Rouen Armada: Sailing ship festival set to buoy northern French city

The 10-day extravaganza will include more than 40 ships taking part in a special maritime parade

The Étoile will be one of the 40+ ships docked in the city during the event
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The eighth edition of the Rouen Armada will kick off on Thursday (June 8), bringing a festive atmosphere to Normandy’s biggest city.

The festival will see events including concerts, firework shows, sailing lessons, races, and parades, and general admission is free.

At least 42 ships – ranging from full-size replicas of classic caravels to modern sailing vessels – will be docked in the city’s quays. You can board them between 10:00 and 17:00 each day of the festival.

The ships will round out the celebrations with a centrepiece sailing parade down the Seine on June 18, passing through 60 communes.

For those interested in maritime life, the event is not to be missed, as it is only held every four or five years.

Eighth edition of historic event

A sailboat race between New York and Rouen to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty was held in 1986. It sparked imaginations over the city’s maritime heritage and inspired a more ambitious project.

The Rouen Armada was first held in 1989, the brainchild of Mayor Jean Lecanuet and his deputy Patrick Herr, to revitalise the city’s unused and abandoned quays.

The event celebrated the bicentennial of the French Revolution by inviting 21 of the world’s leading sailboats to dock in the city.

Since then, the event has gone from strength to strength, drawing huge crowds to the city and including concerts and family-friendly events for subsequent editions.

In the most recent edition of the Armada, more than 3,000 people per day climbed aboard the Hermione, a full-size replica of the original ship that saw service during the Revolutionary period.

Free concerts

Alongside the ‘Armada’ of ships that will be moored in the city’s docks, free concerts will be offered from almost 30 artists – half of which hail from Normandy.

A 3.5km sailors’ parade will march through the city on Wednesday (June 14), before the maritime parade on June 18, which will see the Patrouille de France (the French Red Arrows) giving a send-off to the vessels as they depart French waters.

Regatta races between crews will be held, as well as a ‘kayak parade’ and a traditional maritime mass from the bishop of Rouen on Sunday, June 11.

Between June 12 and 17, sailing and rock climbing classes will also be available.

Alongside the concerts, other daily events throughout the ten days will include evening firework displays and beach football matches against sailing crews.

You can find out more about the event using the official site here.

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