In a display of the skills of the past, four boats gathered from Fulaga and Moce to compete in a Veitau Waqa, or traditional sailing race, under perfect conditions. Organizer and newly-installed Roko Sau from Totoya, Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba, said the historic event was created to promote awareness of unique indigenous Fijian craftsmanship and traditional sailing skills. “This competition has provided a chance for islanders to show their skills, and to begin to bring these skills back for practical use within our modern lifestyle,” he said.
The three races were a wonderful viewing opportunity, as all the events were all conducted right out in front of the crowd, with the boats racing around three buoys in the harbor, and the start and finish close to the beach in front of the spectators. Each race lasted about a half hour with the action visible around the whole course, and the finishes were often close. Breezes were consistent trade winds of 10-12 knots, and the skies were clear. This was perfect for not only the racing, but also for the opportunity extended to the community for camakau sails across the harbor after the races. This was popular with folks of all ages, and represented one of the only chances to sail in a fleet of these craft in many years. The waterfront was further graced with the presence of the new double-hulled voyaging canoe Uto ni yalo, just launched November 21st of last year. This boat is one of seven large outriggers that will all sail together in March 2010 for Honolulu, to express the concerns of Pacific islanders about the effects of development upon all living things in our oceans, upon which much of the diet and health of islanders depends.
Three races were held, with the start of the first one following Fulaga canoe racing tradition, with a staggered start where the elders decide before the start which boats will go first. The second and third race were started in Moce fashion, with all the boats starting simultaneously. Both of the first two races were held with two-man crews, and the final race, in a display of seamanship, was sailed single-handed.
This competition was sponsored by the Pacific Blue Foundation, a non-governmental organization dedicated to cultural and ecological conservation for Pacific island communities, which recognizes the ocean-voyaging canoe as a key link that kept ancient Fijian culture together, and that the preservation of these craft is fundamental to Pacific island cultures. Greg Mitchell, Founder and Chairman of the Pacific Blue Foundation, expressed the sentiments of all “the enthusiastic crowd confirms that traditional boats are still alive in Fiji and appreciated by the community.”
The overall winners of the day, after a talanoa, or traditional consultation of the judges. A total cash contribution of $1500 FJ was made in the names of the winners to an account to benefit the development of these traditional races in the future. First place went to Setareki Domonisere and Jitoko Moceibure, second place went to Muritovo Seniloli and Solomone Tukana, third place went to Jiujiuwa Bera and Sakiusa Cabe, and fourth to Sakiusa Veikauyaki and Fuluna Tuimoce.