When Sir Richard Grenville told his crew that their ship, the Revenge, was about to take on fifty-three Spanish ships single-handedly, they cheered. The year was 1591, and England was at war with Spain. Grenville reviewed the situation. He had only a few hundred cannon shots and scarcely enough gunpowder.
Half of his men were too sick to leave their hammocks. The other vessels in his fleet had escaped, and now fifty-three enemy warships were bearing down on him in two long lines. It was fight or flight. “Steer straight down the middle,» he ordered. «Tell the men to fire as soon as we come into range.
“The Spanish almost laughed when they saw the little Revenge turning to fight. But the small size and agility of the boat surprised them, and its ferocity caused them to grow concerned. Within an hour two of their warships sailed away, badly damaged. Others scattered, fearing for their own safety. Up and down the line the Revenge sailed until it had run out of ammunition. An enemy ship’s huge sails cut off the wind, and the little boat stopped. Spaniards tried to board it, but the determined men of the Revenge fought them off until night fell. Sir Richard was shot twice but managed to stay at his post.
Dawn illuminated an incredible sight. The Revenge was in shambles, its men sick or dead, and the ammunition exhausted. But there it sat, still afloat, encircled by nearly fifty enemy vessels, their crews in awe of the courage and tenacity of their little foe. Facing a challenge? Don’t let the odds keep you from giving it your best shot.