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Faga’alu has Two Fautasi in 2012 Tu’uga Va’a

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: Le 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 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 do not qualify for the championship final on April 18. 

Fetu ole Afiafi From Faga’alu

Leader of the Faga’alu aumaga, Tei O Uta i Fea’u Mitch Shimasaki is confused about the decision not to let one of his village’s fautasi race in the preliminary tu’uga va’a on Saturday morning, April 14.

“I don’t understand why they came to that conclusion. Our two crews have been preparing for this year’s races for over six weeks. They are ready to participate in fautasi activities. We’re all disappointed,” Shimasaki says.

 The 2012 Fautasi Flag Day committee, officials of the Office of Samoan Affairs and captains of fautasi that attended the meeting last Friday reached a consensus to allow Faga’alu’s second entry to take part in the final of fautasi that do not qualify to race for the championship final on April 18.  Their final will be held on Monday, April 16.

Faga’alu had decided at the last minute to enter the Fa’asaulala fautasi from Vailoa as its second fautasi for this year’s race. The aumaga put the Vailoa boat on the water for the first time last Monday and started rowing practices all week long.

The chairman of the fautasi committee, Pala’ita Tusi Suiaunoa objected to its late entry, arguing that it could interfere with safety measures already put in place by his committee.

“We are concerned that Faga’alu’s second fautasi and crew had only a week to practice and familiarize themselves with the race course. I believe that this is not enough time for Faga’alu’s second crew to prepare. I therefore will not allow it to compete. But these are my personal opinions as chairman of the fautasi committee.”

Assistant secretary, Nanai said the Faga’alu matter has been discussed between him and his boss, Lefiti Pese. “It was not an easy issue as we debated it for a long time. Finally we concluded that we would allow Faga’alu’s second fautasi to compete.”

The Pago Pago aumaga leader, Uta i Fe’au, Lefiu Bill Kalasa warned the meeting attendants that if they prohibited Faga’alu’s second fautasi from competing, the Aeto would pull out too.

Faga’alu is a part of the Ma’oputasi district. Lefiu threatened to pull out all the district fautasi; Aua’s Paepae O Ulupo’o, the Aeto from Pago Pago, the Ise’ula i Moana from Fagatogo, and Faga’alu’s Fetu O le Afiafi from the 2012 Flag Day tu’uga va’a.

Fu’ao skipper, Ga’ote’ote Pala’ie Tofau, sensing that the issue had reached a stalemate exerted his political clout (he is the president of the Senate) and offered a diplomatic solution.  He took into consideration the importance of chairman Suiaunoa's objections over Faga’alu’s second fautasi entry but sided with the decision made by Nanai and Lefiti.  He presented a compromise solution. 

“To keep the harmony and to ensure a safe tu’uga va’a, I propose that we allow the second Faga’alu fautasi to be included in this year’s fautasi regatta, but let it race in the final of the boats that will not make the Flag Day main championship final.” The attendants at the meeting endorsed Ga’ote’ote’s idea.

Representing the village of Faga’alu were captain Shimasaki and orator and boat builder, Uso Agalelei Lago’o. The failauga thanked everyone for their vote of confidence and agreed to the plan that their second boat would race in the Monday April 16, but not in the heat on Saturday this week.

Still, skipper Shimasaki is not happy. “We have over a hundred young men in our aumaga and they are all keen to represent our village in the fautasi races this year. They are eager to compete but to be denied a chance to race this Saturday is a let down for all of us.  However, the decision has been made and as captain and leader of the aumaga I will abide by it.”

The last time Faga’alu raced was in 2010 when it borrowed the Vailoa Fa’asaulala fautasi. This year, Faga’alu approached the leaders of the Manu’a Islands and begged to buy their second fautasi. 

Pleading on behalf of Faga’alu’s case was orator Uso who reminded the Manu’a leaders that he too has blood ties with the Motu Sa. While he was speaking many of the Faga’alu aumaga were sitting outside the Malemo’s guesthouse in Tafuna offering their support.

