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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The highly anticipated 2023 Flag Day Tu’uga Va’a  — fautasi race — is happening on Saturday, April 15 — barring bad weather.

This year’s Fautasi Fiva is sponsored by Paramount Builders — the local company that also happens to be the major supporter for this year’s Flag Day Fautasi Regatta. The CEO of Paramount Builders, Papali’i Lauli’i Alofa gifted $100, 000 to the Flag Day Fautasi Committee to sponsor the race this week Tuesday.

In addition to the monetary prizes, the winning fautasi will also receive the Lealaifuaneva Peter Reid Perpetual Cup, named in honor of the late senator, businessman, philanthropist, and one of the most successful Fautasi captains.

The Lealaifuaneva Peter Reid family is also donating half of the $20,000 prize to the winning fautasi.

Note to bad weather — if it happens — a petition was filed at the Department of Samoan Affairs, yesterday Thursday, Apr. 13, 2023, asking the Fautasi Race Committee to “have a fair race, at least 5 nautical miles starting at the Taema Banks.” (The race is currently set at 7 nautical miles.)

And if the weather conditions are not safe for all (289 total) crew members, “the race should be postponed to a later date.”

The petition points to the variance in style and length of the longboats, including how low or high they sit in the water, how much they weigh — with & without crew members, through photos of the va’a — and notes how safe weather conditions differ for each boat.

How the Flag Day Committee will determine “safe” or “delay” the boat race will be a matter for the day. The petition asks the race committee to “please don’t short change all the crews considering the times [sic] spent trying for a real race.”

It is signed by the “the McGuire Brothers (LONG TIME PLAYERS IN THE GAME)”.


Captain of the Iseula III, Taisaliali’i Lefiti of Fagatogo. [photo: Charity Faatau]


The captain of Iseula III from Fagatogo is Taisaliali’i Lefiti.

 In response to Samoa News questions, he said, “At this point, I’m just grateful that they’ve decided to bring back this tu’uga va’a and also for the opportunity to once again gather the youth of Fagatogo and American Samoa.

“The downtime from COVID-19 has had an effect that is still felt today and it has fed into the difficulty to try and bring back the youth to revitalize the fautasi race as it has been in the past flag day celebrations and mainly to assemble the youth of my village.”

For a first place win, Lefiti pointed out that “I know that all Sa’s and village with competing Sa’s are all aiming for first place because there’s no one competing that doesn’t want to be second or third, etc., but I am positive that our training and preparation has us very well prepared for this Saturday as are the other Sa’s that have their eye on the prize.”

Lefiti offered these words of encouragement to his fellow captains: “Ia faifai malie le faiva and that the fautasi race be conducted in a safe and well-mannered environment and that no one gets hurt because the ocean can be dangerous, as it is beautiful.

“And that our youth can take away an important lesson of fellowship and camaraderie from this race that is a huge spectacle in celebrating American Samoa’s flag day,” he concluded.


Captain of the Manulele Tausala, from Nu’uuli, Taufete’e Taufete’e and daughter. [photo: Lovingmemory Taufete’e]


The Manulele Tausala from Nu’uuli is lead by captain Taufete’e Taufete’e.

“It has been a while since we last had a fautasi tu’uga,” he said, “and it’s been extremely tough recruiting the youth to come back because of COVID, the prolonged restrictions, and they’ve just lost the spirit and essence of participating in our fautasi races.

“But I’m thankful that we now have this opportunity to bring back our youth, to prevent them from being led astray.”

For the coveted first place Taufete’e said, “There isn’t a Sa that isn’t determined in getting first place, we’re all hungry for that trophy and that win.

“I think that it’s easy to say we want to win first place, but the work that goes into it is not all easy. Especially due to the fact that so many of Nu’uuli’s youth have moved off island, but we’re primed and coming in the numbers to entertain American Samoa for the fautasi tu’uga.

“And we’re also giving it up to the Lord, that whatever the results may be on Saturday, that we all take away a bigger lesson and put on an amazing show.”

Taufete’e concluded, “I first would like to thank our village Nu’uuli for cheering us on and to our Ma’opu district as well in supporting us for this long awaited race.

“And to our spiritual leaders who have prayed over us and blessed our efforts, and also to the elderly mother’s and father’s of all the families of Nu’uuli that have children rowing and representing us, I thank you for all your blessings and support, and also to our families and spectators of American Samoans that will be watching from overseas.

“And last but not least, to the captains who are shepherding their Sa’s, may the Lord be with us all, “ma ia faifai malu le faiva”, he said.

Taufete’e also noted “that many are called, but one is chosen, that other auva’a and his as well display excellent sportsmanship between their fellowship of brothers and commends Honorable Governor Lemanu and Lt. Governor Talauega for reviving such an important commodity in our Flag Day celebrations.”

(See profiles of other boats and captains printed earlier, in today's sports section)