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Cape Finesterre, "Calder's Action", 22nd July 1805

Historical Background

At the end of March 1805, Admiral Villeneuve, commanding the combined Franco-Spanish fleet, had managed to escape from Toulon and sail to the West Indies. Unable to meet Admiral Ganteaume's Brest fleet, which remained blockaded in port, and on learning from a captured British merchantman that Admiral Nelson had arrived at Antigua, he decided to return to Europe.

News of Villeneuve's departure reached Nelson and he headed toward Gibraltar, sending the frigate Curieux, back to England with the news. Captain Betteworth in command of the Curieux had a stroke of luck during the journey home. He overhauled Villeneuve’s fleet, and was able to keep the fleet in sight long enough to determine it was heading for the Bay of Biscay.

This news was passed to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Barham, on the 9th of July. As a result, Rear-Admiral Cornwallis was ordered to sail across Villeneuve’s possible northern route, and the squadron blockading Rochefort was ordered to join Vice Admiral Robert Calder who lifted his blockade of Ferrol and was sent to wait 100 miles off Cape Finisterre with an expanded fleet of fifteen ships of the line and two frigates.

During the crossing back to Europe, the French ship Indomptable lost her main spar in a gale that also damaged some other ships. The combined fleet comprising twenty ships of the line, seven frigates, and two brigs sighted land near Cape Finisterre on the 22th of July. The fleets sighted each other at about 11.00am that morning.

With poor wind and low visibility, several hours of manoeuvering ensued, the action not beginning in earnest at about 5.15pm. Despite inferior numbers, the British fleet, with the Hero under Captain Alan Hyde Gardner in the vanguard, bore down on the combined fleet. In heavy fog, the battle was a confused mêlée with neither Admiral able to gain any significant advantage in the battle. Both sides spent long periods having no other option than to fire at each others gun flashes. In the failing light and confusion HMS Malta, the rear-most ship in the British line, found that she was surrounded by five Spanish ships. In spite of the overwhelming odds, Captain Sir Edward Buller forced the Spanish 80-gun San Rafael to strike her colours at about 8pm. In addition, he sent the Malta's boats to take capture the Spanish 74-gun Firme.

At 8.25pm Calder signalled an end to the action planning to continue the battle the next day. However, due to the thick fog and failing light, some ships continued to fire for another hour.

At break of day on the 23rd of July, Calder decided not to attack a second time against superior numbers, instead concentrating on protecting the damaged British ships and securing the two captured Spanish prizes. In addition, Calder was concerned that the previously blockaded fleets at Rochefort and Ferrol could put to sea and support Villeneuve's fleet.

by Robert Phillips, Canvey Island, September 2013
Strategema Games

 

Sir Robert Calder's Action, 22 July 1805 (From Jenkins' Naval Achievements reprinted by Sim Comfort Associates)

    Board Setup British Fleet

    Two boards: Put first board (A) on
    top of second board (B) in a way that
    the arrows are positioned on top of
    each other.


    British Red Squadron:

    Hero, B-26-03

    Ajax, B-25-03

    Triumph, B-24-02

    Barfleur, B-23-02

    Agamemnon, A-21-27

    Windsor Castle, A-20-26

     


    British Black Squadron:

    Defiance, A-16-26

    Prince of Wales, A-15-26

    Repulse, A-14-25

    Raisonnable, A-12-24

    British White Squadron:

    Dragon, A-08-24

    Glory, A-06-24

    Warrior, A-05-24

    Thunderer, A-03-24

    Malta, A-01-23

    Board Setup Combined Fleet

    Spanish Yellow Squadron:

    Argonauta, A-29-16

    Terrible, A-30-16

    America, A-31-18

    España, A-31-19

    San Rafael, A-32-20

    Firme, A-33-21

     

     

     

    French Blue Squadron:

    Pluton, A-34-23

    Mont-Blanc, A-35-25

    Atlas, A-35-26

    Berwick, A-36-26

    Neptune, B-38-02

    Bucentaure, B-39-02

     

    French Green Squadron:

    Formidable, B-40-05

    Intrépide, B-40-07

    Scipion, B-40-08

    Swiftsure, B-41-10

    Indomptable, B-41-12

    Aigle, B-42-13

    Achille, B-42-15

    Algésiras, B-42-17

     

     

    Number of players:                               two

    Number of turns:                                  9-11

    Estimated play time:                         4+ hours.

    Wind condition:                                  normal

    Board limitations:                None. Move the board whenever a ship touches the edge.

     

    Changes to Admiral’s Order Restrictions:

    The default restrictions of a Commander in Chief, concerning their ability to play Admiral’s Order Cards, are relaxed in this setting, to make it slightly easier to play. The following restrictions should be used:

    If commander in chief…:

    Admiral Calder: 3 Admiral’s Orders
    Admiral Stirling: 2 Admiral’s Orders

    Admiral Villeneuve: 2 Admiral’s Orders + 1 Substitute
    Admiral Gravina: 2 Admiral’s Orders
    Admiral Dumanoir: 1 Admiral’s Order + 1 Substitute
    Admiral Magon de Médine: 1 Admiral’s Order

     

    Rule limitations:

    • No Anchor. Ships cannot anchor.

    Victory conditions:             Count Victory Points.

     

    Number of players:                               two

    Number of turns:                                  9-11

    Estimated play time:                         4+ hours.

    Wind condition:                                  normal

    Board limitations:                None. Move the board whenever a ship touches the edge.

    Rule limitations:

    • No Anchor. Ships cannot anchor.

