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Lions in the Littoral - Leadership on Risk's Edge

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Journal article

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What is audacityA dictionary uses flattering words such as intrepid characterized by fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance, daring, originality and verve specialized ability or talent along side these, less complementary such as recklessly bold. 2 Many times which meaning a user implies depends on the final outcome of an audacious event successful bold actions are daring and original unsuccessful bold actions tend to be reckless. There is an axiom that risk is commensurate with reward. In the examples provided here of action in the chaotic, confused and confined littoral maritime environment, success favors the audacious audacity favoring lethal, offensive action. On May 5, 1801, Lieutenant Thomas Cochrane s HMS Speedy, a 158-ton brig of 14 4-pound guns, was pursuing a Spanish gunboat near Barcelona as part of a successful littoral campaign against Napoleon s ally.3 From behind a fishing boat cluster appeared the Spanish frigate Gamo, a much larger and faster ship with 32 guns 22 were 12-pounders and a crew nearly six times that of Speedy. As Robert Harvey relates in his book Cochrane, The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain, young Lieutenant Cochrane had three choices run and probably be caught, surrender to the more powerful ship, or close and fight.4 Cochrane chose to close and fight. Hoisting false American colors and closing Gamo, Cochrane caused his opponent to hesitate, thereby giving himself time to reposition before revealing his true British flag. Using Speedy s superior maneuverability and timing the Gamo s rolls, Cochrane first placed his smaller ship on Gamo s leeward side, causing the downward pointing Spanish guns to fire short. Next, as Gamo rolled up and gun crews reloaded, Cochrane closed to place Speedy under Gamo s guns causing her next broadside to fire overhead. Cochrane responded with a grape shot from his elevated 4-pounders killing Gamo s Captain de Torres.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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