Lieutenant Harry Gaunt is given the task of capturing the "Hirondelle," a fast French brig. It is a chance to redeem himself, since he was in temporary command of the "Hirondelle" when it was retaken by its French crew. He matches wits with the crafty and ruthless Captain Giron and succeeds.

Gaunt is given command of the "Hirondelle" and immediately sent by Admiral Jervis on a vital mission to locate the rest of the British Mediterranean fleet. Doing so leads Gaunt to sail the "Hirondelle" through the middle of a huge Spanish fleet, with the French flag flying at her peak to disguise her from the enemy vessels. Gaunt is present at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent with Admiral Jervis and Horatio Nelson. And then he resumes his duel with Captain Giron, who is now in command of a three-masted corvette.

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