America's Cup and Olympic teammates Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are battling for the lead in the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Tuke's Mapfre crew lead the latest leg which began from Lisbon overnight. Tuke is a trimmer and helmsman of the pre-race favourite. The 7000 nautical mile (12,960km) leg, the second longest of the race, ends in Cape Town as the seven entries race south on the Atlantic Open.

Team Brunel, featuring Team New Zealand's victorious America's Cup skipper Burling, is just 3.2 nautical miles back in second place.

Team Brunel bounced back from a poor showing in the first leg by winning the in-port series in Lisbon yesterday.

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Both Tuke and Burling are attempting the claim the triple crown of sailing - winning Olympic gold, the America's Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race.

The two Team New Zealand stars, rookies to the VOR game on the back of the Olympic and America's Cup heroics, face their first real tests of this blue water event.

"The real race starts now," Xabi Fernandez, the skipper of Mapfre, said.

"We will sail in a couple of days in heavy winds. Everyone will be competitive so we'll need to go as fast as we can."

The fast opening to the leg will evolve into a battle of patience and wits through the doldrums, a passage that can test even the most experienced sailors, and offers something special for the uninitiated.

Bouwe Bekking, sailing his eighth Volvo Ocean Race as skipper of Team Brunel, will take Burling on his longest offshore sojourn, including a first doldrums crossing that traditionally calls for a visit from King Neptune.

"We're racing, but this is part of the tradition of the race, and that's important," Bekking said.

"Someone like Peter Burling, there will be some nice footage of him, probably with a mohawk haircut or something like that ... we have some extra items on board so that Neptune welcomes these guys properly."