me explain. The Matasaua is one of the best fautasi ever built. However, our crew has not really mastered the rowing technique for this kind of high tech boat. This year, we brought a very experienced professional rower from New Zealand to teach our crew the proper way to row our fautasi. John spent almost three weeks with us sharing his knowledge and taking the crew out to demonstrate the best way and the only way to row our fautasi.
“That was the reason our fautasi was the first to be put on the water at the start of this year (February). Since then we have noticed a big change in its speed. The fautasi moves fast and the supporters who watch us from the shores have also testified to how fast our fautasi glides. So, combining the new rowing technique that our crew has mastered with the high tech Matasaua, that to me is a model for success,” Vaiolo explains.
The captain says he has an international crew and is proud of having different nationalities on board his fautasi. “Our auva’a is made up mostly from the young population of Manu’a and friends of the islands. We welcome anyone who wants to row for our district. The crew is assembled from the Siaopos and the Siasaus (here and there). We have Tongans, Upolu and Savai’i rowers. We had one Maori crew member for the past five years but he has left American Samoa.
“The youngest crew member in the training squad is 14 years old. We started out with about 60 enthusiasts who wanted to tryout for a spot in the Matasaua fautasi but many gradually left as our road work and rowing practices intensified.”
Vaiolo says some of his best oarsmen left the Army reserve unit that departed the territory this week on Thursday night.
The new chairman of the Matasaua fautasi is Mapu Paopao. He is a former faipule in the House of Representatives from the Manu’a Islands. Others in the committee are: Stevens Shalhout, Seulupe, Kelvin, Kalavini, Kali, Sene, Ta’ape, Tagoa’i, Afa Tufele, and a few others. The Matasaua final crew of 38 rowers will be selected early next week. The rowers and committee are using Budget director Malemo Lafo Tausaga’s guesthouse in Tafuna as their center base.
“We sleep, hold strategy discussions, meet and greet supporters, and hold other fautasi affairs at To’oto’o Malemo’s fale talimalo,” Vaiolo remarks.
Vaiolo is a 1981 graduate of Samoana High School but was born in Ofu, Manu’a. “Go Sharks,” he yells. He has been working at the Territorial Energy Office for 20 years. He is married to Fara and they have four children. “We have two daughters who are attending college in the States. We have a son and another daughter that go to Tafuna High Tech.”
Vaiolo has deep ties to the village of Vatia. He is a first cousin of the Fu’ao captain, president of the Senate, Ga’ote’ote Pala’ie Tofau. According to Vaiolo, he was asked by skipper Ga’ote’ote late last year to join the Fua’o campaign for the 2012 Flag Day fautasi race.
“I declined the invitation as I was involved with our Matasaua activities. I have a responsibility to my Manu’a people and that is very important to me. I wish to thank the Fa’atui and To’oto'o of the Manu’a District for their confidence in me and my ability to lead the Matasaua campaign for this year’s faigamea ile tai. I know that the leaders could have selected another person from the many qualified candidates for the captaincy. I will do the best in my power and knowledge to lead the Matasaua fautasi to a triumphant conclusion,” Vaiolo declares.
As for his plans for the upcoming fautasi race, Vaiolo says, “No one competes for second place. Everyone wants to take first place. This year will be different. The Matasaua fautasi will compete for the mua. We feel it in our blood, we can almost taste it like the salty seawater and air we breath and swallow as we practice from the deep ocean everyday. That is our promise to the people of Manu’a and supporters”.