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DRUM: Simon Le Bon and the Extraordinary Whitbread 1985 Adventure

DRUM: The most famous Maxi class racing yacht of her generation, was the vision of pop star Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, who fulfilled a dream when he took up the challenge of sailing the 1985 Whitbread Round The World Race.

Following her dramatic capsize in the 1985 Fastnet race after losing her keel, DRUM went on to finish a credible third overall. Here is the entire 1987 Documentary featuring the timeless song ‘Grey Lady Of The Sea’ penned by Le Bon for this feature. Enjoy the documentary!

Something more about Drum

Drum was a yacht owned in the mid-1980s by Simon Le Bon and Paul and Michael Berrow, who commissioned yachtsman Skip Novak to build it with the purpose of taking part in the 1985 Whitbread Round the World Race. As a warm-up to the Whitbread, they entered the Fastnet race for crew training and to test the boat and equipment. August 10th, 1985 was the start of the 608 miles Fastnet Race from Cowes, Isle of Wight, around the Fastnet Rock on the south coast of Ireland and back to Plymouth, with 24 crew on board.

The yacht was not in fact commissioned by Simon Le Bon – it was originally built for Rob James the husband of famous round the world sailor Naiomi James. The boat was to be called Colt Cars. Rob James tragically died in a yachting accident off Salcombe in Devon before the yacht was completed. The yacht was then purchased at this time by Le Bon and the Berrow bros – but there was a good deal of uncertainty about build as the boat was moved to different shipyards. In that process it was subsequently found that the keel was never correctly attached – this is why the keel failed in the Fastnet Race in 1985. It was unfortunate that the build process was interrupted by the untimely death of the original owner leading to deficiencies in the original build program.

During the 1985 Fastnet race off the coast of England, the experimental keel broke off, causing the yacht to capsize. Le Bon and several other crew members were trapped under the hull for forty minutes, before being rescued by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The search and rescue diver was Petty Officer Air Crewman (POACMN) Larry “Scouse” Slater of 771 Naval Air Squadron who later appeared as guest of honor on This Is Your Life on 9 April 1986, with Simon Le Bon making an appearance at the end of the programme.

The boat was salvaged and refurbished (at an estimated cost of 400,000 pounds) just in time to take part in the trio’s biggest yachting ambition: the 1985-86 Whitbread Round the World Race. This months-long trek took them around the globe, through high seas, hot sun, icy storms, and days of becalmed boredom

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