Camper's boat speed let them down as they were overtaken by both Groupama and Telefonica in the short sprint to Abu Dhabi in the Volvo Ocean Race overnight (Wednesday-Thursday NZT).

The 98-mile sprint along the United Arab Emirates' coast from Sharjah to Abu Dhabi delivered the promised close quarters sailing with the entire fleet finishing within minutes of each other after an intense battle down the coast.

In a strong 20-25 knot wind, Camper made a faultless start and picked the right side of the course to lead the fleet at the first and only windward mark. However, on the long reach to the finish, superior boat speed from Telefonica and Groupama saw them pull Camper in and left them having to settle for third. Groupama secured victory by just 57 seconds, despite racing with a cracked hull.

"It was a tough one for us," Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said. "We did everything we wanted to do. Our game plan was spot on. We won the start and we picked the right side of the course but we then got passed on the drag race to the finish. There wasn't a huge amount of speed difference in it but there was enough for them to roll on past us in this short type of leg.

"I always look for faults in our performance and, when I look at today, it's hard to find them other than we were a little bit slow.

"We have our strengths, there's no doubt about that, but the reality is that at the moment in a 20 knot tight reach Telefonica and Groupama would appear to have a slight edge over us.

"There's a range of conditions which suit us better and we think we'll have a speed edge in over the rest of the fleet. We just need to bide our time for those conditions.

"We aim to win every race but if we can get podium finishes in legs dominated by conditions that we're not optimised for, then that's not a bad place to be."

Camper secured second overall for the punctuated second leg - boats sailed to a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean to avoid the threat of pirates - and remain second in the race, eight points adrift of race leader Telefonica.