When Simon Le Bon risked his life in a boat (and was rescued in his underwear)

Simon Le Bon Drum
Fastnet, August 11, 1985. The crew of Simon Le Bon’s Drum wait for rescue after the boat lost its keel and capsized off Cornwall (source Facebook).

Our contributor Danilo Fabbroni( his article on rig maintenancehere ) is on a train bound for Rome, opens the Italo magazine, and his eye falls on an article announcing the release of Duran Duran’s 16th album, “Danse Macabre.” A flash for Danilo, who immediately wrote us his recollection of when, at the 1985 Fastnet, the Duran Duran leader’s maxi “Drum” (78 feet designed by Ron Holland and built by Vision Yachts of Cowes), Simon Le Bon, lost its keel by capsizing and was in danger of sinking off the coast of Cornwall.

Simon Le Bon shipwreck, I was there!

“Simon Le Bon, then marrying glorious pearl, Jasmine Le Bon, former star model, had put the IOR maxi-boat, “Drum,” in the water and so far nothing too special but as it happens, “Drum” was the absolute star of a masterful nautical flop, despite himself. Here it is told.

Fastnet (608 miles on the Cowes-Scilly-Plymouth Fastnet course), Aug. 11, 1985: I am part of the Admiral’Cup team with the wooden Brava (Vallicelli’s 12,20 m – today “Mozart” – built in West System lamellar in 1984 by Morri & Para, ed.) and for reasons that do not matter now I race all the regattas but not the Fastnet where instead I am on a support boat and after the fateful cannon shot here comes the news that Drum has sent its keel into the deep sea and Simon Le Bon is forced to climb like a hermit crab on the white belly of his formerly wonderful boat waiting for rescue!”.

The video of Simon Le Bon’s rescue

Forty minutes of hell

Help, fortunately, was not long in coming. Nearby was another boat, Carat, which witnessed the accident and raised the alarm. But those forty minutes that separated Simon Le Bon and his crew from the arrival of the helicopter that would rescue them were hellish.

Simon le bon as a young man
Simon Le Bon on the Drum (photo by Rick Tomlinson)

Le Bon recounted how he had had a very bad time, trapped below deck with water continuing to rise and toxic mixtures released by short-circuited shipboard batteries. He tried to rise to the surface, risking stopping two meters deep in the icy waters of the Solent.

He managed to reach the surface and climb onto the overturned hull only after removing the oilskin dungarees that were in his way. He re-emerged in his underwear, but safe and sound. In the days following the incident, the singer revealed that the shock he suffered caused him a severe skin reaction and that the stress prevented him from sleeping.

The Drum at Whitbread, after repair work carried out at lightning speed

Such a situation would “saw off the legs” of anyone but Simon Le Bon. In just one month, the team recovered the Drum, replacing the keel and mast and repairing the onboard instrumentation. Thus the boat was able to participate in the Whitbread, the crewed round-the-world race in stages, which Le Bon finished in third place.

The Duran Duran singer would keep the Drum until 1988, when he sold it to Scottish tycoon Sir Arnold Clark.

Simon Le Bon, the sailor who loves Antigua

An avid sailor, Simon Le Bon (now 65) has been boating since childhood. Many of you will remember the video clip for Rio, Duran Duran’s 1982 hit.

The band was aboard Eilean, a splendid 1930s ketch, off the coast of Antigua. The singer returns as soon as he can to Antigua: especially at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. And it is not uncommon to catch him right at the helm of Eilean.

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