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Controversial start to race may alter results

The results are not official yet, said Chairman of the Fautasi Race Committee, Lualemaga Faoa, just minutes after the race, and he also said that a meeting would be held today to determine the status of the race, as there were “problems” before and during the race.


Samoa News has been told that a meeting has been set at the governor’s office, at 10 a.m. today.


In the meantime, the unofficial results place the Nu’uuli Manulele Tausala I in first place, as they took off — overtaking the Paepaeulupopo III from Aua — and never looked back from there.


The Don Bosco 200 from Samoa was in second place, after Paepaeulupo’o of Aua had collided with Fuao of Vatia; Fealofani Samoa III came in third place, with Paepaeulupo’o in fourth place and, Vatia in fifth.


Matasaua of Manu’atele came in sixth, Taema II of Leone placed seventh, with Aeto of Pago Pago in eighth place and Fetu ole Afiafi of Faga’alu in ninth place.


As the committee was trying to set up the boats in their lanes, Samoa News witnessed Aua’s Paepaeulupo’o and Nuuuli’s Manulele Tausala in front of the line when the race officially started.


Aua was leading at the beginning, however Nu’uuli took over first place and then just soared to the finishing line, leaving the rest of the fautasi crews behind.


In an interview with Samoa News yesterday, Manutafea Taufete’e admitted that his boat was in front of the starting line when the race kicked off. Speaking in Samoan, Manutafea said their fautasi was in the front and because it was getting rough out in the open waters he did not want to move backwards to where the other fautasi were stationed.


Samoa News asked if he felt the win was theirs, even though they were in front of the line when the other fautasi were in the back, and he replied that they won, and it was evident because they were far ahead and they made it to the finish line without an opponent.


Manutafea thanked his village of Nu’uuli for the tapuaiga (support) and thanked his crew for the hard work. The Manulele Tausala has been racing for over 20 years said Manutafea.


Another incident happened on the race course when fautasi were heading out towards the Eastern Bay Area. A majority of the boats bunched up (crowding each other), and that is where Paepaeulupo’o collided with the Fuao.


Samoa News saw the skipper of the Fuao, Gaoteote Palaie pushing the Aua boat away. It was then that Don Bosco 200 took off, putting them in second place, while Fealofani Samoa III tried to keep up with the Don Bosco— but at the finish line, Don Bosco was ahead by about six seats.


Speaking to Samoa News after the race Gaoteote expressed his disappointment as to what had occurred. He said the incident where Aua collided with Fuao should have not happened, and it led to Fuao and Aua both missing second place.


He told Samoa News when Fuao and Aua reached the area behind the old Rainmaker Hotel, the Fuao and Aua were within inches of each other. They tried to break away from Aua, however he was shocked when Aua collided into his boat.


He further stated that Aua could have taken another route but they decided to collide into Fuao and it was unclear as to what the Aua skipper was thinking which led him to strike into the Fuao. Gaoteote also pointed out that he called out to the Aua skipper to move their fautasi away from the Fuao but he didn’t listen.


Gaoteote then said there’s no purpose to talk further about the race — what happened has happened. He thanked Vatia for their support and said that nothing occurred after the collusion incident, however he said this could cause problems between the two crews, and that is the last thing he wants.


Samoa News would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Peter Reid family, whose boat the Sau Ia invited Samoa News onboard to follow the race.




Samoa News spoke to the only female fautasi skipper who competed in the 2015 American Samoa Flag Day Fautasi Race – Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel, who led the Don Bosco 200 to second place in this year’s race. According to the skipper, the only thing that is in her mind, and a relief to her, is that “it’s finally over with — we are satisfied with everything overall.”


According to the captain, at the beginning of the race “the swells were high, and I was trying to set up my crew in our designated lane.”


Samoa News asked Vaimasenu’u for her thoughts as to the start of the race, and she responded, “I think you have to look at where the boats were lined up, because some of them were in front, so it’s really up to the committee to make that decision, because they always emphasize that everyone should be lined up at the start of the race. As for us, I believe we followed the rules that were put forth by the fautasi race committee.”


She added, “we traveled all this way here to celebrate American Samoa’s Flag Day, and at the same time, we were in the spirit of competition, and as the only team who is invited from Samoa, we wanted to abide by the rules, we didn’t want to come all that way to be disqualified for not abiding by regulations.”


Heading toward the shoreline area at Matafao heading into the Utulei area, the Don Bosco 200 was already in the mix to compete for second place alongside the Paepaeulupo’o and Fuao from Vatia, Vaimasenu’u said.


“I knew something was going to happen when the Fuao from Vatia started jumping lanes – I first saw them on my right, then all of a sudden, I saw them pulling out in front of us to my left side, which was a long way for them to cross over.”


She added, “the most important thing to me is the safety of my auva’a, so when I saw the Fuao crossing lanes to get in front of us as they were chasing down the Paepaeulupo’o, I sort of slowed down a little and at the same time I was making decisions of what I thought was going to happen — a collision. And sure enough, it did when the Paepaeulupo’o ran into the Fuao boat – and that was clearly my breaking point. That gave me the upper hand to pull inwards and onwards to the finish line.”


According to Vaimasenu’u, her crew was in full potential to power through the Rainmaker Hotel point and onwards to the finish line, but “I had to hold my crew back, because I did not want to tangle up with them, because out of experience, I knew something was going to happen – when we had our breaking chance towards the finish line, that’s when I let everything out, let my crew row to their full power capacity.”


Overall, the skipper told Samoa News, “we are really happy. The main thing for us is that we got to the finish line. My responsibility as a skipper is the safety of my crew and I am glad that everyone was safe and sound at the finish line – I myself am a mother, and to bring these young students all the way from Samoa, away from their families, my main goal and focus was to bring all of them back home after the race and everything that we came here to do.”


She added, “it’s sort of like we’ve come here to do this (siva/pese/race) but at the same time, I am not driven by the competition things that we’re here to do, I was driven by a responsibility that I had – and that was to take care of these boys, and make sure that we all go back home safe and sound and in one piece. I am glad that we’ve finished what we came to do, and we did it really well.”


The captain of the Samoa fautasi told Samoa News,, “I would first like to acknowledge the support of our families, friends, and fans of our fautasi. Their support has been tremendous, the love and support shown by the people of American Samoa for Don Bosco 200 has been tremendous, it gave us courage and it helped us mentally as well. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the girls, the little girls and female fautasi fans that were cheering me on as the only female skipper out there — thank you very much.”


Vaimasenu’u concluded, “my special thanks to our hosting village here — Utulei that has been absolutely fabulous. Today we raced as UT Don Bosco 200 to have a piece of Utulei with us out there – the colors of this village when they had their Televise fautasi going is the same as our colors, green and yellow, so it was fun and felt like home because everything sort of synchronized.


“I know this bonding between us and the village of Utulei was a re-awakening for the village youth and aumaga here to relive the days when their Televise was up and running, and for us it was a beautiful connection; this is also my family.


“To close off I would like to thank Le Afioga i le Aloali’i Afoa Lutu and his beautiful wife Ete and their whole family as well as the churches here for their strong support of us and for being a wonderful host for Don Bosco this year, thank you and fa’afetai tele lava.”