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Armada, a little bit of history, the origin of a big event

At the beginning of the 80s, Jean Lecanuet, mayor of Rouen, was looking for an idea to animate and revive the quays. At the time, these were abandoned. His assistant, Patrick Herr suggested organising a race from Rouen to New York in order to celebrate the centenary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. Remember that on 17th June 1885, the Statue arrived in New York aboard the French frigate Isère, the end of a trip that had started in Rouen one day in May 1885. The Statue that the sculptor Bartholdi imagined was built and given by France. The inauguration took place on 28th October 1886.

Jean Lecanuet was not sure if this idea appealed Rouen citizens.
Patrick Herr insisted and eight multihulls were at the start line of this race named "Course de la Liberté" (Race for Freedom). With the aim to give a festive air to this event, he suggested the first "Grande Pagaille": a race of UFO (Unidentified Flottant Objects), a big parade in the streets of Rouen reminiscent of the American ones, with majorettes, convertibles and confetti.
The audience went to the event at the quays, which at that time were not renewed, as well as at the streets or riverbanks.
The 23 meter catamaran of Roger and Gallet captained by Eric Loizeau and Patrick Tabarly won the race arriving in New York in 14 days.
Jean Lecanuet, present at the end of the race, was enthusiastic about its popular success. He asked Patrick Herr to respond favourably. The great adventure of "Voiles de la Liberté" ("Sails of Freedom") was launched!

Armada: a success since 30 years ago with 6 editions!

1989: "Les Voiles de la Liberté" (Sails of freedom)

The first edition was celebrated between 9th July and 16th July of 1989. It was named "Voiles de la Liberté" which in English means Sails of freedom because of the bicentennial of the French Revolution.
On the 6th July of 1989, the British Kaskelot was the first big sailing ship to go into the port of Rouen, followed the next day by the French Belem. Twenty-one big sailing ship followed soon after. The crowd hurried to the quays to visit the giants. The festivities were amazing, especially at night. Eric Tabarly was the sponsor of this edition and he brought his Pen Duick to the port of Rouen.

The huge crowd surrounded the Seine during the final parade. The edition was a brilliant success and they were already thinking about the next one.


1994: Armada de la Liberté (Armada of Freedom)

The second edition was celebrated from 10th July to 17th July of 1994. It was called "Armada de la Liberté" to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy.
A new name and logo were updated. Gérad d'Adoville was the new sponsor.
The budget increased considerably up to 42 million of francs (6,5 M€). Collectivities such as the Department and the Region were given a third part of the total. The search of additional financing was a main goal: sponsoring, stands and licences. There were 18 big sailing ships, 17 warships and around 20 old sailing ships located along the quays. They were just renovated and gave a magnificent setting to the event. Grey ships were popular among the audience, specially those that were similar to naval ships, like the helicopter cruisers Jeanne d'Arc, vessels of the French Navy and whose godmother city is Rouen. Two French submarines were invited to the party: Agosta and Psyché.
The parade of 14th July gathered 1500 sailors at the quay Jean Moulin and it was one of the top moments of this edition. The novelty of this edition was the organization of free concerts.


1999:  "Armada du Siècle" (Armada of the century)

The third edition was celebrated from 9th July to 18th July of 1999. It was named "Armada du Siècle" because it commemorated the end of the second millennium.
Thirty-two sailing ships and eleven grey boats were expected under the patronage of Olivier de Kersauzon. An "Armada du Fleuve" (Armada of the River) was organised with barges.
The day of the opening, the Cuauhtemoc beat a record of attendance: almost 1000 visitors per hour were there and it closed at 4h30 am. There was a new surprise for the visitors, La Récouvrance, a replica of a war schooner of the XIX century, rebuilt identically.
The culmination was the parade of 14th July, which was a success. The Patrouille de France flew over and came back to the Champs Elysées. The free concerts of Armada were sustained and developed by the Region. Faudel, Dick Rivers, Zuccero, I Muvrini and Manau were applauded. Fireworks closed the party.
In from of near 2 millions of people, the edition finished with the Parade de la Seine. Sailors at the  yards of Simon Bolivar and Cuauhtemoc sang wild rhythms and cheered the public up.


2003: Armada Rouen 2003

The fourth edition was celebrated from 28th June to 6th July of 2003.
Under the sponsor, again, of Olivier de Kersauzon, who disembarked at Rouen with its revolutionary trimaran, Gerónimo, the 2003 edition didn't have a theme. The budget increased to 9 million of euros and new partners were sought. The conurbation of Rouen and Matmut joined Armada.
More than twenty big sailing ships and ten warships were expected. Among novelties there was Dewaruci, an Indonesian ship that touched the heart of many people in Rouen due to its imaginative and spontaneous crew.
The first sailing ship that went into the port of Rouen was the Marité, the last wooden seaworthy Newfounland of Fécamps. It was a property of young Swedish people that renovated it and brought it back to the water. Later on, it was bought by a group of collectivities, included the city of Rouen.
The Region concerts were celebrated in front of more than 300 000 people with a splendid setlist: Rita Mitsouko, Jean-Louis Aubert, Jonhy Clegg and Sail Keïta among the most famous. We should not forget to mention the regional groups that were invited for the first part.
For the Parade en Seine, Dewaruci sailors gave a show, singing and dancing over the bridge and the yardarms unstop from Rouen to Honfleur.


2008: Armada 2008

The fifth edition was celebrated from 5th July to 14th July of 2008. It was named that same way as the next editions: Armada.
Around thirty sailing ships and ten grey ships were gathered in this edition. Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian Marine ship, did an outstanding enter. It was the first one to go under the raised Flaubert Bridge.
Other remarkable things were the Uruguayan Captain Miranda and the Brazilian Cisne Branco, and also Japan, which sent three warships for the first time.
Tenacious was also on the quay. It was equipped to welcome on-board people with reduced mobility. Over twenty young disabled people were able to sail to England to attend the start line of the Tall Ship's Race in Liverpool.
The big attraction of this edition was the Flaubert Bridge and the spectacle of the arrival of the vessels and their passage under the bridge, which aroused a new interest in the public.
The multi-confessional gathering and the organization of a ecumenical ceremony with a pastor, a rabbi, an imam and an archbishop from Rouen over the quay represented a great and emotional moment.
Regarding the Region concerts, Iggy Pop gathered a record audience of 70 000 people and other headliners such as Bashung, Auffray or Cali lived up the evenings of Armada.


2013: Armada 2013

It was held from June 6th to 16th. Over forty ships participated. This edition started with the remarkable arrival of the giant Kruzenshtern (114,50 meters) that dazzled many Rouen citizens.
A romantic event marked 2013: the wedding of Kelly, a young girl from Rouen, and Benito, a Cuauhtemoc sailor. After meeting in Armada 2008 and getting civil married in Mexico, they wanted to celebrate their religious wedding in Rouen in 2013. It was held at Mont Saint Aignan church and then the reception was held in the Mexican ship.
Another exciting moment was the arrival of Pen Duick, 24 years after its arrival in 1989, and in company of 4 out of its 5 other "coal tits". Unfortunately, without Eric Tabarly, who we commemorated on 13th June, since it was the 15th anniversary of his disappearance in the sea.
More emotion with the final installation and inauguration of the anchor of Joan of Arc at the end of Lacroix Island, near the river and the city centre of its godmother city. The arrival of the refurbished Marité was also expected, renewed after a restoration project of 6 years. This year, it celebrated its 90th anniversary several kilometres away of the shipyard where it was made in Fécamp.
Lastly, free concerts gathered together nearly 300 000 people with peaks at 70 000 for Mika and Nolwenn Leroy.

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