In the Volvo Ocean Race, Telefónica and Iker Martínez/ESP have continued to put the pressure on, needing to win Leg 8 to regain their position at the top of the overall leaderboard, a place that Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA), just 0.7 nautical mile behind at 1900 GMT tonight, is not going to relinquish without blood on the tracks. Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg (Ken Read/USA) in third, 4.6 nm behind the leader, are waiting in the wings to take advantage of any opportunity coming their way as the leading pair spat for overall honours in the closest contest this race has ever seen.
Team Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain, gaining pace at the start of leg 8 from Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient, France, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.
Throughout the day, the pace has heated up as the leading trio gave a master class in speed as the fleet beam reached towards São Miguel, the Azores island that is a mark of the course, and the end of what could be the theoretical first section of Leg 8 to Lorient.
The notorious Azores High is situated almost directly over São Miguel, 320 nm ahead of the fleet. Speeds are predicted to drop as the fleet compresses at the archipelago and faces a light airs upwind section of the course on Tuesday.
For the chasing pack of three, it is simply a case of waiting until the wind changes or some tactical opportunities open up, and try to hang on to the coat tails of the three Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed boats, which excel in the current conditions.
Once clear of the Azores, the third stage of the leg will begin when an aggressive depression throws out winds of up to 40 knots for the crossing of the Bay of Biscay.
'The big questions on my mind are how much of a shakeup the light wind section could bring tomorrow and, in particular, will we be able to fend off Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) through that stage,' Ian Walker said from fourth placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. 'How windy will the last few days get and what opportunities could that present,' he asked and wonders which teams will try to sail the fastest route that negotiates the gale force winds in the north, and who will opt for a more conservative approach further south. Either way there is no room for error on this the penultimate offshore leg of the course, and a breakage at this stage could be very costly.
At 1900 GMT tonight, the order remained unchanged as the six teams kept the accelerator hard down, closely bunched together with just 4.29 nm of lateral separation and 31 nm separating Telefónica in first from Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL) in sixth.
Volvo Ocean Race website