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Replica of 18th century navy frigate Hermione tests French waters

Life-size replica of the Hermione in the French port of Rochefort, set to sail to Boston, 8 September 2014.
Life-size replica of the Hermione in the French port of Rochefort, set to sail to Boston, 8 September 2014. AFP Photo/CITIZENSIDE/MICHEL GARDE

A life-size replica of the Hermione, the French navy frigate that shipped General Lafayette to America to fight in the US war of independence, tests French waters on Sunday.

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The replica, which took 17 years to build, sailed past the arsenal of the port of Rochefort in southwestern France, cheered by tens of thousands spectators.

The three-masted vessel, a 65-metre ship, is due to set sail to America in April 2015, following the route from Rochefort to Boston made by French General Lafayette in 1780 to rally American revolutionaries in their war of independence against British troops.

"We were often told that it wouldn't work", said Benedict Donnelly, president of the Hermione-Lafayette Association,"but we have always said that she will cross the Atlantic and we are going to do just that".

The restoration project - using only 18th century shipbuilding techniques - cost 25 million euros, mostly financed by four million visitors to the shipyard.

Since its foundation, Hermione Association has attracted artisan craftsmen from all over the world and now has 8,000 members.

"The next weeks of testing would give the 72- strong crew a chance to get their sea legs" said Yann Cariou, the captain of the frigate for her voyage to Boston.

"Above all there will be emotion", said Cariou, "it's still the Hermione and nobody has sailed a ship like this for two centuries."

In 1780, it took Lafayette 38 days to cross the Atlantic. 

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