French ship ‘Hermione’ sets sail again

A replica of the French navy frigate Hermione which brought General Lafayette to America to rally rebels fighting Britain in the US war of independence, set sail for the United States again on Saturday, 235 years after the original crossing.

French ship 'Hermione' sets sail again
Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

A replica of the French navy frigate Hermione which brought General Lafayette to America to rally rebels fighting Britain in the US war of independence, will set sail for the United States again on Saturday, 235 years after the original crossing.

French President Francois Hollande is expected to be on hand to wish the ship and crew godspeed on the journey from France's Aix island to the US east coast, a trip exciting sailing and history fans on both sides of the Atlantic.

Some 80 crew members will sail the three-masted 65-metre (213-feet) ship along the route to Boston made by French General Gilbert du Motier — the Marquis de Lafayette — to bolster revolutionaries fighting for an independent United States.

Back in 1778 Hermione took a mere six months to build. The new replica took a painstaking 17 years to construct, mobilising hundreds of craftspeople from around the world.

The crew plans to make landfall on June 5 in Yorktown in Virginia, where US troops led by George Washington and French soldiers accompanied by General Lafayette scored a decisive victory over the British in 1781.

“The Hermione, the ship that reunited Lafayette and Washington and sealed our freedom, sails again for America,” trumpets the website promoting the reconstruction of the epic journey.

The project is the brainchild of a group of history and sailing enthusiasts who two decades ago embarked on the arduous task of recreating the vessel using only eighteenth-century shipbuilding techniques.

The frigate is scheduled to make more than 10 stops in the United States as it sails up the east coast, including in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston.

Hermione will also sail into the bay of New York just in time for July 4th independence celebrations, with an expected escort of hundreds of local yachts.

Yann Cariou, a veteran sailor who has already completed seven round-the-world trips in the military and civilian navy, will captain the imposing ship.

The project cost €25 million ($32 million), financed by more than four million visitors to the shipyard in Rochefort in southwestern France where the ship was built, as well as through crowd funding initiatives for specific parts of the ship.

It took Lafayette 38 days to cross the Atlantic, a voyage that confirmed his renown as a hero of the American Revolution.

Even today, Lafayette remains a constant presence across the country he helped transform from British colony into the energetic new state that would eventually become today's superpower.

At least 42 US counties and cities and hundreds of streets and squares — including the famed Lafayette Square opposite the White House — are named after him or after his ancestral home in France, La Grange.

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