sailing, sailing ...
Wooden Ships and Iron Men drew 27 players, the highest
since '94, to continue its comeback from near extinction in 1999.
The flexibility of players to drop in and out whenever they want
and the coaching of rookies continues to rebuild this classic.
The event saw matches demonstrating the skill of veterans and
the zeal of new players, some of whom hadn't even been born when
the game was published.
addition to the standard single ship actions and design-your-own
squadron battles, players had the option of choosing from four
historical scenarios to play.
Thirteen players sailed into Tuesday night's early bird special,
the best showing for that heat since it began in 2001. The GM's
wife, Katherine, and daughter, Verity, squared-rigged off with
28 gun brigs for the shortest WSM game in history. Verity's ship
struck in five turns-- Mother knows best!
On Friday, eleven more players enlisted. Two former champions,
Larry York and Dave Cross, crossed bowsprits with an American
44 gun frigate vs. a British 60 gun ship-of-the-line.
Saturday's fleet action was the crowd pleaser, drawing 14 players,
including three who hadn't even played in the tournament up to
The tournament leaders were seeded as admirals, Arthur Davis
for the Turks and Bill Rohrbeck for the Russians. The scenario
assumed the seizure of a Turkish port by Russian troops. The
Russian goal was to resupply their forces with merchant ships,
escorted by warships. To protect the port, the Russians mounted
two shore batteries in redoubts, ably commanded by Paul Risner,
at the harbor mouth.
The battle opened with a dash for the harbor channels by the
Russian supply ships and frigates from the east and the Turkish
frigates and 12 gun galley from the north. Despite harassing
fire from the shore batteries, the Turks won the race and engaged
the Russians in the initial volleys. Turkish captain Tim Hitchings
slapped one of the leading supply ships with an early broadside,
sending the supply ships scurrying for cover.
Not to be deterred, Russian frigate captain Wade Fowble pulled
off the first coup of the day by capturing the hapless galley
from Turkish Admiral Davis.
By this time, both sides' ships-of-the-line (SOL's) were bearing
down on the battle. Despite early confusion in their formation,
the Turks were able to shield their frigates from the heavier
Russian battlewagons. Admiral Davis either bravely or foolishly
anchored his 100 gun flagship astride the Russian advance and
remained in the thick of the brawl throughout.
Davis' fortunes continue to seesaw, as his 32 gun corvette struck
its colors to the heavy frigate of Russian Mark McCandless.
In the meantime, Turk Keith Hunsinger sailed his 64 gun SOL after
Wade Fowble's frigate and the newly-captured galley. Not only
did he recapture the galley, restoring its rowers to the Sultan's
service, but he also captured Wade's frigate. Keith's initiative
was the turning point of the battle.
Turkish morale was further heightened with the arrival of reinforcements
commanded by Dave Schubert and Francis Czawlytko. Dave attracted
one-too-many cannonballs from the 110 gun flagship of Russian
Bill Rohrbeck, causing one of his 70 gun SOL's to explode. An
observer spotted a Turkish sailor clinging to a floating mast,
the only survivor.
Francis' ships began to pound a Russian 66 gun SOL which had
unwisely sailed into a ring of Turkish ships, including Arthur
Davis' flagship. Not to be outdone, Arthur captured the 66, giving
the Turks a game-winning 60 to 54 point edge. The remaining Turks
received a certificate of honor from the Sultan.
When the standings were calculated, Bill Rohrbeck and Arthur
Davis emerged as the leaders.
In the final, Arthur
commanded four American 74 gun SOL's, locking spars with Bill's
British 120's and 84's. Arthur came out fighting for the wind,
a strategy Bill usually uses to good effect. Bill, however, had
changed his plan, sailing straight onto the board, yielding the
wind to Arthur.
Catching the Americans off guard, Bill's Limeys opened fire at
long range with a thunderous volley, resulting in severe rigging
damage to Arthur's leading ships.
Arthur had the weather gauge with no way to take advantage of
it. His lead ship tried to "cross the T" of Bill's
rearward ship but the Brits used their greater mobility to move
upwind and "cross the T" of Arthur's rear ship.
As British broadsides sent more masts crashing into the sea,
the Americans began repairing rigging on a massive scale in the
hope of regaining some speed.
Gradually, Arthur's rear ship moved within range to hit the British
hulls, but received a volley so intense that fire broke out on
deck. The ship's entire crew formed a bucket brigade that put
the fire out in three turns. Bill put those turns of unanswered
broadsides to good use and Arthur's ship began listing to port.
Thanks to rigging repairs, the other Americans engaged the British
again. While this took some pressure off of Arthur's hapless
rear ship, it was too late. The British had too much speed, too
much firepower, and too good a position. One by one the American
Bill sailed to glory for his third championship in the event.
He also was awarded the soon-to-be-coveted Nelson Certificate
to be framed and hung with his plaque. Despite losing the final,
Arthur learned lessons which can be put to good use the next
time. A newcomer in 2002, Arthur rose to be one of the event's
solid competitors in just one year. Why not take him on in 2004?