Team NZ remain fifth but they’ve made up ground to be less than 30 nautical miles off the leader as the six round-the-world yacht race crews face a frenetic final 36 hours on the seventh leg into Lisbon.

Just 45nm separated leaders Abu Dhabi from sixth-placed Team Sanya this morning (NZT) as Groupama continued their climb up the Volvo Ocean Race rankings, slipping past Puma Ocean Racing into second.

Groupama were just 9nm off the lead and 5nm ahead of third-placed Puma, while overall race leaders Team Telefonica were in fourth, 28nm from first place and just 0.4nm ahead of Team New Zealand’s entry Camper.

First to feel the effects of the 200 nm-wide light wind high pressure ridge moving east towards the fleet, long time front runners Abu Dhabi have been steadily closed down by the chasing pack over the last 12 hours.

Camper, for example, gained about 20 nm on them in little over 12 hours.

"It’s a tricky period at the moment as we’ve known all along were going to sail into light winds and everyone is going to come catching up pretty fast,” Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker told the official race website.

”No one likes to lose miles and at the moment we’re losing miles to all the other boats. So it feels a bit awkward, but we’re still in the lead so it’s not all that bad.”

Abu Dhabi won’t be able to cover every attack they will face on the final fling, given the other five boats are spread 50 nm on a north-west to south-east axis.

”Sooner or later we’re going to have absolutely no wind, and it’s going to be a question of who pops out first,” he said.

”We have a day and a half racing to go to Lisbon and were sitting here in the lead with a chance of winning the leg and we couldn’t have hoped for much more than that when we left Miami.”

According to race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante, all six boats could all enter the lightest winds at roughly the same time, given their positions.

The first boat out of the light air zone will have a significant advantage, with solid northerly Portuguese trade winds expected to build to about 15 to 18 knots on the final day.

There could be another twist as they reach Lisbon, however, with the possibility of patchy and shifty wind as they near the coast.

Latest estimates have the leader crossing the line late-morning or early-afternoon tomorrow (NZT).

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