Leg 6, Day 18: Swings and roundabouts at the front of the fleet

It has been chop and change at the front of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet over the past 24 hours. At one point it was Turn the Tide on Plastic leading the charge, then Team AkzoNobel, before Scallywag had their turn at front in the latest position report at 0700 UTC.

It was Team Brunel however, who had all eyes on them this morning. As they exited stealth mode they emerged only 4.7 nautical miles behind the leader in terms of distance to finish after opting to sail a higher course, putting them further east of their closest competitors, Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE.

After finally kissing goodbye to the doldrums, the fleet are now in a drag race south, trying to squeeze every last bit of boat speed out of their machines. The good news for the two red boats - who seem to be joined by ‘the bungee’ again in fifth and sixth place - is that the deficit from the frontrunners is now below 50 miles, gaining 10 miles since the last position report.

With the atolls now behind the fleet, the next land they will see is the north island of New Zealand and home sweet home for our Kiwi sailor, Daryl Wislang. We are sure he and everyone on board Dongfeng will be doing everything they can to reel in the leaders.

As skipper, Charles Caudrelier and navigator, Pascal Bidegorry will no doubt be aware, there could well be opportunities to catch up in the closing stages of the race. The east-west split is now between 200 - 300 miles, with the lead group to the west now under pressure to sail faster speeds as they have a greater distance to travel to arrive into Auckland.

Only over the next couple of days will it start to become clear as to which group will emerge victorious. It seems like it is almost in the hands of the weather gods now, how will they deal their cards?

Latest position report at 0700 UTC:

1. Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag. DTF: 945.6nm
2. Team Brunel. DTL: 4.7nm
3. Team AkzoNobel DTL: 8.1nm
4. Turn the Tide on Plastic. DTL: 10.8nm
5. MAPFRE. DTL: 40.8nm
6. Dongfeng Race Team. DTL: 47.7nm
Vestas 11th Hour Racing, DNS