Team New Zealand have slipped back to third in leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race after suffering sail damage as the fleet hit boisterous trade wind conditions.

Having finally picked up the elusive northeast trade winds, the Camper crew were enjoying boat speeds surging above 20 knots to make good progress towards Auckland.

But a blown tack rope early yesterday slowed them considerably as the crew were forced to drop the J2 sail for several painful hours to carry out hasty repairs, causing a costly drop in boat speed.

The setback saw Camper lose valuable miles to leaders Groupama, undoing all their hard graft the previous day. Their problems were compounded late yesterday when the New Zealand boat were run down by Puma, as the easterly boats in the fleet enjoyed more favourable conditions.


Groupama, Puma and Abu Dhabi have been benefiting from better wind strength and angle that is likely to translate into further advantage over the next 24 hours until conditions even out across the fleet.

Late last night Groupama held a lead of just over 83 nautical miles over Puma, who have done an impressive job of recovering from a horror start, with Camper a further mile back. Overall race leaders Telefonica were also lurking dangerously close, a further four miles back.

Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said it's a matter of hanging tough until the boats hit the Equator and the South Pacific convergence zone.

"The boats to the east have a pretty clear advantage in this drag race with their better reaching angles, so it's a case of staying in touch with them until we hit the Equator and the convergence zone," said Nicholson.

"At this rate we'll be at the Equator in three days. Then it starts to open up and there are plenty of opportunities in the South Pacific and heading to New Zealand."

"There's a lot of sailing to be done yet in this race and we see plenty of options developing as we head further south."

Should the more easterly boats continue to steam along at the pace they are, Camper's 24-hour speed distance record for the current edition of the Volvo Ocean Race could be under threat. The Kiwi boat set the bar at 554.16nm during Leg 1 from Alicante to Cape Town.