Lorient, France – Frenchman Franck Cammas tightened his grip on the Volvo Ocean Race when he snatched a vital hometown victory in Lorient on Saturday.
Cammas' Groupama team head American challenger Puma, skippered by Ken Read, by 25 points. Fourth place or better on the final leg from Lorient to Galway, starting on Sunday, would guarantee them victory.
An in-port race in the Irish port on July 7 completes the nine-month, 39,000-nautical mile race.
France have won the 39-year-old event - formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race - only once before when Lionel Pean triumphed in 1985.
Not for the first time, Cammas profited from some of his closest rivals' errors on Saturday with Puma and then Camper (Spain/New Zealand) bungling sail changes in the strong Brittany breeze.
Camper's error before the penultimate mark was particularly painful with victory within reach.
“I'm going to need an hour or two just to cool down. We had that race. We sailed 95 percent of it spot on and then just let ourselves down at the end,” said Camper's Australian skipper, Chris Nicholson, whose boat was overtaken by a fast-finishing Cammas.
“We snatched defeat from victory right there.”
The six-strong fleet departs on Sunday for the 485-mile leg 9
journey to Galway, and is expected to arrive around 2200 GMT the following day.
1. Groupama (France) 225 points
2. Puma (United States) 200
3. Camper (Spain/New Zealand) 196
4. Telefonica (Spain) 194
5. Abu Dhabi 124
6. Team Sanya (China) 40 – Sapa-AP