Alicante - Camper led the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Alicante on Saturday on leg 1 of a 39,000-nautical mile journey around the world after a dramatic opening in which two boats crashed into each other.
France's Groupama - the country's first entry in the race for 18 years -penalised herself for bumping heavily in choppy seas into Puma's portside stern seconds before the eight-month marathon got underway.
In leg one, the six 70-foot sloops go from Alicante to Cape Town, 6,500 nautical miles away.
Groupama took a 720-degree voluntary penalty turn as Camper made the most of 20-knot winds to take an early lead, watched by around 60,000 spectators at the Spanish port.
An observer said there was no discernible damage to either Groupama or Puma. Race director Jack Lloyd said that, since the French boat had taken a voluntary double-turn penalty, no further action was needed under event rules.
Camper's Team New Zealand crew, skippered by Chris Nicholson, won't be getting carried away with the early advantage.
The six-strong fleet faces its first major test overnight when head winds of more than 25 knots are forecast in potentially boat-breaking conditions.
"Sailing at first will be ideal for these boats - fast sailing in fresh breeze," said Gonzalo Infante, the Volvo Ocean Race's chief meteorologist.
"But within about 12 hours, as the boats race into the night, they will have to punch upwind into winds around 25 knots and confused seas. These boats will be slamming around and it will be very wet on deck."
French football great Zinedine Zidane joined the Abu Dhabi boat at the start before taking the traditional leap into a chilly Mediterranean.
Camper left Alicante's final gate 1 minute 39 seconds ahead of Puma with Telefonica in third, 2:15 behind. Abu Dhabi, winner of the opening in-port race last week, was fourth followed by Groupama and Team Sanya.
Sanya, China's first sole entrant in the race, was troubled by an early technical hitch but swiftly solved the problem and joined the chase towards Cape Town.