With champagne, fireworks and a presidential blessing, a painstakingly built replica of the frigate once used to bring French troops and funds to American revolutionaries set sail Saturday for the U.S. East Coast. With the celebratory sendoff, the $27 million Hermione began its voyage with a bang, firing cannons as it sailed from Rochefort where both vessels were built. The ship will retrace the 65-metre frigate’s trans-Atlantic journey in 1780, when its namesake under the Marquis de Lafayette’s command helped to lay the foundation of French-American relations. Lafayette persuaded French King Louis XVI to provide military and financial support to George Washington’s troops. The ship is the fruit of nearly two decades of brainstorming, fundraising and toil.
It has been a very long project. You don’t create an 18th century warship very easily these days. It took enormous efforts to find enough oak trees naturally shaped so they could create the helm.
Miles Young, president of the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette
Lafayette persuaded French King Louis XVI to provide military and financial support to George Washington’s troops. Lafayette set sail on the frigate on March 21, 1780, from the southwestern port of Fouras, arrived 38 days later in Boston, and played an important role in the revolutionaries’ ultimate defeat of Britain three years later in the Battle of Yorktown with the support of a French army and fleet. Volunteer crew members from France, the U.S. and other countries are sailing the frigate. The Hermione is expected to reach Yorktown, Virginia, in June, and then make several other stops along the U.S. East Coast, including Boston, and should be in New York for the Fourth of July.