Groupama crossed the finish line in the pitch black Galway night to settle the closest contest in the 39-year history and crown themselves Volvo Ocean Race champions 2011-12.
While CAMPER were celebrating victory in the ninth and final leg, Groupama skipper Franck Cammas led his team home in second place to take an unassailable 24-point lead with just one in-port race to go.
Groupama crossed the finish line at 00:49:11 UTC, just seven minutes behind CAMPER. PUMA finished in third place at 00:55:01 UTC ahead of Team Telefónica, who finished at 00:59:33 UTC.
Team Sanya crossed the finish line in fifth place at 03:14:27 UTC ahead of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, crossing the line in sixth at 03:23:29 UTC.
“It’s a very happy moment for us and for all the team,” Cammas said to the roars of tens of thousands of fans who came out to welcome the team — including Irishman Damian Foxall — to the Glaway finish. “I didn’t think we could win. This is my dream.”
Cammas, the 39-year-old Frenchman, threw his arms up and pumped his fists in the air while fans gathered on the dock of Galway Bay.
Groupama are the first team to represent France in the Volvo Ocean Race since Eric Tabarly’s La Poste in 1993-94 and they are only the second French winners after Lionel Péan on L’Espirit d’Equipe in 1985-86.
The team gallantly fought back from a deficit that was as high as 28 points following the HaiTang Bay In-Port Race in Sanya, winning the next leg to Auckland and steadily improving their knowledge of their boat and cohesion as a team to surge to a commanding lead going into Leg 9.
With the sort of nerve that quickly became their trademark in the race, Groupama stayed serenely out of trouble on the 550-nautical mile race through wild conditions in the English Channel and around the iconic Fastnet Rock, to finish second across the line and seal their place among an elite band of winners in an event that began life as the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973.
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand led the procession across the finish line much to the delight of surrounding flotilla of spectators, at 00:42:13 UTC — their first leg win of the race.
CAMPER are almost certain to secure second place with 226 points, six points clear of third place PUMA, with just the final in-port race remaining.
Six points will be up for grabs for first place, five for second, four for third and so on when the final race of the epic 39,000 nautical mile ocean race starts on July 7.