“FAIGAMEA ILE TAI” 2014 IS ALL ABOUT THE TEAMS, THE CAPTAINS, AND THE FAUTASI
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).
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Today, Coors Light features, Fagasa’s Fealofani Samoa lll.
“Nothing Is Wrong With Our Fealofani Samoa”, Skipper Tua Says
The people of Fagasa are dreaming and longing for the day that their new fautasi, Fealofani Samoa lll will recapture the many magnificent times when they smelled the sweet and fresh aroma of triumph in faigamea ile tai.
They dominated, they ruled, they tamed, and stood on the high pedestal of success for a long time. There was no local fautasi that came near the Fealofani Samoa ll’s record of achievement from 2000 to 2009. “It was the fautasi of that decade,” one supporter describes. Until the 2009 tsunami destroyed Fagasa’s victorious pride.
The village sat on the sideline for three years contemplating its next move while new high tech boats were built and began their quest to become the #1 fautasi in American Samoa.
In 2012, Fagasa constructed the most expensive high tech sa— that cost the village over $400,000. It looked like Fagasa was back to reclaim its position in the top echelon of fautasi.
But it has been three years now and the village by the bay is still waiting for that day when its fautasi lives up to high expectations. The Fealofani Samoa lll has not come anywhere close to cracking the top three positions in fautasi standing since it started racing two years ago.
What is the problem that has made the Fagasa fautasi not perform to its potential? Is it the design, crew, village or not enough tatalo for divine support?
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with our fautasi,” skipper Lupefa’alele Faima Tua insists.
“Our village spent a lot of money on the boat and it has the same design as our fautasi that was crushed by the tsunami but with minor changes. Our rowers are young and some have joined the auva’a for the first time. Fagasa leaders and the whole village give their full support to our fautasi campaign,” he stated.
The Fealofani Samoa lll was built in its boat shed in Pago Pago and when it was christened three years ago, all religious ministers from Fagasa prayed and sprayed holy water on the 105 ft long fautasi.
But then one preacher told the large crowd that gathered there for the event that he wanted to correct what the critics were saying about the people of Fagasa revering its fautasi as their God. “The village of Fagasa believes and worships one God, and not their fautasi, the Fealofani Samoa.”
The three-year old fautasi has never been to Fagasa since former governor, Togiola Tulafono, launched it where it was built in Pago Pago three years ago. Last weekend, according to skipper Tua, their fautasi was towed from Pago Pago to Fagasa, a journey of more than four hours, for its maiden visit.
He explained that his village and religious leaders wanted to give Fealofani Samoa lll their second round of blessings but this time, in Fagasa.
This occasion came in the form of more prayers and benedictions offered, oratorical and sua exchanges, and lavish customary spending. “Our council of matai wanted the village people to spend a whole day with their fautasi at home and away from the limelight”, skipper Tua says.
The Fealofani Samoa lll has returned to its base in Pago Pago after a day of cultural dedication and consecration in Fagasa. But the big question is, will all this re declaration of commitment and devotion, and begging for God’s support, help Fagasa’s pursuit of the perfect race? Time will tell.
One of the most decorated fautasi captains, Satele Lili’o told this correspondent recently that he wished he had the time to spend with the auva’a so he could share his knowledge with the them.
“I’ve been on the boat and it is built for speed, longevity and beauty. This one is a championship fautasi but the new generation of rowers have not yet mastered the technique of rowing the new sa”.
Satele, who is now an associate judge with the High Court of American Samoa and a former resident of his village, skippered the Fealofani Samoa ll for many years during the time when Fagasa was dominating fautasi racing. The judge said he has recommended to leaders of Fagasa that they recruit his former rowers to help out.
The judge’s advice may have triggered a recall of many auva’a from Satele’s era to take up their oars once more as Fagasa desperately tries anything for a quick fix.
“The village council of chiefs has ordered all experienced rowers from years past to take up their positions in the boat and teach the new generation of rowers the art of oaring” the kapiteni says.
Fagasa believes in Tua's ability to lead the auva’a to this year’s faigamea ile tai as shown by his being reappointed as captain for the second straight year.
“I wish to thank the leaders of our village and the tapua’iga for their faith and confidence in my leadership role. I was off island when Fagasa met to elect this year’s captain. But then I received word from home that I was selected over other applicants. I am very pleased with their decision and I promise that I will do the best I can with the help of our auva’a to bring the Cup to Fagasa this year,” Tua says.
The crew’s road trainings are under the supervision of a military retiree, Ta’isi Steffany. Tua has a committee that oversees the auva’a’s daily activities and is chaired by Atuatasi Agaseigafo and includes members of the elite group, the Tofia and To’afa.
The Fagasa auva’a has been training for over four weeks and has been camping at Fagasa, but will shift its headquarters to be centered at the Fealofani Samoa lll boat shed in Pago Pago soon. “Our crew will be sequestered at the fale va’a until the end of the Flag Day race,” Tua comments.
There are ten new rowers, from 17 to 19 years of age who are High School students. The auva’a runs in the morning and takes rowing practice in the evening. Tua says that some days the auva’a runs from Pago to Fagasa after rowing.
“We run up the Pago hill and over the Fagasa pass and then jog downhill to our village.
“I wish to thank the leaders of Fagasa, religious ministers, families, businesses, friends and supporters for their faith in us and for standing with us while we prepare for this year’s tu’uga va’a. It has been frustrating at times as we try to manage time between work, village, family responsibilities and our fautasi campaign.
“However, with the help of God, your prayers and tapua’iga, the Fealofani Samoa lll will compete again and hope that this year, we will be successful. Thank you again Fagasa and supporters for your faith and belief in us. God Bless,” skipper Tua concludes.