The first French winner for 26 years of the round the world race, which was then the Whitbread and is now the Volvo, was celebrating in Galway as Franck Cammas and the crew of Groupama closed out the opposition ahead of the inshore race finale on Saturday.
Cammas needed only to be fourth on the final leg from his home port of Lorient but made doubly sure by being second.
That at least spread the happiness a little wider as the New Zealand-managed Spanish entry Camper at last notched up a leg win in an overall performance that has disappointed and frustrated a team that is used to winning.
Cammas had looked like the overall fastest since flashes of speed on the first leg from Alicante to Cape Town, but Spain’s Telefónica was sailing smarter and led overall for the first half of the race. Groupama was coming back, making its speed advantages tell, and, despite being dismasted on the leg from Auckland to Brazil, others were being scattered to the wayside with such regularity that the French still managed a third place with a cobbled together half of a mast. "This is an incredible moment for me," Cammas said. "It was always my dream just to participate in this race. The first book I ever read was about the Whitbread. It has been an incredible day for me and it hasn't sunk in yet. Without any doubt this is the best (thing I've done). This is the longest and the hardest event to win. It started badly but every one of us raised our level."
For Britain’s Ian Walker, who had hoped for so much after dragging a slower boat round the world by its bootstraps in the last race, there was, instead, bookend misery. Having been dismasted on the first leg, the double silver Olympic medallist suffered the humiliation of being last into Galway after Abu Dhabi’s Azzam picked up the anchor line to a lobster pot off the Arran Isles and came to an abrupt halt.
That allowed Mike Sanderson on China’s Sanya to steal away and finish fifth as Azzam’s crew took over 10 minutes to disentangle the boat. The future for Abu Dhabi as a stopover and a competing team remains a point of interest.
Third into Galway was the American-flagged Puma, followed by Telefónica.
After light airs overnight and even lighter winds in the Hudson River, leading the five 70-foot trimarans on the feeder race into New York from Newport, Rhode Island, was Yann Guichard in Spindrift, followed by Sidney Gavignet in Oman Sail’s Musandam, and Sebastien Josse in Edmond de Rothschild’s Gitana XV.