Across the Atlantic Ocean


                  - Deafness: a badly know disability

In the wake of Laurent Clerc

                  - The Project
                  - The symbolic of the travel
                  - Points to be analyzed
                  - Medias fallout
                  - Conclusion


                  - Mode of the partnership
                  - Duration of the contract and declension
                  - The rights

The Instigators

                  - The Chief of the Project
                  - The Skipper


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The deafness is a handicap that is badly known by the public. One imagines easily that all the hearing impared or totally deaf is only an aged population. However, there are very numerous people of all ages who are suffering for various degree of this infirmity. So the most dangerous character of the deafness is probably to be physically INVISIBLE.  


Deafness: a badly know disability

About seven per cent is the number of people of a given population affected to a various degree by the deafness. It goes from the child born deaf to the old man reached by the presbyopia. This number of seven per cent is a constant who appears everywhere in the world and in all civilizations. In France, a simple calculation shows that the number of concerned people is more than four millions. For the United States of America, it is over twenty millions.

Born deaf children didn't benefit a teaching always as the one that exists nowadays. In France, this teaching has been initiated by the very well known Charles-Michel de l’Epée, a Jansenist priest (1712-1789), after a fortuitous event: he meet two deaf-mute little girls. Then he was going to establish the first teaching method based on a gesture system.

So great has been the success of the school founded by De l’Epée that it became the Royal Institution of the Deaf of Paris. Protected by the king Louis XVI, it had a big development since it is recognized as being the first public school in the world for the deaf children. It was going to swarm in all countries. The Institution Nationale des Jeunes Sourds de Paris is always nowadays present.

However there is a bad known episode of the life of this school. It is the one relative to Laurent Clerc. This man, came at the institution when he was twelve years old, without knowing read nor write, appeared so gifted that he became teacher. Later, Laurent Clerc met in England, an American, Thomas Gallaudet that invited him to settle in America where nothing existed for the deaf children ! Clerk raised the challenge and succeeds it gorgeously.

Then the education of the deaf children of the United States is based on what existed in France. If the abbot De l’Epée was the inventor of it, Laurent Clerc was the “exporter” of it. The Deaf American didn't forget him and the character as the memory of Laurent Clerc is venerated and respected in the United States of America.

But, an international event with a big media reach to celebrate this historic fact was missed. It is the aim what we propose in this document.


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In the wake of Laurent Clerc

This chapter presents the project, based on the travel made by the Frenchman Laurent Clerc towards the United States in 1816, where he founded the first School for the American Deaf Children. Our idea will probably astonish all those will discover it. But, by its details, it also means a symbol and a memory of the lift of the education of the deaf children from France to the United States of America. It would like also be a bridge between deaf and hearing people to forward and to improve exchanges. Also it wants to give a better knowledge of the deafness through various events attached to our project.


The Project

The project consists to redo the travel done by Laurent Clerc during the summer 1816 from France toward the United States of America across the Atlantic (see the section entitled "Brief history of Laurent Clerc"). Because various reasons, and notably due to unfavourable winds, Clerc's trip between Le Havre and the American coast lasted 52 days! Today, a modern sailboat can do the same trip easily in two or three weeks. For example it is the case of sailboats called "60 feet open" that participate to the famous French race “Vendee Globe Challenge” or to the well-known “Transat Jacques Vabre”.

We have the intention to rent a 60 feet open sailboat type and leave the harbour of Le Havre (France), in order to respect the mind of the project. Because Laurent Clerc left Le Havre a 18th of June the date of our departure would be also June 18th. As we cannot navigate 52 days on the sea, we intend to arrive to the United States, about July 9, still to respect the day, Clerc arrived on the American coast a 9th.

Ours wishes is to arrive into a symbolic place of the presence and the works of Laurent Clerc. We have to choose between:

            - The first place is Hartford (Connecticut) via New Haven the most closed harbour. In 1817 Clerc founded the first school for the American deaf children in Hartford.

            - The other place is Washington, federal capital of the United States, where Gallaudet University is located. Gallaudet University was founded thanks to the conjoined efforts of Laurent Clerc and Edwards Gallaudet, one of the sons of Thomas Gallaudet (see “Brief history of Laurent Clerc”). It is the only one university for the deaf students in the world.

Another option can lead us to go to both destinations according to the possibilities of the boat and the conditions of navigation that will be met in the American waters.


