Beaten down by years of coastal blockades and still smarting from the rump kicking the Brits dished out in the Seven Years War, 18th-century France concluded that its future lay in mastery of the seas. And so, with the king's blessing, the navy ministers embarked on an ambitious shipbuilding spree. In Rochefort, where naval ships were built in three massive dry docks erected a century earlier, builders drew up plans for four nimble new frigates: Concorde, Courageuse, Hermione, and Fée. Hermione got the green light in October 1778, and work started that December. Five months later, the ship was launched, and by the middle of May she was ready for battle, sailing with a crew of 300.