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T2, R2, Prng 76: French Chebec and Polacca vs Spanish Xebec

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  • T2, R2, Prng 76: French Chebec and Polacca vs Spanish Xebec

    In your opinion, which of these two warship types was most significant, influential and/or effective?
    Feel free to apply those criteria as you please, along with any others you think appropriate.
    Note: Suggestions for some additional criteria are at the foot of this post.

    According to the criteria as you see and apply them, please vote for your preferred candidate in the attached poll.
    If your chosen criteria are significantly different from those suggested, telling us what they are and why you used them would be helpful.

    69: French Chebec and Polacca 1701-1800

    Chebecs were widely employed by a number of countries in the Mediterranean region, as well as the Barbary States. They were very useful small warships, possessing excellent speed and maneuverability.
    The French Chebec Indiscret displaced 260 tons and carried 24 x 6in guns. This puts her within the upper end of the size range, for warships of this type. She began her career in 1751 and subsequently proved herself in battle, participating in the Seven Years War. She was sold to the Spanish Navy in 1791.

    A very nice model of Indiscret.
    This downward view from the bow shows some deck and gun detail to advantage.

    Chebec Indiscret 1751 model 3.jpg

    Our next example is another large French chebec of 24 guns, also launched in 1751 and named Le Requin. One of the main reasons the French adopted this type of vessel was to be able to compete - in performance terms - with those used by the Barbary pirates. The frigates and sloops the French had been using to protect their cargo ships had been mostly unable to catch the Barbary vessels.
    Le Requin carried the same number of guns as Indiscret - 24 - but they were 8pdr; somewhat more powerful. Her crew was 220 men. She exhibited outstanding sailing qualities and remained in French navy service until 1770.

    Beautiful 1/48 scale model of Le Requin. Black and red make for a very striking impression, especially in combination with the sleek lines of this vessel.

    Chebec Le Requin 1751 model red 15.jpg

    Our final French example is the chebec-polacca Mistique, launched in 1750. (She is referred to simply as a polacca in some sources.)
    Mistique carried the following armament:
    • Main deck - 18 x 9pdr
    • Fore guns - 2 x 6pdr
    • Aft guns - 2 x 6pdr
    • Swivel guns - 6

    In contrast with the lateen sail arrangement that was characteristic of chebecs, polaccas were generally square-rigged vessels; usually with two or three masts. (See the Greek examples further below). However, it was not uncommon for some small warships to have a sail plan that combined the features of both types. These are sometimes referred to as chebec-polaccas. This sail arrangement offered a nice balance of characteristics, providing good maneuverability as well as excellent "straight line" speed when sailing before the wind.
    With regard to vessel size, polaccas tended to range from about equal, to somewhat bigger than the largest chebecs; but were still very modest sized warships. Mistique was closer in size to a large chebec and had a very similar hull form.

    Model of Mistique

    Chebec - Polacca Misticque 1750 3.jpg

    88: Spanish Xebec 1701-1860

    Xebecs have been mentioned already as a highly effective and widely used small warship type in the Mediterranean region. They were fast, extremely maneuverable and very difficult if not impossible for most larger warships - and many smaller ones - to catch.

    Here we have a "generic" CGI image showing the general appearance of a typical xebec of the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries.


    Don Antonio Barcelo (1717-1797) was a Spanish sailor who became famous for his actions against the Barbary Corsairs and in particular, those of Algeria. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that he acquired legendary status in the eyes of his countrymen. His naval career began at the age of 18, taking over the family-owned xebec when his father died prematurely. By the time he had turned 19, he and his crew were already fighting against the Barbary pirates who were causing so much damage to Spanish commerce in the Mediterranean area. Within two years, at the age of 21, his fame became established at a time when he was already being trusted enough to carry important mail.
    The action that cemented his reputation was an epic fight in 1738, between his lone xebec and two powerful Algerian Barbary galliots. Barcelo's vessel carried 12 cannon and a few swivel guns.
    The corsairs must have thought they had the upper hand against the lone Spanish ship. However, Barcelo and his crew handled and fought their ship with such speed, skillful maneuver and sheer aggression that the two Barbary vessels were defeated.
    Barcelo's career was given a substantial boost when word of his exploits reached the ears of the Spanish Royal Court. From that time onwards, he steadily rose through the ranks and was involved in numerous successful larger-scale actions against the Barbary Corsairs.
    (Use the "Translate" option - Spanish to English)

    Image from a painting showing Antonio Barcelo's lone xebec, aggressively maneuvering to engage the two Barbary galliots, 1738


    Our third picture for this candidate is a fine drawing of a 10-gun Spanish xebec; probably around the mid 18th century.


    OK then, what's your choice with these very handy small warships?
    French or Spanish?

    Suggested additional criteria you might wish to consider, along with any others you deem appropriate.
    (Note: Some of these could be considered already covered by Significant, Influential and Effective)

    Which warship type ...
    • was the best?
    • was the greatest?
    • was the most widely used?
    • had the greatest longevity in service?
    • was the most versatile?
    • represented the best value for the cost/effort invested ("bang for the buck" in today's language)?
    • was the easiest to operate?
    Any other criteria you have applied (please tell us what they were).
    69 - French Chebec and Polacca
    88 - Spanish Xebec
    Last edited by panther3485; 21 Oct 18, 06:25.
    "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
    Vice Admiral Beatty to Flag Captain Chatfield; Battle of Jutland, 31 May - 1 June, 1916.

  • #2
    For me, this one was very tight and pretty much a flip of the coin.
    Went Spanish here.
    "Chatfield, there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"
    Vice Admiral Beatty to Flag Captain Chatfield; Battle of Jutland, 31 May - 1 June, 1916.


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