Nu'uuli fautasi is ‘Ready To Race’

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. 

Fautasi champion, Nu’uuli From Nu’uuli

The championship fautasi from the village of Nu’uuli is 21 years old. Built in 1991, the fautasi that was once named Satani is the boat to beat in this year’s tu’uga va’a.

“Our fautasi is still strong and solid,” captain Fanene Soto tells this correspondent. “Wednesday was our last day of rowing practice. Our fautasi is now in the fale va’a (Utulei). Our lead tufuga Sei and his carpenters are putting some final changes on the body of the boat, adjust some foot rests, and polish it. Come Saturday morning, the Nu’uuli fautasi and crew will be ready to race.”

This is Fanene’s second year as the captain of Nu’uuli’s main fautasi. He skippered his village’s second boat for three years before Nu’uuli decided to retire it. Last year, Fanene led his village fautasi and crew from start to finish to take the 2012 Flag Day fautasi championship.

“That was a very special fa’agatama ile tai. We took off at the sound of the gun with our out of the blocks special strokes. We broke away from the rest of the field minutes after the gun went off and glided to the tigi with ease,” Fanene recalls.

The Nu’uuli kapiteni says this year will be a tough race as the field is getting crowded with new fautasi. “All the boat crews are strong and fit by the way they perform on the water. They have prepared well for this year’s tu’uga va’a. It will be very difficult for us to defend our championship with the inclusion of the Fagasa high tech fautasi, the Fua’o from Vatia and the two high tech boats, Aeto and Matasaua. However, the Nu’uuli crew has been training hard for two months. We have the stamina and endurance to ward off any challenge posed by the local fautasi.”

The line up for Saturday’s preliminary heat is an interesting one.

Champion Nu’uuli is in lane #3, with the Aeto from Pago Pago in lane #4. The Matasaua from the district of Manu’a is in lane #5. It is the first time that the three fastest fautasi in American Samoa will race next to each other. Aeto won the 2010 Flag Day race and Nu’uuli took the Cup in last year’s fautasi regatta.

The Aeto and Matasaua are three-year old thoroughbreds of fautasi and are built with high tech materials. Nu’uuli is one of the oldest boat in the tu’uga va’a, 21 years old to be exact and is from the fiberglass class of design of long ago.

However, Nu’uuli proved last year that it can beat the most expensive high tech boats there are in American Samoa. The Samoana High School fautasi the Shark also destroyed the myth that high tech boats are far superior in speed, design and strength than the conventional boats. 

A very interesting mini tu’uga between the Nu’uuli and Aeto was observed this week at the Pago Harbor. The two fastest boats in the territory staged a dress rehearsal of their anticipated rivalry this Saturday as skippers Fanene and Va’amua Henry Sesepasara of Pago Pago picked up their pace for the home stretch during their rowing practice sessions one afternoon. 

The Aeto was in front while Nu’uuli was catching up fast from behind. Nuu’uli edged closer and soon it caught up with the Aeto. Va’amua increased his speed and Fanene answered with his “kiki” ape foe. The fast strokes Fanene ordered took Nu’uuli far away from the trailing high tech Aeto about two-fautasi length ahead as it crossed the imaginary tigi line.

“We were just practicing. It was a friendly competition between the Aeto and our fautasi. It doesn’t mean anything. Nevertheless, it tells me that my crew has the heart, the strength, the stamina, and the experience to compete with any fautasi. It also gives me assurance that my auva’a is ready and has prepared well for Saturday’s heat,” Fanene remarks.

Nu’uuli was not the first fiberglass-designed fautasi to beat a high tech boat in races held here. The Little Rina from Samoa shattered that belief for the first time when the Toamua village defeated the high tech Fagasa Fealofani Samoa ll in the 2003 Flag Day faigamea ile tai. In doing so, captain Fonoti snapped Fagasa’s three-year Flag Day championship streak (2000/01/02).

The Segavao from Si’usega, rowed by the Don Bosco College students again demonstrated to be too fast and strong when female captain, Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel clobbered the Fealofani Samoa ll, Satani and Aeto from behind to take the 2006 Flag day Cup.

Some will argue that the Aeto (2004), and Satani (2005) also proved too good for the then only high tech fautasi Fealofani Samoa ll during those years’ Flag Day tu’uga va’a. However, their mua were controversial. The captains; Punefu Tua’olo of Pago Pago and the late Ben Solaita of Nu’uuli admitted their fautasi were in front of the pack in the two successive races when the gun went off. 

Nevertheless, they were acknowledged and recognized as champions amid the outcry from other fautasi captains, supporters and sponsors.

In last year’s Flag Day race, there was no controversy. The two-fiberglass fautasi, Nu’uuli and Shark were in line alongside each other when the horn blew to signal the start of the tu’uga va’a. Captains, Fanene and Meauta Mageo signaled their take off strokes and their crews responded. They left behind the two most expensive fautasi ever made, Aeto and Matasaua and the rest of the boats to struggle in their wake while Nu’uuli took first place and the Sharks, rowed by the high school students cruised to second place.

“It is not the fautasi,” skipper Fanene explains. “It is a combination of everything: the crew, the captain, the preparations, the tapua’iga, the talosaga, dedication and the honesty of everyone involved. These are the elements that move the boat. If there is no chemistry, all our hopes are lost. 

“Everything has to be in the right rotation and in sync to achieve our goal. Last year, all the components for success were in alignment. This year, we are on the same course and are in good position to emulate that success.

Fanene says his crew has lost the service of some of their best oarsmen. “Many of them have left for the United States while others are pursuing their educational degrees. Foemua Go Lavata’i is one of the most experienced members of our crew who has gone for military duties. However, we have promoted another experienced rower from the middle of our fautasi, Sauni to take up the foemua position on the left side. Wayne still maintains his foemua place on the right side of our boat,” kapiteni Fanene comments.

Wayne and Sauni are also responsible for the road training and other exercises. They also help the committee with the crew’s rowing practices at the gym using computerized machines, according to Fanene.

Nu’uuli has a large committee that supervises the activities of the crew. Some members are: Taotasi Archie Soliai and Halafili Mautonu Se’ui, the two faipule from the ala’alafaga who represent the district in the House of Representatives, the two pastors, Sene (EFKAS),and Bishop Logome (Nu’uuli Mormon Church Ward), Mulu, Musi, Manutafea Dan Taufete’e, and others.

Fanene is aiming to qualify for the top six fautasi that will advance to the Flag Day championship final on Wednesday April 18. 

“This is our goal and should we go forward to next Wednesday’s ultimate final, my crew and I will fight with every ounce of our strength to make another championship run for our village tapua’iga and supporters here and all over the world. We are prepared to compete for the pride of our village and to defend our championship.  We have done everything possible and with God’s blessing and help, we can succeed,” Fanene pledges.

“On behalf of the crew and the Nu’uuli committee I wish to say fa’afetai tele to the village tapua’iga, from the council of matai leaders, to church ministers, and all residents of Nu’uuli for your prayers and support for our cause. We also hope that we will have a safe tu’uga va’a as our territory celebrates Flag Day 2012. I wish all my fellow captains and their crews a competitive and an enjoyable race this Saturday,” Nu’uuli captain, Fanene Soto said.

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