Fatigue was easy to detect on the faces of former Hawke's Bay sailors Josh and Sam Tucker as they completed checks on their respective Round New Zealand Two Handed Yacht Race boats yesterday.

That was understandable considering the third leg of the four-leg race had been completed the previous day and catching up on sleep was a priority for the pair after arriving in Napier. But the banter between the brothers was sharp as.

"We're unlikely to beat them on overall classification but it will be nice to beat them on one leg," Sam, who is racing third placed Gale Force with fellow Aucklander Ken Ormandy remarked.

"We'll have the rum waiting for you when you get in to Auckland," Josh remarked as he referred to the final leg from Napier to Auckland which begins tomorrow.

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Josh who, at 41, is six years older than Sam, is racing second placed Motorboat II with another Aucklander Damon Jolliffe and they have won two of the three legs to date. As the brothers wandered around the Napier Sailing Club memories of their days as toddlers at the club flooded back.

Two of five brothers, the pair, raced with parents Jon and Barbara and their brothers in the 1991 Napier to Chatham Islands race. They won the handicap title.

Jon was a teacher at Te Aute College in those days but in 1995 he and Barbara left New Zealand and sailed to Mururoa to protest over French nuclear testing.

"They've been living on the boat ever since," Sam explained.

Josh, who works for Evolution Sails in Auckland when he isn't sailing, recently completed 16,000 nautical miles of sailing with his wife and three sons from France.

"We only got the boat for this race three months ago. We gave it a massive refit with new sails and this is only our second race in the boat. We were still bolting it as we started the first leg and we're still learning as we go."

A father of two and marine industry employee, Sam, is happy with how Gale Force is performing.

"Our main goal is to complete the race. Now we are in the top three we want to try to hold on to that spot. We get one more shot at winning a leg and it will be good to do that as we won't have another chance for a while. We're learning a lot as we go and the boat is getting better and better," Sam explained.

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Although there was one occasion on the second leg from Mangonui to Stewart Island when Gale Force was going backwards for two hours.

"We damaged our mainsail and we were trying to change it in the middle of the night off the West Coast of the South Island. Our spare one was a smaller cruising one ... hopefully we can get a new one before we leave the Bay."

Josh was humbled by the passion within the sailing community when he mentioned on Facebook Motorboat II's carbon fibre bowsprit snapped off Milford Sounds.

"A mate of mine at New Zealand Rigging built a new one and had a mate of his deliver it to Stewart Island before we arrived. That was phenomenal," Josh said.

The brothers admitted time away from family during races like this one can be tough.

"This is the longest time away from my boys I've had and it's hard after being with them 24/7 when we sailed from France," Josh said.

Sam missed his son Jeremy's sixth birthday on Thursday.

Race officer for the Shorthanded Sailing Association of New Zealand, Geoff Herd, pointed out the Tucker brothers battle is one of two cases of family rivalry in the race.

Sam Tucker's crewmate Ken Ormandy is a son of fellow Aucklander Dave Ormandy who is racing the fifth placed boat Arbitare with Wellingtonian Murray Hartley.

Aucklander Sally Garrett is the only female in the fleet. Garrett and another Aucklander, Rob Croft, are racing the fourth placed Coppelia and are the only boat and crew to be doing the race a second time.

"It is the toughest race in the southern hemisphere because it is two handed," Herd said.

"If all seven boats finish the crews will join a unique bunch of people who have sailed around their own country," Herd added.

Napier Sailing Club commodore Paul Redman, who can remember Josh Tucker racing optimists as a youngster at the club, is rapt the fleet continues to call into Napier.

"It's a great opportunity for our young kids to see what they can aspire to."

He pointed out 30 boats involved in next year's Round North Island race will also call into Napier.

"We're about to embark on work around the club to accommodate the 30 boats."

The Tucker brothers will be racing in that event too. If the banter between them is as good as it's been on the Round New Zealand race their crewmates won't be short of entertainment.

"The Round New Zealand race has only been raced three times and is more of an adventure compared with the Round North Island which is more of a sprint and more prestigious because it has been going for more than 40 years. Sir Peter Blake won the first one," Sam added.

The seven boats are scheduled to leave Napier at 10am tomorrow.

Overall elapsed time after three of the four legs:
Titanium (Chris Skinner, Shane Bellingham, Auckland) 10 days, 5hrs36m17s 1; Motorboat II (Damon Jolliffe, Josh Tucker, Auckland) 10:15:04:33 2; Gale Force (Ken Ormandy, Sam Tucker, Auckland) 11:7:09:15 3; Coppelia (Rob Croft, Sally Garrett, Auckland) 11:8:45:23 4; Arbitare (Murray Hartley, Dave Ormandy, Wellington) 11:15:12:43 5; Katana (Nigel Garland, Cory Mclennan, Auckland) 11:23:31:06 6; Krakatoa II (Scott Wilson, Logan Fraser, Auckland) 12:6:41:52 7.