Volvo Ocean Race Leg 7, on board Dongfeng
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 7, MAPFRE and Dongfeng setting the pace
It was an intense start to Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race as the fleet sped out of the Hauraki Gulf and straight into the teeth of a 30-knot easterly.
Upwind, heavy air starts to legs are never fun and this was no different - an exhausting 24 hours of boat-banging into the waves and regular tacking along the Coromandel Peninsula and East Cape.
Sleep would have been hard to come by. Stomachs were no doubt unsettled. And the prospect of three weeks more would have tested the nerves. But that's all in the past now. On Sunday night (UTC), the fleet passed East Cape, the easternmost point of New Zealand, and turned right, heading due south.
The wind has eased as well, down to 10 to 15 knots, and still from the east, making for a more comfortable sailing angle, as the boats reach down the coast on port tack.
MAPFRE and Dongfeng led the fleet out of the Waitemata Harbour and Hauraki Gulf following Sunday's start and they still hold the lead now, laying down a marker that the pair leading the overall standings are still a force to be reckoned with, even if they didn't post the strongest results coming into New Zealand.
Team Brunel and team AkzoNobel are the closest pursuers.
"We're chipping away, we're going alright all in all," said team AkzoNobel watch captain Chris Nicholson as his team rounded East Cape in sight of Brunel and Turn the Tide on Plastic.
A few miles further back is Vestas 11th Hour Racing and SHK/Scallywag.
"It’s good to have East Cape and that long upwind leg behind us," tweeted Vestas 11th Hour Racing navigator Simon Fisher. "Lots of tacks and no sleep in the last 24 hours. Now for some rest."
That was a common refrain, from the front to the back of the fleet - this was an exhausting start to Leg 7.
"We had a bad start, so we've been pushing really hard to try and catch up," said Scallywag skipper David Witt.
"We haven't had any sleep yet really, which probably isn't the best preparation for going to 50-degrees south, but we're all doing it. That's the game."