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Old meets new as Hermione prepares maiden sea voyage

The Hermione docked in La Rochelle Sarah Elzas

The voyage will be televised. And tweeted. And posted on Facebook… Unlike the original Hermione, which set sail to the United States from France in 1780, the reconstructed Hermione will be well documented. Besides the communications and safety additions, not much has changed in 235 years. The full replica of the frigabhte took 17 years to build from scratch using 18th century techniques and materials.

The Hermione will be powered solely by its 19 sails when it leaves the western coast of France on 18 April.

When it left the French port of Rochefort on 11 March 1780, headed to Boston, the original Hermione had over 300 people on board, including General Lafayette, who was on his second trip to America to help George Washington and the revolutionary army.

Listen to the report, on board here:

The replica, which sets sail on 18 April off the coast of La Rochelle will have 80 people on board: 54 volunteer crew managed by a team of professional sailors, including Jans Langert, the ship’s bosun.

The Swedish sailor also built the rigging, based on 18th century diagrams, and using the techniques of the time. The key to making the ship move is teamwork.

An 18th century frigate is a complex machine powered by human energy. It requires a lot of people to move around kilometres of heavy ropes and massive linen sails.

It’s about teamwork. It's no use for one person to grab onto the sail and try to lift it. Nothing will happen. But if the whole chain of 30 people along the yard do it, all at the same time and with the same cadence, little by little it gets done.”
Jens Langert, Hermione Bosun and Master rigger

A ship of volunteers

The 54 volunteers who will be the crew for the first trans-Atlantic voyage come from all walks of life. They have been trained by the professional sailors, and already spent several weeks on the ship during sea trials in the autumn of 2014.