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Photos and Video: The Manulele Tausala l dances gracefully on glassy water

Kapiteni Manutafea Saleauau Tanielu Taufete’e and his fit, young, bravehearts made their Manulele Tausala l performed a taualuga, the last waltz on smooth water, and the Nu’uuli tapua’iga, supporters around the world and in the territory danced to their tune.


The Nu’uuli manu flew, and jazzed over glassy waters from the start to finish.  Skipper Manutafea was there, controlling the beat and pace along with his Nu’uuli oarsmen, 45 strong young men. They graced the magnificent conditions of the racecourse from five miles out to a near photo finish classic to the end.


With one last push, one last breath, and final long winning strokes, the Nu’uuli Manulele Tausala l edged the Pago Pago Aeto to win the 2014 Flag Day faigamea ile tai by a foot or two.


“Ole ‘ula legei o faigamea (this is the crown of victory).  But it is not something to be proud of or brag about.  Yes we have won the race, yet the most important thing to me is the camaraderie, the sportsmanship established among the competing crews and their captains.  I thank God for His protection during the race.  Everyone is safe,” the solemn captain commented.


It was one of the most competitive races held on the most ideal of situations. The sea was almost flat. The fantastic weather was ready made for the Aeto. It was calm, smooth and level. 


The Pago high tech fautasi lived up to its reputation as Va’amua began to make his move from six to seven fautasi length behind the Manulele Tausala l.


It was a battle between the technologically advanced Aeto, and the close to 30-year old Manulele Tausala l standard fiberglass fautasi. The difference was in the mind, the raw power, heart of a champion, and the experience of the kapiteni.


The Aeto was gaining, and sprinting fast as it tried to catch up with the Manulele Tausala l and the Paepae O Ulupo’o that were leading the race. Skipper Va’amua Henry Sesepasara was way behind. Manutafea and his Manulele Tausala were way in front. The Aeto’s superior design had an advantage over the Manulele Tausala l and the new Paepae O Ulupo’o. 


Captain Va’amua knew the power of his Aeto and believed he had a chance to overtake the two leading fautasi.


The Aeto was the fastest boat in the race. There was no doubt about it.  ut Va’amua did not have a good jump out of the starting blocks. By the time he got his Aeto rolling, Manutafea and his Manulele Tausala l were at a safe distance.


Va’amua knew the conditions of his crew and fautasi. They could make up loss time in a matter of minutes. That was what they did. The Aeto was flying from behind and soon Va’amua over took kapiteni Paopao Ailua Fiaui and his Aua Paepae O Ulupo’o at the main dock in Fagatogo. 


Va’amua then zeroed in on his #1 target, the leading Manulele Tausala l. He locked in on Manutafea’s fautasi as both kapiteni barked their orders to their auva’a for the final push to the finish line.


But as the Aeto sharpened its claws and dove in for the kill, Manutafea’s manu began its gracious siva, the taualuga (last dance). 


Both were birds that could fly fast and high. The Aeto is the ultimate bird of prey. The Manulele Tausala is a bird of beauty and grace. 


“This was what I wanted all along,” Manutafea told this correspondent after the faigamea ile tai. “Two birds fighting it out for the champion.”


About 300 meters to the tigi, the Manulele Tausala l foemua, Lavata’i warned his captain, “le Aeko lega ua sosolo age (the Aeto is gliding by)”, according to Manutafea. 


The Nu’uuli captain had his back to the fast approaching Aeto.  He explained that some of his auva’a yelled for him to give the order for the sprinting strokes to take their boat away from the danger posed by the imposing Aeto. But he said he knew that it was not yet time to signal for the last fast strokes.


He shouted back, “Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time and space to cover.”


Manutafea said he did not have any worries what so ever when Va’amua and the Pago Aeto caught up with them. “I believed in the strength of our auva’a.I just hoped that they were patient enough, listened to my orders, and not panicked. We were doing fine with our long strokes and I wanted to conserve the crew’s last energy for the final push.”