The symbolic of the travel

Two importants symbols are retained for this trip:

1 - The deaf people engagement in an event retracing himself a key moment of the history of the deaf education and culture:

The first symbolic resides in the fact that the crew of the sailboat will be composed mostly by deaf people. 

To one time where the involvement of the hearing impaired to big moments cultural or sporty is too often minority, we propose an alternative of project aiming to federate the deaf population around a symbol of the deaf education and culture, all being organized by deaf, for deaf, and achieved with a majority of deaf.

2 - A bust of Laurent Clerc achieved by a French sculptor:

The other strong moment of the adventure we initiate will be concretized by the contribution of a sculpture that would be the copy of the Laurent Clerc bust, made by the French deaf sculptor Pierre Athurion.

This bust is in the Laurent Clerc museum in La Balme-les-Grottes (France). In the event that we should yield to the two successive places (see previous paragraph) it would be evidently possible to take two busts. These sculptures will be directly offered to theAmerican deaf representatives.


Points to be analyzed

Here it is not possible to detail all points of this highly symbolic travel. Let's us, nevertheless, to fix some points of the project :

1 - The boat
It will be a sailboat like those participating to the transatlantic races and whose the length is about 50 or 60 feet long (16 or 18 meters). These length permits to face high and oceanic seas comfortably. The sailboat will be rented.

2 - The program
The renting could be limited to three months, from June 1st to August 31st according to the following planning:

      - June 1st to 17th: this lap of time would be used to prepare the boat, to coach the crew and to lead the sailboat in Le Havre if it is taken in another harbour. Two week-ends in Le Havre city and harbour would permit to welcome deaf people and its circle (family, friends, schools, associations…). We would have the possibility to organize one (or two) conference(s) and to inform the local medias, the inhabitants, and the nautical people already sensitized by certain sea events… It is easy to understand that this event will be unique in his kind and susceptible to attract a large lot of people as well as deaf than hearing.

      - June 18th will be the day of the departure.

      - Three weeks are foreseen for the crossing the Atlantic ocean, with arrival July the 9th.

      - The duration of the stay in the United States will be about three weeks. This perspective leads us to the end of July. In USA, we will propose journey on the sea (or on the river) to the deaf children of the school of Hartford or to the deaf students of Gallaudet University or to members of local or alumni associations in order to permit them to discover the sail.

      - Then, the month of August would permit us to return in France and to give back the sailboat to its owner. According to the available time, we could also propose journey on the sea to the French deaf in the bay of Le Havre.

3 - The crew
A minimum of six people, all able to lead the sailboat as much as possible is required. It is necessary to have two hearing persons aboard following the international maritime regulations, except we can be given derogation. Finally, in remember of the presence of Thomas Gallaudet in the ship “Mary Augusta”, we intend to welcome aboard of our sailboat, of course, a deaf American!

4 - The stay in the United States
We depend on our American friends so that the stay in the USA is facilitated for us to various points of view, notably for the marinas and the places in the harbours where the boat will be obliged to go.

5 – The symbols
It is a point for which a reflection is necessary. We say, above, how we are thinking for making manufactured copies of the magnificent bust of Laurent Clerc sculpted by Pierre Athurion, a French deaf. These copies will be able to be in wood but can possibly be make in another material.



In France, we hope that a ceremony of the memory will come with the departure of the boat from Le Havre as well as at the moment of its return. This event won't lack to attract of very numerous deaf that will come to sustain us and to encourage us so much to the departure of our crossing until the term of our adventure.

We will wait too for the presence of the local population but also on a very strong media presence:

            Newspapers:   Daily and regional press.  

            Magazines:      Nautical press and general actuality press

            Television:       Regional and national channels, deaf magazine…

In the United States, we hope that our American friends will know how to receive us with the protocol required by the offering the Laurent Clerc busts that we will bring after a long oceanic crossing. We know all respect and the reverence of which the memory of Laurent Clerc makes the object in the United States.



Despite a budget that can seem elevated, we wish that our project interests all those that will want to hire their efforts and their energy to help us. The global endowment remains modest to the look of other realizations of very least reach.

By his interest, his high symbolism, the representative that it permits and the numerous media fallouts that it brings, our project is carrier of a new hope for the memory of Laurent Clerc and improving the knowledge of the deafness.

