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Preliminary Heat was not fair, says SN sports writer

The heat was meant to pick six fautasi to go into Wednesday’s Flag Day main championship final with the invited Salelologa boat, the Tolotolo O Tama Uli.  However, it was so unfairly conducted, the committee should have let all the fautasi compete in that final and cancel Monday’s tu’uga.

The fautasi from lane one to four that were closer to the airport, Fua’o (1), Iseulaimoana (2), Nu’uuli (3), and Aeto (4) were three to four fautasi length infront of the Matasaua (5), Fetu ole Afiafi (6), Sharks (7), Fealofani Samoa lll (8) and Paepaeoulupo’o (9) when the committee decided to start the race.

The committee lost control of the faigamea ile tai when it decided to extend the race by an estimated 1000 meters from the original starting flags that were put into place early Saturday morning.

Committee member, Lauvao Steven Haleck told this correspondent the reason for the change was that the sea was calm. “The captains and the committee discussed this and all agreed that if the ocean was not rough we would further the length of the course”.

The committee went ahead and altered the course while many of the nine fautasi were starting to head out. The committee should have removed the buoys with the flags that marked the original starting line and informed the captains of the change of plan. In fact, the five fautasi on the Aunu’u Island side that reached their starting lanes were moved back.

The committee left the flags at the original starting line but sent two tugboats to both sides of the extended race course to serve as markers for the captains to direct their fautasi to the new designated starting lanes.

When some of the fautasi arrived at where the flags were they stopped turned around and waited for the tu’uga va’a to begin. The committee members had to go and tell the captains to move their fautasi back to the new starting line.

The Ise’ulaimoana, Aeto and Nu’uuli had to be told several times to do so but they still lingered. The Fua’o arrived and told of the change in the starting mark and kapiteni Ga’ote’ote Pala’ie Tofau obliged.

After some thirty minutes went by, Fagatogo, Nu’uuli, and Pago Pago still did not budge and the Fua’o decided to move in front to be in line with the three fautasi.

On the other lanes toward the Aunu’u Island in the east, the Fealofani Samoa lll, Paepaeoulupo’o, Matasaua, the Shark, and the Fetu ole Afiafi were lined up at the new starting blocks. They were about four fautasi length behind the four boats that moved in front.

Aeto captain, Va’amua Henry Sesepasara stood firm and true to his statements that he would not be stupid again by moving his fautasi back. He said he learned his lesson from last year’s race when he obeyed the committee. As he back paddled the committee blasted the gun to start the race. 

According the Pago Pago captain, his being honest cost him the 2011 Flag Day race. Va’amua and his Aeto crew and boat stayed right next to defending champion Fanene Soto and his Nu’uuli crew and fautasi.

After numerous urging by the committee, the Fua’o, Ise’ulaimoana, Satani and Aeto reluctantly made their way back but did not go all the way to where the tugboat was on the west side of the race course. 

The Fua’o was the only fautasi that reached the new marker.  Committee member, Lauvao used the bullhorn to advise kapiteni Ga’ote’ote to take his fautasi in front as the others refused to move all the way back to the new race course mark.

When the Fua’o, Aeto, and Nu’uuli were lined up, the tugboat closer to the airport blared its horn to signal the start of the race. Two of the five captains on the east side of the race course said they did not hear the sound of the horn.

“All of a sudden, some of my crew yelled that the other fautasi had taken off,” Tupuola Sopo’aga of the Fealofani Samoa lll told this correspondent. “I didn’t hear any gun or horn as we were far away on the east side.” 

Captain of the Shark, Meauta Mageo also testified he was taken by surprise when he saw the fautasi that were on the west side had started rowing fast. “We didn’t hear anything to signal the start of the race. We were just lucky that we got into the final to be a part of this conversation. I’m very proud of my young auva’a. ”

The tugboat that was stationed in the east side did not signal the start of the race. Committee member, Lauvao insisted the committee has done its job and not to be blamed for the fiasco at sea. 

Captain of the Samoana High School fautasi the Shark and his young students auva’a must be commended for the way they performed from way behind. Mageo did a fantastic job in calming his crew and controlling his strokes and stamina. They came from #8 at the start of the faigamea ile tai to edge out captain Mitch Shimasaki and his Fetu Ole Afiafi fautasi to take the number six position.

If there was a winner in last Saturday’s heat, the committee should award it to Mageo and his courageous young students. They rowed with guts and showed the big hearts of true young warriors. They set an example in honesty, fighting from behind, and never giving up. Their brave efforts were rewarded with a place in the final on Wednesday despite the odds piled up against them right from the start of the race.

The same goes to the other four fautasi, Paepaeoulupo’o from Aua, Fealofani Samoa lll from Fagasa, and Fetu Ole Afiafi from Faga’alu. They do not deserve to be relegated to the Monday consolation race.  All these four fautasi have earned their places in the final on Wednesday. 

Nevertheless, chairman Suiaunoa is adamant that the results of last Saturday’s tu’uga va’a stands.  “There is no such thing as an unofficial results,” he told this correspondent on Sunday. “The top six fautasi will race with the boat from Salelologa on Wednesday while the three last placed boats from last Saturday’s race will have their tu’uga va’a with Faga’alu’s second boat on Monday. That is where we are”.

Suiaunoa said the race on Saturday had a fair start as he observed it from where his committee boat was. “If I heard the tugboat horn from where I was, why did the other captains claim they did not hear it go off.”

The ‘Nu’uuli’ from Nu’uuli led all the way and reached the tigi first. The Aeto from Pago Pago came in second. Third place went to the Fu’ao from Vatia. The Matasaua from the Manu’a district, took fourth place. Iseulaimoana was in fifth place and the Shark from the Samoana High School edged out the Fetu ole Afiafi for the sixth position. 

These six fautasi will join the Tolotolo O Tama Uli from Salelologa Savai’i for the main Flag Day championship faigamea ile tai on Wednesday April 18.

The Paepaeoulupo’o from Aua, which came in 8th place and the new Fealofani Samoa lll that cruised in to last position will have their tu’uga va’a with Faga’alu’s two fautasi on Monday afternoon.