The fautasi rowed by the crew of Le Tolotolo o Tama Uli from Salelologa to a number of victories is officially on the market.
The decision follows a meeting by the crew’s committee two weeks ago where they discussed the possibility of competing in this year’s Independence celebration.
A week before the Prime Minister announced the cancellation of the traditional regatta due to lack of interest, the crew had already decided they would not compete in the Independence.
But why is the champion’s fautasi boat being put on the market?
Skipper Pauli Ivan Williams said it was a tough decision.
Pauli recalled that before they made the decision to sell the boat, one of the concerns raised by the Secretary of the committee was the crew being unfairly treated.
“We felt that the whole purpose of participating in the competition is to foster the relationship with other crews, revive the traditional sport and support the initiative from the government,” said Pauli.
“Unfortunately, we saw that what came out of it was quite the opposite.
“It had divided the crews and caused differences among others. Why continue on with it when its causing issues when we can sell the boat and whatever money we get from it, we will use for development of rugby and kilikiti in the village or the people’s plantations.”
Pauli pointed out it was better to concentrate on something that can promote peace and harmony among young people.
Asked to elaborate on what he meant by their crew being unfairly treated, Pauli said their Secretary, Pauli Apelu Junior, raised concerns about previous incidents involving other crews. During the 50th Independence celebration, Little Rina crashed into the Tolotolo fautasi.
“Nothing much was done about it,” Pauli said.
“We felt that something should’ve been done about that incident but no, there was none.
“There was also another incident in 2014 where we had two fautasis, the Tolotolo and La ole Talalelei that clashed with Don Bosco.
“As a result of that the committee ruled that there should be no more than two fautasis from a village – the rules were changed.”
Pauli reiterated that the crew felt that the rules targeted them “and not others”.
He said what could have prevented such problems in upcoming celebrations is have a meeting after the Independence so that issues could be discussed and resolved rather than leaving it on the side.
Another concern he raised is the crew having won four Independence celebrations and yet they were never invited to compete at the Flag day in American Samoa.
He explained that the usual practice is the winner of the Independence takes up the opportunity to compete in the territory.
“Not once were we invited,” he recalled.
“The other thing is the winner usually gets the big trophy, they get another trophy for them to keep and our national flag. After our first win in 2011 that was never done again.”
For those reasons Pauli said they felt it was time to sell the “champ’s boat” so they can invest in other areas.
He also used the opportunity to apologise to their supporters and villages for not being able to stay and continue with the sport. Pauli acknowledged the support of the village and their supporters who stuck by them.
Asked how much they are selling the boat for, Pauli said the price is negotiable.
The Tolotolo was built by Master builder Mulipola Faalili of Salua Manono some four years ago. Its maiden race was in 2011 where it was victorious and won the 49th Independence.
In 2012 the boat fell to 5th place after a clash at sea with the Don Bosco 200 boat.