Lorient, France - Franck Cammas made a safety-first start to the ninth and final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday knowing that fourth place or better would secure only France's second victory in off-shore racing's premier event.
Cammas and his Groupama team are protecting a 25-point lead over US-led Puma at the head of the standings with the last stage worth 30 to the winner and five to last place.
An in-port race in Galway next Saturday completes the competition.
Barring a breakage or major sail damage, Cammas should have the speed at his disposal to beat at least two of the most competitive fleets in the race's 39-year history but on Sunday he kept clear of any early trouble for the 550-nautical mile trip from Lorient in Brittany to Galway, Ireland.
After an hour's sailing, Groupama trailed their rivals going out of Lorient port, with Telefonica of Spain, whose long-time lead was overhauled in May by the French crew, protecting a slim advantage over Puma and Camper.
Cammas, who first made his name as a single-handed sailor, tightened his grip on the overall trophy on Saturday when he sailed a near-flawless in-port race in Lorient for victory and six vital points.
Shortly before setting sail for Ireland, he had a clear idea of the job in hand.
"I think if we finish fourth it's enough, so we just need to keep that in mind," he said.
"This night could be very hard - wind is coming, 25-30 knots, with a lot of danger around us with cargo ships, islands, current.
"There will be some hard hours for everyone. For us it's about sailing simply and not taking too much risk during the night."
Camper's hopes of winning a first leg were hit almost immediately when they were given a time penalty for an early infringement for sailing too close to Groupama but they made quick amends and after an hour had pulled up to third place.
The fleet is expected to arrive in Galway on Monday night to complete a 39 270-nautical mile, nine-month journey visiting five continents and passing through four oceans.
Overall standings: 1. Groupama (France) 225 points; 2. Puma (US) 200; 3. Camper (Spain/New Zealand) 196; 4. Telefonica (Spain) 194; 5. Abu Dhabi 124; 6. Team Sanya (China) 40.