DESIGN : ALTAIR
Today I’m talking about boats.
Why ? Because I love the sea, the slamming of the sails, the wind that makes the shrouds vibrate, the packets of water that fall on the deck.
Because I have just experienced the most disappointing July 14th of my life. We have commemorated nothing at all on this day – our streets are empty and there is no Celebration. No fireworks, no concert, no smell of apple fritters, no blazes in the streets, no dancers, no people saying to the king: “we are here”.
Also because I have an idea in the back of my mind – that’s ok.
I wanted to tell you a little bit of the story of La Confiance.
My story takes place at the time of the “Privateering Wars” (do you sat that ? ) and the French Revolution.
So I’m celebrating with you – well, I apologise to my English comrades.
At the time of the French Revolution, France had already largely sided with the young rebels of the Americas, our enemy at sea was English or Dutch, the prey Spanish or Portuguese.
It’s the story of legendary ships entrusted to legendary sailors.
From the time when ships were under sails, from the time when the profession of corsair was invented – so as not to sink into piracy.
Privateers were fighting for their King. And the prize… well… often went to the King.
There were lots of French captains who became Privateers. They are all still honoured in their hometowns.
The one I loved the most was Robert Surcouf. He’s a guy from Saint Malo. He learned how to sail in that bloody hellish bay, all full of reefs and shoals, all full of violent currents and swirling winds.
He was from a good family – but he didn’t like school. He ran away from the boarding school, joined a ship as a moss – and by the age of 20 he was a captain.
In 1792, French military operations against England began (well… began… – again) . The Royal Navy was in the West Indies. The French will go to the Indian Ocean.
Surcouf learns cunning, speed, fighting at sea.
On October 7, 1800, he captures the enormous English ship Le Kent, in the Bay of Bengal, with its legendary ship: La Confiance. The assault lasted 10 minutes. There were only 20 dead, 16 English, 4 French. La Confiance is a rather small boat – if you look at the catches he made. The British are furious and put a price on Robert’s head. For nothing.
It is still told in France the beautiful exploits of Robert against the English … when he would have made them follow the lantern of the youyou, while taking off in the dark night.
When an Englishman reproached him for being a Frenchman fighting for money, while the English were fighting for honour, he would have replied that one fights to obtain what one does not possess. It is said that there was a fight afterwards.
In 1807, according to his plans, he had his last legendary ship built: Le Revenant – with which he led two victorious “campaigns”.
Not just any ships, not just any captain.
La Confiance, he didn’t build it. Instead, he had it fixed so he could win. In speed, maneuverability, effective firepower. It didn’t look dangerous, La Confiance. The captain of The Kent had even asked his passengers to come on deck to witness the massacre of the “little boat”…
You’re wondering why I’m talking about boats?
Well…. because the best ships are designed by their captains.
Robert Surcouf arranges La Confiance: it becomes a legendary boat.
He draws the plans of Le Revenant: it becomes a legendary boat.
A boat so admired that the French Navy requisitioned it in 1808. Surcouf can do nothing. The boat was renamed: Iena – and captured by the English, who took it for their army. And of course, the French were determined to get it back.
Surcouf was not a shipowner. He didn’t have the money to build a ship.
Nor did he have the skills to do so.
On the other hand, he knew how to use a boat so well. He knew so well where he wanted to go and what he could do – that the boats he designed became legendary because they were “devils of the seas”.
What I mean by this is that when everyone brings their professional skills, there are no more “inaccessible seas” or “too powerful opponents”.
Obviously this is a very rare occurrence, even more so nowadays, since we are in a century where everyone thinks that he is capable of doing anything.
Isn’t my boat story pretty? Yes, yes, in my mind, I build the plans of Altair, a kind of boat imagined to go fishing in the dangerous and little-known waters of virtual worlds.
Featured Image : “L’Etoile du Roy“, French Privateer Ship