Weather fails to deter race enthusiasts

Saturday, August 20, 2016 by Losalini Bolatagici

Children follow their model traditional boats at the Suva foreshore. Picture: Joseva Naisua

THE rain and cold weather did not dampen the spirits of 145 youngsters who turned up with their families for this year’s traditional canoe race (Veitau Waqa) held at the Suva Foreshore yesterday.

They were there to race in the second category of the event, the bakanawa (small canoe) race, which drew more interest since it was introduced last year to be part of the main event — the Camakau (big canoe) race.

Organised by Pacific Blue Foundation, it has proven to be popular and cemented the belief that there is much to be gained from the Fijian sailing tradition as they work on promoting this sailing culture so the knowledge can be shared, passed down and retained.

Foundation director of government and community relations Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba was happy with the turnout.
“It’s great seeing people coming out in numbers. This event has really grown compared with the past year,” Roko Josefa said.

Nine children became winners competing in three different levels of the category.

A new product was introduced in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services in their quest to combat non-communicable diseases in the country.

Traditional foods used by sailors, how they were made and preserved to last a long journey were showcased and served free to the people who turned up for the event.

Yams and fish were cooked in charcoal with chillies, lemon and soaked in seawater, sea grapes in fermented coconut (kora) and seashells were served in coconut shells and nicely woven small coconut plates.

The food were brought all the way from the ‘organic island’ of Cicia in Lau. Epeli Draunidalo Laliqavoka of Tarukua Village and his wife, Susana, were responsible for the food.

“You see in days of old sailors used to just dress in a piece of masi and stand there with their bare body with waves splashing against them. They never got sick or cold and this was because of the healthy food they ate,” Mr Laliqavoka said.

“I always champion traditional food because we don’t get sick easily from eating them. I thank Pacific Blue Foundation for this opportunity and hopefully it will allow others to realise that our own food is best for us.”

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Canoe race retains Fijian sail tradition

Tuesday, August 16, 2016 by Losalini Bolatagici


Camakau … A scene from last year’s canoe race.
EXCITED participants are gearing up for the annual traditional canoe race (Veitau Waqa) scheduled for this Friday at the Suva Foreshore, the Pacific Blue Foundation has confirmed.

Eight participants will take part in the main event, Category One, which is the Camakau race, while 145 children will race their small canoes in Category Two’s Bakanawa race.

Director of Government and Community Relations, Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba says the Pacific Blue Foundation believes much can be gained from the Fijian sailing tradition, and therefore wants to promote this sailing culture so the knowledge can be shared, passed down, and retained.

Roko Josefa said Veitau Waqa highlighted the importance of the boat-building skills and sailing techniques practiced by Fijians for over 3000 years.

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Our Seventh Veitau Waqa Event – Join Us in Celebration!


Join Us in Celebrating Fijian Sailing Tradition!

Veitau Waqa – The Boat Lives!
A Fun Filled Day of Sailing and Song!
Wednesday 19th August, 2015
9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Suva City Council Carpark, Suva Harbor

Fijian sailing tradition has slowly been pushed into the shadows as modern, motorized boats have dominated the waters. Local experts estimate that there are only 30 to 40 people in all of Fiji who still have the ability to build and sail the Fijian sailing canoe, according to The New York Times.

Pacific Blue Foundation believes that there is much to be gained from the Fijian sailing tradition, and wants to promote this sailing culture so the knowledge can be shared, passed down, and retained.

Veitau Waqa highlights the importance of the boat-building skills and sailing techniques that have been practiced by Fijians for over 3000 years.

Here are just a few reasons why we celebrate the Fijian sailing culture:

Fijian Sailing Canoes More Cost Efficient

The cost of maintaining a traditional sailing canoe, or Camakau, over a five-year period of time is estimated to be 3000 to 5000 Fijian dollars. A panga, or motorized fishing boat, on the other hand, would cost 4000 Fijian dollars for just a year’s worth of fuel.

Fijian Sailing Canoes Have Smaller Environmental Impact

Motorized fishing boats contribute to air pollution, since fuel is burned to power the boat, and any fuel spills directly impact the ocean environment. In addition, owners of motorized fishing boats need to catch more fish just to cover the cost of fuel, which can increase fishing pressures and lead to the depletion of fish resources. Since Fijian sailing canoes don’t require fuel, there is less pollution; lower costs also minimize the need to catch as many fish.

Fijian Sailing Canoes Float with the Fish

Some argue that the noise from motorized boats scare the fish away, but the Fijian Sailing Canoe does not. Fijians that have mastered the art of the Camakau can sail right up to schools of fish without startling the marine life, which makes for effective fishing. This sailing experience also emphasizes our connection with the environment, an important aspect of Fijian tradition, and one that fosters respect for the environment.

Learn more about the canoe-building culture!

