Is the Fua’o God’s gift to Vatia?
Samoa News Sports coverage of the 2012 Flag Day fautasi race is brought to you by the good people at GHC Reid and the cool refreshing and super cold as the Rockies blue mountain beer, Coors Light.
There are 11 fautasi in the 2012 Flag Day tu’uga va’a. They are: Fetu Ole Afiafi (2), from Faga’alu, Matasaua from the District of Manu’a, Nu’uuli from Nu’uuli, the Sharks from Samoana High School, Ise’ula i Moana from Fagatogo, Aeto from Pago Pago, Fealofani Samoa lll from Fagasa, Fua’o from Vatia, Paepae O Ulupo’o from Aua, and the Tolotolo O Tama Uli from Salelologa Savai’i. Faga’alu’s late entry, the Fa’asaulala will race on the April 16 final for fautasi that will not qualify for the championship final on April 18.
The Fua’o From the Village of Vatia
Speaking on behalf of the village of Vatia during the dedication ceremony of the new Fua’o last month, orator Nanai Afuola boldly claimed their long boat was built with money donated from Heaven.
“God and the Holy Spirit gave us the money to build the fautasi. We did not fund raise.” Fua’o’s captain, Ga’ote’ote Pala’ie Tofau says the project cost close to $100,000. “We spent $50,000 on the boat and $22,000 on the new oars.” Other expenses included tufuga Loititi Maselino Ioane’s payment and the new faleva’a in Vatia.
“This project has no aikalafu,” Nanai added. “Everything has been paid for.” Even tufuga Loititi has been paid. “We don’t want him to go around and say our village owes him money.”
Tufuga Loititi and skipper Ga’ote’ote are proud of the Fua’o fautasi. “I told the captain and leaders of Vatia when we first met and discussed the building of the fautasi that I would do the best to my ability to construct the best boat. I believe the Fua’o is the best boats I’ve ever built and it will perform well,” Loititi tells this correspondent.
However, the Vatia Methodist minister, Iopu Auva’a is not so sure about the Fua’o’s design, poking fun at its shape during his sermon at the blessing and dedication service. “There have been many tales told about this fautasi. Some say the new fautasi looks like a bathtub, others believe it resembles a swimming pool. But whatever it is, with God at the forefront, this bathtub or swimming pool will take first place.”
Even guest speaker, Governor Togiola Tulafono threw a soft jab as he observed Vatia men with big manava hanging around the Fua’o fautasi. He told Nanai, Ga’ote’ote and other leaders the size of the crewmembers could hinder the success of the new Fua’o fautasi during the races.
Orator Nanai counterpunched and reminded the leader of the territory that those with huge stomachs he referred to were the au kuka, “and naturally cooks have big tummies. But I assure you governor, the crew has been training since January and all are fit and thin.”
Nanai has advised captain Ga’ote’ote and the crew the Vatia Fua’o was their responsibility. “The success or failure of the new fautasi is in your hands.”
Skipper Ga’ote’ote is in command of 49 rowers. The Vatia crew has been training on the road since January and on the ocean for about six weeks. There are over 60 rowers in the camp and the final crew of 49 has been selected to represent the village of Vatia on Saturday morning’s preliminary heat.
“Vatia is not new to faigamea ile tai,” claims the new Vatia skipper. The last time Vatia had a fautasi was in 1968, “if I remember correctly,” Ga’ote’ote recalls.
“The auva’a is set to race for the name of our village. It is important that we compete with all our strength to qualify for the championship Flag Day final next week. Our crew is strong and we have been preparing for a long time for this purpose. We must have a good fast start to create distance from other sa. Our goal is to make the top six fautasi for the main tu’uga va’a next week,” captain Ga’ote’ote tells this correspondent.
Vatia is a very busy village in this year’s Flag Day activities. The men’s Fua’o kilikiki team lost in the league’s championship final this week and the teine ole Fua’o also played for the women’s cricket league championship on Friday against the teine ole Aeto from Pago Pago. In addition, the ala’alafaga o Vatia is preparing to entertain the people of American Samoa and invited guests next week with its pese and siva.
“Everyone in our village is involved in all these activities. All the Fua’o crew will be singing and dancing on Flag Day. Many of them also represented our village in the cricket team. The crew has been engaged since the beginning of this year in our fautasi, siva and pese, and the cricket team. I’m just amazed that they have the energy and will power to perform for our village,” Ga’ote’ote muses.
The skipper says he had the flu for a couple of days but is now up and around and getting ready for Saturday’s race. “Ua koe malosi fo’i, o gai ma’i masagi lava,” he says.
The Fua’o has some matai taulele’a who are in control of the day-to-day affairs of the crew and boat. Some of them are: Momoemalemalo John Mitchell, Aiga Galoia, Tofau Ga’ote’ote, Patea Asovalu and others.
