Alicante - New leaders Telefonica were fending off a counter-attack from riled US rivals Puma on Sunday as the two Volvo Ocean Race pacesetters sought a decisive southern advantage on leg one.
The two teams, both racing in latest generation boats from the winning designer of the last two races, have been neck and neck for the first two thirds of the mammoth 6 500 nautical mile (12 000kms) first leg from Alicante to Cape Town.
Spain's Telefonica finally put clear blue water between the pair with a tactical move that outfoxed Puma to their east on Friday evening.
Puma skipper Ken Read acknowledged that his rivals had made the better call.
"We had our butts handed to us," is how the American described it in an email from the boat - and since then they have been on the counter-attack.
In 24 hours the Americans have cut the deficit from over 50 nm to 35 and with more than 2 000 still to go there is everything to play for.
All the teams are driving south as fast as they can in a bid to be first to pick up a new cold weather front that should catapult them eastwards to Cape Town.
That should see the fleet moving at maximum speed for long periods during the final week, with a crack at the world monohull 24-hour speed record a real possibility.
Team New Zealand, racing in the Spanish boat Camper, are in third spot, 159 nm behind the leaders, with French entry Groupama out of the reckoning over 400 nm back after a tactical gamble that failed spectacularly in the first week.
The two other boats that started - Chinese entry Sanya and Abu Dhabi - had to pull out of the leg entirely after suffering damage to their boats in horrific weather in the first 24 hours.
They are shipping their boats to Cape Town in time for leg two, starting on December 11.
The Volvo Ocean Race start has traditionally been crucial, with the winner of the first leg going on to secure overall victory ever since the race went single-class in 1997.