Leg 4, Day 8: Normally you’d just turn the engine on….

If you were out sailing, maybe on passage, and not taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race, then at this point – when the sea is like a mirror and windspeeds are less than two knots - you would have turned the engine on and left it whirring away for a couple of days.

You might also think of stopping for a swim….but of course this is not a cruise or a holiday and Dongfeng Race Team, like their rivals, do not have the option of turning on the “iron horse.” Instead they are experiencing the reverse stress of the Southern Ocean.

Although there is no white water cascading from the bow and trying to sweep them off the deck and it is not freezing cold, boatspeed is just as critical as when the power is on.

Right now, still due north of Malaita in the Solomon group, the fleet is stranded in windless conditions and intense heat and the game is all about trying to stay focused on eeking out as much forward momentum as possible.

It is a frustrating time because even the hardest-working crews can see their fortunes change dramatically as a result of being just a few hundred metres to leeward or windward of a rival.

Strategy-wise, the goal is still to get north as quickly as possible to where the northeast trade winds are filling in. But there is a long way to go to start to feel their influence just north of the Equator, which is still 330 nautical miles due north of the fleet. Once in those trades, however, it looks like a fast ride all the way into Hong Kong.

Midway through their eighth day at sea and after covering a mere 80-odd miles in 24 hours, the new leader is Dee Caffari’s crew on Turn the Tide on Plastic who have climbed up from fifth place by virtue of being the most leeward boat.

In second place is Vestas 11th Hour Racing (+2.8), with Team AkzoNobel third (+5.3). Then it is a resurgent Team Brunel in fourth place (+6.3) followed by Dongfeng Race Team in fifth (+7.9) and our big rivals MAPFRE in sixth place (+9.6). The backmarker remains Team Sun Hung Kai Scallywag, still 31 miles off the pace.

It is interesting that Dongfeng and MAPFRE are the two windward boats, about 11 miles due east of Turn the Tide. So far this has not been a particularly beneficial option, but could it pay over the next 24 hours?

Latest position report at 0700UTC:

1. Turn the Tide on Plastic. DTF: 3,303nm

2. Vestas 11th Hour Racing. DTL 2.8m

3. Team AkzoNobel. DTL: 2.3nm

4. Team Brunel. DTL: 6.3nm

5. Dongfeng Race Team. DTL: 7.9nm

6. MAPFRE. DTL: 9.6nm

7. Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag. DTL: 31.3nm