The Battle of Vigo Bay, also known as the Battle of Rande, was a naval battle of the War of the Spanish Succession, fought at Vigo Bay in Spain on 23 October 1702 (in the Gregorian calendar, or 12 October in the Julian calendar then in use in England), between an Anglo-Dutch fleet commanded by Admiral Sir George Rooke, and a combined French and Spanish fleet commanded by Admirals Francois Louis de Rousselet Chateau-Renault and Manuel de Velasco.
Rooke had been sent with a large Anglo-Dutch force to capture Cádiz in Spain but retreated in defeat on 29 September 1702. When the returning fleet put in to water at Lagos, Portugal, Rooke learned that the 1702 Spanish treasure fleet, one of the richest ever assembled, had sailed on 24 July from Havana, Cuba, and had been diverted from Cadiz to Vigo, where it had arrived on 23 September.
Determined to salvage something from the disaster at Cádiz, Rooke set out for Vigo, where he found that the treasure fleet was protected by a Franco-Spanish fleet of about 30 ships. Chateau-Renault had fortified the harbour by laying a boom of masts, covered by guns from forts in the town and on the island of San Simón, near the town of Redondela. On October 23 Rooke attacked, sending Admiral Thomas Hopsonn on the Torbay to break the boom, and landing the soldiers of the Duke of Ormonde to capture the forts.
The battle was a complete victory for Rooke: the forts were captured, the Torbay broke through the boom, and all the Spanish and French ships were burned or captured. The French and Spanish suffered about 2,000 killed; the English and Dutch about 800. The victors recovered silver to the value of about a million pounds, but a larger sum — perhaps three million pounds — had been unloaded and taken away before the battle.
British guinea coins of 1703 bear the word VIGO to commemorate the battle.
Treasure hunters believe that some of the treasure may still lie at the bottom of the bay. This belief was incorporated into the plot of Jules Verne's novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with Captain Nemo and his crew obtaining money by salvaging amongst the wrecks.
Order of battle
English: 15 ships of the line: Mary (60 guns), Grafton (70), Torbay (80), Kent (70), Monmouth (70), Berwick (70), Essex (70), Swiftsure (70), Ranelagh (80), Somerset (80), Bedford (70), Cambridge (80), Northumberland (70), Orford (70), Pembroke (60); plus frigates, bomb ketches, and fire ships.
Dutch: 10 ships: Dordreht, Seven Provinces, Velue, Muyde, Holland, Unie, Reygersburgh, Gouda, Alkmaar, Catwyck.
French: 15 ships: Fort (76), Solide (56), Prudent (62), Oriflamme (64), Dauphin (46), Espérance (70), Sirène (60), Superbe (70), Volontaire (46) — sunk, burned, or run ashore; Prompt (76), Assuré (66), Bourbon (68), Ferme (72), Modéré (56), Triton (42) — captured; 3 frigates: Entreprenant, Choquante, Favori — burned; plus fire ships.
Spanish: 17 galleons and 3 corvettes — 9 captured, 2 destroyed.