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The Secret of The Unicorn: Why would Red Rackham attack a superior ship?

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RicardoOlcese
Member
#1 · Posted: 24 Feb 2019 01:40
I mean... Rakham's ship was already loaded with gold and gemstones. And the Unicorn didn't have much to offer, except a good fight. Under those circumstances, Rakham's decision to attack the Unicorn finds no explanation and is utterly irrational. A real pirate would have tried to avoid combat against a superior ship, and escape with all the riches it had previously plundered.
That's a big hole in the story, and I say this as a former freebooter in the Antilles.
snowybella
Member
#2 · Posted: 24 Feb 2019 01:53 · Edited by: snowybella
Maybe Red Rackham attack the "Unicorn" because:

1. Their ship had been weakened by their previous battle, so before crossing the Atlantic to wherever their headquarters are, they would have to hijack it in case they didn't make it.

2. They were pirates, after all - for all they knew, the hold may have had some gold!

3. If the pirates had left them alone, the "Unicorn" may have alerted other passing boats to capture them, or as soon as they arrived in port.

4. Francis Haddock's diary may have been slightly inaccurate, and the pirates did attack for a reason.

5. They had ran out of rum...? ;)
RicardoOlcese
Member
#3 · Posted: 24 Feb 2019 02:05
snowybella
I they had ran out of rum, they could have just drank Soju! Or some Vita500, which is healthier!
mct16
Member
#4 · Posted: 24 Feb 2019 19:10 · Edited by: mct16
I can't imagine pirates being worried about their health. Look at the drunken party that they have before being blown up!

Pirates were savage and ruthless men and when their ship is approaching the "Unicorn" they display a red flag indicating that there will be no quarter: with the exception of Sir Francis, all the crew are killed and their bodies thrown overboard.

Rackham would have been betting on the ferocity of his men to overcome the crew of the other ship and defeat them. Furthermore, when the "Unicorn"'s cannons' first fired upon the pirate ship it may have damaged it in such a way as they may have ended up sinking. Thus they may have had little choice but to seize the other ship.

In battle, it is not unknown for one side to be superior to the other side in terms of men and equipment and yet the lesser side still wins thanks to the skill of its leaders and the determination of their men. Examples include the Battle of Blenheim (1704) and the Battle of Cape St Vincent (1797). In fact, at St Vincent, Horatio Nelson's ship the "Captain" was heavily damaged by enemy fire. Yet, in a way similar to Rackham, he managed to maneuver close enough for him and his men to board and capture not one but two enemy ships.
RicardoOlcese
Member
#5 · Posted: 24 Feb 2019 21:14
mct16
Those were military operations. I insist that if Rackham had already looted many ships, there was nothing to win for him by attacking a superior ship. He risked much more than he could win. Pirates had smaller, quicker vessels, in order to avoid combat when it wasn't needed, or when they were in an inferior position.
jock123
Moderator
#6 · Posted: 24 Feb 2019 22:31
RicardoOlcese:
Rakham's decision to attack the Unicorn finds no explanation and is utterly irrational.

And real people are never irrational?

As the story goes on to show, the pirate ship is capable of overcoming The Unicorn, so in that respect he was quite right in his estimation of his ship over the other, and your assessment doesn't actually reflect the situation, so your argument doesn't really stand up.

What he hadn't factored into his calculations wasn't fire power, or strength, or hardware - it was that Sir Francis would outwit him after the battle...
mct16
Member
#7 · Posted: 24 Feb 2019 23:17
RicardoOlcese
Rackham strikes me as an extremly greedy man who just has to have more of everything. He is like a power-crazed or corrupt businessman or politician who has millions in the bank and owns palaces and dozens of properties and still needs more money and more properties and bigger palaces. Some people are just never satisfied.

Even though he boasted that he had enough diamonds to pay a King's ransom ten times over, he still wanted more and when he sees the "Unicorn" making its way to Europe from the New World he naturally assumes that it will contain booty similar to that seized from the Spanish ship just three days earlier.
RicardoOlcese
Member
#8 · Posted: 24 Feb 2019 23:19
jock123
Dear jock123! Of course people are sometimes irrational. But I find it hard to believe that an experienced pirate as Rackham would risk his ship, his crew, his treasure, his own fate, by fighting a bigger ship that offered nothing of value, particularly, I repeat, when Rackham's coffers were already full.

But anyway, let's say Rackham obviously took the decision, which wasn't a good decision but in the end proved to be lucky and successful, and the story went on... After all, doesn't the world belong to the audacious?
jock123
Moderator
#9 · Posted: 25 Feb 2019 11:47
RicardoOlcese:
an experienced pirate as Rackham would risk his ship, his crew, his treasure, his own fate, by fighting a bigger ship that offered nothing of value

But he obviously factored all those concerns into his plan, and his assessment was borne out: he could beat The Unicorn, and did beat The Unicorn. Ergo his take on the situation did more to reflect the reality of it than did yours.

It should also be considered that by engaging The Unicorn, on his own terms, he actually protects his crew and booty, as he eliminates an opponent that could have thwarted him later.

Once again, I repeat that the problem for him wasn't the sea battle - it was Sir Francis...
Shivam302001
Member
#10 · Posted: 25 Feb 2019 14:31
This incident is an excellent example of catastrophe theory. Newtonian laws are based on the principle that causes and effects act in a continuous manner. But not all phenomena that we observe are continuous. Take a dog fight for an example. Two dogs fight at it for a while until one's flight tendency overcomes it's fight tendency and one of the dogs runs away. Newtonian maths doesn't handle this situation and that's where the catastrophe theory comes in- it models real-life situations involving sudden dramatic changes.

Let's apply it on the Battle on the Unicorn. Rackham's crew were initially losing. However, in the middle of the conflict, the crew of the Unicorn may have suddenly gauged the true magnitude of the events and became nervous or the pirate crew may have had that extra impetus of looting and gaining an entire ship (especially after their own one had been destroyed) that turned the tide in the pirate's favour. And Rackham may have had known that his men could and would win over the Unicorn, if they were willing enough. But then, he did'nt factor Sir Francis' revenge either- which becomes another example of the catastrophe theory.

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