The wisdom of Team New Zealand's decision to head north to go south was confirmed yesterday when the Camper boat returned to the front of the fleet after capitalising on a wind shift to the north.
After sitting in fourth place for much of the day by way of their most northerly position, Team New Zealand's advantage was finally illustrated on the leaderboard when they turned the corner late yesterday and began to head southeast.
Late last night, Camper were sitting in first place with a lead of six nautical miles over Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. French boat Groupama were a further mile back in third.
Instead of flying south once clear of the Luzon Strait, the fleet were forced to sail a northeasterly course away from their destination by a cold front blocking the path to Auckland.
After several days of tacking upwind to the north chasing the looming trade winds in an effort to hitch a fast ride down to the equator, Camper finally found the breeze they were looking for yesterday afternoon and began to head south.
Skipper Chris Nicholson said the conditions were dictating the unusual approach to the leg, but he is happy with the way things have played out.
"We've done a good job so far and stuck to our game plan which is all about getting east and into the trades at or near the top of the fleet. We're in a strong position at the moment and now we just need to defend it and make the most of it," he said.
However, Groupama, who are in the same patch of water as Camper, pose a threat as the boats head further east where they are expected to encounter reaching conditions.
"The guys behind us are really strong in tight, reaching conditions which is what we'll most likely be facing for the next few days," said Nicholson. "So it's critical how we deal with this next stage and we need to ensure that we stay on a part of the racecourse where we have advantage over our competitors."
Groupama are equally comfortable, with helmsman Charles Caudrelier joking his team are happy to play follow the leader for now.
"We never went to Auckland before so we are following the Kiwis, hopefully they know the way."