Friday, August 23, 2013 by Daniel Naidu
THE Veitau Waqa, the annual traditional canoe race organised by Pacific Blue Foundation as part of the Hibiscus Festival celebration, takes place today.
And 2012 champion Joji Misaele is ready to defend his crown.
“We have been preparing for this race for almost two months now,” said the man from Ogea, Lau, fresh from a test sail around Laucala Bay yesterday.
He said the signs from the test sail were very positive and he was confident of putting in a good push to repeat his victory last year.
Mr Misaele said Ogea had a proud history of making seaworthy boats.
His father, he added, was an experienced canoe builder.
“Most of my family and the villagers in Ogea still have that skill to sail big and fast canoes,” he said.
However, Mr Misaele believes the Veitau Waqa represents more than just a race.
Mr Misaele firmly believes that traditional sailing and boatbuilding skills have a place in today’s age as an alternate means of transport, although with modern modifications.
“The way I look at it, we just need to modify a little bit from traditional methods. I think we need to use modern materials and tools to construct it, with modern ways of joining and preparing it.
“With this, it will make construction very easy and fast, and also the performance will be better.”
He commended the Pacific Blue Foundation for initiating the traditional boat race, saying that it had revived the art of building these canoes.
“By showcasing this, especially the modified version, which is easy to handle, it will make people realise that it is very economical and convenient, there is no need for fuel, especially as the cost of fuel is really increasing right now.”
He encouraged the public, and in particular children, to come to the foreshore to watch the traditional craft in action.
“For some of the children, it will be the first time for them to see what the Fijian canoe is like, what they see in pictures, on coins, and logos. It may even be possible for them to sail on it.”
His camakau clansmen who reside at Bilo on the other side of the Suva Harbour from Albert Park face stiff competition from the settlers on the peninsula at Korova.
Semiti Cama, who leads the sailors at Suva Point, was quietly optimistic about their chances.
“It’ll be an exciting day for racing the camakau,” he said last night.
“We keep modifying as we go. It’s a good day for the children.”
The event also includes the bakanawa race for children who will showcase their model-sized boats along the foreshore.
A day-long program has been organised to keep the crowd entertained, from the public parade from the Suva Flea Market to the foreshore at 8am to the awards ceremony, which is scheduled to take place at 3.30pm.
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