As Franck Cammas closed in on a small measure of revenge for France narrowly losing the world rugby cup final at Auckland’s nearby Eden Park, his Lorient-based Groupama was also set to break the run of three wins in the first three legs chalked up by gold medallist Iker Martinez in Spain's Telefonica in the Volvo round the world race.
In a double blow to Kiwi pride, Cammas could also move into second place overall, moving the other Spanish boat, Camper, which is managed, campaigned, and largely crewed by Team New Zealand, though skippered by Australian Chris Nicholson, down to third.
They wanted to be first home, but the accolade for being first Kiwi home was going to Groupama's Aucklander crewman Brad Marsh.
To the chagrin of the organisers, the long fourth leg from Sanya, China, delayed by 18 hours at the start and late by 72 hours at the finish, Cammas was expected to pull into the Viaduct Basin dock after midnight.
At least the sailing-mad Aucklanders could then expect to see the chasing group arrive on their Sunday morning. Though in what order second third and fourth would pan out was a close run thing. With 200 miles to go, the American-flagged Puma, Camper, and Telefonica were within five miles of each other and facing a tricky run around the northern point of Cape Rienga and down the east coast of North Island.
Thirty and 50 miles astern were Abu Dhabi’s Azzam, skippered by British double silver Olympic medallist Ian Walker, and China's Sanya, with 2005-06 winner, but Kiwi native Mike Sanderson, at the helm.