Team Telefonica were fending off relentless attacks from Groupama sailing team last night, clinging to the lead as the fleet continued the race through the South China Sea.
Groupama's persistence took them to within four nautical miles of Telefonica, the overall race leaders, with Puma Ocean Racing a lurking presence 11 miles behind the front-runner.
"It's going to be tight with Groupama," said Andrew Cape, Telefonica's Australian navigator. "They're a good team and very hard to get rid of."
The teams, relieved to be out of the Malacca Strait, were sailing against the wind towards a final landfall before what looks set to be a straight-line slog over 500 miles to the Vietnamese coast on their way to the Leg 3 Stage 2 finish in Sanya.
Last night, Team Telefonica were still doing just enough to keep Groupama sailing team at bay.
"They're way too close for our liking," said Cape. "You have to react very quickly when they do something because you don't want to take chances when they're that close. You have to react very fast to their manoeuvres. It's going to be very interesting to watch."
Jean-Luc Nelias, Cape's opposite number on Groupama, said the fight was too close to call with such a long way to go. "Ridiculous this lead in view of what lies ahead," he said, adding: "We are still happy to be where we are."
Some 80 miles astern, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand lived up to their reputation as being fast upwind, revelling in the 15 knot north-easterly winds to position themselves to the east of fourth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Robert Greenhalgh, the Abu Dhabi watch captain, said he expected opportunities to open up in the gale force winds and big seas expected in the next 24 hours.
"As the breeze builds, things may well even up," he said. "Once the wind's up above 25 knots and the sea state builds, it's anyone's game."