Other boats close in but Englishman opts to rest his Abu Dhabi Ocean racing crew before end of Leg 7.
Azzam skipper Ian Walker expects frantic finish
The team, skippered by Ian Walker, managed to keep their lead in Leg 7 over second-placed Puma steady at around 30 nautical miles. They have also made an effort to preserve energy in anticipation of a frantic finish once the teams enter a zone of light winds outside Lisbon.
Having successfully fended off attacks overnight, Walker said this morning that his team were now focusing on preparing for the massive ridge lying about 100 miles off Lisbon's coast.
With relatively flat seas and decent winds Walker said there were few sail changes, which meant he could rest his men ahead of what would be a round-the-clock effort to protect their lead in the final day's sailing to the finish.
"We are approaching 1,000 miles to go and our plan is to rest people up while the going is easy so that we have fully charged batteries for what will certainly be a frantic last 36 hours," Walker said.
"If that means everyone on deck then so be it. There will be time to rest in Lisbon."
The Abu Dhabi team lost around 60 miles to Puma before stemming the tide. Groupama also made a big move, improving from fifth to third to take a prominent position, along with Camper and Team Telefonica.
Jean-Luc Nelias, the Groupama navigator, said his team were hopeful they could continue to make gains all the way to the ridge.
"We are surfing ahead of this front in 20 to 25 knots of south-west winds," Nelias said. "The danger is the front could overtake us and the winds behind the front are lighter and less stable. For the moment we are pushing hard."
Volvo meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said he expected the fleet to reach the 200 mile wide ridge tomorrow, and it should take the teams 12 to 15 hours to cross it, before they reach the Portuguese trades.
"Whoever can best navigate it and reach the Portuguese trades first will gain a major boost that will see them stretch from the fleet a lot," Infante said.
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