Groupama Yacht Race New Caledonia Pre Start
The 2012 around New Caledonia yacht race was, I decided, the perfect opportunity to action-test my 7 GoPro SuperHero2 sphere image camera. The weather was ideal for the start of the race; not too much wind and clear blue sky.
The GoPro nest of cameras (5 around, one up, one down) have WiFi backpacks so I could trigger them all at once while they were mounted on the end of a 4 meter long pole (a telescopic fishing pole, actually). This didn't work out as planned because the GoPros refused to fire exactly at the same time - but I didn't discover how much of a problem that would be until I tried to create the sphere images later.
We got into place about 5 minutes before the scheduled start of the race. I sat on one tube of our RIB dinghy balancing the pole with two hands while Frederique steered the dinghy - trying to get close to and on the up-sun side of the race contestants. The 7 cameras weighs close to a kilogram and on the end of a 4 meter long fiberglass pole one kilogram is enough to break the pole if it wasn't perfectly upright. So the trick was to keep the thing vertical and believe me, with the wave action, wakes from spectator power boats, and the sudden accelerations and decelerations of a grinning Frederique, keeping my pole erect and vertical was a real circus act.
Of course the sailors on the yachts could not help but notice this (not least because I wanted to get very close to their yachts) and I have no idea at all what they thought I was doing. I saw a lot of open mouths and surprised looks as the yachts sped by. But truthfully, I was so busy looking up and trying to keep the thing balanced that I barely knew when to trigger the wireless to take the photos, let alone admire the astonishment of the crews. All this was complicated still more by the droves of spectators on jet skis, paddle boards, power yachts (even a medium sized ship), and an amazing assortment of yachts.
This sphere image was the pre-race epic adventure. The race was supposed to start at 10AM and this image was taken 15 stressful minutes after 10.
"Why hasn't the race started?" Frederique asked one crew as we whisked by their yacht.
"They are waiting for a better wind" came the answer.
A helicopter that had been hovering above us and I thought they must be really aggravated by the delay, too. About 1000 people lined the shore, also waiting for the big moment. I finally lowered the camera rig to rest my arms (and buns). "Waiting for the wind?" I looked around at all the sailboats sailing nicely with the light winds.
At 10:40 we discovered the officials were not really waiting for the wind; they were waiting for the big yellow buoys that marked the starting line! We figured this out when the big yellow buoys came zooming past us in one of the club's inflatables, as the race crew took them out to where they should have been an hour ago.
The 20 yachts perked up now that there was actually a starting line and the officials got everyone up and running at exactly 11AM.
You can find out more about the race with the sphere images of the actual start and the first leg of the 600 nautical mile round-the island ordeal. And you can learn more at the official race site www.groupamarace.nc and on the Cruising Guide to New Caledonia website.
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Noumea is the capital and vacation centre of the Islands of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Noumea is a "French" city, but the 91,000 inhabitants are a very mixed cultural group with French, Melanesian, Polynesian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and lots of mixtures of these. Over 60% of the population of New Caledonia lives in Noumea.
Noumea is a peninsula on the southwestern end of Grande Terre and the central business district (Centre Ville) is next to one of the best natural harbours in the South Pacific. The lagoon side of the peninsula has two picturesque bays with white sand beaches and is called Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons. These twin bays are the international tourism capital of New Caledonia with hotels, restaurants and bars on the landward side of "La Promenade".
First settled by the French in 1854, Noumea retains close political ties with France. It has excellent schools and public facilities - parks, recreation areas, exercise paths, schools and medical facilities. Today it is the fastest growing city in the South Pacific. There are 23 hotels in Noumea ranging from one to five stars and over 100 Restaurants.