Lisbon - Groupama, skippered by Franck Cammas, were left with some catching up to do on the penultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday as they chased a first French victory in 27 years in the offshore sailing classic.
Cammas's boat lead the fleet by eight points from Spain's London Olympics gold medal contender Iker Martinez on Telefonica with USA challenger PUMA skippered by Ken Read five points further adrift.
The 1 940-nautical mile leg from Lisbon to Lorient in France, which carries 30 points to the victor, will go a long way to determining the final outcome, with four crews still in contention with two legs left.
The only French triumph in the race's 39-year history came in 1985 when Lionel Pean led L'Esprit d'Equipe to victory.
But after three hours racing (15:00 GMT) Groupama were already 2.7 nautical miles off the lead having struggled to find decent breeze shortly after the start.
Read's PUMA team were moving along smoothly in the lead at 15 knots with Camper, who lie 23 points behind Groupama in fourth overall, leading the chase less than a quarter of a mile behind.
Despite their lead in the overall standings, Cammas said his team was solely focused on the leg in hand.
"We're in a position to win overall, but it's important to focus on each leg and each day and not on the overall leaderboard," he said.
"It's not efficient to do that - you just have to think about each leg as if the Volvo is only one leg."
Cammas stretched his three-point advantage to eight on Saturday when his closest rivals Telefonica slumped to their fourth last place in a row in the in-port series after incurring a time penalty for nearly running into a rival boat.
Telefonica's skipper Martinez insisted later that his crew had been unfairly penalised but the Spaniard has also recognised that they badly need a return to form having seen their early advantage from winning the first three legs slip away.
Telefonica, who finished third in the last race in 2008-09, were in fourth spot after three hours' racing on Sunday.
After Lorient, the fleet sails the final leg to Galway, Ireland before the race finally winds up after more than 39,000 nautical miles and eight months of racing with an in-port race on July 7 in the west of Ireland port.
Overall standings: 1 Groupama (FRA) 189 points, 2 Telefonica (ESP) 181, 3 PUMA (USA) 176, 4 Camper (ESP/NZL) 166, 5 Abu Dhabi 107, 6 Team Sanya (CHN) 34