    Rule extension:
    Due to the fog, if determine the Fire Power of a broadside, add three to the distance. If firing Chase Guns also subtract another three. (This doesn’t influence checks based on distances, e.g. Rakes or Chain-Shots.)

    Rule extension:                 
    Due to the fog, the distance to stay in the squadron at the end of the game turn, is restricted to 3 hex (not 5 hex).

    Rule extension:                  
    Due to the fog, cost for “Add to Squadron” is 1 CP (not ½ CP).

    Victory conditions:             Count Victory Points.

     

    Number of players:                               two

    Number of turns:                                  9-11

    Estimated play time:                         6+ hours.

    Wind condition:                                  normal

    Board limitations:
    It is not allowed leaving the two boards in any direction. A ship that can’t avoid leaving the boards counts as sunken.

    Rule limitations:

    • No Anchor. Ships cannot anchor.

    Rule extension:
    Due to the fog, if determine the Fire Power of a broadside, add three to the distance. If firing Chase Guns also subtract another three. (This doesn’t influence checks based on distances, e.g. Rakes or Chain-Shots.)

    Rule extension:                 
    Due to the fog, the distance to stay in the squadron at the end of the game turn, is restricted to 3 hex (not 5 hex).

    Rule extension:                  
    Due to the fog, cost for “Add to Squadron” is 1 CP (not ½ CP).

    Victory conditions:
    For the Combined Fleet at the end of the game, each ship that is part of a squadron counts as victory. Sum up the Command Values of these ships (not their rigging!) and of the Admirals on these ships. Lookup the equivalent Command Points (CP) using table a). Each CP counts as one additional Victory Point for the Combined Fleet.

    Victory Points gained by destroying or capturing British vessels are divided by two.

     

    Alternative Victory Conditions:     
    Any French or Spanish ship that reaches one of the fields in the upper right corner (01-01 to 01-10), escapes toward Brest.

    Remove these ships from the board and sum up their overall Command Values (CV), including CVs for escaped Admiral’s. At the end of the game, lookup the equivalent Command Points (CP) using table a). Each CP counts as one additional Victory Point for the Combined Fleet.

    Victory Points gained by destroying or capturing British vessels are divided by two.

     

    Number of players:                               three

    Number of turns:                                  9-11

    Estimated play time:                         5+ hours.

    Wind condition:                                  normal

    Board limitations:                None. Move the board whenever a ship touches the edge.

    Rule limitations:

    • No Anchor. Ships cannot anchor.

    Rule extension:
    Due to the fog, if determine the Fire Power of a broadside, add three to the distance. If firing Chase Guns also subtract another three. (This doesn’t influence checks based on distances, e.g. Rakes or Chain-Shots.)

    Rule extension:                 
    Due to the fog, the distance to stay in the squadron at the end of the game turn, is restricted to 3 hex (not 5 hex).

    Rule extension:                  
    Due to the fog, cost for “Add to Squadron” is 1 CP (not ½ CP).

    Victory conditions:             Count Victory Points.

    Command Split:
    Command of the combined fleet is split. One player commands the two French squadrons, while the second player commands the Spanish Squadron.
    When playing the Admiral’s Order Cards at the beginning of each game turn, the two players of the combined fleet are not allowed to communicate.

    Admiral Villeneuve and Admiral Gravina are both alive and not injured:
    In total both players of the combined fleet are allowed to play two Admiral’s Orders.

    (Note: this is more than allowed by the ship status sheet.)

    1. The player of the French squadrons plays one Admiral’s Order Card for one of his squadrons. This can also be a substitute or a dummy order. The card is shown to the player of the Spanish squadron.
    2. The player of the Spanish squadron plays one Admiral’s Order Card for his squadron. This can also be a substitute or a dummy order. The card is shown to the player of the French squadron.
    3. The player of the French squadrons plays one Admiral’s Order Card for his second squadron. This must be a dummy order, if the two available Admiral’s Orders have already been given to the two other squadrons.


    Admiral Villeneuve or Admiral Gravina is injured or dead:

    The player of the commander who is still alive, plays as many Admiral’s Orders as allowed by the capability of the commander for all squadrons.
    Admiral Villeneuve: 1 Admiral’s Order + 1 Substitute
    Admiral Gravina: 1 Admiral’s Order

    The other player may NOT influence the commander in chief in his decision and must accept the order given to his squadron.

     

    Designer's Notes:

    The scenario Cape Finesterre, "Calders Action" covers many aspects of the Admiral's Order rule system.

    We decided to have several rule extensions in the Naval Battle book, in order to simulate the fog at the 22nd July 1805.
    To play the game historically correct, the number of "Admiral's Order Cards" per Commander in Chief is also very restricted.
    E.g. the combined Franco-Spanish-Fleet has three squadrons but only 1 AO + 1 Sub under Villeneuve.

    This forces you to command at least one squadron without Admiral's Order, using "Free Move" only. This is quite tricky and requires advanced skills.

    The setting with three players, even splits the command between the French and the Spanish Admiral. Here we also simulate the situation that both characters might have different opinions on how to win the battle. 

    Eased Setting:

    (...without fog...)

    To make the scenario a little easier and to make full use of the "Admiral's Order Cards", it could also be played without any rule extensions and with an eased restriction on the number of AOs.

    Refer to the setting "Cape Finesterre, Two Captains" on this page or in the Naval Battle book.

     Download Vassal File with start position

      Name Size Creator Creation Date Labels Comment  
    File CapeFinesterre.vsav 22 kB Mario Sep 21, 2013
    • None