Alicante - Dongfeng Race Team stretched its lead at the head of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet in the third leg to China on Sunday.
Charles Caudrelier's crew are aiming to become the first Chinese boat to win a leg in offshore sailing's leading round-the-world race, which was first held in 1973.
There would be no better place to do it than Sanya, their home port on the southern tip of China, which is the destination of the
4 670-nautical mile leg three that began in Abu Dhabi on 3 January and is likely to be completed around 24 January.
On Sunday, after nine days of sailing, they had increased their lead of just under 12 miles over closest challengers, Team Brunel of the Netherlands.
The boats were locked at the top of the standings before the start of the leg on four points with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
The fleet still has just under 3 000 nautical miles to sail, including a hazardous stretch through the Malacca Strait, which is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and separates the Indonesian island of Sumatra from Malaysia.
The racing boats will need to dodge slow-moving fishing vessels and all kinds of debris in the much-polluted waters.
Meanwhile, Team Vestas Wind, the Danish boat that was grounded during leg two from Cape Town and Abu Dhabi on 29 November, was heading for Italy for a rebuild.
The target is to return the badly damaged vessel to the race for the final two legs from Lisbon in June.
The 38 739 nautical mile, nine-month race is held every three years and visits 11 ports around the world and every continent.