Around 9.30 in the morning we were transported to the airport and left in the hands of our pilot for the next two hours. Due to the fact the lagoon is a UNESCO World Heritage site and full of birds and wildlife, our pilot informed us he was not allowed to fly below 500 feet, a slight issue but I was sure anything would look amazing from our bird’s eye view. Right on schedule at 10 a.m. the pilot pulled on the throttle and moments later we were soaring above mainland Noumea towards a distant atoll 24km offshore, just about visible due to the 54 metre tall Amedee lighthouse. Up in the sky was no doubt the best way to appreciate the sheer vastness of this windswept lagoon, we had the doors off and down below us were all sorts of little sand atolls and uninhabited islands. The reef surrounding Noumea is the second largest in the world behind the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and it looked like we had chosen the perfect day to explore this gem of nature. Way in the distance you could just about make out a small white fringe surrounding Noumea where the lagoon meets up with the outer reef. The coral separates amazing turquoise water inside in exchange for the deep blue expanse of the Pacific on the outside. Most of this vast windsurfing playground inside the reef was stunning azure water, but within the lagoon there were mini reefs where the water was even shallower and almost crystal clear. I thought the area around the event site was beautiful, but out in this lagoon, beyond the inshore islands, the marine scenery was even more impressive.
The next hour and a half was a whirlwind of action as we shot the riders blasting around inside a tiny crystal clear atoll about 5km away from Amedee. About twenty minutes before our time was up we decided to touch down for a few moments on a tiny mound of coral poking out of the water to make sure we had the shots we needed. Apparently the guys had had some issues with the photo shoot board bags (more about that later!) so the last twenty minutes were vital to nail the final pictures we needed. The pilot eventually signalled our time was up and he dropped Jamie and I on the landing zone on Amedee where we met up with the rest of the crew for lunch. Walking around the island we stumbled on a small sea snake, which apparently can kill you in five minutes if it bites you and to make matters worse, there is no known antidote. Fortunately they are not aggressive and their mouths are so small they can only bite between your fingers or toes. Even so, I was not going to chance it and pick one up by the tail like I have seen in pictures of local hero Robert Teriitehau back in the day.
We cruised on Amedee for another an hour or so and took some more shots from the RIB before Matteo came up with the bright idea of sailing over to a shipwreck some 30km away. Next thing we know, half of us are loaded into the RIBs while the rest of the sailors blast off in twenty-five knots of wind headed across the water to our next port of call. Comfort levels in the RIB were not quite up to the luxury of being in a chopper, especially when the RIB’s hull was slapping up and down as we punched through the chop. My enjoyment of the day had gone from a ten out of ten down to about a three, but I was still high from the helicopter ride so I didn’t mind too much. At least the sailors were having a blast, burning alongside us on a huge reach towards the shipwreck. We eventually made it to our destination but it was impossible to sail too close since the rusty iron wreck was nestled on the outside of the shallow reef.
We dropped anchor for 30 minutes or so before deciding our next stop would be Goeland, a small sand cay home to around 4000 tiny sea birds and closed during their mating season, November through to March. By the time we had reached Goeland I felt like I’d been ten rounds in the ring with Tyson Fury after so much smashing up and down in the boat. The clouds were staring to build by this stage so we made the decision to head back which was still another 20-30km. Delphine was tired from all the sailing so Jamie Gibbs was handed her rig for the final leg of the journey back to base. Sailing alongside Sebastian, Gonzalo, Tristan and Matteo blasting across pristine waters was the final highlight of an amazing day for Jamie who had lucked out on joining us for this trip. We finally made it back to the mainland around 5pm with all the sailors pretty exhausted from the sailing but also stoked to have been a part of this amazing day exploring the islands. Personally there was only one small matter to attend to after such an incredible mission – beer o’clock! Even at £9 a pint in our hotel, an icy cold one was worth every penny!