“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 Paepae O Ulupo’o from the village of Aua.
“This Is My Best Fautasi Ever,” claims Aua boat builder Ioane
Of all the fautasi that he has built during a period of close to 30 years, Aua boat builder, Ioane Maselino proclaimed that his newest work of art, the Paepae O Ulupo’o fautasi is ranked as his #1 boat.
“This is my best fautasi ever. I have put everything that I know from years of experience on this one. I did this because this boat belongs to Aua, the village of my family and my children.”
The captain of Aua’s new sa, Paopao Ailua Fiaui agrees. “Ua mao le lima o Maseligo ile makou va’a (by a stroke of luck Maselino has built a masterpiece).”
But winning is nothing new to fautasi that wears Ioane’s badge of craftsmanship. Just last year, the Fua’o from Vatia, with its $30,000 tag price beat the over $300,000 high tech Aeto from Pago Pago, not once but twice in tu’uga va’a. The Segavao, one of the most famous fautasi here and Apia has won many races. The Little Rina was one of only two fautasi that beat Fagasa’s first high tech Fealofani Samoa ll in a fair race (Segavao was the other one). There were local fautasi that claimed that fame but they did it in a cheating way. The Kionasina also took first honors in races held in Apia. Over all, Ioane has built 10 fautasi between the two Samoa.
Judging from the way the new Paepae O Ulupo’o glides during Aua’s practice runs, the new fautasi is set to surprise fans and foes. But to fautasi aficionado, it is just another conspicuous sign of Ioane’s genius in motion.
Skipper Paopao is all set to take Aua to another level of fautasi supremacy. However that commitment was not firmed until after Thursday’s meeting where he was on the verge of giving up the captaincy after just weeks on the job.
When the Aua village leaders met to appoint a kapiteni for the new Paepae O Ulupo’o, they turned to one of their ranking matai, Paopao. They determined that he was the best man at the helm citing his experience as a former rower and captain.
Paopao left the sport for close to 10 years, but he accepted his selection to head Aua’s fautasi campaign again out of respect.
But two days ago, he called a meeting of the auva’a and the fautasi committee at the fale va’a to inform them that he was resigning as skipper. He told them to pick an able kapiteni from the aumaga to take over the duties and responsibilities he was going to leave behind.
Later, Paopao shared his thoughts with this correspondent. “My reasons for wanting to step down are personal. My wife is sick, I’m old, and because of my poor health I could not fulfill my obligations as a captain on a daily basis. That is not fair to the auva’a, the committee, and our village”.
Paopao said he has missed many rowing practices with the auva’a because of his health. “I attend maybe two or three a’oga (practices) every week. To me that is not good for the morale of the auva’a.”
When Paopao stunned the auva’a and committee with his verbal resignation, many in the boat shed did not like it at all.
“They did not want me to step down. They reiterated their faith and trust in my leadership and persuaded me to stay and lead the auva’a as their kaipteni. Some even gathered their personal belongings (sheets, mats, and clothes) and threatened to walk out if I left.”
With that strong spirit of unity extended and a show of confidence by the Aua auva’a for their kapiteni, Paopao withdrew his request to resign and ordered them to prepare the fautasi for rowing practice.
But before they dispersed, Paopao imparted his words of wisdom to the young rowers and committee members when he said, “Now that I have sacrificed my family for you, you promise me that you will sacrifice your lives for our village.”
The new Paepae O Ulupo’o is 92ft long, and has a capacity to carry 45 rowers.
Ioane explained that the Aua fautasi is narrower than that of the Fua’o. That, according to the boat builder increases its speed. He mixed foam and marine plywood and white pine and applied it inside the boat, while on the entire body of the fautasi, he plastered it with a lighter application of fiberglass. “It makes the boat lighter, tougher and faster,” he said.
The Aua fautasi is built for rough and calm waters. “It is neither lighter nor heavier. I have created a good balance in between. Three quarters of the racecourse in American Samoa is on rough and choppy seas. The Paepae O Ulupo’o is built to withstand such conditions and still be able to maintain speed and balance,” Ioane said.
Captain Paopao has found out that the new fautasi has performed as advertised. “It has a good balance and is fast. It’s just a matter of having my auva’a get used to the boat and learn the art of rowing fast. But I guarantee that our fautasi is a force in tu’uga va’a.”
But Ioane was not his village’s first choice to build Aua’s new fautasi, Paopao explained. “We made plans to contract the New Zealand boat builder, (Liam Power) that constructed Fagasa’s Fealofani Samoa lll. We bought all the high tech materials that cost us $86,000 to be used in the building of our high tech new boat. But when the New Zealander came back and said his hourly wage was $96/ $100 an hour, we decided we could not afford him and we parted ways.
“I recommended to our village leaders to get Maseligo, our own kufuga to build the new Paepae O Ulupo’o.”
Ioane said that termites and other insects had eaten most of the expensive high tech materials, while other materials had rotted away.
Paopao is offering for a price some high tech materials that are still in good condition to any village that is hoping to build a new fautasi. “If you’re interested, we’ll negotiate.”
As for his crew, Paopao claimed he has “the fittest, strongest, youngest, and most disciplined auva’a of all the crews” that are competing in the Flag Day race next week. “They are excited and are ready to fight for the pride of their village”.
Training of the crew and other preparations come under the supervision of Aua’s fautasi committee.
They include two Mormon bishops; Pio Croce and Brown, Sunny, Siela, and the leader of the Aua aumaga, Leonard Sonoma Liufau. Sa’oaumaga Liufau serves as Paopao’s right hand man and assists the captain when he is not available to take the crew out for rowing practices.
In his parting words, captain Paopao paid tribute to his auva’a, committee, village and supporters. “Our crew is ready to fight for the honor of our village in faigamea ile tai. I wish to thank leaders of Aua, church ministers, friends, sponsors, families and fans of the Paepae O Ulupo’o for your prayers and support. We have been training for the Flag Day race for almost two months and I can say that the Aua auva’a has prepared well for the fa’amoemoe.
“We are very proud to represent our village and with God’s help we shall bring our long and tough campaign to a successful ending. I’d like to wish the government of American Samoa and people a joyous celebration as they set out to mark 114 years of good and prosperous relationship with the United States.
“I also wish all captains, villages, their auva’a, and committees a safe and competitive tu’uga fautasi next week. My one advice is for every kaipteni to obey chairman Faoa’s rules and not play by your own rules,” Paopao said.