1st Sheraton-to-Sheraton Va’a Regatta
International paddlers and teams gathered to compete in the first Sheraton-to-Sheraton (S2S) 30K Va’a Regatta, last Saturday, in Apia, Samoa. The S2S’ main sponsors were the Sheraton Samoa Hotel group and Vailima Breweries. Sheraton Samoa is hoping to make it an annual event, attracting teams from all over the world.
There were 8 teams including a team from New Zealand that competed in the S2S that was from the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel & Bungalows in Apia to the Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Resort in Mulifanua — approximately 18 miles.
Two teams represented American Samoa: Alo O Samoa paddlers Sueni Tautua, Tisepi (Rock) Tupai, Alex Carding, and John Goeke were joined by Vito Lealasola and Wade Hatch from Au Va’a Laumei to form a men’s iron team; while Le Vasa Outrigger Club sent a mixed team of 4 women and two men.
Le Vasa team placed 1st in the V6 Open Mixed Team, after paddling for nearly 3 hours non-stop. The winning team comprised Paula McDonald, Sandra Ho Ching, Luaao Wasko, Ambrose Fa’atoafe, Ropate Delana and Julie Falanai.
Falanai said, “We had a great time and I'm so glad we made it all the way.”
Le Vasa coach and captain Paula Stevenson-McDonald expressed her gratitude for the recent surge in local sponsorship for the sport.
“We’d like to thank our sponsors Bud Light and SoPac Distributors. I am very proud of our team and our performance in the S2S. With four women and two men, our time of 2 hours 52 minutes was a great accomplishment,” she said.
Both teams expressed thanks to the American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC), which sponsored the race entry fees and local transportation costs.
Outrigger races this long are often change races, with the crews switching part way along. In the inaugural S2S race, a two-day event, both change and iron categories were included, and both American Samoa teams raced in the iron category or without changing.
“We only had one chance to practice the full distance so were very happy with our 2 hour and 42 minute time,” said Vito Lealasola of the local iron man team. “In fact we achieved a better time in the race than we ever did in practice.”
The first day of the event was the race and prize giving and the next day was a beach party and barbecue celebrating all those who participated.
Sheraton Samoa put on a great feast for paddlers and supporters at the end of the race and conducted a paddling festival Sunday to introduce paddling of all kinds.
Recently, American Samoa clubs added 6 new outrigger canoes to the local fleet.
According to John Goeke, captain of the Alo O Samoa team, the club’s new canoes have made a difference: “Since we started practicing in the new canoes, our times have improved by over 10% and it has only been about a month. Now that we have a fleet of new boats we can begin hosting races. We have some of the best paddling water in the Pacific and many teams have already expressed interest.”