Battle of Cape Spartel

There was a tempest on 10 October, and some of the Franco-Spanish ships, which were anchored off Algeciras, were damaged, although none were sunk.

Howe's fleet, escorting a Gibraltar-bound merchant convoy, appeared the next day and, owing to the storm, were pushed into the Mediterranean. That day, taking advantage of a WNW wind, De Córdoba's fleet started to pursue the convoy, while the Spanish Admiral sent his smaller vessels to shadow the British. After several days of fighting westerly winds and currents the convoy, having evaded the Spanish, managed to enter Gibraltar on the 17th.

Meanwhile, around sunrise of the 20th, both battle fleets sighted each other some 18 miles off Cape Spartel. De Córdoba signaled general chase disregarding division places. The British line of battle was to starboard of the Franco-Spanish. At around 1 pm, and after Cordoba's flagship the huge 120-gun Santísima Trinidad reached the center of the combined line, both fleets were about two miles apart. The British reduced sail in order to tighten their line of battle. At 5.45 the van of the Franco-Spanish fleet opened fire. The British returned fire, while Howe signaled retreat all sail, making at least 14 Franco-Spanish ships redundant, among them two three-deckers. No English ships were really engaged despite the efforts of de Córdoba's ships, which chased the fleeing British fleet. On the 21st both fleets were some 12 miles apart. De Córdoba made repairs and was ready to resume battle. However, no battle took place as the next day the British had disappeared.