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This article is about Royal Navy ships of the line. For the adjective meaning that something is of inferior quality, see wikt:third-rate.
A model of a third-rate ship of the line of the Order of Saint John from the late 18th century.

In the British Royal Navy, a third rate was a ship of the line which from the 1720s mounted between 64 and 80 guns, typically built with two gun decks (thus the related term two-decker). Years of experience proved that the third rate ships embodied the best compromise between sailing ability (speed, handling), firepower, and cost. So, while first rates and second rates were both larger and more powerful, the third-rate ships were in a real sense the optimal configuration.


When the rating system was first established in the 1620s, the third rate was defined as those ships having at least 200 but not more than 300 men; previous to this, the type had been classified as "middling ships". By the 1660s, the means of classification had shifted from the number of men to the number of carriage-mounted guns, and third rates at that time mounted between 48 and 60 guns. By the turn of the century, the criteria had grown and third rate carried more than 60 guns, with second rates having between 90 and 98 guns, while first rates had 100 guns or more, and fourth rates between 48 and 60 guns. By the latter half of the 18th century, they carried between 500 and 720 men.

This designation became especially common because it included the seventy-four gun ship, which eventually came to be the most popular size of large ship for navies of several different nations. It was an easier ship to handle than a first- or second-rate ship, but still possessed enough firepower to potentially destroy any single opponent other than a three-decker. It was also cheaper to operate.

Although this rating system was only used by the Royal Navy, British authors might still use "third rate" to speak of a French 74 (although the French Navy had its own system of five rates or rangs). By the end of the 18th century, ships of the line were usually characterized directly by their number of guns, the numbers even being used as the name of the type, as in "a squadron of three 74s". However, the rating system, although modified in 1817, continued until the end of the Age of Sail.


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third-rate — Please support Wikipedia.
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502 news items

Shelbyville Times-Gazette (blog)
Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:43:45 -0700

Is the U.S. Secret Service and out intelligence departments third rate at best at this crucial point in time? Are these hired on the basis of whom they know? What should the balance be by percentage between education and street smarts when placing ...
Microfinance Monitor
Thu, 16 Oct 2014 03:36:50 -0700

Actors like Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur may be making inroads into the Hollywood scene, but actor Imran Khan feels the American film industry lacks good roles for Indian talent. "To be honest, I don't think Indian actors get good roles in ...
Spectator.co.uk (blog)
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 09:30:00 -0700

... Countess, sister-in-law to a reigning Sovereign, leaving their carriage at the door of Anderton's Coffeehouse in Fleet Street (for there is no first or even second or third-rate restaurant in the Rue Neuve-des-petits-Champs), and calling for a cut ...
Washington Post
Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:43:42 -0700

How well do you know Watergate? This 100-question quiz from the summer of 1974 will provide the answer. If you were a newspaper reader when Watergate took place, the quiz will bring back lots of memories. If you don't remember Watergate, then the quiz ...
Las Vegas Sun
Wed, 29 Oct 2014 23:39:37 -0700

These are not third-rate players; these are the upper 1 percent of players available. There's only so much room in the NFL, so these are great players, and it's a terrific sport. I'm proud to be a part of it. I won a championship in the AFL and love ...

Washington Times

Washington Times
Tue, 28 Oct 2014 08:27:20 -0700

On June 17, 1972, a group of men connected to then-President Richard Nixon committed what Nixon Press Secretary Ron Zeigler would call “a third-rate burglary.” The media turned on Nixon. He was never popular with the left wing media. They had never ...

Fort Worth Star Telegram

Fort Worth Star Telegram
Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:18:45 -0700

I was a journalism major at Southwest Texas State in San Marcos in 1972 when Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward started writing about the “third-rate burglary” of the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate building. The Post was ...

The Times-Picayune - NOLA.com

The Times-Picayune - NOLA.com
Tue, 28 Oct 2014 11:22:30 -0700

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