We will have also the possibility, thanks to technologies of the communication, of which Internet is one of the best examples to involve children of schools and associations of the deaf on the two sides of the Atlantic in our project. We can again, by the experience that we will lead, clear new processes and new usable communication systems for the deaf, that can make the object of a commercial market.

We will again show to all people that, following the word of M. Irving King Jordan, former president of the Gallaudet University: "deaf can do anything, except hear".


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Our project inserts itself in the setting of an existing structure. It has too the intention to make call so much to the partnership with companies or groups as well as French than American. It is not mandatory that these companies are near or actively introduced in the world of the deafness. The deaf people, like all another one, are consumers to the large sense and will know to report their attention on the products made by companies sustaining all action them concerning.

Mode of the partnership

This one must, well evidently, active being. It will be the object of a collegiate dialogue between the different partners in order to balance the investment of each. Partners will have the right to use the picture of the boat and the one of the crew members in their communication. In counterpart we will bring our experience so much in the world of the deafness that in the one of the navigation (see the chapter entitled "The Intervening").

Some particularly targeted technical investments could be the object of examination or special discussions. We think principally about manufacturers and equipment suppliers to the audition and the auditory prostheses. We will remain, as much as possible, attentive, free and ready to meet company’s responsible.

Duration of the contract and declension

The duration of the contract is four months, starting May 15, and ending September 15. This contract includes the period of the three months foreseen for the navigation entertainment and across the Atlantic Ocean (from June 1st to August 31st). It appears, indeed, that is it necessary to have a support before and after the adventure.

The declension concerns the title that partners will be given, for example "Official Partner of the Communication"… or all other title depending on goals followed by the sponsorship company. It includes the descriptive affixed on the crew's clothes, on the sails, on the hull of the boat, etc… It will be attributed proportionally on the basis of each company’s investment. The name of the boat will also be defined in agreement with all partners. We thought to call him “Mary Augusta"!

The Rights

Partners and René Legal will be owners of the whole rights: photo, video, film, etc… relative to the development of the project. They will also be owners of the Internet website eventually developed around the project as well as in French than English language, and rights of communication and advertising bounded to the project.


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The Instigators

Who are we, we who presents this project? So natural is this question that won't lack to put themselves those that will read it! This chapter is dedicated to a fast presentation of instigators of this project.


1 - The chief of the project

René Legal started as electronic technician before working for long years as high-level programmer and engineer on the IBM computers and processors. He exercised several programming languages and had responsibilities on larges operating systems under virtual machines concept. He was also Data Base Administrator. Since he became navigator, he accumulates more than 11.000 nautical miles (more than 20.000 Km). He sails around Spain and Portugal with his own sailboat to be going to explore the Mediterranean Sea while waiting to consider other trips. He took the responsibility of this project that is his personal and initial idea. It already makes several years that he imagined to redo the journey of Laurent Clerc. He became deaf at 8 years old with meningitis.

He was also activist and responsible of associations of deaf to various levels (local, regional, national) where he was, sometimes occupying important positions (president, treasurer, secretary…) and member of the boards. His leisure let him again time to make software oriented on the deafness, to write articles for a magazine of electronic data processing and to work close to France-Télécom (French national telecom and telephone company) for the formation of the deaf people to the communication using the Minitel system. He was also voluntary during many years editor-in-chief of Echo-Magazine, the main monthly journal of the deaf and hearing impaired of France, editor, columnist, many author reports. He did several journeys in the United States.  


2 - The skipper 

Eric Denamiel is a professional skipper and made his entire career practically in the nautical world, by turns preparer, crew member, skipper, formative… He was coordinator of a cooperation mission for the survey and the feasibility of an educational module for future skipper in Brazil. He is also examiner of tests to the exam of the “Brevet de Patron de Plaisance à la Voile”, a French and state diploma giving the certification to be master for sailboats. He followed a formation in Sign Language in the setting of an educational project about sailing for the deaf population.

In fifteen years, he did thirteen crossings of the Atlantic Ocean and browsed every year more than 12,000 nautical miles (more than 22,000 Km) as professional. He was record man of the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea in 1988 and 1989. He participated two times at the “Transat Jacques Vabre” as well as the French race “Lorient - Saint Pierre et Miquelon – Lorient”. In 2001 he was voluntary skipper for Handy-Vélis, an association bringing disabled persons to the sail. Eric is currently the only hearing people in the group!



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