Leg 4, Day 7: Dongfeng is windward boat and third on the Tracker

For the first time in five days Dongfeng Race Team has slipped off the top of the leaderboard, as the sweltering conditions in Leg 4 from Melbourne to Hong Kong intensify in the Doldrums off Malaita in the Solomon Islands.

Mid-way through their seventh day at sea, Dongfeng is the windward boat and furthest east of the now densely-packed leading group and thus the official tracker has her in third place, but less than half a mile behind new leader MAPFRE.

The boats are clawing along at what for Volvo Ocean 65s is the sluggish speed of just nine knots in seven knots of wind, as the crews fight for every ounce of speed in light easterlies that have allowed the backmarkers to make huge gains.

Right now the top-five boats are separated by less than four miles and are all visible to each other both on the water and on AIS and the backmarker, Team Sun Hung Kai Scallywag, is only 32.5 miles behind the leader.

The weather could not be more unpredictable with constant changes in wind strength and direction and the ever-present danger of being sucked into a windless hole under a cloud or, conversely, being whacked by a squall in a thunderstorm.

The routing indicates that navigators will be trying to get as far north as they can as quickly as they can to come into the influence of the northeast trade winds and to try to escape a huge area of calms that stretches 1,200 miles along the course to Hong Kong.

The crews have gone from foulies to shorts and T-shirts and the battle now is to stay hydrated as the intense heat and humidity of the Tropics takes its toll, especially down below where there is no escape from the extreme temperatures.

Latest position report at 0700UTC:

1. MAPFRE. DTF: 3,395nm

2. Vestas 11th Hour Racing. DTL 0,3m

3. Dongfeng Race Team. DTL 0,4m

4. Team AkzoNobel. DTL: 1.8nm

5. Turn The Tide on Plastic. DTL: 3,8nm

6. Team Brunel. DTL: 11,7nm

7. Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag. DTL: 32,5nm