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During the opening of this year’s 2013 American Samoa Flag Day festivities, Tutuila and Manu’a as well as the whole world witnessed the power of “Le Manu Fe’ai” when they claimed their first Flag Day Fautasi Race Championship title, after crossing the finish line first with Pago Pago’s Aeto, winner of last year’s Flag Day race, just behind them. Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie captained Vatia village’s “Fuao”.


Coverage of this year’s “Flag Day Fautasi Fiva 2013” is brought to you by Coors Light, distributed exclusively by GHC Reid Co. Ltd. “Family of Fine Beverage” – “Oloa o Leala”.





Samoa News understands that there were some issues after the race pertaining to the win of the Fuao, with questions raised with the Fautasi Committee as to whether all fautasi made it to the buoy for the U-turn with some claiming that Vatia didn’t abide by the rules by turning before the buoy and heading back into the harbor towards the finish line. Chatter on facebook, by the afternoon, was giving out new lineups of the race’s standings — all with the Fuao noted as ’disqualified’.


However, Samoa News spoke to this year’s Flag Day Fautasi Committee Chairman, U.S. Coast Guard, Lt. Eric Runyon, who coordinated the race yesterday morning. According to USCG Lt. Runyon, who reviewed the race tapes at the KVZK TV Station, “from my review of the tapes, every fautasi team did the right thing, no one did anything wrong and it was a clean race,” he told Samoa News. “I am very glad that it was a fair race from the start to the end. No team is disqualified.”


He said the initial outcome of yesterday morning’s race is official and it still stands with the Fuao from Vatia at 1st Place, Aeto from Pago Pago in 2nd Place, the Sharks from Samoana High School in 3rd Place, Nu’uuli in 4th Place, followed by Fetu o le Afiafi from Faga’alu in 5th, and Fealofani Samoa III in 6th Place.




Samoa News saw before the beginning of the race, the Matasaua II fautasi’s steering rudder break off, when it was being guided toward the channel away from Faga’alu’s coastline. It was being guided by some of its crewmembers and supporters towards the Marine Patrol boat, and they were well above the area that was filled with huge underwater rocks.


Then, with the fautasi’s tow line hooked onto the Marine Patrol boat, and as they were getting ready to guide it to the Malaloa dock where the crew was waiting, there was a loud bang from the towing activity. It was then apparent that Manua’s pride was out of the race when some of the crewmembers had to dive underwater to fetch the broken rudder.


The last minute accident officially eliminated them from yesterday’s race.


The Flag Day Fautasi Race Chairman told Samoa News, “I feel really bad and a bit sad that Matasaua wasn’t able to race this year. My heart goes out to them as their team trained and practiced really hard.”




Due to rough seas, Flag Day Fautasi Race Committee changed the course of the fautasi race, starting from inside the Pago harbor - fronting ASCO Motors.


USCG Lt. Runyon told Samoa News Tuesday night that there were two plans for the race. The first was the main race course of five miles heading into Pago harbor, and plan B — in case of bad weather — was to start from the inner harbor, go out to the mouth of the harbor and back, also about a five mile course.


He said the race committee along with a handful of fautasi captains were out late yesterday afternoon to lay flags for the starting line, further out from the mouth of the harbor. “It was very rough there,” he said in a phone interview.


So it was decided that Plan B, or the alternate plan, would be implemented “for safety reasons”, to ensure that all crew members remained safe.


The race got underway around 7:15 a.m. from inside the harbor fronting ASCO Motors heading out towards the mouth of the harbor. From there, fautasi made a U-turn and returned to the starting line, which was then the finish line.


Fans flocked the shoreline of Pago Pago Bay harbor as early as 4:30 a.m. yesterday to find a good viewing site, despite the rain.




Despite calm harbor waters, the beginning of the race posed similar problems from years past, as the Fautasi Race Committee had a hard time trying to align the fautasi behind the starting point to ensure a fair race.


With everyone finally in line and ready to go, the horn of the Tatoso II sounded the beginning of the race, which sent the Aeto from Pago Pago into the lead, with Nu’uuli just behind them as they headed out of Pago Pago Harbor towards Aua village.


Aeto and Nu’uuli were clearly ahead and still in their lanes towards Aua’s beach, as was the Fuao coming towards the middle of the harbor.


Samoana was also picking up speed, and was heading straight towards the buoy, along with the Fetu o le Afiafi and the Fealofani Samoa III.


When the race reached Onesosopo Park, the Fuao was now clearly in front, with the Aeto already breaking away from Nu’uuli, while Samoana still had the upper hand of the inner lane for the turn at the designated buoy.


When the fautasi reached the turning buoy, the Fuao was ahead of Samoana by two fautasi lengths. Samoana edged a sharp turn from the buoy, and headed straight towards the finish line.


The Aeto was just behind Samoana not too far from the turning point heading towards Utulei, and that’s when the Pago Pago crew rowed their powerhouse pace to catch up to Samoana. Coming into Utulei, Aeto was now clearly ahead of Samoana, making their way towards the Fuao who were way ahead of other fautasi as they came close to the Rainmaker Hotel point, heading back into the harbor.


Going around the red buoy next to Rainmaker Hotel, Aeto was already picking up speed, shortening Vatia’s lead to one fautasi length, with Samoana just behind Aeto by half a fautasi length.


Heading towards the finish line, the winning fautasi line-up glided past the Rainmaker Hotel point, with the Fuao edging out the Aeto to the finish line by half of a fautasi length, Samoana trailing the Aeto to come in third place a whole fautasi length behind, and Nu’uuli coming in just behind Samoana by a quarter of a fautasi length. Faga’alu’s Fetu o le Afiafi was behind Nu’uuli by almost half of a fautasi length and Fealofani Samoa III, which had dropped back to 6th and last place, as they had trouble trying to row and balance out their boat at the same time, because of the back waves from the leading fautasi.


On the shoreline of Pago Pago heading towards Satala were Fuao fans who jumped into the water with excitement and pride, as they witnessed their Manu Fe’ai bringing the championship title to the village of Vatia for the first time, in just their third year of racing.


In the village of Vatia, they had a full parade from the beginning of the village all the way to the end of the village fautasi shed is located. Family members and supporters of the Fuao turned out en masse to greet their triumphant fautasi team, with a promised celebration of their first win of a Flag Day fautasi race.


The winning fautasi crew comprised 51 rowers, which was the most rowers in all fautasi crews that participated in this year’s race.


During the christening of the Fuao in March 2012, Rev. Iopu Auva’a, a Methodist minister from the village of Vatia, who delivered the main homily, told the crowd that “there have been many tales told about this fautasi.


“Some say the new fautasi looks like a bathtub, others believe it resembles a swimming pool, but with God at the forefront, this bathtub and swimming pool will take first place,” he said.


Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this story.