Translated from FaaSamoa. Two girls made the final cut in Vaimasenuu Zita Martel’s SSAB Don Bosco fautasi crew and rowed alongside their fellow male students in Friday’s 60th Independence Anniversary race.
Faasoo Seiuli, 21, from the village of Tiavea, and Josephine Toosavili, 19, from Amaile Aleipata will go down in history as the only two females to have participated in the male-dominant fautasi race in 2023.
In an interview with Faasoo and Josephine after the race, they told Samoa Global News they are grateful to Vaimasanuu Zita Martel for choosing not to close off the selection to male students only.
In an earlier interview with Vaimasanuu, the legendary skipper told Samoa Global News there were four female students camped with the Don Bosco crew, vying for a place in the final selection.
“There were four of us girls in the training squad, and that came down to three when one of the girls pulled out,” shares Faasoo Seiuli.
“Then on the morning of the race when the final selection was made, the two of us were picked while our other sister cheered us on..”
Faasoo and Josephine said fear crept in when they took their seats in the fautasi, and looked across to the other long boats.
“We could see the other rowers were much older and physically bigger than us..
“This made me a little bit scared,” said Faasoo, “but then I looked up and saw Vaimasanuu and all fear went away..”
Faasoo and Josephine said their Skippper’s confidence, as she stood in the front of their boat, calmed them as they settled in to wait for the race to start.
Well known and respected as Samoa’s Warrior Queen, Vaimasanuu Zita Martel has successfully coached, trained and captained an all-female crew – who took out second place at the Marist St Joseph College 70th Anniversary race of November 2020.
Fast forward to 2023, and the only female fautasi skipper opens the way for female students of Don Bosco to take part in the most viewed activity of Samoa’s year long 60th Independence Anniversary celebrations.
19 year old Josephine Toosavili says all fear was removed when she brought back her focus on their Warrior Queen skipper.
“Once the race was on, there was no more fear, just focus on the job, move in one beat and row as hard as I can,” added Josephine.
The pair thanked the tapuaiga of their parents, families, villages and their school.
Faasoo Seiuli is a fourth year student studying towards an auto mechanic qualification at the technical and vocational school.
Josephine Toosavili is a second year student studying sewing at Don Bosco.
The Tolotolo o Tamauli fautasi from Salelologa captained by veteran Pauli Ivan Williams took out first place and the $60,000 tala prize money.
Vaimasanuu Zita Martel and the SSAB Don Bosco crew, made up primarily of students who have never rowed before, took out second place.
Captained by lawyer Leiataualesa – the Telefoni o le Va-i-nuu fautasi came in a close third place while the Digicel Little Rina was fourth. Segavao Marist took the fifth and final place.