Naval Action at Adriatic – Battle of Pirano

Napoleon attempted to challenge the British hegemony in the Adriatic and Mediterranean by initiating shipbuilding programs across Italian ports. However, the progress was slow due to impoverished Italian government and only handful of ships were ever completed. French new ship of the line, Rivoli was launched 1810 in Venice but did not complete until 1812. That said, Rivoli however was a powerful 74 and therefore significant threat to British.

In March 1811, well before Rivoli was completed, Royal Navy had established control over Adriatic by destroying French Adriatic squadron led by Commander Bernard Dubourdieu  in Battle of Lissa and caused great harm to remaining garrisons. Squadron with such powerful vessel as Rivoli could change the situation dramatically.

Historically action took place in Adriatic sea, current Slovenian coast near Piran 22 Feb 1812. To describe it shortly, French squadron departed from Venice for Pula and made distance to British in the cover of coastal fog. Chase started and at the end, 18 gun sloop Weazel took over and engaged rearmost French ship, Mercure from close quarters. Iena supported but too far to be effective and after a brief fight, magazine of Mercure exploded. Remaining small French vessels scattered and made way to Pula and Weazel was not able to engage them decisively. Meanwhile Victorious took over and engaged Rivoli directly. It was solid British victory, but unlike in many French revolutionary naval actions, Rivoli did put up a fierce fight which is evident from the casualties in both ships. Rivoli was taken under name HMS Rivoli into British navy.

John Talbot was in command of small blockade force consisting of 74 gun third rate HMS Victorious, 18 gun brig-sloop HMS Weazel. Jean-Babtiste Barre was in command of French squadron attempting to break through from Venice. Barre’s force consisted of brand new 74 gun Rivoli (that factually outgunned and technically outperformed British counterpart), 16 gun brig Mercure, 16 gun brig Iena and small 8 gun brig (or corvetteMemeluck and two small gunboats under sail.

Battle offers interesting scenario for Signal Close Action because of apparent disparity in forces and interesting ships that took part in the action. I would recommend to use full set of rules, including boat work and start the game in chase positions. Scenario below assumes situation about 3AM.

British Blockading Squadron, Commander John Talbot

HMS Weazel, Good Captain, Elite Crew, 18 gun Brig-Sloop. 
DC 50, Broadside 2, Speed Normal, Class A
[Flagship] HMS Victorious, Good Captain, Elite Crew, 74 Ship of the Line
DC 120, Broadside 7, Speed Normal, Class B

Victory Conditions for British: Rivoli must be captured as prize and at least one Brig needs to be destroyed, forced to strike or captured. Sinking Rivoli and at least one Brig will grant minor victory. Capturing, or destroying only single Brig will be draw.

British setup: Weazel must be no less than 50cm away from closest French ship. Victorious 20cm further away. Since British kept away from the shore, they can start between 4 and 6 o’clock of French line,  Flag Officer stays at Victorious.

French Squadron, Commander Jean-Babtiste Barre

[Flagship] Rivoli, Good Captain, Average Crew, 74 gun Ship of the Line
DC 140, Broadside 8, Speed Normal, Class B
Mercury, Average Captain, Average Crew, 16 gun Brig
DC 40, Broadside 1, Speed Normal, Class C
Iena, Poor Captain, Inferior Crew, 16 gun Brig
DC 40, Broadside 1, Speed Normal, Class D
Small Gunboat A, Average Captain, Average Crew, Gunboat under sail
DC 10, Broadside 1, Speed Normal, Class C
Small Gunboat B, Average Captain, Average Crew, Gunboat under sail
DC 10, Broadside 1, Speed Normal, Class C

Victory Conditions for French: French must disable Victorious and Weazel (either by causing ships to be immobile, or struck but not taken), and then be able run away with all ships except gunboats. If French capture Victorious (or both British ships) as a prize, it is French outstanding victory. Victory points are not used. (If French opt to keep their distance and prolong the game to no conclusion – which they may cleverly intend to do, French commander will be executed for cowardice and treason 😉 ).

French setup: French had improvised line of battle at normal cruising stations. spacing between each ship should be no less than 20cm. Ships can be in any order of line, but Flag Officer stays at Rivoli. French ships are initially sailing towards Pula, direction South southeast, no closer than 80 cm off the eastern (land) edge (about 1/2 nautical mile).

Weather and Wind: Light Breeze blows from North West, Setting is Coastal with no tides. North East and East Coast are near, but out of play. Ships that exit from Eastern or Northern edge of the map are considered run aground and lost. In any other direction there is a sea room. Optional: I would recommend night rules for first 20 turns. Rules for boatwork are also recommended.

French need to ready their ships for action before firing broadsides.

For maneuvering it is advised to use optional maneuvering rules before close range engagement takes place.

(Definition: Not able to pursue: sustained enough rigging damage not to be able to continue chase)

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