The Learjet of the Seas
By Robert Frank
MegaYachts are so yesterday. For the cutting edge super-rich, the new water toy of choice is a luxury submersible–also known as a submarine.
These aren’t the chugging hulks of the military variety. Nor are they the cramped, bubble shaped pods used for scientific research. The new wave of lux subs are more like underwater jets that can swoop, dive and surge to keep up with the fastest underwater life. Call them the Learjets of the seas.
The company making the new breed of subs is Hawkes Ocean Technologies, led by engineering whiz Graham Hawkes. Mr. Hawkes started building submersible research vessels in the 1980s. He then pioneered “underwater flight” which, rather than using “sinkers” or underwater-balloon technology, allows vessels to soar through the water like planes.
Venture capitalist Tom Perkins commissioned the company to build the first production winged submersible, called the DeepFlight SuperFalcon, which launched last year. (Mr. Perkins, as Wealth Report readers might recall, sold his megayacht Maltese Falcon to focus on submersibles.)
Now, Hawkes Ocean Technologies has launched a second type of open-cockpit winged sub–called the DeepFlight Merlin–for billionaire Richard Branson. Mr. Branson will dock the sub on his yacht, Necker Belle, and has named the sub “Necker Nymph.”
“Essentially, Hawkes has made the same transition sub-sea that the Wright Brothers did in air, moving from ballooning to fixed-wing aircraft,” the company says.
The subs aren’t cheap. The company’s standard 3-person DeepFlight Merlin starts at $673,000. Its standard 2-person DeepFlight Super Falcon starts at $1.5 million, and custom subs can run to as much as $5 million. And you still probably need a yacht to dock the sub.
But for today’s exploration-crazed, adventure-traveling super-rich, taking a dive in a jet-sub could be more appealing than a relaxing drink on the sun deck.
Would you buy one?