Lafayette’s Hermione Voyage 2015
February 11, 2015
NEW YORK, Feb. 11, 2015 — The Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, Inc., announce Lafayette’s Hermione Voyage 2015, a two-month ‘Re-Living History’ sail to commemorate the Hermione, the Frigate of Freedom, that delivered the young Marquis de Lafayette in 1780 to General Washington with full French aid. They, together, turned the tide of the American Revolution. The authentically reconstructed Hermione, 17 years in the re-making, will sail 3,819 miles across the Atlantic to land in Yorktown on June 5th, before sailing up the coast to 11 additional iconic ports for an unprecedented two months of events. Visitors can join the festivities at any point along the route and enjoy tours on board or pier-side where activities are scheduled, including, historic shipbuilding crafts demonstrations, interactive conversations with the young volunteer sailors, and a lineup of cultural activities like costumed performances by seasoned re-enactors, concerts of period and contemporary music and food and craft exhibitions.
A traveling photography exhibit covering the 17 years of the Hermione’s reconstruction will be free to the public in each port with companion exhibits at The New-York Historical Society, the Museum of the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C., and The Athenaeum in Boston. Philadelphia will host a recreation of the meal aboard the Hermione that the Continental Congress enjoyed with Washington and Lafayette at City Tavern, the oldest tavern in America.
This summer’s event has been a long time in the making but seems a most relevant time with the developments in the world today, says Miles Young, President of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America, Inc., and Worldwide Chairman & CEO of Ogilvy and Mather:
“Not only is the Hermione a remarkable feat of precision and passion, she is a new symbol of the Anything is Possible motto held dear by the Marquis de Lafayette. The Hermione is constructed almost entirely using 18th Century ship-building techniques: 2,000 oak trees had to be found for 400,000 hand-sculpted pieces for the hull, techniques had to be reinvented, forges re-kindled and artisans from all over the world enlisted. When the ship re-enacts Lafayette’s Atlantic crossing, the spirit of then becomes the new spirit of now. We are inspired by the voluntary 72-member crew, one-third women, whose average age is 27, and most of whom gave up their ‘real life’ to become steeped in the history of the vessel that changed the course of America’s war of independence. They will tell the story to visitors as 18th and 21th century participants of these historic and monumental undertakings.”
The Hermione’s return voyage includes stops at these ports: Yorktown, Mount Vernon, Alexandria/Washington D.C., Annapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Greenport (New York), Newport, Boston, Castine (Maine) and finally Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. As a museum, the tall ship will be open to the public for sailor-guided tours, with a full program of educational initiatives, cultural activities and events pier-side and beyond in each port; As muse, the ‘Frigate of Freedom’ symbolizes the spirit of freedom and independence shared by all democracies.
“Dignitaries and enthusiasts are making plans to welcome the Hermione in their respective cities,” says Judi Kilachand, The Executive Director of the Friends Hermione-Lafayette in America, Inc. “We are also excited that Tall Ships America, who will meet the Hermione as she approaches Philadelphia, will accompany the Hermione from Philadelphia to Castine.”
The idea of reconstructing an authentic, historical replica of the Hermione, made by hand in the techniques of the 18th century, was conceived in 1993 by French author and savant Erik Orsenna and Benedict Donnelly, a co-founder of the Association Hermione-Lafayette in France. For them, Lafayette’s role of securing French money, men and arms and sailing to meet General Washington to aid America’s cause was an often forgotten piece of our collective memory and an invaluable part of history too important to be lost. The project defied all odds, but was completed thanks to the growing support of admirers and with help from the French government. The Hermione’s historic precision was guarded by the watchful eye of a committee of historians. They had to accept several concessions to meet international maritime safety regulations, including two motors, modern navigational equipment and sanitary living conditions for the crew. Training for the cross-Atlantic re-enactment began in 2012.
The Hermione leaves Rochefort, France mid-April and will sail 3,819 miles to reach Yorktown, Virginia on June 5. Captain Yann Cariou, a 30-year veteran of the French Navy, his second, Charlene Giquel, 29, a former Navy Lieutenant, will command. They have been training the crew for a year in old world sailing practices that include climbing the rigging to maneuver the yards and sails by hand, among other techniques. Marc Jensen, one of the crew that hails from the U.S., says the work is exhilarating even if physically exacting:
“One quickly takes on the rhythm of ship-life, working 4 hours, on call for the next 4 and then resting for 4 before starting again. The work is hard and often draining, but the friendships developing will last a lifetime. The 21 sailors who are on watch at any given time learn to trust one another and watch out for each other in a remarkably deep way. They are your family.”