A Safran employee on board the Hermione

Aude Sevestre is an employee of Herakles (Safran) but also part of the crew of the Hermione, a historic three-mast ship on board of which she completed an east-to-west crossing of the Atlantic, from New York to Brest, last August. A tale of derring-do.

Launched in 2014 after 17 years of construction in Rochefort, the Hermione is a faithful reproduction of the frigate of the same name on which Lafayette crossed the Atlantic to join the American insurgents in 1780. For its return journey from the United States to France, Aude Sevestre 36, IT project manager at Herakles, a Safran company in Bordeaux, was on board hired as a "rigger".

 

Testing the heights

"When I heard that crew positions on the Hermione were open to volunteers, I immediately had the idea of signing up" she remembers. Aude's application was accepted and she began the adventure last March with a three-day training course during which she had to pass a vertigo test. Because her job on board "rigger" requires her to climb up the rigging – which rises up to 45 meters above the sea level – to maneuver the sails. After several months of training, she embarked at the fall'14, for two weeks sailing between La Rochelle and Douarnenez. "We were able to start putting into practice everything we had learned when we were docked", she explains, describing how amazed she was the first time the three-master deployed its approximately 3,000 m² of sails...

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An eventful journey

In mid-July, when it was docked at the Canadian port of Lunenburg, Aude joined the frigate to take up her position of rigger for a journey that would lead her to Brest via Saint Pierre et Miquelon. "I had chosen to do the return trip, which promised to be technically interesting and most importantly was more compatible with my work calendar", she says. "From Saint Pierre and Miquelon, we headed south to sail below the depressions and catch the westerly winds that sometimes blew very strongly and raised waves up to 6 or 7 meters high. Hanging in the yards* several tens of meters up to maneuver the sails in the wind and sometimes in the rain was no easy task!"

"An adventure of that kind brings out a whole range of very different emotions", emphasizes Aude, who recalls being particularly moved when, perched in the rigging, she made out the crowd that had come out to welcome the Hermione in the bay of Brest.

* The yards are the wooden lengths attached perpendicularly to the masts that carry the sails.