Reply To: The replica frigate l’Hermione building at Rochefort

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Frank Scott

    I thought that in my comments on the limitations of so-called replicas I made my feelings clear. Those that are built in wood are very expensive to build, and both difficult and expensive to maintain to an acceptable standard. Moreover, the compromises that are inevitably forced upon them by twenty-first century regulations, and operational practicality, tend to make them more like representations than replicas. At the smaller end of the market these issues tend to be less intrusive, but once at frigate size they are very serious. As a extreme example, the Grand Turk, (now under the French flag, and renamed Étoile du Roy) which was built for a TV series, reputedly on the lines of the 20-gun HMS Blandford (1741), shows what happens when modern compromises totally outweigh attempts at historical accuracy. I may also say that under sail she handles every bit as badly as one would expect.
    With suitable commercial backers to underwrite the project, it would certainly be possible to build something comparable to L’Hermione in Britain. However, the likelihood is that those backers would withdraw once the initial glare of publicity had faded, and like most of the large replicas her sailing life would be comparatively short, and offer little return for all the effort. For those interested in sailing in replicas, there are quite a number around, varying in era and size, and there is good reason not to restrict oneself to your national flag. Indeed, a decade ago my wife went out to the Great Lakes for a season sailing in the American brig Niagara.
    May I finish by saying that I have to agree with Sam Willis in being impressed with the new way of displaying the Cutty Sark. I particularly enjoy the ability to appreciate her wonderful underwater profile, and my only regret is that there is not a high viewing point to allow you to admire the sweep of her above-water lines from ahead, something that I hope will be rectified in due course. Clearly it is novel, and it has upset some people, but it is serious, rather than Disney. Moreover it has overcome many of the previous site limitations, and the careful restoration of the hull has made up for years of underinvestment and slow decay.