The two most important participants in the duel were Sir Trevor Gatch, captain of the British sailing ship Dartmoor, and Matthew Turlock, captain of the Whisper until Gatch destroyed it, and then of the Ariel. Both of Turlock's vessels were built at Patamoke Boatyards, as was Dartmoor, which had been christened Victory when it was built by the Paxmore family years earlier.
Gatch is determined to drive the newly created American navy into the sea by blockading all ports along the eastern seacoast and hunting down for capture or sinking any American privateers that did get through the ranks of ships under his command. Gatch attacks Patamoke, fires on the Steed mansion on Devon Island, and battles Turlock on the open ocean.
Turlock subsidizes his battles with Gatch and the British navy by transporting slaves from Africa to Cuba and smuggling supplies through the blockade to his Chesapeake Bay home territory. His use of the Ariel as a slave ship enrages and grieves the Paxmores, and Turlock doesn't intend to continue with the slaving any longer than he has to, but it does turn a profit during the time when other business for his ship and crew is difficult to obtain.
In the end, Gatch and Turlock engage in a duel of tactics and seamanship off the coast of Brazil. Modifications Gatch has made to his clipper have distorted the balance of the ship, and Turlock is able to take advantage of this mistake and the turbulence of an approaching storm.
Just before darkness set in with that incredible speed it shows in the tropics...the sun broke out beneath the cloud cover and illuminated the Dartmoor...then, as it began to fade and great winds roared across the ocean, the lovely schooner began to bury her heavy nose in a towering wave, digging deeper and deeper, until she had buried herself completely.