“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 the Ise’ula from the village of Fagatogo.
“E Kuluku Uma Lava Kapikegi Ali’i e”, Kapiteni Vailiuama claims
The Fagatogo skipper, Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi hopes that all the fautasi captains will obey the rules of the Flag Day regatta that will take place on the morning of next Wednesday, April 16. If they don’t, he vows that his fautasi, the Ise’ula will not sit on its lane behind the starting line while other fautasi are in front of his sa.
“The Iseula will leave its lane and move forward. I will not be placed at a disadvantaged position. If the Aeto or Vatia inch forward, Iseula will match their movement. E kuluku uma lava kapikegi ali’i e (All captains are crooks)”.
E le fa’avalea e lesi kapikegi lesi kapikegi (One captain doesn’t fool another skipper).”
Vailiuama believes his crew has what it takes to win. “The Ise’ula is not easily intimidated by any fautasi. We’re ready for the race.”
The skipper of the Ise’ula from the village of Fagatogo says he has adopted a different approach to tu’uga fautasi in American Samoa. He wants to economize on ways his village and aumaga spend on the fautasi campaign for the Flag Day race this year or for any other water sport competition the Ise’ula will participate in.
“This is the most expensive game,” Vailiuama explains. “Villages have spent almost a half a million dollars in building extravagant high tech fautasi, thousands of dollars in caring for their auva’a on a daily basis, feeding the rowers and those involved three meals a day, supplying uniforms, juice, water and other items. I tell you that by the time this is over, our bills will be huge and large. We need to look at ways to minimize the high cost of fautasi campaigns.”
One of the most significant cost cutting measures Vailiuama has put into place is the reduction of his Ise’ula auva’a from the original 40 plus rowers to 36.
“We have to remodel our fautasi to accommodate such a big drop in the number of rowers. But it has added more leg room and space for the auva’a to maneuver and to row in the proper way.” Vailiuama explains.
Another fautasi budget cutting measure the Fagatogo kapiteni has applied is their training methods used. He has informed his fitness instructors to individualize their training program to suit each rower’s strength and schedule.
“That way, a rower can train on his own time using the personalized fitness program that is planned for him. Everyone has family and work related obligations and can’t be with the auva’a all time. What we have done is to make it easier for him to work around the schedule that has been drawn up.”
Vailiuama says the water sport is an international event. “The major difference is the size of the boats.” In the two Samoas, over 100ft long fautasi are used for tu’uga va’a. The rest of the world operates outrigger canoes and kayaks in Olympic Games races. In some international tournaments, two six person canoes that are rigged together like a catamaran are employed.
“The sport has been scientifically studied and implemented for a very long time. We’re using just a fraction of that knowledge in our fautasi to improve speed. Speaking of our Ise’ula, we’ve been on a trial and error experiment for five years.
“We’ve added and removed parts from our boat and then taken the Ise’ula out in the ocean for a test run and found that it may need more tweaking for that part to work properly or for it to come off. We’ve been constantly adding and taking things off our fautasi until we are satisfied with the results. But it is an expensive exercise.”
Vailiuama claims the Fagatogo sa was the first to use sliding seats. “It was an idea I got from one of New Zealand’s best boat builders that I visited when I was there for a golf tournament years ago. When I returned we placed an order and installed the seats on the Ise’ula. It has made a big difference in the way our auva’a performs.”
Vailiuama says the Aeto from Pago Pago and Manu’a’s Matasaua also have sliding seats now. “We had an influence in their decision to place similar seats in their fautasi,” the Fagatogo captain says. The Fealofani Samoa lll skipper, Lupefa’alele Faima Tua told this correspondent that Fagasa was also ordering sliding seats after this year’s Flag Day race.
Vailiuama has 45 rowers that are fighting for the Ise’ula’s 36- seat arrangement. “We have not finalized our crew for the race but every one of them is fit. One of the things that I’m happy about this auva’a is the fact that nearly all of them are athletes. They are young, keen and are well prepared because they train hard for their respective sports they take part in. When they join the Fagatogo auva’a, they are ready and it makes the trainers job easier too,” The Ise’ula kapiteni comments.
The committee that supervises training and other affairs of the auva’a are: Fidelis Leasiolagi, Filo Su’a, Lale Kapisi Ga’opo’a, Ben Pedro, and Tui Niueli.
One of the Ise’ula foemua (anchor rower) is 30-year-old Jonathan Slade, who works at the Tafuna International Airport as a TSA agent. He thinks the Fagatogo is poised to create the biggest upset in next week’s Flag Day faigamea ile tai.
“I base my prediction on the strength of our auva’a. They are strong, young and have been together for a long time. I have every confidence in our captain, Steve and hope we can work together to bring the Cup to our village of Fagatogo”.
Slade was educated at Samoana High School and graduated in the class of 2001. He then left for the United States and returned years later. He started rowing for the Ise’ula six years ago. During that time he worked hard and earned his way to the top to claim the foemua title, one of the most prestigious seats in fautasi tradition.
Vailiuama wishes to convey his heartfelt thanks to his village, leaders and religious heads, families, friends and fans of the Fagatogo Ise’ula for their prayers and donations, words of comfort and support shown throughout their preparations for next week’s tu’uga va’a.
“We will do our best to honor your tapua’iga. We have prepared well and the Ise’ula is ready to race for you all,” Vailiuama concludes.