Telefonica's hopes of a first Volvo Ocean Race win for Spain suffered a major blow on Friday when three rudder breakages contributed to them being beaten by Groupama.
French team Groupama need a top-three finish in the final stage to secure victory after winning in Lorient.
Overnight Telefonica suffered a third damaged rudder of the stage from Lisbon and finished second last.
The Spanish team led the nine-month race from November to May.
American team Puma move up to second despite finishing the stage in third behind Camper.
But Groupama have a 23-point advantage, with 30 points available to the winner of the final stage, after the penultimate 1,940 nautical mile stage.
The final stage of the 39,000 nautical mile race, from Lorient to Galway, will conclude on 5 July.
Franck Cammas, skipper of the French team, said: "It's a very good feeling for sure, it's a dream we had 10 months ago and we realised this dream now by winning in Lorient.
"It's not finished, we still have one leg to do and it is important to do this leg very well. We have to have a good celebration."
France have only won the 39-year-old event once, when Lionel Pean triumphed on L'Esprit d'Equipe in 1985.
1. Groupama (France) 219 pts
2. Puma (US) 196
3. Camper (New Zealand/Spain) 191
4. Telefonica (Spain) 181
5. Abu Dhabi (UAE) 122
6. Sanya (China) 34