Rodney formed his fleet of 18 ships of the line into line of battle abreast and bore down on the Spanish ships. de Langara initially ordered his ships to form line of battle ahead but, realizing that the British fleet outnumbered his own, ordered his ships to crowd on all sail to escape for their home port of Cádiz, 100 miles (160 km) to the south. At two o’clock, Rodney ordered a general chase, allowing his ships to chase at their best speed and engage as they came up to the Spanish ships. Thanks to their copper sheathed hulls (which reduced marine growths), the ships of the Royal Navy were faster and soon gained on the Spanish.
At around 4 p.m., after two hours of chasing, the British Defence, Bedford, Resolution and Edgar began the action. At 4:40 p.m., the Spanish Santo Domingo 70, blew up just as Bienfaisant came up to engage her; all hands were lost. Darkness fell soon afterwards. The chase continued through the dark and squally night until 2 a.m. the following morning, when all firing ceased after the headmost of the Spanish squadron surrendered. Four Spanish ships of the line and the two frigates escaped but six were taken including De Lángara's flagship Fénix, 80. By morning, Rodney's own fleet was in shoal water. The necessity of getting the ships off shore prevented Rodney from continuing the chase.