Overall race leaders Groupama made a steady climb through the order on the fleet’s first night at sea on Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient, powering their way into third place behind Team Telefónica and Puma.
At 0600 UTC the French team were 0.5nautical miles (nm) behind Puma Ocean Racing and within 2.7nm of leaders Telefónica.
Groupama have an eight-point lead over Telefónica at the top of the standings with Puma a further five points back and Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand 10 points behind them. There are just two high-scoring offshore legs to complete, as well as two in-port races, in what is the closest ever Volvo Ocean Race.
Taking the most northerly track overnight, fourth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were within 4nm of the lead with a 2nm advantage over fifth-placed Camper. Team Sanya were at the rear of the fleet in the most southerly position.
On current predictions, if Telefonica holds her lead, she is projected to complete the course in just over 4days. There would appear to be few passing lanes, once the fleet rounds the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores, before heading for Lorient.
A drop in the breeze between 0600hrs and 1000hrs on June 12 UTC, may offer some opportunity for the positions to change, otherwise the fleet will have a straight drag race to the finish in Lorient mid afternoon on June 15.
The stinger for the last part of the race is that winds will increase to over 30kts average for the final 40 hours, giving a very fast finish in 3-4 metre seas.
At latest report the boats were all closely clustered, and were effectively match racing again.
'Right now we’ve got all of the players in play,' said Puma Media Crew Member Amory Ross. 'Camper and Groupama are close to leeward, Telefónica even closer to windward. It’s a sight we better get used to, day and night.'
Camper MCM Hamish Hooper said the boats had been trading fractions of miles back and forth as they reached towards the Azores in close company.
'Overnight Puma, Groupama and Telefónica edged a few more miles out of us, and we are managing to hang in there with Abu Dhabi,' Hooper said. 'The good news is that pretty much all of the boats are still within sight.'
Abu Dhabi's Nick Dana said the Emirati team were pleased to be hanging on to the three Juan Kouyoumdjian designed boats which excel in these fast reaching conditions. 'The last sched had us losing slight ground on the Juan K boats,' Dana said. 'It should be a wicked week of racing in the North Atlantic.'
Having pushed furthest south in the night, sixth placed Team Sanya this morning lay 17.3 nm behind leaders Telefónica. Sanya MCM Andrés Soriano said their first night at sea had been straightforward.
'We are reaching along with our jib up and a full main, averaging 18-20 knots of boat speed,' he said. 'The boat is going well and Aksel is quite happy with where we are positioned.
'One thing you can be sure of is that he and Mike will work tirelessly over the duration of the leg to ensure that we are in the perfect position to pounce on one or more of our competition.'
by Sail-World and Volvo Ocean Race
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10:13 AM Mon 11 Jun 2012GMT
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2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race
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