Team New Zealand's Camper has led the fleet out of Auckland in a battle against more than 37-knot winds on the opening night of Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean race, that has already forced Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing back to port with damage.
The fierce conditions caused by a tropical storm near the North Island are giving the teams no time to ease back into racing after the brief stopover in Auckland, and there is no relief in sight with the weather tipped to worsen to over the next 24 hours.
Camper navigator Will Oxley says hopefully the team can continue its trend of starting the leg well, but this time carry it on through the entire leg.
Oxley says his team was able to navigate to their lead by weaving around Rakino Island, gaining an advantage from the tide.
Eary on CAMPER held a 0.3 nautical mile lead over PUMA Ocean Racing, with overall race leaders Team Telefónica third.
The crew on board Abu Dhabi's Azzam were forced to return to Auckland's Viaduct Harbour last night after just five-and-a-half hours into the leg, after their Volvo Open 70 crashed off a steep wave and ripped a bulkhead in their bow.
Abu Dhabi team director Jamie Boag said he expected repairs to take about 24 hours.