After escaping the claws of the South China Sea, the Volvo Ocean Race crews revealed their hands yesterday, with the fleet splitting off in different directions four days into the fourth leg.

The decisions made by the crews upon exiting the Strait of Luzon delivered an immediate shake-up to the leaderboard, as Team New Zealand, who led the fleet for most of the first three days, headed northeast in search of better breeze.

The move saw the Camper-sponsored boat give up their lead, which is measured in terms of distance to finish, but they are chasing long- term reward as they try to work themselves into a stronger tactical position.

Over the next few days Camper skipper Chris Nicholson faces a fine balancing act as he judges how much distance to finish to sacrifice in pursuit of more favourable winds before diving south towards the equator and ultimately Auckland.


"It feels a bit strange to be sailing away from where we want to go but the reality is we need to position ourselves to the northeast to remain in decent breeze," said Nicholson.

Camper's move initially split the fleet with overall leader Telefonica choosing to take a more direct southerly route after clearing the Luzon Strait behind Team New Zealand. However, after a few hours and sailing into increasingly lighter conditions, Telefonica tacked yesterday afternoon and joined the rest of the fleet on the northerly route.

Late last night Camper was sitting in second place around 7 nautical miles behind Groupama, however as all boats are currently sailing away from the next waypoint, the tracker can be misleading.

After slow progress through the Luzon Strait speeds have been building as the fleet heads out into the Philippine Sea.

For much of yesterday Camper averaged above 15 knots.

Nicholson said that while it was a relief to be out of the South China Sea the tactical headaches continued.

"Life on board is pretty uncomfortable and with the breeze due to drop over the coming hours it's not going to get any easier," he said.

"There's no doubt that we've got a few days of very tricky sailing in front of us as we attempt to make our way through these variable systems in the best shape possible. It's going to be a relief when we finally get into some trade wind sailing."