Fulaga Trio Win Triple Sailor Event

Saturday, August 23, 2014 by Emoni Narawa

FULAGA trio Setareki Domonisere, Joeli Taufa, Mosese Tamuyali won the Triple Sailor event of the Veitau Waqa-The Boat Lives competition, an official event of the Fiji Hibiscus Festival at the Suva Harbour yesterday.

Initiated by the Pacific Blue Foundation, the Triple Sailor is the newly introduced competition this year.

Tamuyali who is part of the winning crew said it was a proud moment for the trio.

“We never thought of winning this event,” he said.

“It’s the first time I am competing but my teammates have competed here before. This is one of the happiest moments of my life to be part of this Hibiscus sailing event.”

Tamuyali said they used a brand new canoe yesterday. The canoe was just three days old, about 32ft long.

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Sailing with the Past

Friday, August 22, 2014 by Sailosi Batiratu

IN Suva Harbour today will be a sight which would have been common on the sea of inhabited stretches of coastline in days before the outboard engine and diesel-powered sailing vessels were the norm.

As part of this year’s Hibiscus Festival, as it has been in the past, there will be a race between traditional sailing crafts. The race is an initiative by the Pacific Blue Foundation.

Explaining why the race was important, foundation director of government and community relations Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba said: “It is for the transfer of knowledge pertaining to the construction and actual sailing of traditional vessels.”

Roko Josefa, who is also the Roko Sau, a traditional title from Totoya in the Lau Group also explained it was important the knowledge be kept alive through transfer and the skills sustained through practice.

“A lot of these people (from the places regarded as the seat of such traditional knowledge) leave their island homes in pursuit of higher education. As they gain more knowledge of new things, whatever traditional knowledge they had is slowly lost over time.

“Hence the importance of having such a competition where the knowledge they have is implemented right from the construction of the vessel to its sailing.

“This is something which is very important and should be encouraged.”

In an earlier conversation, Roko Josefa said this particular initiative was part of a wider effort. He said its importance could not be stressed enough because it was part of a person’s identity.

This identity, the Roko Sau said, could be transferred in a number of ways including the dialect together with the rituals and customs of a people. Also part of this was indigenous or traditional knowledge which included the building and sailing of iTaukei vessels or waqa vakaviti.

Once more touching upon its importance, Roko Josefa said: “It is part of our rich, traditional inheritance. It is a very significant resource.

“It cannot, it should not, this body of knowledge which belongs to the iTaukei, be lost over time either through negligence and disuse and then only to be alive in stories.

“That should never be the case. If it is, then we have failed our future generations.”

Roko Josefa said the race stemmed from an idea by foundation head Greg Mitchell after he first saw how strung out the islands of the archipelago were.

His question then was how those who had first peopled the islands of Fiji traversed the island group. From that sprung the inspiration which has materialised at the Hibiscus Festival for several years now.

As part of their efforts to keep this body of traditional knowledge alive, Roko Josefa explained there were several categories of sailing crafts used by the earlier generations of iTaukei.

First is the bakanawa.

This, he explained is used by children for sailing practice and/or play but cannot be used to transport anyone.

It can be up to a metre in length, has an outrigger or what is known in the iTaukei language as a cama.

It is not hulled. The bakanawa is something like the camakau in appearance.

Unlike the bakanawa, the camakau is a craft which is hulled. It however also has an outrigger.

Measuring between three to 14 metres, it also has a sail and can transport between four to seven people for inter-island travel.

The takia on the other hand is a vessel used by coastal dwellers for river and inshore fishing and transportation.

This craft does not have a sail but is poled along to the destination by whoever is the user.

Finally, there is the drua.

As the name suggests, drua literally meaning twin in the iTaukei language, there are two hulls which are the same in proportion.

This traditional sailing vessel is built to accommodate up to 20 to 50 people along with their luggage.

Its dimensions are larger than that of the camakau.

In the days of old, it was used to transport raiding or war parties.

So if you have not planned anything for the day, are into traditional knowledge and stuff like that, someone always looking for an opportunity to broaden your knowledge, or someone looking for something new to do this school holidays, this may be an activity for you which you can then share with your friends when the holiday is over.

On a more serious note, as Roko Josefa said, this is part of our culture and identity which would be worth our while finding out more about.

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From Father to Son

Thursday, August 07, 2014 by Sailosi Batiratu

“I FLICK it from the inside and I will know from the sound whether we have the required thickness.”

The it, Walesi Jone Tukana Temo was referring to, was a log which was being hollowed out according to his specifications by his sons and grandsons at their Wainibuku homestead.

Temo, a traditional craftsman from the village of Naividamu on the island of Fulaga in the Lau Group, said his knowledge about such things were a gift from those who had preceded him. And he now is passing on the knowledge, or has already done so, to his sons and they on to theirs after them.

