Team New Zealand's Camper have slipped from the lead in the Volvo Ocean Race but the extreme Southern Ocean conditions means the fifth leg is well and truly up for grabs.
Camper held the overnight advantage and, over the last 24 hours, had been pushing hard to gain an advantage over the rest of the fleet by carrying a spinnaker longer than anyone else. But, with conditions worsening, focus has turned to survival and reining in the power of the boat which is travelling along at more than 30 knots in winds gusting up to 50 knots.
"It's a pretty stressful situation and your total focus is just on keeping everything in one piece," Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said. "Conditions are horrendous and fatigue is setting in, so it's all about keeping safe and you almost forget about the race at times."
Groupama were leading the fleet this evening (Sat), with overall race leader Telefonica in second place 16.1nm off the pace and Camper a further 13.4nm back in third.
With Cape Horn just under 3000 miles away, fewer than 50nm separate the top four boats as they race at high speed through the remotest area on the planet. The wild conditions have seen Camper clock up the best 24 hour run of the fifth leg with a 530nm plus effort.
Nicholson said it was a fine balance between racing and preserving boat and crew.
"We've had the hammer down and have been pushing pretty hard, but in these conditions you just can't do that all the time. It's the age old question of just how hard do we push it? It is a very fine line.
"This is like driving the highest performance car on the roughest road you can imagine - things will go wrong. The boat is generally in good shape though. We've had a couple of enormous nose dives but that's the Southern Ocean for you."
Camper media crew member Hamish Hooper had an interesting description for life on board during the times the boat was skimming through the mountainous seas.
"These conditions, it feels and sounds like you are on an out of control freight train, travelling through time with a conductor who gets the accelerator and brakes mixed up," he said.
With almost a week of ferocious speed sailing ahead of them, uppermost in all the crews' minds was the goal of reaching Cape Horn intact.