A bold tactical move has seen Team New Zealand's Camper come from last place to steal a narrow lead in leg seven of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Some smart sailing saw Camper make up more than 80 nautical miles in 48 hours to edge in front in the vital race to Portugal.

After splitting from the fleet and heading north to find more favourable breeze, Camper slipped into the lead overnight and, as of Saturday afternoon (NZT), they enjoy a slim 4.6 nautical mile lead over Abu Dhabi with overall leaders Telefonica 32 nm back.

As Camper, 13 points behind Telefonica, search for their first leg win and the 30 points that go with it, media crew member Hamish Hooper paid tribute to the bold decision from skipper Chris Nicholson and navigator Will Oxley which delivered the impressive comeback.


"Will's and Nico's long-laboured and meticulously conjured up plan to head north and split from the fleet paid big dividends and all of a sudden we have managed to leap frog a fair chunk of the fleet," he said.

"It's a nice feeling going from one wrong extreme to the right one but it's by no means anything to get too carried away with, other than a quiet grin and momentary warm sense of satisfaction for the guys who have all been toiling away quietly and focused."

Hooper's sentiments were echoed by Nicholson, who understood there was no room for complacency for the team with 2000 nm remaining to Lisbon and an unstable weather outlook for the rest of the leg.

"There's a lot of variable weather going on in this leg and not all of it is panning out for some people," Nicholson said. "It all makes for a very unstable leaderboard."

In the short term, conditions should become more upwind over the next 12 hours, before light and variable winds meet the fleet as they attempt to pick up a frontal system developing in the north east.

The lead boat is expected to find the front in the next day or two and will then enjoy running conditions into the finish, which should enable them to steal a jump on the trailing pack.

Picking up the front in a strong position will be critical to a top finishing position, and Nicholson is desperate to do just that.

"There's some good running conditions ahead which should suit us, but it's really vital that we pick up the front delivering those running conditions in good shape.

"There's so much left to play out in this leg and by no means is it going to be a straight forward finish - there's plenty of nervous times ahead."

The latest estimated arrival time into Lisbon is June 1 (NZT).