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DISORGANIZED: Fautasi Skippers Spill Disappointment  

Story & Photos by Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 26 MAY 2023: At the start of the long awaited Fautasi Race as the Finale of the 60th Independence celebrations, there was not one, but two gunshots that called the start of the race close to midday.

Speaking to the media after the race, skipper of the winning Tolotolo o Tamauli fautasi, Pauli Ivan Williams said he did not hear the gun to start the race.

“I saw one of the fautasi paddling away and I just took off after it,” said Pauli.

The skipper of the Marist Segavao that came in fifth, Faimalō Te’o said the same thing.

“I saw two boats racing away while we were still at the starting line, so I also took off just as when I heard the gun discharged,” said Faimalō.

“I’m not sure if there was a first gunshot as must have been the reason why the first two boats started rowing, so I followed them when I heard the gunshot,” said Faimalō. But an official at the starting line told Talamua that there were two gunshots less than a minute of each other.

Three of the skippers were also disappointed that the indicator flags at boundaries to the course and at the finish line were shifted without the Race Committee informing them.

Winning skipper Pauli Ivan Williams confirmed the flags at the finishing line had been shifted.

“Our last training was Wednesday and we paddled on the route we have always trained on, but close to the finish today, I saw the flags were at a different location. So I steered the boat inwards to avoid disqualification,” Pauli explained.

Tolotolo skipper, MP and sister
Tolotolo skipper, MP and sister

Tolotolo Tamauli skipper, Pauli Ivan Williams, Salelologa MP Matamua Vasati Pulufana and Pauli’s sister Andrea Williams after the race.

Don Bosco Skipper Vaimasenu’u  Zita Martel also fell victim to the changes and almost cost her the second place.

“I saw the flags had changed locations from the lane we used to train and we struggled to redirect the fautasi to an inside lane while the boat in third place caught up on us and almost beat us to second place,” Vaimasenu’u explained.

Don Bosco was ahead of Telefoni o le Vainuu in third place. However, while Vaimasenu’u struggled to redirect her fautasi inside, the Telefoni was gaining on distance and almost stole the second place.

“I had to redirect the boat inside because I did not want to be disqualified,” she said.

Vaimasenu’u believes the flag was moved either yesterday or last night but they were not informed about the change.

“The flag is usually located in-front of the Samoa Shipping Corporation however, today, it was located in-front of the Vaisigano Bridge,” she said.

Telefoni catching up
Telefoni catching up

Telefoni o e Vainu’u catching up on Don Bosco as skipper Vaimasenu’u struggled to steer her boat back inside the lane to avoid disqualification.

A competitive race
Despite the shortfalls on the Committee’s part, Vaimasenu’u, Pauli and Leiataualesā Jerry Brunt, skipper for Telefoni ole Vainuu said the race was fantastic and very competitive.

“Everyone was in to win and we pretty much led from the start and then gave it away,” said Leiataualesā.

Telefoni ole Vaniu'u skipper
Telefoni ole Vaniu'u skipper

Finishing at third place, Telefoni ole Vaniu’u skipper, Leiataualesa Jerry Brunt steering his boat back to base at Mulinu’u.

The iconic champion female skipper, Vaimasenu’u rated today’s race as the best she had ever been in.

“It was a fantastic race and in all my years of racing, this is the best because it was so competitive from the beginning to the end,” said Vaimasenu’u.

“But the outcome could have been different only if we all had a fair start.” But she expected a tough race.

“It was expected. It’s been 5 years and because I suppose we were all expecting to be at the same standard considering that we were told officially that there would be a race, all the competitors had only two and half months to prepare,” she said.

It could be Vaimasenu’u’s last race and she is glad with her fautasi crew’s achievement today.

The Totolotolo o Tamauli’s victory means a lot to Pauli.

“This means a lot to me, it is a milestone as we celebrate Samoa’s 60th independent anniversary,” he said.

He also commended the Government for reviving the Fautasi regatta.

“This is a sport unique to us Samoans, and so as Samoan cricket. We need to maintain and keep them and I acknowledge the Government for reviving the fautasi race as well as the public who all came to watch and support it,” said Pauli.

Tolotolo truck crew celebrate
Tolotolo truck crew celebrate

The 60th Independence Fautasi Race champions, Tolotolo o Tamauli celebrate on land.

The race final placings

  • 1st – Tolotolo o Tamauli – Salelologa,
  • 2nd – Don Bosco – Alafua,
  • 3rd – Telefoni ole Vainu’u – Manono,
  • 4th – Little Rina – Toamua and
  • 5th – Marist – Siusega.
Marist Segavao
Marist Segavao

Marist Segavao coming in fifth under skipper Faimalō Te’o.