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LE BON VOYAGE; Duran Duran star conquers fears to sail 'disaster' yacht again.

Byline: By VICTORIA BONE

POP star Simon Le Bon yesterday prepared to sail for the first time in 20 years on the pounds 7million yacht that almost cost him his life.

The Duran Duran frontman cheated death when 77ft Drum capsized in the Rolex Fastnet race during Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight in 1985.

But now the 46-year-old has conquered his demons and plans to take part - and complete - this year's 608-mile race.

Le Bon and 14 of the 1985 crew - including his brother, Johnny - also hope to raise pounds 20,000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution as a thank you to the brave men who saved them.

Simon said yesterday: "I love racing - it's fast and it's exciting.

"To be honest I'm not nervous at all. The accident was catastrophic but it gave us a real bond as a crew and a deep affection for the boat.

"It was one of the most significant moments in all our lives and now we just want to get back out there."

Duran Duran were at the height of their fame when disaster struck.

The yacht's keel broke off mid race causing it to capsize and trapping all 20 crewmen inside.

Simon recalled: "It was bizarre, really surreal. I was trapped for an hour in an air pocket just praying.

"Even when I tried to get out I caught my long johns on a post and got stuck a foot from the surface.

"We all just had to wait down there until the RNLI came to rescue us.

"I thought I was going to die but the real fear didn't hit until a few days later. The next two weeks after that were terrible."

Simon and the crew yesterday made last minute checks on the renamed Arnold Clark Drum ahead of tomorrow's race.

And he explained it meant so much for him and the crew to sail again.

He said: "It's really important for us to get together as a bunch again after so long.

"Some of these guys haven't seen each other for almost 20 years.

"We all owe our lives to the RNLI and I want to get them some money.

"Those guys are so brave, they're volunteers, they're not being paid and it's vital we don't take them for granted.

"Without them none of us would be here."

The yacht is one of 281 taking part in the race in the English channel from Cowes to Plymouth via the Fastnet lighthouse on the southern tip of Ireland.

Simon, married to model Yasmin Le Bon, began sailing as a child in Norfolk but gradually moved onto bigger boats as his pop career took off.

It was after filming the iconic Rio video he was inspired to sign up for the now infamous Fastnet race at Cowes.

After the accident Drum was bought by Scottish businessman Arnold Clark who agreed to loan it back to the star.

CAPTION(S):

MY DRUM WON'T BEAT ME: Simon gets ready for yacht race yesterday
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 6, 2005
Words:503
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