Triple blow scuppers Spanish hopes
Three rudder breakages left long-time leaders Telefonica's hopes of a first Volvo Ocean Race win for Spain hanging by a thread on Friday after French front-runners Groupama won the race into their home port of Lorient for a leg eight triumph.
Only one stage of the 39 000-nautical mile, nine-month off-shore sailing marathon remains - from Lorient in France to Galway, Ireland - with Franck Cammas needing a top three finish to make sure of the overall victory for Groupama.
The leg eight win from Lisbon to Lorient, a distance of 1 940 nautical miles, ensures Groupama a lead of 23 points after they passed the finish line five days after setting off from Lisbon.
Camper (Spain/New Zealand) eventually edged skipper Ken Read's Puma boat (US) for second place, with the American team moving up to second place overall.
"“It's very good feeling for sure, it's a dream we had 10 months ago and we realised this dream now by winning in Lorient," said Cammas, who is skippering France's first entry in the race since 1993-94.
"“It's not finished, we still have one leg to do and it is important to do this leg very well. We have to have a good celebration tonight."
France have only won the event once before when Lionel Pean triumphed on L'Esprit d'Equipe in 1985.
Spain's chances of a first success in the 39-year-old race took a huge blow overnight when a third damaged rudder left Telefonica limping home second from last after earlier leading the stage.
Their boat, headed by London Olympics gold medal contender Iker Martinez, had led the race from November to May.
The race concludes in Galway on July 7.