Temo said, of his sons and grandsons, that they possessed the knowledge and skill to build a traditional iTaukei sailing vessel on their own. On that warm July day, Temo said a son and grandson had recently returned from Fulaga after winning a racing competition in the village.

His role, Temo explained in the construction of the drua to be raced at this year’s Hibiscus Festival, is more that of a supervisor guiding and instructing as and when needed.

The 69-year-old who was raised on Lakeba said the drua they were in the process of building from a log felled in the forest of Delaidogo, would have to be sturdier than in-shore vessels as they would be up against the waves of the open seas.

Temo said he started his apprecticeship, if one may call it that, working on tanoa and then on to the takia, another form of traditional iTaukei vessel. After three or four takia, he started working on his own and only solicited the help of fellow villagers when the need arose.

Back in the village when he was starting out, Temo said he would have a look at other traditional sailing crafts when he was stuck or needed some inspiration. After some thought, he said what needed to be and how it was to be carried out would slowly form in his mind.

Another Fulaga man who is also building such a vessel for the competition during the Hibiscus Festival is Seniloli Muritovo, from Muana-i-ra Village, said he followed and learnt from his father until he had gathered enough knowledge and skills to start building on his own.

The 49-year-old who came to Suva in 1995 to help support his children in school, said he was thankful to the Pacific Blue Foundation for the initiative as it’s one sure way of keeping this form of traditional knowledge alive.

Totoya chief the Roko Sau, Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba, who is the director of government and community relations at the foundation, said they at the foundation and the traditional boat builders were immensely grateful to the iTaukei Land Trust Board which had come forward with monetary help.

Muritovo, explaining how he was going about his task, said some aspects of traditional craft building were coming back to him, which he was then passing on to his three helpers who are all from the same village, as work progressed. He said his helpers, were experiencing a steep learning curve as it was their first craft.

The craftsman said he was used to onlookers watching him as he worked under his tarpaulin shade in front of his base at Nakasi.

In a conversation before heading out to meet the two traditional craftsmen, Ratu Josefa had stressed the importance, and hence his everlasting gratitude to the iTLTB for coming to their aid, of keeping traditional knowledge alive.

And one sure way of doing this, Ratu Josefa said, was through the competition which once again will be held at this year’s Hibiscus Festival.

“We want to pass this knowledge to the next generation. We don’t want to lose these skills,” he said after the camakau race at last year’s festival.

“I think the important thing is that as our elders are getting older, we must utilise their potential.

“We have the bakanawa canoes for the children and the camakau, which is mainly used for racing,” the turaga Roko Sau said as he explained the difference the two canoes.

In that article published on August 24 last year, it was reported that Ratu Josefa was already looking forward to a bigger and better race this year hoping there would be a race for the Fijian drua or ocean-going canoe.

With teams putting the finishing touches to their crafts, it seems Ratu Josefa’s wish of a drua race will be a reality at this year’s festival, even if the vessels being used for the race maybe smaller than what our ancestors sailed in.

There will be definitely some honour attached to winning that race as rivalry has been building up between teams as can be witnessed by the friendly banter when the team members meet.

Yet, even of more and lasting importance is the fact that they will possess their canoes once the race is over which they will be able to use for inter-island travel and also as a teaching and learning tool for the next generation of traditional craftsmen.

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Camakau Comeback

Saturday, August 24, 2013 by Daniel Naidu

ABOUT 30 local sailors took part in the annual Veitau Waqa traditional canoe race which was held yesterday as part of the 2013 Hibiscus Festival celebrations.

The wet weather experienced by the Capital City this week was replaced with sunshine and blue skies which saw a large crowd, including the Hibiscus queen contestants, turn up to watch the event.

Roko Sau Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba, the Pacific Blue Foundation’s government and community relations director, said the response from the crowd was fantastic.

“It’s a very unique event and we’ve got a lot of attention from the community,” Mr Cinavilakeba said.

He said the sailors were mostly from Lau, adding the success of the event proved the art of building and sailing traditional canoes was still alive.

Traditional Fijian Canoe Races

“We want to pass this knowledge to the next generation. We don’t want to lose these skills,” he said.

“I think the important thing is that as our elders are getting older, we must utilise their potential.”

Mr Cinavilakeba is already looking forward to a bigger and better race next year, which he hopes will see a race for the Fijian drua.

“Today we have the bakanawa canoes for the children and the camakau, which is mainly used for racing.

Traditional Fijian Canoe Races

“The ocean-crossing drua can take 200-500 people.”

Mr Cinavilakeba had a second reason to celebrate when his son, Ratu Isoa Gavidi, won the children’s bakanawa race.

This year’s turnout of 10 camakau and 45 bakanawa is a record for the competition, which was established in 2010 to coincide with the Hibiscus Festival.

