In the end, the Kiwi, in charge of Dutch challenge ABN Amro, romped away to win when a strengthening breeze activated the turbo of his 70-foot yacht, producing exactly the conditions in which Black Betty (as the boat is affectionately named) excels, and took him into overdrive.
Sanderson has taken maximum points at every stage of the 31,250-mile round-the-world event since it left Spain on 12 November. But the most significant moments came before the wind stiffened in yesterday's 24-mile race, as the Brazilian Torben Grael, who had worked through the night preparing a boat that had arrived by truck from Fremantle on Wednesday, led for the first half only to finish fifth.
A sail-handling foul-up wrecked Grael's fairytale ending, but Sanderson was also headed at times by both Paul Cayard's Disney-backed Pirates of the Caribbean and Bouwe Bekking in Spain's movistar while the wind was softer and shifting in direction. And Britain's Neal McDonald, recovering from a premature start in Ericsson, also showed real speed on the way to being fourth.
If Sanderson and his colleague Sebastien Josse in ABN 2, who was sixth, hope for another one-two on the leg to Wellington, which starts next Sunday, they will have to hope the Tasman is in one of its vicious moods. Otherwise, the race at last looks more open and competitive.