About the Christening Ceremony
On Saturday, November 9, 2013, Newport News Shipbuilding christened America's next generation aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The ship is named for President Ford, the 38th President of the United States. His daughter, Susan Ford Bales, serves as the Ship's Sponsor, performing the traditional honor of breaking a bottle of American sparkling wine across the ship's bow during the christening ceremony.
Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the first of a new class of aircraft carriers, the first new design since USS Nimitz, which was launched in 1972. Redesigned from keel to mast, the ship will be able to launch aircraft more quickly while costing less to maintain, saving the Navy a projected $4 billion over the ship's 50-year life span.
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The Tradition of Christening
The ceremony involved in naming and launching a naval vessel is based in traditions thousands of years old. Ancient Mediterranean shipbuilders accompanied the launching of their ships with religious ceremonies invoking favor over the ship and her sailors. Today, the tradition has evolved into a ceremony that honors the individuality of the ship and the life ahead of her. The ship's sponsor proclaims, "I christen thee United States ship..." and shatters a ceremonial bottle of American sparkling wine against the bow of the new ship. The ship is then "launched," or undocked, and moved to a pier where outfitting will continue until the ship is ready for delivery.