The "middle phase" of the battle starts. A long line of ships of various nationalities are now intermingled amid the din of battle. The British and French squadrons (left of picture) obstruct each other "tacking" while the middle and rear Dutch warships set upon the rear French ship (frigate/fire-ship) at a advantageous 2:1 odds, trading vicious blows. The Dutch Admiral has meanwhile "with his eyes fixed on the goal" pulled alongside the merchantman and a boarding action ensues (see below):
The British and French Squadrons have completed their tacking and now spurred on by the wind close to the two Dutch ships that have interposed themselves as a barrier between the entangles merchantman and Dutch Flagship. The British fire-ship now tries to make an influence on the battle (see below):
The two Dutch rearguard ships suffer critical mast damage which means that they won't be able to escape, nevertheless they fight on to ensue success of the overall mission. It seems that the crews have been primed for their mission and fight with grim determination. Desperate men obviously given desperate pay for their services, I would suggest paid in advance to their families. They are fulfilling their part of this Devil's bargain (see below):
The Boarding Action: The exact events of the boarding action are clouded in conjecture, shrouded in mystery and fable. One account is as follows:
"It started as a fierce and confused melee, but suddenly a hush descended upon the deck as a horn pierced the air, followed by a challenge in French to the captain and master of the ship. The details are unclear, but the merchantmen seems to have been protected by a company of special (Cardinal?) guards whose Captain pushed the merchant master (a regal looking French Officer) rudely out of the way, then suddenly there are other French (musketeers?) who came from the Dutch ship duelling with these special French guards(?). Their swordplay was so distinctly flamboyant and French in the "old style". The "normal" French sailors and marines simply stood back and watched (these Cardinal Guards were evidently very unpopular). The Dutch at this point also seemed to play no active part in the boarding. The climax of the duel ended with the villainous (Cardinal) Captain, obviously losing, threatening to kill a mysterious female passenger. The silenced French master of the ship intervened and was mortally wounded. The French sailors and marines enraged turned upon the special guards and threw them overboard weighted down with cannon balls. The Master and Captain with his dying words ordered the ship scuttled and ordered all true Frenchmen on-board to join pledge their allegiance to the Countess and her "true heir" and go board the Dutchman with her. Around him knelt the mysterious band of French (musketeer?) boarders who raised their swords in salute. In a matter of minutes the merchantman was abandoned, ablaze and the crew were in boats or on the Dutchman"
Note: The above account has been discounted as a concoction of pure sea-folk fiction and the work of a drunkard hack listening to too much tavern talk and penning lies to keep himself out of a debtors prison. Others however have kept more open minds ... and maintain the actions of the battle in general were extreme and outside the realm of pure reason; the Dutch seemed to be driven by a reckless battle madness outside of tactical objectives, as if something higher was at stake and there seemed to have been a band of foreign mercenaries of sorts on the Dutch flagship.
Returning to the more conventional account. As the last chest of treasure (and two mysterious passengers plus others, this was documented though some still repudiate it) are finally hauled aboard the Dutch Flagship. She casts off with an avenging pack of French and British ships in hot pursuit. One Dutch man-o-war is disabled (de-masted) and another about to be embroiled with a Royal Navy fire-ship (see below):
The Dutch rearguard succumbs in an uneven fight, but they bravely gave their Admiral vital time he needed. Despite the efforts of the British and French wolves who surge forward to almost within touching range of the Dutch Flagship the Dutch Admiral still holds the weather gauge and the initiative (see below):
To the delight of the Dutch the wind fills the sails of the Dutchman and she surges away to the sound of terrible French and then behind them British curses. They still have two men-o-war running before the wind but it is doubtful if both can escape (see below):
Next: Can the "Hounds" catch the "Foxes" somehow?