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.
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.
Installing a sail
Hermione crew members at work
Hermione crew on the rigging
Hermione in the bassin des Chalutiers, La Rochelle
During the voyage they will work in three shifts of four hours each, working, sleeping and eating together on board for the 27-day crossing and the weeks of travel up the coast of the United States.
Before departure, the crew works on installing the sails that were removed over the winter, stocking the ship and doing last-minute repairs and maintenance.
All wear red t-shirts identifying them as Hermione crew, except for Adam Hodges-Leclerc. A 22-year-old history student from Boston, he is dressed like an 18th century sailor, complete with woolen stockings and a waistcoat. His goal in life is to work in a living history museum.
A new kind of tourism
The entire project is about engagement. The original ship took 11 months to build. The replica took 17 years, partly because the Hermione-Lafayette had to find the right artisans and the money to pay them, but also to make the worksite available to the public.
Visitor fees and gift shop sales made up 60 per cent of the project’s budget, the rest coming from the region and cities, which recognised the draw of the ship.
And even in the days before it left, docked at La Rochelle, the Hermione was full of visitors, as the crew attached sails, made last-minute adjustments and got ready to set sail.
About the Hermione:
- 65-metre oak hull
- 19 sails made of 1,500 square metres of linen
- Rigging includes 25 kilometres of natural fibre rope
- 80 people on board, including 54 volunteers
- Construction started in 1997
- First sea tests in October 2014
- Speed at full sail: 14 knots (25.9 km/h)
- Cost: 25 million euros, 60 per cent from visitors
- 4 million visitors since start of construction
- Voyage in 1780: 38 days
- Voyage in 2015: 27 days (expected)