Itajai - American team PUMA overhauled Groupama to snatch the lead in the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday, as Spanish rivals Telefonica returned to action following a pit stop for repairs.
PUMA stole the lead from Groupama as the pair duelled through the South Atlantic towards the Leg 5 finish line in Itajai, Brazil.
The leading two are the only teams in the fleet not to have suffered serious damage during the 6 700 nautical mile leg through the Southern Ocean from Auckland, New Zealand.
The only other team in a position to threaten the frontrunners are Telefnica, who resumed their chase after stopping briefly in Martial Creek, a tiny cove in the Cabo de Hornos National Park, to carry out repairs.
"An elusive first place is well within our reach, and the current fleet circumstances make things even more interesting," said PUMA crewman Amory Ross.
"Almost simultaneously with daylight's first position report, the focus clearly became Groupama and the remaining miles to Itajai.
"Not to discount the last 13 days of this leg, but things have almost started anew out here."
On the overall leaderboard, 15 points separate Groupama in second from leaders Telefonica, with Puma 39 points behind in fourth.
"Every single position counts from here on in, so it's very important for us to beat PUMA in," said Groupama helmsman Damian Foxall.
With Chinese entry Team Sanya forced to retire from the leg, and Camper/Team New Zealand and Abu Dhabi hampered by breakages, Telefonica were confident of a podium position.
"The leaders are still very far away, but so too are the boats at the back," skipper Iker Martinez said.
"Third place looks realistic. Second place looks pretty unrealistic today but anything can happen. We have to keep racing hard and cut down the miles."
Overall standings after four of nine offshore legs:
1. Telefonica (Spain) 122 points; 2. Groupama 107; 3. Camper/ETNZ (Spain/New Zealand) 104; 4. PUMA (United States) 83; 5. Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) 55; 6. Sanya (China) 25