The battle for third appears slightly remote from leading duo - Virbac-Paprec 3 and Mapfre - who are more than 1400 miles ahead of the fleet

Pachi Rivero and Toño Piris (Renault Z.E) have not really been granted the firepower over recent days to be able to protect their podium place, their lead being eroded progressively by Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret on Mirabaud in fifth and Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann on Neutrogena. But with the passage of a new low pressure system, all three will now be in a building breeze which has already seen Neutrogena making more than 17 knots this afternoon.

Neutrogena had caught up to 44 miles behind Renault Z.E Sailing Team yesterday, making up 190 miles since the Spanish pair led them into the Cook Strait eight days ago. Looking tired but content, having spent Saturday and part of Sunday fixing their hydro generator system, Ryan Breymaier explained:

“I think that we have been benefiting from the building breeze following behind us, and Renault Z.E probably has had the lighter breeze than we do, because Mirabaud have been doing the same thing to us. I think that the pressure should even out over the course and in the next three or four hours and we should all be in similar breeze. It is nice; we have finally caught up with my Spanish buddies. I thought that we had them when we left Gibraltar and were a fair way ahead of them and they passed us like we were sitting still. I head my head in my hands and so it is nice to finally be back.”

Gerard Marin and Ludovic Aglaor should have docked in Wellington on Forum Maritím Catalá. Speaking to Visio-Conference the duo both looked drawn and tired. Their boat (formerly Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher) is in need of repairs to the fresh water making systems, some minor sail repairs, a halyard replacement and remedial work to their hydro generator system. Both said last night that they were most looking forward to good sleep and decent food.

Veteran Aglaor, who broke the round the world Jules Verne Trophy record in 2005 as part of Bruno Peyron’s Orange crew, said he is looking forward to a good steak and proper sleep, echoed by his younger Spanish co-skipper.

At the front of the fleet the Pacific face-off between leaders Virbac-Paprec 3, who have been at the head since 23 January, and Mapfre has lost none of its intensity. With the promise of a fast but challenging rounding of Cape Horn, the two leading duos remain on the edge whilst also reviewing their final approach which will be driven by a low pressure system – entirely in keeping with what would be expected off the wind ravaged headland.

According to current routing models the leaders should pass Cape Horn perhaps between 06:00 and 08:00 UTC on Thursday morning, the conclusion of a rapid passage of the Pacific. Problems have continued with the tracking transmitter on board Mapfre, which has been tracked intermittently using the secondary Sat C system. All is known to be well on board.

(There are two main tracking systems, the main one which is automatic tracks Iridium beacon generating a signal which is processed every 30 minutes which is the primary tracking system. Each boat carries three of these beacons which have their own power source and are hence entirely independent of the boat’s power system. The secondary system is the Sat C which can be polled independently as back up; it is plugged into the boats power source.)

At present the problem has been with Mapfre’s Iridium system and their Sat C system has been giving an intermittent signal. The crew, Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez are expected to be able to replace the faulty transmitter imminently with the first of their two back-up units.

A fast but challenging passage of the Tasman is promised for Jaume Mumbru and Cali Sanmarti on We Are Water. Mumbrú explained:

“We’ve had favorable winds around 25 knots and stable. We sailed well, fast and comfortable to the 49S, we gybed and we are going towards Cook and tonight there will be a big storm. We will get it after midnight with winds up to 50 knots. Fortunately, this storm is not going to be reaching, it is not clear but looks like we’ll get the wind from behind. We do not know what the impact will be on the sea, the waves and currents but we are hoping the wind will push us in the right direction. We would have to reach Cook in four days.”

Mumbrú commented on the duo’s favorite items which have lifted their spirits during their long spell in the southern oceans:

“Gore Tex socks, essential to keep the socks dry and the feet warm inside and outside on the boat.
The Spinlock knee pads (used outside the foul-weather gear, inside it tears the lining).
The book ‘The Long Journey’ by Bernard Moiteissier, which is re-read constantly, a masterpiece.
The ‘turrones’ (typical Christmas sweet made out of almonds) from Mauri (famous bakery from Barcelona) which we embarked for the South-stage as replacement of the energy bars.
Ensure chocolate shakes
The Puff ball (bean bags) from Roser, vital for those who live in a minimalist area on the floor of the boat.
The sleeping bags from Angel of Diamir, the cold goes away completely (after is twice as hard to go on watch)
The Fénix frontal head light that Jaime Arbones suggested
The music from the Scottish band ‘Camera Obscura’…”

Rankings at 10:00 UTC Tuesday 1 March 2011

1. Virbac-Paprec 3 at 7699 miles to finish
2. Mapfre at 79.7 miles from the leader
3. Renault Z.E at 1450.5 miles
4. Neutrogena at 1469 miles
5. Mirabaud at 1610 miles
6. Groupe Bel at 1903 miles
7. Estrella Damm Sailing Team at 1966 miles
8. Hugo Boss at 2333 miles
9. Gaes Centros Auditivos at 2458 miles
10. Forum Maritim Catala at 3851 miles
11. Central Lechera Asturiana at 4266 miles
12. We Are Water at 4826 miles

To track the fleet, click here.