Team New Zealand have been reined in by their Volvo Ocean Race rivals as the distance from first and last in the fleet has closed to just 44 nautical miles.

The six VO70 yachts left the Chinese city of Sanya seven days ago on the fourth of nine legs and are still heading broadly east as they search for the elusive trade winds that will sweep them south to Auckland.

The latest position report on Monday shows France's Groupama have pushed Team NZ's Camper back to second, although the margin between them is just 3nm.

Third is Spain's Telefonica, the overall race leader ahead of Team NZ, who are 17nm further back.

Groupama, who are to the north of most of the fleet, hit the front while averaging speeds of over 18.7 knots.

Two other crews to the north of Camper - Puma and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing - are also making good progress.

"I think, over the next day, you will see all the northern boats roll down over the guys below," Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said.

American team Puma, who are the furthest north, have made the biggest gains.

Having been almost 300nm behind after they took the radical decision to sail as far north as the Japanese islands in the hunt for favourable weather, they have closed to within 37nm of the lead.

NZ Newswire

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