I have some experience with small one and two ship tactical combat games but none with coordinated fleet actions.
So, when I'm looking at the combat "type of battle" options and leeward/windward stuff, I'm having a hard time visualizing what is happening or which choice I should pick.
It would also be helpful for trying to setup a fight or re-fight with a tactical system like FC, CA or FASB in the future.
My father (circa 1945). He navigated B-24's (5thAF 22ndBG) in the Pacific Theater.
Keep in mind that fleets would contact each other and spend hours (sometimes days) trying to sail into an advantageous position. Wind and weather played a critical role.
A very early 1805 prototype had an approach to battle sub-game. But it proved too cumbersome and time consuming. We simplified things greatly and now windward/leeward status is determined by the seamanship of the commanding admiral and the nationality of the fleet (the French tended to fight from leeward).
Windward = upwind at the start of the battle, will normally dictate the tempo of the battle.
Leeward = downwind at the start of the battle, normally the force not wanting combat.
If you don't want to fight, or are significantly outnumbered, winning the weather gauge allows you to choose the windward position and deny battle completely (essentially the fleets never close into gun range).
Battles normally occur when the force wanting a fight chooses the windward position.
Sail state is critical at this point for the windward fleet. If you absolutely don't want your opponent to get away, you should choose full sail.
From the leeward position you have to evaluate whether you want to stay and fight (even for a round or two), or want to get away as soon as possible. If you want to flee, you too should probably go to full sail. But sometimes the best course of action is to choose a tactic that keeps you in the battle while you stay at easy sail. Using the combat bonus for firing at a fleet a full sail, the leeward force can often cause enough damage to the windward fleet to force them into easy sail (fleets suffering 50% damage may not use full sail). Then the leeward fleet has a much easier chance to escape.
When evaluating the Combat Tactics Matrix and choosing your tactic you should determine in advance what your overall goal is:
1) Getting away,
2) Keeping your opponent from getting away, or
3) Inflicting the maximum damage possible on your opponent.
Since tactical combat is a game of rock-scissors-paper, try to anticipate what your enemy wants to do. But keep in mind your opponent's goal may not be as clear as it first appears. Plus, you are actually playing with two rocks, two pairs of scissors, and two pieces of paper. You have to choose both your tactic and your sail state carefully.
Also pay attention to the command rating of the enemy admiral. A poorly rated admiral is easy to counter as he has lower chance of changing his tactics once battle is joined.
There has already been some discussion about fighting out the battles in "1805: Sea of Glory" using "Flying Colors". That would make for an interesting (and long) campaign.
Hope this helps.