The Volvo Ocean Race fleet was anticipating a possible shakeup of positions in the approach to the Straits of Malacca - and they weren't disappointed today.

The boats entered a tacking duel as they approached the top of Indonesia and the boats traded positions a number of times.

Camper was leading but overall leader Telefonica was second, just 0.3 of a nautical mile behind. Only five nautical miles separated the first four boats, adding to the pressure of racing through a narrow body of water strewn with navigational hazards.

American boat Puma received a warning of the dangers ahead after being hit by unidentified debris near the Malacca Strait, the most hazardous stretch of water the boats will face in the Volvo Ocean Race.


"It's not going to be a very peaceful few days," Camper navigator Will Oxley said. "Firstly because of the shipping and the narrow channels and secondly because we have three boats in very close company. It's about 500-odd miles to Singapore so I'm getting prepared for not much sleep."

The passage through the Malacca Strait could take up to three days to sail. Teams must keep a constant watch for commercial shipping, fishing boats and nets and objects floating just below the surface.

And with light winds expected and strong tidal currents, there is a prospect competitors will have to anchor to avoid being carried in the wrong direction.

The team emerging from the strait first will hold a commanding position for the final part of the leg through the South China Sea to Sanya, China. The first boat is expected to finish around February 5 or 6.

The boats failed to lay the point around the top of Indonesia and a close-quarters in-shore tacking duel followed.

Telefonica and Camper traded tack after tack on the 25 nautical mile beat to Pulau We, with Puma not far behind. Telefonica held off the sustained attacks and managed to cling to their lead, but there was only 0.1 of a nautical mile difference as they entered the strait.

"You could have thrown a blanket over the three of us as we crossed the longitude of Palau We," Oxley said

As the leading pack began to round the island, Puma grabbed Camper's second place when they cut the corner as Camper went further off-shore in search of better winds. But when the boats crossed again a few minutes later, Camper had reclaimed second place. They then edged ahead but the cat-and-mouse racing is likely to continue for a few days.