Va’amua actually surged ahead by a couple of seats when he called on his auva’a to take the Aeto home with his final rapid strokes. But with about 100 meters to go to the finish line, Manutafea demanded what his auva’a had asked for.  They responded with a concerted heave that took the Manulele Tausala l just ahead of the Aeto to cross the mua line in exhaustive fashion.


In his cool, clear and friendly manner, the Nu’uuli captain Manutafea congratulated Va’amua, his crew and the village of Pago Pago for their efforts. “You fought a good race, and I congratulate you.”


Then he addressed his village of Nu’uuli and the tapua’iga.


“To our Nu’uuli traditional leaders, church ministers, families, friends and businesses, on behalf of my crew and afioga Solia’i and his auva’a (Senator Solia’i Tuipine captained the Manulele Tausala ll), I thank you so much for your tapua’iga, support, and prayers.  We have won this year’s tu’uga va’a through your prayers and support. Your young auva’a trained hard and long for over two months to bring you the mua. We thank God for his blessing.


“To all the villages, their tapuaiga, kapiteni and crews, we thank you for a very competitive race.  Malo le figau.  It is not the victory but the friendship that we have fostered through faigamea ile tai.  Thank you”, the victorious captain of the Manulele Tausala l from the village of Nu’uuli concluded.


Paepae O Ulupo’o slid into 3rd place, last year’s winner, Fua’o came in 4th, Fetu ole Afiafi finished in 5th place while the Manulele Tausala ll arrived at the tigi in 6th place. The Fealofani ll secured 7th place, the Fa’asaulala approached the finish line in 8th position while the Ise’ula came in last.


It was a fair race for at least seven of the fautasi, Manulele Tausala l/ll, Paepae O Ulupo’o, Fealofani Samoa ll, Fa’asaulala, Aeto and Fua’o. When the Tatoso tugboat blared its horn to start the tu’uga va’a, they were behind the buoys that marked their lanes. The Matasaua, Fetu ole Afiafi, and Ise’ula were in front of their lanes when the race started. 


Samoa News Sports reporter Tony Gasu interviewed Va’amua of the Aeto fautasi from Pago Pago who finished second.  He also caught up with Paopao Ailua Fiaui, captain of the Paepae O Ulupo’o.  The Aua village fautasi took third place.


Va’amua Sesepasara


“First of all, I want to thank God, for giving us this perfect day to have our fa’agatama i le tai, it was such a beautiful day. As to the race, there were 10 fautasi, the Fuao and Aeto were close to the airport side of the starting point, so it was hard for both of us to see the other boats who were far away on the eastern side of the starting point, so we couldn’t tell how their alignments as to the beginning of the race.”


He added, “we had a great start on our side as to the four boats who were on our side, as the race went on, I could tell that all the boats on our side of the starting point close to the western side of the island, were falling back as the competitor on the eastern point were gaining forward very fast, but the race was spectacular from the start.”


Va’amua explained his experience as they were trying to make their way to the front, “we were trying our best to try and catch up to the other fautasi’s who were already ahead of us, I believe that my crew is unbelievably strong, and I have a lot of faith in them that they can do anything and can catch all the fautasi’s that were way ahead of us. When the race reached Breakers Point, I could see that Aua and Nu’uuli were way ahead of us by two fautasi lengths.”


He added, “I had faith in my crew that they had the strength to catch up to them, and as we reached the point behind the Rainmaker Hotel, I knew that we were already to the point of gliding pass the two fautasi’s that were ahead of us, but as the gap between the red buoy and the reef at the turning point was so small, I knew that all three of us couldn’t fit in there, so I made a choice because our boat was very close to the buoy.


He added, “I had to make a decision to changed my course, because I knew it would be a disaster for all three boats if I tried to fit in that sharp turn as well, so I slowed our boat down and took the wider turn to make the straight away to the finish line, which had to be behind Aua and Nu’uuli again. My choice gave Nu’uuli and Aua the opportunity and chance to be ahead of us again. When all three boats were making the straight sprint to the finish line, Nu’uuli and Aua were ahead of us by one and a half of a fautasi length.


