tl;dr – Try to help explain to ram captains that putting holes in the enemy first will be safer, and more effective than simply ramming.
This is a post requesting community members to help in educating Hoy captains that have the mindset of "Ram first, ask why we sank later." I have seen an increase not only in the number of captains who subscribe to this, but also the number of crew members who campaign for mutiny if a captain does not do this.
First of all, ramming is well balanced in my opinion, and a totally viable strategy when captaining any ship. Let's look at the facts. Ramming allows crew members to board opposing ships and start killing enemies. It also breaks the nose, immobilizing the rammer until the nose has been repaired 3 times. The vessel receiving the ram receives 3 holes, and any crew members near the impact are killed. Repairing the nose for one iteration takes about the amount of time as repairing sails.
If you look at this exchange, it looks like a slight advantage to the ramming vessel. Now if we look at a hypothetical situation, where you ram as your gambit to an engagement. The enemy ship is in perfect condition (apart from sail damage that your crew is hopefully putting on them as you approach), so instead of colliding and only having the nose to deal with, let's just say you have 2-4 holes. A Hoy has a crew of 8. Let's say 3 of your crew members have boarded the enemy ship, and 1 of your crew members were killed by the incoming cannonballs (assuming the enemy didn't have time to load grape and just take out the entire crew). You're left with 4 members (including yourself) to quickly repair the ship before the enemy has a chance to broadside you. Let's say your ram kills 1, and your boarding members kill 6 people before being driven off (this being a VERY successful ram). One of their crew members has boarded your vessel and are killing the more exposed crew members attempting to repair (let's say they get 2). You've won the initial battle of holes (by 1), tied in tickets, and are left immobilized vs. damaged sails. The enemy ship won't be underwater for another 30 seconds or so, which gives them ample time, to drive off boarders, reload cannons, and lay into your broadside before you have the ability to turn the ship.
Keep in mind, this is a coordinated crew, with skilled players who have identified their roles. In a public room, trying to execute this will lead to a few of your boarders falling off the nose, and crew members firing off muskets from your ship before fixing the nose and holes.
Now, imagine a situation where you are in a ranged engagement with an enemy Hoy. You are jockeying for an advantage. One of your gunners has just scored a multikill, and you've placed 2 more holes in the enemy. You swing around from your port to your starboard broadside, and put another 3 holes into them (assuming one misses). You know they've got 3-6 holes, and the captain is scrambling to get people on to repairs. Even if they are doing great to repair the damage they'll still have 1-4 holes by the time you can ram. A broadside ram into the damaged area will not only push them above the threshold, but be more likely to kill the crew members attempting to repair. They also have at least 2 members who are completely defenseless (captain, and pumps). Also, they don't have any cannons to fire back at you, making your immobility much less time sensitive.
The moral of the story is that if you weigh the pros and cons of ramming, it lends itself nicely to the "knockout punch" school of thought rather than the opening move.
Please leave your comments and thoughts below. I am in no way opposed to being convinced to another school of thought. I simply wanted to make sure we weren't breeding brute force captains that weren't capable of calculating the risk/reward of a strategic move.