Anatomy of a Frigate DuelLe Essex
sortied from Fort Royal under Admiralty Orders to seek and engage an enemy Fifth Rate operating west of Martinique. At 19 bells the lookout reported strange sail off the larboard bow. Upon identifying it as the Leda
class frigate Trincomalee
of 50 guns flying the Black Flag, the crew beat to quarters and cleared for action.
Lets take a brief look at our opponent, the Trincomalee
. She is a Leda-
class frigate built of teak in Bombay, India(at the time much of Britain's Oak was exhausted due to wartime construction) and launched in 12th October 1817. Because she came into service after the Napoleonic wars her career was rather uneventful, much of it spent laid up in reserve. In 1897 she was sold into private service, renamed Foudroyant
, and used as a training ship until 1992 when she was restored to her original configuration and opened as a museum ship in Hartlepool, England.
is widely considered the best frigate in game, especially for open world operations. She is very fast on her best point of sail making 12.48 knots and is heavily armed, mounting twenty eight 18 pdrs on her gun deck, twenty two 9 pdrs on her weather deck and a coveted bow chase suite of four 9 pdrs. This heavy armament and speed is balanced with a wide turning circle, bad heel and a poor sailing profile, she just bleeds speed closer to the wind than beam reach:
As we close to engage we will need to capitalize on these deficiencies if we are to come away victorious, especially since that heavy bow chase armament means disengaging from a Trinc
will be very difficult.
Random encounters in the open world take into account the wind and positioning of both parties before entering battle mode. However, since this is a mission both forces are placed in neutral starting positions with the wind on beam reach.
Now I want to retain the winward position and engage him on my lee, so I've turned into the wind a couple points so that he will pass me to starboard. This gives me a number of advantages besides being upwind of his rank odor. The primary advantage is holding the weather gage which gives me the initiative. The second is to utilize the ships' heel, the wind is blowing perpendicular to our travel and causing both ships to lean over, this effects your gunnery at close range and can expose your bilge to fire. By forcing the Trinc
to engage a winward target his heel interferes with his ability to depress his batteries to engage me.
Unfortunately the initial broadside in this scenario is typically a little inconclusive. Both ships are closing at roughly a combined 20 knots, so the firing window is very abbreviated, even with rolling front fire. I could take in the stay sails and jibs or set battle sail to slow and extend the to broadside but I want to retain all the velocity for my follow up maneuver.
As I predicted the initial broadside was inconclusive and once past we immediately turn to port trimmed my sails and tack across the wind. This allows us to retain the wind gage and present our other broadside to the target increasing our DPM.
Since the Trinc's
weather deck is quicker to load 9 pdrs compared to our long 12s she gets off another salvo but the angle is bad and the 9 pdrs have difficulty penning.
However, I've now swung into position to let fly with a complete broadside of combined 18 and 12 pdrs. Because I tacked across the wind I've hit him for two full broadsides to his one and a half.
Whats more is that I am now across the wind and picking up speed, I can continue my turn and bring my reloaded starboard broadside to bear yet again.
This winward spin is a strong position allowing me to maximize my firepower while the Trinc
needs to beat upwind to try and retake the gage while I am keeping bringing each battery to bear as they reload
That said its difficult retaining energy conducting this maneuver and I am exposing a pretty decent profile for the Trinc
to engage me. What I really want is to get behind him:
I get a opportunity to rake his stern which knocks out cannons and kills crew, however, more importantly I am now on his stern.
This is perhaps the most advantageous position one can achieve, astern of your opponent and holding the wind gage. It will be very difficult for the Trinc
to shake me, the Essex
is more maneuverable than the Trinc
and any attempt to reduce sail will be telegraphed. This would be even better if Essex
was equipped with bow chasers, but I will have to do without. What follows is a series of maneuvers similar to the Scissors in aerial combat, a set of consecutive S turns to bring each broadside to bear. While Essex
is more maneuverable than the Trincomalee
my opponent will be able to avoid a direct stern rake and occasionally get off a salvo. That said he will only get a poor shot at my heavily angled stern quarter, the majority of which will bounce. As you can see from the following this proves utterly devastating to my opponent.
With the hull integrity of both the Trinc's
flanks stripped to more than halfway its time to bring this engagement to a close and I choose to focus the down her port side. I sidle into Close Action and pound broadside after broadside into his weekend side till his structural integrity is stripped away and he begins to settle in the water.
After a roughly 45 minute running engagement the Trincomalee
had suffered enough structural damage and leaks to overwhelm her pumps and she slipped neath the waves. Le Essex
suffered minor damage and 21 casualties, with the objectives fulfilled set a course eastward for Fort Royal to conduct repairs and reprovision.