Abu Dhabi's Azzam clung to a lead of about 13 nautical miles last night, with Groupama and Puma battling for the second and third-place spots.
"Since we are being chased by what feels like a pack of dogs (and one cat), the general theme has been to sail the fastest angle possible," Nick Dana, the Abu Dhabi media crew member, wrote in a team blog yesterday.
"So the boys have been really pushing Azzam for the past 36 hours. Hopefully it will have been enough to give us an advantage when we hit the ridge off Portugal."
Ian Walker, the Abu Dhabi skipper, said on the race website: "It's a tricky period at the moment as we've known all along we're going to sail into light winds and everyone is going to come catching up pretty fast. No one likes to lose miles and at the moment we're losing miles to all the other boats. So it feels a bit awkward, but we're still in the lead so it's not all bad."
Walker said it was impossible to cover every one of their five competitors spread over 50 mile on a north-west to south-east axis.
"I guess what you try and do is put yourself between the boats behind and the mark [finish] and cover," he said. "But it's very difficult to do that without losing even more miles because we don't have the same wind direction."
Only 49 miles separated the fleet and the boats are expected to continue to draw closer as they finish the leg possibly sometime today.
Groupama had to battle through a cracked ballast tank that took several hours to repair.
"Our ballast tank will be operational again for the final sprint once we're through the ridge of high pressure," said Yann Riou, the media crew member.
He added: "Touch wood, it looks like we're going to stay ahead of the cold front until we hit the ridge of high pressure tomorrow. After that it'll be another drag race in the Portuguese trade winds as far as Lisbon."
After sailing in sixth place just a few days ago, Charles Caudrelier, the Groupama helmsman, said the crew were now focusing on reeling in Abu Dhabi. "A couple of days ago we thought we had no chance of victory and now it is a possibility," he said. "There are still a lot of things left to do but we have come right back on the leaders."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE