Burning bright: Groupama skipper Franck Cammas became only second French skipper to win Volvo Ocean Race
Overall victory was sealed early on Tuesday morning when Franck Cammas became only the second French skipper to win the Volvo Ocean Race, guiding his Groupama team in to a rapturous welcome from more than 100,000 people in Galway.
Needing to finish fourth or better to confirm the closest finish in the race's history - never before had the winner still been unknown with two legs remaining - Cammas's Groupama 4 boat finished second in the ninth and final leg, a short 550-mile sprint from Lorient in France.
Groupama and Camper on the rounding of the iconic Fastnet Rock at 1031 UTC on Monday, marking the final 150 nautical mile stretch to the finish at Galway, Ireland
"This is an incredible moment for me," said Cammas, who follows 1985-86 winner Lionel Pean as the only French winner of the 39-year-old offshore event.
"It was always my dream just to participate in this race. The first book I ever read was about this race and it hasn't sunk in yet."
It was the first time that France had competed in the race for 18 years and Cammas was considered a big outsider despite a big reputation in his home country as a single-handed and team sailor.
Cammas had looked an unlikely winner at the start of the 39,270-nautical mile marathon after making a poor navigation choice in the first leg from Spain to South Africa and finishing well off the pace set by Spanish boat Telefonica, who won the first three legs.
Highlights of Groupama's victorious 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race, starting in Alicante and ending with their triumphant arrival in Galway after nine grueling legs through the world's toughest and most inhospitable seas.
But Cammas clawed back the early advantage by the seventh of nine legs - at one point they were nearly 30 points behind Telefonica - to leave the consistent French outfit as favourites to win overall.
"The race started badly for us but every single member of the team raised their level and that's what saw us home," Cammas said.