Peter Burling, Blair Tuke among sailors departing Auckland for Volvo Ocean Race's fiercest leg

The start of the latest Volvo Ocean Race stage was an aggressive affair as the seven yachts set sail from Auckland to Brazil.

A brisk wind accompanied the seven boats out of Waitemata Harbour for the seventh and toughest leg of the race which traverses the Southern Ocean.

Despite the length of the 7600 nautical mile (14,000km) journey, the boats were combative in the pre-start, with race leader Mapfre the first across the line.

In 20 knots of breeze and accompanied by a sizeable fleet of spectator boats, they set sail for Itajai, a stage expected to take between three and four weeks.

With double points on offer and a bonus point for rounding Cape Horn first, it is among the most influential of the 11-stage race.

Among the departees was a fully-repaired Vestas 11th Hour Racing, which missed the sixth leg from Hong Kong to Auckland after colliding late in leg five and requiring extensive repairs.

The collision killed a Hong Kong fisherman and injured nine others.

It is three weeks since the other six boats arrived in Auckland, when Dutch entry Team AkzoNobel pipped Hong Kong rival SHK Scallywag by just two minutes.

Volvo Ocean Race standings:

MAPFRE 39, Dongfeng Race Team 34, SHK Scallywag 26, Team AkzoNobel 23, Vestas 11th Hour Racing 23, Team Brunel 20, Turn the Tide on Plastic 12.

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were amongst those fare-welling family today. Source: 1 NEWS