One of the influential to’oto’o from the district of Manu’a, Malemo Lafo Tausaga told this correspondent the decision to part with their second fautasi was not easy.

“Some leaders did not want it. They argued that Manu’a has many young men that can use the fautasi. But many of us were swayed by Uso’s emotional arguments. Finally the majority ruled and gave the second Manu’a fautasi to the village of Faga’alu.”

Faga’alu presented close to $7,000 worth of Samoan traditional sua to the Manu’a leaders in exchange for the fautasi, according to Tei O Uta i Fea’u Shimasaki.

The Manu’a Islands acquired this same fautasi from Pago Pago under similar circumstances six years ago.

Two weeks ago the Faga’alu leaders approached Vailoa’s paramount chief, Satele for permission to use the Fa’asaulala boat shed in Faga’alu to store their Fetu Ole Afiafi fautasi.  Satele not only allowed Faga’alu the use of Vailoa’s faleva’a, but also offered his village’s Fa’asaulala to be utilized by the Faga’alu aumaga.

“We’re grateful to Satele for letting our aumaga use their faleva’a as well as the Vailoa fautasi. There has been a tremendous interest shown by the aumaga to get involved in our fautasi campaign this year. The young members that did not make the final selection for our main Fetu Ole Afiafi crew are now manning the second fautasi,” Shimasaki tells this correspondent.

Manutafea Isitolo Fano was selected to skipper the second Faga’alu fautasi. “What we’re concentrating now is to get fit and strong so we can compete with the high tech boats for a place in the top six.  We want to make the main championship final on April 18. We have a very good lane (#6) to race. My crew is committed to getting our goal accomplished and with our village tapua’iga and God’s blessing, we believe we can make it,” skipper of Fetu Ole Afiafi 1 explains.

One other issue Shimasaki is not pleased with is the fautasi committee’s plan to move the tu’uga va’a from the original starting point at the Taema Bank about five miles out of Pago Harbor to a calm area if the sea is rough on the day of the tu’uga va’a.

“It looks like the committee is accommodating the high tech fautasi that struggle in rough water. Our fautasi and others have no problem with that as they were built to withstand such conditions. The high tech fautasi (Aeto, Matasaua, Fealofani Samoa lll) glide well in calm water. It’s unfair for the rest of the field if the committee will shorten the distance of the racecourse. This will give a big advantage for the high tech fautasi. Rain, rough, or shine, the race must start from its original distance” the Faga’alu captain explains.

Shimasaki hopes America Samoa will have a safe and an entertaining faigamea ile tai.  “I sincerely hope that it will be a fair race as well. We’ve had some bad races before with some fautasi starting in front of others. The sad part of it is the dishonest captains are always awarded monetary prizes when they should have been disqualified and received nothing. 

“We are the only country in the world that reward captains and crews that break the rules of boat racing. We’re sending the wrong message to our young people.”

Shimasaki says his village is set on building a new fautasi in the future. “We have not made a decision on whether to construct a high tech fautasi or not, but definitely Faga’alu will build a new boat.”

The committee that supervises the affairs of the Faga’alu auva’a has been working tirelessly for close to six weeks in training the two young crews for the Flag Day fautasi races. 

Shimasaki says some of his auva’a and trainers left last week with the Army Reserve for training in the Philippines. Some of the committee members are: Alapati Fano, Ale, Mua’au Gaisoa, Taufusitele, Fealofani Shimasaki, Leo, Pio Pelenato.

“We have two very enthusiastic crews. Their rowing technique is excellent.The stamina and the endurance to compete from the long race course distance is what we’re working hard to get,” Shimasaki remarks.

The two captains want to offer their fa’afetai tele to the village of Faga’alu for the tapua’iga, prayers and the many contributions the leaders, church ministers, and residents have given for the success of the Fetu Ole Afiafi campaign. “We will represent our village well in this tu’uga fautasi,” Shimasaki declares.