Against the wind - Bantry Bay May 11, 1689

This second scenario using my 1/2400 ships is based on the events of May 11, 1689 when Admiral Herbert's English fleet attacked a French fleet under Admiral Chateaurenault in Bantry Bay on the south west coast of Ireland. It also gets me back to Ireland and my favourite theatre of the entire period.

The historical action was inconclusive and involved 24 French and 19 English vessels. Most were 3rd, 4th or 5th rate on both sides. I have chosen not to re fight the whole battle but to pick a representative vignette in the form of a French ship running for the open water of the Atlantic instead of being trapped in the narrow confines of the bay.

The main Battle of Bantry Bay

The game was set at a 20 turn limit. The larger ships featured were actually present at the battle although I have changed the names of the captains. Those familiar with American rock music of the seventies may connect the scenario title with the name of one of the captains! Bonus ball question!

Scenario: Against the wind , Bantry Bay, May 11, 1689

A strong south westerly is blowing directly into Bantry Bay aiding arrival but greatly hindering departure from the confined area of the finger shaped lough. The fleets are locked in a scrappy struggle amidst the narrow confines near the beachhead on which the French are landing supplies for King James army which now controls most of Ireland.

In an effort to gain more room to operate the French 4th Rate Duc is sailing directly into the wind in a bid to reach the open Atlantic water beyond the mouth of Bantry Bay. In hot pursuit are two English 5th Rate ships - HMS Darmouth and the galley Frigate HMS Portsmouth. Speeding in from the open ocean to assist the Duc is the armed yacht Argent.

Duc sailing into Bantry Bay to protect the landing force and transports on May 10th
DUC - 4th Rate, 50 guns, Regular crew, Speed - Medium,  - Captain Robert Seger.

The yacht Argent racing down the bay to support Seger's Duc as she makes her way out of Bantry Bay

ARGENT - Yacht, 8 guns, Regular crew, Speed - Medium.

Portsmouth (left) and Dartmouth sail into the Bay (seen from the south shore)

DARTMOUTH - 5th Rate, 36 guns, Regular crew, Speed - Medium, Captain St Loe

PORTSMOUTH - 5th Rate Galley Frigate , 40 guns, Poor crew, Speed - Medium, Captain Tripp


If Portsmouth becomes immobilized sailing directly into the wind she will use her oars to continue at a speed of 3 inches per move. I introduced a randomized Ability level for the commanders to provide positive/neutral/negative modifiers to the initiative role. The French captain gained a Skilful rating so added +1 to his initiative roll each turn. The senior English captain - Tripp got a Competent rating providing no modifier.

The objective for Captain Seger is to gain the open water in a condition to remain operational. The mission for the two English ships is to sink, capture or disable Duc with no thoughts at this point given to the yacht.

The battle opens with Duc hugging the southern shore of the bay and heading seaward with her English opponents several ships' length behind on the north shore. Unless the captains attempt to tack which is risky and may result in the vessel being in irons, progress against the headwind will be very slow with the galley frigate having the most predictable progress.  

Start positions - the wind is directly ahead of the ships with the Atlantic four feet off to the right of shot.

All ships attempted to tack on T1 but Portsmouth ended in irons and held back by the wind whilst the other vessels pulled away. Seger cleverly changed course to cut across the course of Dartmouth and got the first broadside in on T2 causing some damage to the leading English vessel. Argent was speeding down the bay using the 12" Strategic move option.

T2 Seger has veered to starboard across the path of the English ships.

Unable to hold position Duc sailed on whilst Dartmouth was locked by the wind. Portsmouth's crew got her under control and manoeuvred to catch the Frenchman between the two English vessels.

T4 Portsmouth is tacking whilst Dartmouth is now in irons. The galley frigate delivers an ineffective broadside
Duc changed course to take the southern channel and exchanged fire with Portsmouth whilst Dartmouth remained locked by the wind and unable to provide support. The French yacht Argent arrived on T5 and sped past Duc and up the bay towards the enemy.

The wind is proving very problematic for the larger ships whilst Argent speeds with the wind at her back. 

By T8 Argent was engaging the stranded Dartmouth whilst Duc and Portsmouth struggled up the southern channel with the English frigate using its oars to beat the headwind.

Argent comes about into the wind whilst Dartmouth remains in irons and the race is on between Duc and Portsmouth

Thus far the French 4th rate had escaped any damage but on T10 she was stopped by the headwind for two turns whilst Portsmouth used her oars to come broadside on, hold position and at close range, rake her stern twice scoring 9 hits and badly damaging the French ship.

In irons with no guns to bear Duc is at the mercy of the English galley 

4s to hit and Portsmouth's poorly trained crew manage five hits

Still immobile Duc receives a further four hits.
By T13 Portsmouth was unable to hold her position any longer and almost grounded on the southern shore only managing to come about in the last moments. Alas she got blown aground by the fierce wind and the wounded Duc limped up the channel towards the open water. Dartmouth was moving again and with successive turns of tacking had gained ground down the north channel but was unable to fire or see anything except the tops of Duc's masts because of the intervening island.

Portsmouth aground whilst Dartmouth increases her speed up the north channel T14

By T15 Dartmouth had done well to catch up and Argent attempted to run the gauntlet past the immobile Portsmouth. Two broadsides blew the yacht to pieces and she sunk quickly although the English frigate was also now in very poor shape.

Argent goes down fighting T15/16
Duc had suffered considerable damage and was proceeding at half speed and not risking the tacking manoeuvre which might immobilize her again. Dartmouth has closed but is also somewhat battered after fire from both Duc and whilst in irons, from Argent.

As they cleared the island both were set to deliver decisive broadsides at effective range.

T17 Clearing the island both ships prepare for the show down. The open water is about two inches in front of both ships.

 There was time for two broadsides. Dartmouth's fire was somewhat weak and ineffectual but the injured Duc conjured up 6 hits over two rounds and sunk her enemy right on the line to Atlantic freedom.

Captain Seger had made it, winning the battle by completing his mission in eighteen turns.

Deliberately not photo edited to show the finish line and how close it was at T18

HMS Dartmouth has sunk (foreground) and Seger in the Duc is safe and sailing free in the Atlantic.

I am enjoying these short games so much. This one lasted about 45 minutes.

The real Bantry Bay

 Next one will feature lots of little ships..