Va’amua mentioned that he never lost faith in his crew, and pushed on, “so we had to chase them back all over again, and again we caught them as we were passing the market area. After passing up the Paepaeulupo’o, we had quite the competition against Nu’uuli’s Sa No.1. Getting closer to the finish line, I was a bit disappointed because there were no markers at the finish line, to notify us as to where the finish line was. So when we reached the usual finish point from the past, we still didn’t know as to weather we finished or not, until we heard the gun shot from the shore line going off, I guess it was to notify us the we’ve reached the finish line.”


He added, “coming on shore after the race, I am hearing rumors all around saying that the Aeto won, and some rumors saying that Nu’uuli won, and then rumors saying that it was a tie. So that was one of the errors that we had in this years race, was there were no markers or flags like every year, to notify each crews as to where the finish line was. But overall, the race this year was good, all the participating fautasi’s did well today.”


Fiaui of Aua


“As long as American Samoa was pleased with the race, I am pleased as well. All the fautasi’s who participated today were in this race to win, and that was our goal for this race as well, to “mua” or win. I know we were the ones who broke out in front, but it didn’t go according to what we practiced, but I am glad we all did our best for Tutuila and Manu’a’s special day (Flag Day).”


He mentioned that he tried his best and his auva’a gave it their all, “my encouragements to my crew was, for them to remember our village of Aua, their prayers, their thoughts, their support was the encouragement that pushed our Sa in todays race. That was the encouragement that my grandfather passed onto me when I was young, and now I want to pass it onto my auva’a”.


Fiaui’s grandfather, Paopao Ailua Petelo has a famous saying in the village of Aua “Ia sulu la’ia o lau taufale i luga o le pou, ‘ae aumai ga’o lou fatu”. He mentioned, “and that was what we did today, we gave it everything we had, and came back to our village with no regrets knowing we left our best out there today.”


Fiaui told Samoa News this is only the beginning, “there are a lot of young Aua youth members who weren’t able to take a seat in today’s competition, the young youth who are in high school and in college, and we also have a lot of veteran rowers who are most likely to retire from rowing. So we don’t have a problem with crew members as to the upcoming races in the future, this is just the beginning.”


He concluded, “first of all I want to thank the fautasi committee of coordinated this years race, secondly, I want to thank our village of Aua, le nofo i fa’afeagaia, fata faitaulaga e fia i totonu o le matou nu’u, ae mai se fo’i alo ma fanau o le nu’u nei o lo’o ala'ala mai nu’u mamao. E le pine le lafo mai o alofa’aga ma nofo tatalo mai i le taumafaiga a le nu’u. Ia alofa le Atua fa’amanuia atu uma lava i fans a le Paepaeulupo’o, fa’afetai.”


Coors Light, the major sponsor of the 2014 American Samoa Flag Day Fautasi Race is distributed exclusively by GHC Reid & Co., Ltd. 'Oloa O Leala', your family of Fine Beverages.  Today, Coors Light congratulates the Manulele Tausala l from the village of Nu’uuli for winning the 2014 Flag Day Faigamea ile tai. 


Coors Light also acknowledges the participation of nine other fautasi.  They were: Fua’o (Vatia), Paepae O Ulupo’o (Aua), Aeto (Pago Pago), Fealofani Samoa (Fagasa), Iseula (Fagatogo), Fetu Ole Afiafi (Faga’alu), Manulele Tausala II (Nu’uuli), Fa’asaulala (Vailoa), Matasaua (Manu’a). 


Other GHC Reid companies that brought you Samoa News Sports coverage of the fautasi faigamea ile tai are: GHC Reid, Samoa Motors, NAPA Samoa, and SLC Manufacturing (Vaimalu). 


Samoa News Sports would like to thank Olivia C. Reid-Gillet captain, Peter Jr. Reid and Arthur Young for the use of their boat, Sau Ia for our fautasi race coverage.