Yannick Bestaven, despite finishing behind Charlie Dalin and Louis Burton, was declared the winner of the ninth Vendée Globe race on Thursday morning after nearly three months sailing solo around the world.
The 48-year-old Frenchman's Maître CoQ IV passed the Nouche Sud buoy near Les Sables d'Olonne after braving the ocean waves for 80 days, 13 hours and 59.46 minutes.
"I had imagined many things, but I lived through many others during the voyage," said Bestaven.
"The finish was magnificent. It's great to have struggled as hard as we did to finish like that, with so many people and boats. It's a dream."
On Wednesday night, Dalin, the skipper of Apivia, was the first sailor to complete the course.
The 36-year-old Frenchman, competing in his first race, clocked 80 days, six hours and 15 minutes.
His compatriot, Burton, sailed in just after midnight. "This race is so huge that finishing is already great," said the 35-year-old. "For me it actually takes precedence over the ranking."
Bestaven claimed the top prize due to a 10 hour 15 minute bonus for his part in rescuing fellow sailor Kevin Escoffier off the Cape of Good Hope in December.
"It's normal that those who were involved in the rescue get bonuses," said Dalin. "There's no controversy, it's part of sailing, part of the solidarity between sailors. It's not going to be a big deal.".
On the presentation podium, Bestaven turned to Dalin and said: "There are two winners of this race." Dalin replied magnanimously: "The day is yours to enjoy."
Dalin was greeted on Wednesday night by a flotilla of boats and celebration flares.
"I'm happy to have come home first," he said. "But from going around the world on your own to suddenly encountering so many boats and people and no time to adjust ... it's a bit strange."
Thursday's victory is redemption for Bestaven.
In the 2008/9 course, he had to abandon after his mast collapsed on the second day at sea in the Bay of Biscay.
More than a decade on, his time of 80 days, three hours and 44.46 minutes provided him with the crown and continued France's winning streak.
Since the first edition of the race in 1989/90 only French sailors have won the prize.