The event was opened by the founder of Pacific Blue Foundation, Dr Greg Mitchell, an American scientist whose fascination with traditional sailing skills led to the revival of the camakau, which is mainly used for fishing in the islands.

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Camakau the Winner

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.

Traditional Fijian Canoe Races

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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Sailing Through History

Friday, August 23, 2013 by Fred Wesley

THE Veitau Waqa, or traditional canoe race, is set to take place today as part of the Hibiscus Festival in Suva.

The event is organised by Pacific Blue Foundation and pits the best of our traditional canoe builders in a race around the Suva Harbour.

But today is much more than just racing canoes. It is much more than just comparisons about which canoe is better or faster.

Today is about tradition and culture. It is about a way of life.

Today, tradition, history and modern technology come face to face.

As 2012 champion Joji Misaele pointed out yesterday, preparations have been going on for about two months.

He is ready to defend his title in an event that is attracting a lot of attention.

He tested his craft in the waters of Suva Harbour and appeared content this week.

He was happy with the test sail and appeared confident heading into today’s event.

Misaele comes from a line of traditional boatbuilders.

His father was also an experienced builder and he says most of his family members and fellow villagers on Ogea in Lau “still have that skill to sail big and fast canoes”.

Sadly though, this appears to be a dying breed.

For people like him, the Veitau Waqa represents much more than just a race.

It is about a way of life and an appreciation of the important place these canoes have in the history of our country.

Men like Misaele believe there is still a place for the traditional boat as an alternative means of transportation in Fiji.

The recent exploits of seafarers on the Uto ni Yalo on its journeys around the Pacific Ocean can never be shrugged aside.

Designed in much the same way as a traditional drua, the giant doubled hulled canoes that once plied our waters, the Uto ni Yalo travelled around the region, pushed on by wind power.

The drua, once a warship in prehistoric Fiji brought terror to enemies.

The concept of the drua was transformed into a unique seagoing vessel incorporating traditional design and modern technology.

The Uto ni Yalo was born.

But of course, Misaele and his fellow boatbuilders appreciate the need to adapt and incorporate modern technology and additions to their traditional craft.

Today, we see the smaller version, the camakau in action.

Today’s race will attract attention and hopefully will reignite interest in the old ways of sailing.

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Future on the Horizon

Thursday, August 22, 2013

THE signs on the horizon are that this year’s Veitau Waqa — The Boat Lives races could signal a resurgence in the dying art of crafting traditional sailing vessels.

With 10 vessels entering the competition this year as part of the Hibiscus festival events, one can’t be blamed for being more than hopeful for the future of the camakau and drua.

Last year’s champion Joji Misaele believes that if his camakau design wins the title again this year then he may be able to lure back those with knowledge of the ancient art.

With the help of FNU, Mr Misaele was able to make improvements to the traditional camakau to fix key issues that were always sinking the vessel.

“Now what we know is the camakau can be made better,” he said.

“What I was thinking is that if we can modify the safety and the performance of the camakau, those who used to build these vessels can go back to building them.

“That’s the hope and dream that we have.”

Working with new NGO Ocean Origin, as well as the Pacific Blue Foundation and other donors, Mr Misaele explained they had other lofty but not unrealistic ambitions.

He said the stories of the drua such as the Rusaivanua, owned by Ratu Seru Cakobau, had captivated them and they wanted to make those stories into reality again.

“Ratu Seru Cakobau’s drua, Rusaivanua, took 10 years to make and was able to take 300 warriors to fight in times of tribal warfare.

“It was also said that these drua could travel at speeds of 20 knots but if you look around now, there is no drua. What we want now is to prove that these stories are true and prove that we could build drua like that.

“These stories were written by the missionaries and the traders but the problem is that no one has actually seen it but with the latest technology we have now, it could be possible again.”

He said this was one of the main aims of Ocean Origin and they were working on it with the Pacific Blue Foundation and the Pacific Voyaging Society.

He explained that initial estimates for construction of a full size drua were placed at $100,000 with the largest cost being the manpower.

“With the advances in technology, now we can make the hull of the vessel from planks, whereas in the past, the size of the vessel depended on the size of the tree.

“This means that we are not restricted when building for size and they can be modified to ensure that they are safe.

“And the hope is that one day, traditional vessels will be built to assist those on unprofitable shipping routes in Fiji, saving money while also being environmentally friendly.

“But they realise that time is not on their side. Those with the traditional knowledge are getting harder and harder to find.

“We need to do this early while those who have the skill are still around but if we do this in another 10 or 15 years, it will be very hard to find people with that knowledge.

“For those who know the craft, they do not need a plan. Right now, they can be found in Kabara, Fulaga, Ogea, Moce and even Tuvuca where there are two traditional craft sailing right now.”

As the Veitau Waqa races start tomorrow, the undertones of a race against time will also run deep in the minds of those with traditional sailing at heart.

A race they hope will not come to an abrupt conclusion.

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