illbruck still leads VOR but things are hotting up as the fleet heads south with Tyco, ASSA ABLOY and Amer Sports One ready to pounce

The conditions may have eased slightly but the intensity of competition still makes for hard sailing this morning (04.00GMT, 28 September), with two private emerging battles at the front of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.

illbruck is still the race leader with Tyco and ASSA ABLOY neck and neck, and Amer Sports One in the middle of the pack.

Way out west, Jez Fanstone’s Team News Corp seem content with their own company. Navigator and double Whitbread race winner Ross Field is happy with their tactical decision. “We had been expecting the westerly earlier, but in spite of this, we’re still feeling good,” he reported late yesterday.

SEB, djuice and Amer Sports Too all have some catching up to do but as Steve Hayles, navigator on Tyco explained last night, six days into a five-week leg, the race is far from won, or lost.

“We are happy to be in the leading pack but ever mindful that with 6,500 miles still to go (to Cape Town) we are still in the very early stages of what will invariably prove to be a demanding and tactically challenging leg.”

With the wind on their beam, the eight-boat fleet is enjoying smoother, faster offwind sailing for the first time in four days, close reaching along at around 10-11 knots in 17-20 knots of breeze.