• 27-FEB-2015

Last 36 hours at sea before the Auckland finish line

An epic fourth leg in the Volvo Ocean Race was heading for a grandstand finish on Saturday (28) with the first three boats separated by just over 8 nautical miles (nm) with less than 300nm left to sail to New Zealand.

The 5,264nm stage from Sanya, China to Auckland has been one of the most closely contested yet in the 2014-15 edition and is still too tight to call with the boats due to finish on Saturday evening local time (2000-2400 local time/0800-1200 UTC) after 21 days of head-to-head racing.

Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), who had been leading, lost their advantage to rivals Abu Dhabi Ocean (Ian Walker/GBR) but at 0040 UTC on Thursday, they were just 7.3nm apart.

Spanish boat MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) were also well in contention in third place, just over 0.7nm further adrift.

Walker's team had been just one point behind Dongfeng Race Team in the overall standings after three legs of nine. In all, the race will cover 38,739nm, visiting 11 ports and every continent, finishing in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 27.