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Le Superbe, Third Rate Ship of the line (1708)

Particulars

Vessel type: Ship rigged 74 third rate ship of the line

Designer: Unknown

Builder: Lorient

Keel Laid: Not known

Date Deliver: 1738

Date Modified: No recorded modifications

Date Scrapped: Not Known

Length on deck: about 188 feet as scaled form the model

Length over all:

Beam: about 40 feet

Depth: about 39 feet

Draft: about 25 feet

Gross Tonnage: 1,029

Lightweight Tonnage:

Maximum Displacement:

Construction Material: Wood, probably oak planking on oak frames and keel

Rig Type: Fully rigged three masted square rigger

Sail area:

Crew Size: About 600

Passenger Capacity: Normally none

Propulsion Plant: Sail only

Horsepower: N/A

Cruising Speed:

Maximum Speed:

Armament: 74 muzzle loading guns

Model Scale: 1:75

Vessel Description

Le Superbe is a French third rate ship of the line fitted with 74 guns. In the age of sail it became common for two fleets to meet and sail in two adjoining lines, which was called the line of battle. Once the vessels sailed into gunnery range, the ships opposite each other would exchange fire in the early stages of the battle in order to sufficiently damage the opposing vessel to cause it to leave the line of battle. Those ships that dropped out would be later engaged and boarded by smaller vessels or engaged by other ships of the line that survived the initial exchange of broadside gunnery. During the age of fighting sail, ships of the line were rated from first rate (more than 100 guns) through third rate (about 74 guns). Generally vessels with ratings 4 and higher (which included frigates) did not sail in the line of battle.

There were many sailing navy vessel named Le Superbe and this vessel was one of the earlier Le Superbe’s. She is a typical large sailing ship as was built from the mid 1600’s through the early 1800’s. The lineage of this type of vessels includes the still existing HMS Victory, which is a somewhat later first rate vessel and is on display in Portmouth, England and the USS Constitution which is a large frigate that was built in the first years of the 19th century and is on display in Boston, Massachusetts.

These vessels were built completely of wood normally with oak keel, oak frames and oak planking. There are many species of oak, some of which are not suitable ship building materials (in the simplest terms, white oaks have high rot resistance, while red oaks have poor rot resistance). Since white oak was the most preferred wood for vessels of this type, it was considered to be a strategic material. A tremendous amount of mature trees (100 years old or more) were needed to even build one vessel. Occasionally these vessels were built from teak or mahogany, which were even more durable woods than oak, but these woods were not commonly available in European or North American countries. Spars were generally pine, and procuring spars of sufficient size was also a difficult task. The general colonization of the Americas was actually a major boon for shipbuilders because the American virgin forests provided ample supplies of large pines and firs.

The vessel was crewed by approximately 600 officers and men. When one considers that the vessel was only about 200 feet long and carried provisions for 600 men for six months it can be readily imagined that space was at a premium aboard the vessel. Officers had small cabins in the after upper decks, while the captain had more spacious cabins in the extreme aft upper portion of the vessel.

The vessel crew (sailors, marines, gunners and boys) slept in hammocks or on the enclosed decks. Le Superbe probably had two full enclosed decks and a hold beneath that. The open deck is called the main deck and the partial deck that covers the after portion of the vessel is called the quarter deck. Senior officer accommodations were beneath the quarterdeck with the Captain’s quarters all the way aft. The Captain’s quarter had a balcony also called the stern gallery and to one side he had an enclosed toilet (head). For the rest of the crew the head was in the bow portion of the vessel.

While vessels of this type tend to have similar appearances, there was sufficient difference in these vessels to make some more capable vessels than others. In this regard it should be noted that a later Le Superbe was one in a series or Temeraire class of third rate two decker 74’s. The Temeraire was a French design of 1782 that was found to be quite capable. This vessel had been designed by Jacques-Noël Sané and was found to be a good sailor, quite maneuverable with an efficient arrangement. Copies of the vessel were built all over Europe including England and finished as late as 1830. In total about 107 Temeraire class vessels were built. To the untrained eye the Temeraire Class Le Superbe is quite similar to this Le Superbe, but undoubtedly the later Le Superbe would have been much preferred by most sailors.

Vessel History

As near as could be determined this model is based on the 1738 Le Superbe. Since this vessel has an open stern gallery it probably is not the Temeraire class Le Superbe. Actual documentation on both this vessel and the model kit is very confused since the model kit developer does not provide any detailed description of the vessel on which the kit is based and internet comments on the model are generally composites of various incorrect assumptions made by the model builders themselves. Assuming that this is the 1738 Le Superbe, she was launched in Brest and is one of a large class of 74 gun ships launched between 1720 and 1777.

Technical Model Description

This is a plank on frame kit model that was produced by Mantua in 1987. The model was built by Henry Schaeffer in 2000 (as per HS mention, a date of 1993 was also mentioned). Mr. Schaeffer painted the vessel carvings and decorative details, but left the other wood components bright. The brass pieces were supplied with the model kit, while the rigging was scrap built.

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Navesink Maritime Heritage Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving knowledge and appreciation of Monmouth County's maritime heritage through programs  that responds to its mission: DISCOVER, ENGAGE, SUSTAIN.

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