The Sanya crew, led by a former winner Mike Sanderson but using a second-hand boat, are on a sharp learning curve in offshore racing's toughest professional test. They trail the rest of the boats after half the race by 30 points having suffered two suspensions so far to make repairs on their hull and rigging. But Sunday's tight in-shore course in Auckland perfectly suited Kiwi Sanderson, who learned to sail in the city, and he nursed a half-mile lead as the fleet headed out to the Pacific and into an expected huge overnight storm. The Aucklander was cheered to the outer limits of the city and beyond by a huge armada of local spectator boats. The race is at a key point with the boats still closely bunched in the overall standings halfway through the nine-month, 39,000 nautical mile test. Telefonica of Spain lead by 15 points from French entry Groupama but with each leg counting 30 points apiece and five stages still to contest, the race is still wide open. “I have been following this race closely since 1981 and I don't think we've had one in that time where we still simply don't know how it's going to be settled by this point of the race,” said Sanderson.