Samoa gained self sovereignty 44 years ago after many years of colonial rule. First under German then New Zealand colonial rule, at the end of World War Two and the formation of the United Nations, Samoa became a United Nations Trust territory under New Zealand administration. Complete independence was achieved on the 1st of January 1962 after a referendum was put to all Samoans.
Today Samoans celebrate their independence on the 1st of June each year. I sure because it helps spread the public holidays through the year better. The celebrations run over a few days and feature a range of different events. One of the highlights of the celebrations is the fautasi race from Faleula to Apia harbour. After a great breakfast at the best cafe in town (where we picked up our hats) we made our way to the Apia harbour seawall to watch the race. This year ten fautasi boats entered the competition, each crew keen to win the five mile race and claim the $22,000 first prize.
The race was fiercly contested by two teams; the crew from Faleu, Manono and the crew from Don Bosco college in Siusega. These were always going to be the two teams to beat. The Faleu team has been a consistent winner of this event over the last few years and the Don Bosco team recently took top honours in the American Samoa Flag Day race (a real accomplishment as they were the only team from Independent Samoa to field in that event). Five of the other crews from around Upolu and Savaii had their own contest to determine who would claim third but all eyes were focused on the Faleu and Don Bosco battle.
By all accounts it was a close contest throughout the entire race but as the boats rounded the point and entered the harbour it was clear that the Faleu crew had gained enough of a lead to win. A huge cheer went up as they crossed the line.
Coming second can't be all that bad however. Not long after the race, as a group of us made our way up to parliament house, the Don Bosco crew drove past, chanting, clapping, singing and laughing all the way. I'm not sure what prize was awarded second place, but it must have been good given the smiles on the Don Bosco boys' faces.