Tuesday, 9 February 2016

A voyage on the galvanizing waves!

'A journey back in time, to take a look at the life and the exploits of the famed ship Hermione.'

              Saturday, 18th April 2015. The enchanting waves of the North-Atlantic Ocean in their usual potent manner hit the harbor land of La Rochelle, a south-western city of France. A fresh blanket of sunlight which blended with the medium paced wind offered an extraordinary view at the shore. An anxious crowd waited to see the royal, towering, three-masted giant cut its way through the serene blue liquid of the Bay of Biscay. The life-size replica of an 18th-century ship that glossed with a perfect combination of regal blue, vivid golden markings, and shiny bedazzled one and all.
© Association Hermione La Fayette
A long array of professional DSLR’s and video cameras partitioned the crowd to capture the very historical moments which were about to unfold in some time. 
Every gaze focused on the hands that rested on the ship’s wheel waiting for the correct signal to start rolling it and every ear patiently waited for the resounding puff to be composed due to the firing of mid-sized canons installed on the ship, which once out with a boom would later muffle into the burbling ocean. The countdown began and the crowd erupted. The masts, already pumped with air at an optimum pressure compelled the ship to mark its way towards the United States of America. The journey had begun. ‘Lafayette Hermione’ departed from the French land!

A quick gaze into the history tells us that, 13 British colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence which proclaimed the independence of a new United States of America from Great Britain and its King on 4th July 1776. Independence of all other colonies was still a dream, a struggle, a war to be fought. 1780 saw the French joining the US forces led by George Washington as its ally in the war. The turbulence of this independence war raged until the French-US allied forces hit the last nail by capturing Yorktown, Virginia in 1781 and then signing the Treaty of Paris in 1783 which stated the United States as a free nation. Interestingly, the French troops were spearheaded by a young aristocrat named Major General Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette commonly known as Major General Lafayette. Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington mentored young Lafayette in 1777. They later became close friends and with Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton joining them, their bond led a strong caucus for the American independence.
© Association Hermione La Fayette
In March 1780, Major General Lafayette convinced the then French King, Louis XVI and sailed out with the troops, money and enough arsenals to help United States of America for her independence. The frigate that Major General Lafayette steered until he arrived at Boston on 27 April, 1780 and down-the-line which turned into a saga was the Concorde class, 1,116 ton ‘Hermione’! This just-in-time 
succor turned the tables and the American-French duo prevailed. Major General Lafayette is thus rightly honored as the ‘The Hero of two worlds’.

Though ‘Hermione’ wrecked down in 1793, the quest that it laid off for the next generations never faded out. The finest adventure expeditions that have been conducted in the past have always showcased the insightful thriller experiences. Such expeditions have intensified an ever-increasing thirst for more adventure around the globe, have been a source of immutable inspiration for score of past centuries; untold number of generations, has certainly impacted the culture of countries, imbibed the rudimentary thoughts of adventure and has definitely shaped the youth! And with this very awe, Association Hermione-La Fayette studied the ship’s journey, the route it undertook in 1780 and the ship details. A plan was devised; to construct a life-size replica of ‘Hermione’ and sail it to the United States retracing the same route taken by Major General Lafayette.  A daunting task was undertaken in 1997, and it took almost 17 years to build a copy of ‘Hermione’ with more than millions of board feet of French Oak-wood put to use so as to solve a big puzzle - bring the ship to her life and 18th century shipbuilding tools and techniques were used to carve her ostentatious body, albeit few modern day craftsmanship involved into it - almost 250 years after the original construction was given its form. It was a distinctive task completed in Rochefort, France that demanded unmitigated fusion of precision, dedication and a genuine adventurous ambition.

Sailing for 3,819 miles, ‘Hermione’ reached Yorktown on 5th June, 2015. After which it will visit 11 iconic Ports on the eastern coast of the United States. The civic presence this voyage beholds is mind-boggling. On arrival to every Port this frigate will be greeted in a grandeur fashion by the enthusiastic horde. As the ship is anchored, parades of other ships, 18th-century costumed troupe and contemporary music performances will set up jamboree events at the shore. Considering the historical significance of this project, US President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande have vouchsafed full encouragement. Naval exhibitions will be opened at Washington D.C, Manhattan and Boston that will highlight the indispensable value of ‘Hermione’. The ship will celebrate American Independence Day at New York along-side of The Statue of Liberty, another artifact presented by France to the United States! ‘Friends of HermioneLafayette in America’ a non-profit making organization Honorary chaired by Dr. Henry Kissinger have been working all-along with the organizing associates, sponsors, to raise funds, to cover the gamut and to promulgate the expedition.
© Association Hermione La Fayette
Moët Hennessy which is world's largest champagne producer headquartered in France and a prominent champagne house is associated with the project as a founding sponsor.

The team has responded well to the challenges that came along this journey and their united efforts yielded a massive win when ‘Hermione’ sailed in the sea off France for her trials in 2014. Later, down the next year, Captain Yann Cariou, a maestro from the French Navy along with Lieutenant Charlene Giquel, his second-in-command took 78 seamen on-board for the sail. These 78 individuals who were hand-picked from a jumbo pack of willing-volunteers from across the world were surely tested for their mental temperament, spirit and physical vigor. ‘Hermione’ certainly offered the entire ship crew a chance to experience the ultimate adventure that Major General Lafayette encountered 250 years ago. The volunteers from diverse backgrounds gave their best to plan the itinerary, practice daily for the on-board maintenance activities and were taught to tackle the impediments that would mark their course ahead. ‘L’Hermione-2015’ proffered them all an exceptional rostrum that will elevate the basic belief of adventure and will exponentially boost morale of millions of adventure aficionados, Grade-I athletes and a weekend adventurer who is just crossing the threshold to a lifelong addiction, across this planet to plan out subsequent adventure expeditions. This cause will help nations to guide, structure and align themselves for the outspread-ed extravaganza of adventure sports internationally. ‘Hermione’ will recreate an epic journey that symbolizes the French – American trust and friendship.
© Association Hermione La Fayette
And not just this, it is an embark moment that articulates a strong social impact which will echo across edges of the Atlantic Ocean!

            The journey will thus mark a culmination of a successful naval battle fought, which is parked in the history as the turning point of American revolutionary war. 78 crew members mixed impassioned with their sheer guts and brave risk to climb the dangling rope ladder! They had six weeks of wind and volatile weather ahead of them, before their next sighting of land. The ship is more symbolic; it evokes memories of Major General Lafayette and his commitment for liberty, trust, friendship and democracy. The 210 feet floating, majestic vessel has been a pinnacle object of this entire project that will not just reaffirm the French – US ties but will also draw serious attention for such adventure expeditions. ‘L’Hermione’ is necessarily a task of enriching our society with the adventure bliss and makes it more omnipresent!

                                                                                                                                                       - Vazir

An excerpt of this article is published as a 'Special Feature' in the third edition (December 2015) of India's first and only magazine dedicated to adventure sports and allied activities - 'Adventure Sports & Beyond' -

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