The Spanish squadron of Galicia, under Don Andrés de Castro, the squadron of Naples, under Don Martín Carlos de Meneos, and the galleons of Don Pedro de Ursúa, were urgently gathered in Cádiz to intercept the Dutch fleet. The military governor of Cádiz, Don Juan Alonso de Idiáquez y Robles, Duke of Ciudad Real, was appointed commander of the fleet in substitution of the Captain General, the Duke of Maqueda, who was ill. He was a veteran soldier, having seen action in the Siege of Leucata against the French, but was unexperienced in sea battles.
Gijsels fleet was sighted off Cape St. Vincent on 4 November. The Duke of Ciudad Real immediately ordered to attack the major Dutch vessels, sinking three of them, destroying another one, and causing considerable damage to the remaining. Inexplicably, when his ships were approaching the defenseless Dutch warships to board them, he stopped the attack and ordered to return to Cádiz. This conduct dissatisfied King Philip IV, who severely reprimanded, among other officers, Don Martín Carlos de Meneos, Admiral Don Pedro de Ursúa, and Captains Pedro Girón, Gaspar de Campos and Adrián Pulido.
According to Dutch sources, the battle was indecisive, and broken off when the Spanish disengaged and returned to Cádiz. Dutch casualties were 100-200 killed and 2 ships lost, while Spanish losses were possibly 1,100 killed and 2 ships lost.