Pacific Partnership 2013 Sailors, partner nation service members, non-governmental organization volunteers and the Samoan Don Bosco Long Boat Rowing Team race past USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) in long boats in Apia, June 8. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

APIA, Samoa - Pacific Partnership 2013 participated in a friendly Samoan longboat race against the Don Bosco Longboat Rowing Team as part of a cultural exchange, June 8.

The race came about after a challenge issued by Pacific Partnership 2013 Mission Commander U.S. Navy Capt. Wallace Lovely to local Samoan long boat rowing legend Zita Martel.

"For the first time in the history of traditional longboat racing, the United States of America has issued a challenge to a boat from the independent state of Samoa," said Martel. "In the spirit of Pacific Partnership, I accepted the challenge from Commodore Wallace Lovely issued to me and my team."

Hundreds of people gathered around Vaiusu Bay to watch the races.

"If you saw the number of people on the sea wall watching the race, everyone from United States Navy, Partner Nations, and Samoans, standing side by side cheering for both boats," said Lovely. "That was the most warming sight coming in, seeing the cheers and thumbs ups, but also just seeing the love that Samoans have for Zita."

Days prior to the races' start, Martel and Don Bosco Long Boat Rowing Team members took time to train Pacific Partnership's long boat racing team members on basic rowing techniques before they took to the waters.

"It was a lot of fun. Most of us could have benefited from having one or two more practices on the water because we weren't always in sync, but we were willing to do our best and I really enjoyed it." said Canadian Forces Army Maj. Sophie Toupine. "It was a wonderful way to see the partnership that we promote with Pacific Partnership 2013. The population was enjoying it as much as we were. It's a perfect example of what this mission is about."

Pacific Partnership is based on common goals that provide a huge benefit to the maritime security of participating nations, including the United States, by increasing regional stability leading to peace and prosperity.

Working at the invitation of each host nation, U.S. Navy forces are joined by non-governmental organizations and regional partners that include Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Malaysia and New Zealand to improve maritime security, and strengthen disaster response preparedness.

The Pacific Partnership team works the oars during the friendly challenge race. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)