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PM Tuilaepa slams hi-tech fautasi banned from race

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has dismissed the high-tech fautasis owned by some villages in American Samoa saying that they are actually not fautasi.

“They are no different from high-tech yachts built by pouring liquid plastic into moulds to form the body of the boat when it hardens and the moulds have been taken off,” said Tuilaepa in his weekly radio program 2AP ma le Palemia.

“It’s like racing a traditional wooden alia with a high-tech yacht in the America’s Cup Race.” The outspoken prime minister said that the fautasis which fall into this category include the Aeto from Pago Pago, Fealofani Samoa III from Fagasa, Matasaua from Manua and the Seahawk from Aoa.

Tuilaepa said these high-tech fautasi defeat the purpose of the race because the sleek design of the boat and the crew which has perfected the technique of rowing spoon-shaped oars will win.

However, racing should be about not only the boat, but more importantly the fitness, strength and stamina of the crew. He pointed out as an example the predicament that the crew of the only fautasi from Samoa, Tolotolo o le Tamauli, found themselves in during last week’s Flag Day Regatta in Pago Pago harbor.

“There was no question about the crew’s fitness level,” Tuilaepa said. “But they didn’t know how to row with spoon-shaped oars. You see, instead of digging down into the sea, you sort of flick the surface of the sea as you skim along.”

The prime minister referred to the last time the Aeto from Pago Pago competed in Apia in 2010 saying that the race was originally planned to start from the open sea as it is done in the territory. However, the Aeto captain notified the race committee that they could not compete because the rudder they use in deep water had broken.

Tuilaepa said that other captains had complained but he had settled the matter by ordering the race to be held in the lagoon. “And what happened?” he asked. “The Segavao rowed by the Don Bosco boys bolted at full speed at the sound of the hooter and kept it up throughout the race. The Aeto on the other hand took their sweet time with the captain planning a spectacular last minute overtake to win the race…which they nearly did at the last bend! But they couldn’t turn fast enough and the Segavao crossed the finish line a few inches ahead with the crew’s last gasp effort! Afterwards, the Aeto captain claimed this and that spoiled their race but the Segavao won that race fair and square with the crew’s blood, sweat and tears.”

He said that the only fautasis that qualify to compete in Samoa’s Golden Jubilee Regatta in June are the Satani from Nu’uuli, Fuao from Vatia and the Samoana High School Sharks. However, if any of these fautasi does compete in Apia, they will have to use the traditional straight wooden oars.