The Importance of  Weather Gage:  Pirate Scenario

This is a fun little exercise to teach and learn the importance of weather gage.  You are windward if you are closer to the wind than your opponent.  In square rigged ships, this gives a tactical advantage called:  Weather Gage. 

If you have weather gage, you can decide IF there will be an engagement at all.  If you don’t want a fight, you can turn about and reach up into the wind.  A leeward ship, (downwind from you) will never be able to catch you.  Assuming they go the same speed:  you are both square rigged ships with no damage.

Both players start with Sloops.  The Merchant has 1 crew and 5 cargo.  The Pirate has 3 crew and 3 guns.  Arrange the ships thus, with the wind to the Merchant’s back:

Merchant in Red

Pirate in Black

As the Pirate, see if you can force a fight and capture / sink the Merchant. 

As the Merchant, see if you can escape and slip past the Pirate.  If you can’t, call off the engagement and just escape safely off your own map edge. 

With practice, a skilled Merchant will ALWAYS win.  The Pirate should never be able to catch them. 

Play this several times on each side.  Got it down?  Good.  Now give the Pirates a Brig.  Can the Merchant still win?  The Brig is faster but the Merchant still has Weather Gage. 

Alright, now give the Pirates a Schooner.  Schooners are actually faster beating up into the wind, while you are slower!!  Who wins most of the time now? 

The Baltimore Privateers (schooner)  were smaller but they were a favorite of Pirates.  Do you see why?

What do we learn from all this?  Here are some general guidelines to follow:

With Weather Gage, against other square rigged ships:

-Use it!  Fight on YOUR terms. 

-If things go wrong, you can break off the fight and escape by beating into the wind.

 With Weather Gage, against Schooners:

-You are in a very dangerous situation.  You can’t escape by beating into the wind!  They’ll catch you. 

-IF you can’t fight them, your only chance is to juke past them with a brilliant move and then make a run for it!  Remember, Schooners go slower while running.  You go faster.  With a little luck and a very tricky maneuver, you might be able to escape downwind.  It won’t be easy.

What if you’re both sailing Schooners?  Well, then you’re on equal terms, right?  Since you’re both going the same speed, standard Weather Gage advantage applies.  You can escape windward.  You can fight when and where you want. 

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