Ga’ote’ote, who is the president of the Senate was also a chairman of the Flag Day committee in years past. When captains started blaming the current fautasi committee, the Vatia skipper defended the new chairman, Suiaunoa.
“I was the chairman of the fautasi committee for three years. It is not an easy job trying to control the captains and their fautasi in the deep rough sea. The committee can do so much but it is also the responsibility of the kapiteni to see that the race must be fair. Every year the kapiteni point fingers at the chairman and his committee for many things that go wrong during a tu’uga va’a, but from my experience as a former chairman the skippers are also to blame for the many unfair starts in tu’uga va’a.
“When your fautasi starts to drift in front of the starting buoy, you wouldn’t want to move back to your original position. The committee can order you to retreat but there is no way you will obey the instructions out of fear that as you row back, the gun suddenly goes off to start the race.”
Ga’ote’ote told the captains in the Wednesday meeting that they held the key to a successful tu’uga va’a. “We must obey the committee and stay in our lanes. If your fautasi starts to move in front, the captain must make sure his boat is in position within the starting buoy. We must adhere to the committee’s rules in order for us to have a competitive race.”
Leader Ga’ote’ote wishes to thank his village of Vatia for supporting him, the crew, and committee as they prepare for the Flag Day races. “We hope to do well and bring our campaign to a successful conclusion. I wish American Samoa a safe Flag Day. I also hope that we will have a safe tu’uga fautasi and wish all captains the best of luck.”
Tufuga Loititi Maselino Ioane
Out of the 10 fautasi Loititi Maselino Ioane has built, the tufuga says the Fua’o is his best boat. “I’ve modified the original design to make the Fua’o lighter, stronger, and faster”.
The Fua’o is 98 feet long, painted with dark orange colors and looks solid and strong. It is moored across the old ASPA plant at Satala. Most of the materials were imported from Australia but the oars and the lightwood, the White Pine were shipped from the States. The fautasi was built at Vatia for close to two months, according to the boat builder.
Loititi says the outside and inside of the Fua’o is coated with the fiberglass HT9000. “This formula is unique because of its strength and durability and is very easy to apply and use on and around the fautasi.”
According to Loititi, his brother Fonoti Etuale Ioane, an architect in Samoa drew the blueprints of the Fua’o from the dimensions he provided.
Tufuga Loititi has been building boats for more than 30 years. Over that period of time, he has constructed 10 fautasi. These are: Savali o le Filemu (Falelatai), Tamarina, Kionasina, Little Rina (all owned by hotelier Alan Grey of Apia, Vaiala, and Toamua), Ulalei (Vaiala), La O Samoa (Lepea), Paepae O Ulupo’o (Aua), Shark (Samoana High School), Segavao (Si’usega and Don Bosco College) and Fua’o (Vatia).
According to Loititi, the Segavao’s construction was initially started by a carpenter with no knowledge of building a fautasi. “I was requested by the prime minister of Samoa (Tuila’epa Lupesolia’i Sa’ilele Malielegaoi) to finish the job.” The leader of the Independent nation is the chairman of the Si’usega Catholic parish that owns the Segavao.
The Little Rina fautasi was co built by Loititi and his mentor, boat builder Overa from Norway. “The Norwegian was the one that taught me everything I know about my craft. I spent six months in Norway understudying him,” the Aua based boat builder explains.
Loititi does not believe in using computer to design fautasi. “To me the best computer ever made is the brain. God gave me this talent and gift to design and build boats straight from my mind. Some of the fautasi I’ve built have won races in American Samoa and Apia,” the 50 year old tufuga remarks.
The Kionasina, Segavao, and Tamarina have won Independence faigamea ile tai in Apia while the Little Rina (2003) and Segavao (2006) took top honors in Flag Day races held in Pago Pago.
Loititi has the distinction of having four fautasi he built that will race in this year’s Flag Day tu’uga. They are: Paepae O Ulupo’o, Shark, Tolotolo O Tama Uli/La O Samoa, and the Fua’o.
Loititi’s wishful thinking may come true in the 2012 Flag Day faigamea ile tai. “My dream is to see three of my fautasi take the first, second, and third places in tu’uga va’a here or in Apia,” the Moamoa Chanel College educated tufuga aspires.
He is married to Antonina and they have three daughters. They live in Aua. Their eldest, Anastasia was the 2010 Samoana High School Valedictorian. She is now attending the US Naval Academy in Indianapolis. Arieta and Paulina are in elementary school in Aua.
“I wish to convey my heartfelt fa’afetai to the president of the Senate, Ga’ote’ote for his recognizing and acknowledging my talents as a boat builder. He showed confidence in my ability to be the tufuga to build the Fua’o right from the initial stages of the project.
“Ga’ote’ote and I talked about the new Vatia fautasi and after he was convinced, the president informed his village that I would be the one to will build the new Fua’o. Ia manuia le fa’amoemoe i lau afioga Ga’ote'ote ma le auva’a o le Fua’o,” Loititi, a matai from Fagaloa desires.