Groupama takes the lead, the fleet barrels towards the Stealth Zone and Sanya arrive in Madagascar

With the festive period and the stealth zone looming, the Volvo fleet will disappear from everybody but the organiser’s radar in the next few days. But as the fleet charge towards the equator and compress it is worth taking stock of what the current situation is as it will be a long time before we see the full picture again as the stealth zone comes into play. By the time the re-emerge the picture could look very different.

So here’s the latest official word and video on the current standings and thoughts of teams.

Behind Groupama, Ken Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG and Iker Martínez’s Team Telefónica are engaged in a full blown scrap for second place, with PUMA currently having the upper hand.

Groupama took the lead yesterday after positioning themselves perfectly to take advantage of strong westerly winds. Ever since, the French crew have been sailing flat out, extending their lead on their nearest rivals at every position report.

At 1300 UTC today Groupama were 83.3 nautical miles ahead.

Skipper Franck Cammas said their prolonged high-speed run had been both exhilarating and exhausting for the crew who have been constantly blasted by sea water while on deck.

“The boat is very wet with lots of water on deck,” he said. “Plus these are wind angles where you have to change sails a lot. Luckily it’s warm on deck and inside the boat, but we are all wet.

“It’s fast and noisy but we are happy with our position and Groupama 4 likes these conditions.

“The helmsmen enjoy steering in these conditions. It’s fast and we are surfing on the waves. The others have to look backwards because the spray means they cannot keep their eyes open.”

With the fickle winds of the Doldrums looming Groupama have been steadily relinquishing their easterly position on the fleet in order to convert their lateral advantage into a straight line lead on the chasing pack.

“The race is far from over,” cautioned Cammas. “We will enter the light wind area and the fleet will compress.

“We had it easy until now but there will be an elastic effect for the others closer to the Doldrums.”

PUMA and Telefónica have rekindled their Leg 1 rivalry with just 10 nautical miles separating the two boats in terms of distance to leader and 22 nautical miles between them laterally.

Chris Nicholson’s fourth placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand are 116 nautical miles behind Groupama, but still very much in touch and ready to pounce on any mistakes from the boats ahead.

Having been the last to escape a light wind road block several days ago Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing have been playing perpetual catch up and today sit 226nm in arrears.

However, Walker says the Abu Dhabi crew are far from giving up on the leg.

“We are still pressing hard and anything can happen.” he said. “We will come into the back of the fleet when they reach the Doldrums.

“It looks like there is a tropical wave developing across the Doldrums which could be interesting.

“So we remain optimistic and the main thing is to try to close them down as much as possible before we get there.”