“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).
Lanes have been drawn for next week’s Flag Day race on Wednesday morning, April 16. Lane #1- Aeto (closer to the Tafuna International Airport), #2-defending champion, Fua’o, #3-Fa’asaulala, #4-Manulele Tausala ll, #5-Fealofani Samoa lll, #6-Paepae O Ulupo’o ll, #7-Manulele Tausala l, #8-Ise’ula, #9-Fetu Ole Afiafi, #10-Matasaua. According to chairman Faoa, the prize for the Flag Day race championship fautasi, is $20,0000.
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Today, Coors Light features the Fetu ole Afiafi from the village of Faga’alu.
“Start of fautasi race is very embarrassing”, says Shimasaki
“In all the four years that I have captained the Faga’alu fautasi in Flag Day and other races, I have never experienced a fair start. This is very embarrassing,” says Mitch Shimasaki, the leader of the Faga’alu aumaga, and captain of his village’s Fetu ole Afiafi fautasi.
What bothers him more is the fact that some of the culprits who skipper their village boats are well known leaders of the community.
“These are very respectable leaders of American Samoa. I look up at them and yet they set a bad example,” he said. “Last year’s tu’uga was one instance that proves my point. Our fautasi was waiting on the starting line in Pago Pago where the race began for the gun to go off. The Fua’o and Aeto just came around and took off without waiting for the race to start. That prematurely triggered the start of the tu’uga va’a and gave those fautasi an unfair advantage. It was very embarrassing.”
The Vatia Fua’o was skippered by the president of the Senate, Ga’ote’ote Pala’ie Tofao, while Va’amua Henry Sesepasara, the faipule from Pago Pago in the Fono’s House of Representatives captained the Aeto. The two kapiteni are again leading their village fautasi in this year’s Flag Day regatta.
The Fua’o won that tu’uga va’a beating the Aeto, which came in second place. Another big problem that contributes to this mess, according to kapiteni Shimasaki is the fact that the committee that regulates tu’uga fautasi every year does not enforce its rules.
“They never do,” he snaps. “After all the discussions about disqualifying fautasi that don’t obey the rules during our meetings, the committee then turns around and rewards them (by handing out monetary prizes according to their final position at the finishing line) and not punishing the rule breakers. Our neighbors (Samoa) are laughing at us and the way we conduct our tu’uga va’a.”
The Faga’alu teioutaife’au does not see any change from the current status quo even with the new fautasi chairman, Faoa Lualemana taking charge.
Shimasaki believes his auva’a is in good physical condition and can compete with the high tech fautasi crew in next week’s race if given a fair start. “I’m not saying that a good start will give me an advantage over other fautasi — but fair is fair.”
The Fetu ole Afiafi is powered by 42 rowers. This week, captain Shimasaki and his committee are starting their final auva’a selection.
“We’re trimming the fat off the steak, and leaving only the lean meat. Those who have not yet lost the body pounds that are required for consideration will be let go. There are others who just turn out for rowing practice but don’t even want to do the hard work of running, pulling weights, and exercising. They will not be counted. You have to sweat to earn the right for a seat in our fautasi. You have to be fair with everyone.”
The aumaga leader says Faga’alu does not have a vast pool of young athletes to select his auva’a from as villages like Pago Pago and Nu’uuli do. “That’s one of the problems we face every year. Our auva’a squad is made up of many soccer players, high school students and some veterans. It’s a struggle for us. Many of our experienced rowers have either gone off island or are not available this year because of family or employment responsibilities.”
The Faga’alu skipper says his village has talked about building a new sa. “We have some money in the bank for such a project but our first priority is to build a boat shed next to the Vailoa one. We’re sharing the Manu’a fale va’a in the meantime, and we worry that they might ask us to pay rent for the space we occupy.”
The Fetu ole Afiafi once belonged to the District of Manu’a. Shimasaki explains that about five years ago, the Matasaua ll as it was known then, used his dock near his Faga’alu home to load its auva’a.
“A lot of times I would come out to watch and they always had a hard time finding enough rowers to fill the fautasi. So I talked to some of the Manu’a committee members and told them that there was a way to solve their problem and that was selling the fautasi to Faga’alu.”
That started the negotiating process between the two parties. Uso Lago’o, according to Shimasaki was Faga’alu’s liaison in the talks. Faga’alu later bought the fautasi for $8,000 plus the usual lavish customary spending associated with such traditional acquisition.
It was the third time this fautasi has changed hands. Manu’a went through the same purchasing process when it obtained it from the original owner, the village of Pago Pago.
The Fetu ole Afiafi affairs are handled by a committee that comprises of Rev. Canton Tanielu Fano (CCCAS), Taliu Wright, Fagai and Manutafea Fano, Leo Fa’amaile, Afoa Ben Yandall, and Nathan Fa’atiliga, Trainers who supervise the auva’a on morning runs and weight pulling exercises are Pio Pelenato and Matafao Iva.
The auva’a and committee use paramount chief Fano’s guesthouse, Maota i Vaovai as their headquarters and for sleeping.
Skipper Shimasaki is an avid sportsman. He is a fisherman, soccer, and baseball player. Last year, he and the Reid brothers, Leala Jr. and Rodney won the Samoa International Fishing Association tournament in Apia. They used Leala Peter Reid’s fishing boat, Sauia. Others in their team were; Arthur Young, Willie Teleso, and Peter Young.
The Fetu ole Afiafi skipper is also involved in FIFA. He is one of the executive board members and will be traveling with a three- member delegation from American Samoa to attend the World Soccer Cup competition in Brazil later this year.
Two years ago he represented FIFA in Budapest ,Hungary for the 62nd soccer congress meeting. “That was quite an experience,” Shimasaki recalls.
The 62-year old sa’oaumaga from Faga’alu is a superintendent at Samoa Maritime. He has been employed there for 30 years. Before that he was a fireman with the DPS. Shimasaki is married to Terry, a “mixed Hawaiian” but “she is now a Samoan” and they have three sons and two daughters. The wife works at Safety Offshore System. The family belongs to the Fagatogo International Catholic community.
Kapiteni Shimasaki wishes to thank his village and church leaders, families and friends for their prayers and support during their two-month preparations for the Flag Day fautasi race.
“It has been hard and tough for everyone involved, but we do it for the love of our village and people. We promise to do our best to honor your commitment to our cause. Ia manuia le tapua'iga.