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Birth of an idea 

In 1983, the idea of creating entertainments on the quays of Rouen germinated in the spirit of Patrick Herr, then deputy mayor in charge of public relations, festivals and ceremonies, in order to give the Rouennais the desire to reconquer the quays. The desire to create a great concentration of sailing ships made its way, and in 1985, the association “Sails of Liberty” is created.
Different events are then organized, the most fam
ous of which remains the "Race of Liberty Rouen-New York" in 1986, race of large multihulls.

Conquered by the idea
In front of the popular success of this realization, Jean Lecanuet, then mayor of Rouen, is conquered by the idea of the great gathering of sailing ships and offers Partick Herr the opportunity to organize this great event, which would get together the world’s largest and finest sailboats. This one takes up the challenge and opts to offer free access to the site and the possibility of boarding the vessels grouped along the 7 kilometers of quays. He has undoubtedly made this event and the following editions exceptional events.

1989 : "Les Voiles de la Liberté" - “The Sails of Freedom”

1989 marked the bicentenary of the French Revolution, the Declaration of Human Rights, but will also remain as the one of  "Sails of Freedom" - "Les Voiles de la Liberté".
Rouen, river and seaport in the heart of Normandy, organizes in July 1989 its first great sailing ships gathering and will then become, during a week, the world’s sailing capital. Rouen will welcome vessels from sixteen different nationalities under the patronage of the late Eric Tabarly.
Visitors will be able to approach and board on the world’s largest sailing ships, these cathedrals of the sea, and to preserve unforgettable memories from this event. Many entertainments reinforced the interest of the 4 million visitors until July 16th, day of departure when hundreds of thousands of people gathered along the banks of the Seine to say farewell and salute one last time the crews perched in the yards or lined up on decks.
Given the immense popular success of this event, a new dream is born, why not a new Armada in a few years.

1994 : “L'Armada de la Liberté” – “The Liberty Armada”

After the huge success of the Sails of Freedom, a second gathering of sailing ships will be organized in 1994 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-DAY in Normandy.
This time, seven million people will admire during eight days, from July 10th to 17th, around fifty vessels, large sailing ships and warships, as well as many old rigs moored all along the quays.
To close this event, the sailing ships will descend the Seine as a giant parade in front of two millions of spectators amazed and gathered along the 120 kilometres that separate Rouen from the sea. And this time again, the event was very successful.

1999 : “L'Armada du Siècle” – “The Armada of the Century”

For its third edition, the Armada gathered once again about 50 vessels, including some of the finest and largest sailing ships and warships in the world, representing about 30 nations. They met in Rouen from July 9 to 19, 1999 to welcome and please the 10 million visitors (according to official figures)... 8 millions on the quays of Rouen, real human tide that paced the quays during those 10 days of festivities, and 2 million along the banks of the Seine during the great parade, final apotheosis of these 10 days of festival.
This appointment, qualified by its President Partick Herr of “the largest international maritime gathering of the end of the millennium”, “a national festival named Armada” by Ouest France or “Armada of legend” by the Est Éclair.
As for the two first editions, many gatherings were organized around L’Armada:
  • “L’Armada des Musiques” which offered to the 250 000 present spectators free daily concerts with big stars such as Dick Rivers, Faudel, Zuchero, Manau and others,
  • “La Grande Pagaille” with its funny UFOs (Unidentified Floating Objects) floating on the surface of the Seine,
  • Fireworks which are different every night and of course many other entertainments.
The event was an exceptional success, and deserved its name: “Armada of the century”

2003 : “L'Armada Rouen 2003” – “Armada Rouen 2003”

This Armada took place from June 28 to July 6, at earlier dates because of the availability of many sailing ships present in this region of the world for another gathering of Tall Ships in the Netherlands, the “Defsail” from July10 to 14, and for the departure of the Cutty Sark on July 19 in Gdynia in Poland... This time again, the event was very successful, as 6 to 7 million people (figures of the Prefecture) gathered on the quays of Rouen and along the Seine for the Great Finale Parade, and this despite an evolutionary weather to cheer the ships and their crews, including the Dewarucci and its sailors who were the favourites of the event.
The exceptional media cover was the image of the importance of the event: 56 TV channels broadcasting their reports in more than 21 countries, Thalassa with its daily live program on the quays, national and local radios, and over 6 000 articles in the press have once again given a certain, let’s say, global notoriety, and made Rouen and Normandy famous worldwide. Many articles found in the foreign press have proven it. These articles have, for the most part, described the economical and financial consequences and the impact on the tourist attendance.

2008 : L'Armada Rouen 2008

Its fifth edition, held from July 5 to 14, was as successful as the previous ones. The new Sixth Bridge formed an Arc de Triomphe over the “Armada Rouen 2008” and lifted to allow the ships to go through. The ships present - large sailing ships, private yachts, warships as well as naval ships - enthralled the visitors...

The “Sail Training International”, international association, that organizes sailing ships races all over the world patronaged “L’ARMADA ROUEN 2008”.
It had chosen Rouen as the city of departure for the “Tall Ships’ Races 2008” to Liverpool.
Success was on board once again with many spectators coming from all over France, Europe and the World.


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