Steel, Chapman & Hutchinson Ltd.
Engineers and Builders of Working Model Sailing Ships
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Cruiser Class Brig HMS Surprise American Schooner


HMS Surprise
24 8 Corvettes / 28 gun Frigates

These five French corvettes, at least one of which was built at Le Havre (records from the period of the Premier Empire are scarce or lost), were designed by M. Forfait for 24 8 lbs long guns. They were ship-rigged. The one that has recently become familiar to hundred's of thousands of people (readers of Patrick O'Brian and those who have seen the movie Master and Commander by Peter Weir with Russell Crowe) is L'Unité built in 1794. She was captured in 1796 by the British, renamed HMS Surprise, rearmed with carronades and classed as a 28 gun frigate! The actual number of guns was 24 32 lbs carronades on her main, eight more of the same on quarter deck and forecastle with 4 6 lbs long guns as chasers - a very heavily armed ship for her length.

We chose this ship for her good sailing qualities and her worldwide fame as the favorite ship of Jack Aubrey. We had to chose one full ship-rigged vessel as the largest model we felt to be practical at our scale and she is the one. Our ship has 11 sails; the square sails on the main and mizen are braced together, the square sails on the foremast are braced independently, and the sheets on the jib, fore staysail and driver boom are controlled together.

She sails beautifully - as unperturbed by minor vagaries of wind and wave as the real ship would have been. She is controllable grace. Stately.

Length on deck is 63" (1.60m)

Hull weight is 47 lbs (21.4 kgs) with an additional 20 lbs (9 kgs) in two internal lead ballast plates. Sailing weight is 107 lbs (48.7 kgs)

Removable lead ballast keel is 40 lbs (18 kgs). Ready for sailing she is (extreme) 110" long, 80" high and 36" wide (2.8m x 2m x .91m).

The complete kit (and it is complete!): hull, decks, hull fittings, masts, standing rigging, sails, deck fittings, running rigging and fittings, servos and fittings, ballast keel and launching cart. Everything you need to build and sail except the 4-channel transmitter and receiver.

No longer available as kits. We do have an original prototype available, ready to sail, for $6000 plus shipping.

HMS Surprise stern gallery
HMS Surprise stern gallery
HMS Surprise
HMS Surprise leaving dock

  Click here for the story of the real HMS Surprise


side view
Surprise Sail Plan
half breadth
Surprise Half Breadth

body plan

Surprise Body Plan