The crews of the Volvo Ocean Race Leg 6 leaders Camper and Azzam were last night hoping that their inshore split from the rest of the fleet had paid off.
With 80 miles of lateral separation seperating the leading pair from their rivals, Ian Walker, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper, said it was difficult to determine who was in the strongest position.
"Camper and ourselves are trying to keep out of the current, staying inshore," Walker said on the race website yesterday. "It might be that there's something off the land. It's very much in the balance though - the wind might fill in from the east a bit later.
"I wouldn't like to call who's in the best position right now."
Last night Azzam trailed Camper by just four nautical miles with Puma 25 miles astern and Telefonica and Groupama more than 40 miles behind.
The leading pair could have been even further ahead but for a close encounter with an oil research vessel towing nearly five miles of seismic cables.
"We were quickly hailed by the ship's captain and asked to divert our course immediately north until we were crossing safely behind," Nick Dana, Azzam's media crew member said in a blog yesterday. "Sadly, all the hard work to the boat lifted and fast over the previous 12 hours were lost in a matter of minutes."
Hamish Hooper, the Camper media crew member, estimated the diversion cost them five miles on the remainder of the fleet.
The lateral divide was forced on the fleet by changing wind direction, meaning both groups had to commit to their inshore or offshore routes.
Walker said now the decision had been made it would be a question of who came off best in the race to pick up the trade winds.
"Once we settle into the trade winds later on everyone's probably going to take a similar line and it will be more boat speed orientated," he said. "There's always decisions to be made but for sure right now there's quite a big separation, quite a big difference in current and could quite easily be a big difference in breeze."
Dana said: "While we were confident that our more northerly route would take us comfortable past Cabo Frio and into the trades, an unexpected course change has now landed us a bit tighter to land and in less wind."
On Camper the future was equally unclear.
"Our hope is we will get a favourable wind shift and an ounce more pressure and be able to skirt inside them all and out in front as we hit the trades," Hooper said.
* Compiled with The National staff
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