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A Sailing-Ship Extravaganza

A Sailing-Ship Extravaganza

 A Sailing-Ship Extravaganza

BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN FRANCE

JULY 1999 SAW MANY OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SAILING SHIPS IN THE WORLD CONVERGE ON ROUEN, IN NORTHERN FRANCE, FOR A SUMPTUOUS FESTIVAL CALLED THE ARMADA OF THE CENTURY. THIRTY GREAT SAILING SHIPS WERE BERTHED ALONG THE FOUR MILES [7 km] OF QUAYS FITTED OUT FOR THE OCCASION.

 The event was billed as “the maritime extravaganza of the millennium.” Concerts, fireworks, nautical events, and exhibitions of maritime paintings and photographs were scheduled during the event.

Friday, July 9, was marked by the majestic arrival of the sailing ships. Over the next ten days, millions of visitors from France and other European countries flocked to the quays.

Some of the ships—such as the Dar Młodziezy (Poland), the Khersones (Ukraine), the Statsraad Lehmkuhl (Norway), and the Libertad (Argentina)—are seafaring giants measuring 300 feet [100 m] in length, with the tallest mast rising 160 feet [50 m] above the water.

Tall ships were present from 16 countries, including Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The Netherlands was the most represented country, with six ships. Among these were the handsome three-masted bark Europa and the old Oosterschelde, a three-masted topsail schooner launched in 1918, which used to carry wood, salted herring, clay, cereals, hay, and fruit between Africa, the Mediterranean, and northern Europe.

The Armada provided an exceptional opportunity for visitors to satisfy their curiosity. The gangplanks were put down, and everyone could easily visit the decks, free of charge.

Some of the ships have been featured in motion pictures. The Norwegian ship Christian Radich, for example, had a starring role in the 1958 film Windjammer. The old wooden Kaskelot (“sperm whale” in Danish) has been in several movies, including the French film Beaumarchais l’insolent and a remake of Treasure Island.

The Polish three-masted Iskra is unique in that her three masts have different riggings. The foresail mast is square-rigged, the mainmast has a gaff (trapezoidal) rig, and the mizzenmast has a Bermuda (triangular) sail.

Some of the old ships present in Rouen had been saved from a watery grave. For example, determined enthusiasts rescued the Uruguayan Capitán Miranda by restoring the magnificent vessel. The Étoile Molène, which sank in the early 1980’s in the port of Douarnenez, Brittany, was refloated and given a new lease on life, thanks to much loving care.

A local association of amateur radio operators decided that during the festival they would establish a radio connection between the ship Mir and the orbiting Russian space station, Mir. Finally, at 10:27 p.m., on July 17, the link was made between the three-masted ship and her “sister ship” in space. Captain Zorokhov was able to speak with Commander Afanassiev, who was in the space station some 220 miles [350 km] above.

The Armada reached its climax on Sunday, July 18, with a parade down the Seine River, from Rouen to the open sea. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the 75-mile [120-km]-long route, waving at the crews on the ships as they passed by old Norman villages, abbeys, and châteaus.

Afterward, the splendid sailing ships left for a regatta, a film, or some other extravaganza in a distant port. The quays returned to their regular business. But Rouen will remember that, at least for ten days, it was the crossroads of the sailing world.

[Map on page 10]

(For fully formatted text, see publication)

Honfleur

Seine

Rouen

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Maps on pages 10, 17, and 31: Mountain High Maps® Copyright © 1997 Digital Wisdom, Inc.

[Picture on page 10]

The Mexican three-masted bark “Cuauhtemoc”

[Picture on page 10]

The graceful “Étoile Molène” had been resurrected from a watery grave

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© GAUTHIER MARINES/Photo Jo Gauthier

[Picture on page 10]

A painting of the port of Rouen from 1855, when sailing ships navigated the Seine

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Charles-Louis Mozin, Port de Rouen, vue générale © Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts

[Picture on page 11]

Rouen, “the city of one hundred steeples,” became a forest of masts

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© GAUTHIER MARINES/Photo Jo Gauthier