Don Bosco Fautasi Champions


7 June 2012 | General Interest

Don Bosco Fautasi Champions 

A woman and a group of boys achieve victory
in the “Regatta for Men”.


The Don Bosco Segavao Digicel III crew achieved a historic victory in the 50th Anniversary of Independence Fautasi (longboat) National Championship on 5 June. Thus it was that a woman and a group of boys were able to achieve victory in the “regatta for men”. The win was a triumph of collaboration: the boat belongs to the Si’usega parish, was crewed by the boys from Don Bosco Technical Centre in Alafua, captained by Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel (the only female fautasi captain), and supported by a broad array of families, friends, partners and sponsors.

Fautasi ChampionsFautasi racing is a national obsession in Samoa, and village pride is on the line each time a crew competes. A fautasi crew is made up of as many as 40 or more rowers plus the Captain and the drummer. In the lead up to the regatta the print, radio and television media were all saturated with fautasi stories, profiles of the teams and speculation about which boat might be successful. Thousands of spectators gathered on the foreshore of Apia Harbour for each race, while many thousands more followed the event on radio and television.

The 2012 50th Independence Regatta was the biggest in the history of the sport, with seventeen (mainly village based) teams competing, necessitating a series of heats to qualify for the final. For the first time Don Bosco actually entered two boats into the regatta, Don Bosco Segavao Digicel II (placed 6th in the final) and the brand new Don Bosco Segavao Digicel III. The general spirit was “One Team: two boats” and this spirit was on display after the race as both boats undertook a joint lap of honour of the harbour before returning to shore.

The popularity of fautasi racing as the national sport was evident when it was announced that Don Bosco would enter two teams in the competition: more than 200 boys from a student population of approximately 250 applied to join the team. The commitment of the teaching staff was equally enthusiastic with almost all having some role in the preparation and training of the students. The training regime would leave many an elite athlete gasping for breath. The boys trained, under the direction of Zita Martel, several times a week for three months prior to the race and the last month was spent at a live-in camp at school, with students training morning and evening while continuing classes during the day.

While the result was the extraordinary culmination of months of preparation by staff and students at Don Bosco, it was never a foregone conclusion. The second fautasi home, from a village on the small island of Manono, had actually recorded the fastest time in the heats. The start of the final was marred by controversy, with boats ramming each other as the jockeyed for position for the commencement of the ten mile race.

As expected, the race was tough from the beginning to the end. Early in the race Don Bosco Segavao III was trailing two other boats. Captain Zita would later praise her boys for "holding their nerve" and "not panicking" even in the face of great adversity and considerable hostility from other teams. But before the five mile half way turn Zita and the boys made their move overtaking the two other boats. Once Don Bosco Segavao III hit the lead it was a matter of endurance and stamina. When the crossed the finish line the Don Bosco crew were clearly ahead by a number of lengths.

While it is not the first time that the Don Bosco boys have won the fautasi championship, this year's win is especially sweet as last year they were forced out of the race and onto the rocks, not only in one race but two, by rivals who were roundly defeated in a very convincing display of camaraderie and unity by the Don Bosco boys whose motto this year was "One Beat" referring both to the beat of the drum that sets the timing for the race but also to the beat of the heart that unified the crews.

The Don Bosco Technical Centre at Alafua offers technical education to students who have previously not experienced success in mainstream school. A two year general technical training programme is complemented by a further two years of specialised technical training in one of five disciplines: plumbing and sheet metal, motor mechanics, metal, fitting and turning, woodwork and electronics. The technical training is integrated into a broad comprehensive education that promotes the spiritual and personal development of the students. The use of sport, cultural activities and the performing arts, particularly traditional siva (dancing) and pese (singing) are the vehicle for enhancing students’ self-image and self-esteem.