The US boat Puma leads the Volvo Ocean Race race as the eight boats competing battled strong winds and heavy seas off the southeast coast of Africa.

Skippered by Ken Read, Puma was seven miles clear of Sweden's Ericsson 3 and another six miles clear of Ericsson 4 at 7am Irish time this morning.

But the testing conditions have led to damage to the US boat forcing Read to drop speed and likely cede the lead in the race.

The biggest victim of the bad weather though was the joint Chinese/Irish entry Green Dragon, which has informed race controllers that its boom had been smashed by the wind.

'We are picking up the pieces and have the situation under control,' skipper Ian Walker said. 'No one was injured and we are not in any danger.'

All eight boats were closely grouped within 100 miles of each other as they headed up the Indian Ocean coast towards Mauritius.

The second leg of the prestigious race around the world got under way from Cape Town on Saturday as the crews set off for Asia, with the threat of piracy along the way.

It is the first time in the race's 35-year history that teams will race to Cochin, India and along with towering seas and icebergs the yachts are expected to dodge local fishing fleets and pirates off the east coast of Africa.

According to organisers an exclusion zone has been set up, to the northwest of Mauritius, to keep the fleet well clear of the most dangerous area of known piracy.

The second leg of the race is 4,450 miles and the leader is expected to finish around 3 December.

A scoring gate has been defined along the meridian of 58-degrees east, restricting yachts to pass north of Antarctica and south of Mauritius.

Each yacht receives points according to their position in each of the ten legs. Half-points are also awarded at six scoring gates along the route and for seven in-port races.

Ericsson 4 led the first record-breaking haul into Cape Town, followed by Puma from the United States.

Overall standings at 0700 GMT today:

1 Puma Racing (USA) at 3313 miles from Cochin (India)
2 Ericsson 3 (SWE) at 7 miles from the leader
3 Ericsson 4 (SWE) at 13 miles
4 Telefonica Blue (ESP) at 24 miles
5 Telefonica Black (ESP) at 31 miles
6 Delta Lloyd (PBS) at 72 miles
7 Green Dragon (CHN/IRL) at 75 miles
8 Team Russia (RUS) at 92 miles