As the founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson is one of the most influential and wealthiest people in the world. Does Branson own a yacht?
Sir Richard Branson owned a luxury 32-meter catamaran yacht, the Necker Belle, which he purchased for about $7 million in 2009. The yacht became available to charter in 2012 and Branson put it up for sale in 2014, eventually selling it for $3 million in 2018.
For more on Richard Branson’s seafaring activities, read on.
Launched in 2003, Richard Branson owned a 32-meter catamaran yacht, called the Necker Belle. The yacht featured four cabins, with space to sleep 10 guests, and could reach a top speed of 20 knots.
Branson bought the catamaran, then known as Lady Barbaretta, in 2009 for a fee of about $7 million. He renamed the yacht to Necker Belle, after his home on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands.
After buying the yacht, Branson had extensive refitting work performed to transform it into a truly modern, luxurious yacht. It took two years for all the work to be completed.
He has explained that a catamaran, which has two hulls joined by a platform in the middle, can have much more space than a traditional monohull. This means extra space for guests and greater stability, reducing the impact of seasickness on guests who don’t have their sealegs.
Unsurprisingly, the luxury yacht includes numerous features that you’re unlikely to find at your local sailing club. These include an open-air cinema, platforms to allow you to easily enter and exit the water, a diving board, and the necessary equipment to go scuba diving, among many other activities.
Branson enjoyed taking guests to explore the surrounding islands and also used a small submarine to explore beneath the waves.
One of Branson’s most memorable experiences on the yacht came in 2012 when he sailed it around the Silver Bank in the Dominican Republic. The Necker Belle encountered a group of humpback whales and Branson was even able to get in the water and swim with them.
From 2012, Branson made the Necker Belle available for chartering, letting travelers hire it for an unforgettable holiday experience.
The yacht has a professional crew of eight, so it isn’t necessary to have sailing experience if you just want to enjoy a week of luxury on the water. After all, the Necker Belle probably isn’t a boat that you want to leave a dent in.
In 2014, the yacht was listed for sale at about $10 million but was reduced in price several times before being sold in 2018 for $3 million.
As of March 2019 the yacht, now known as the Bella Vita, is available to charter for $70,000 per week. With room for 10 guests, that price becomes a somewhat more manageable $7,000 per visitor.
Branson’s seafaring activities have not been purely recreational. In 1986, he broke the record for crossing the Atlantic on a motor yacht.
Branson had attempted to break the record once before, in the Virgin Atlantic Challenger, also known as the VAC. The VAC departed New York in June 1985 and crossed the Atlantic in three days, surviving torrid weather and the threat of icebergs.
Unfortunately, the VAC struck an underwater obstruction just 100 miles from the lighthouse at Bishop Rock which marked the finishing line. The boat sank but its crew, including Branson, were rescued unharmed.
The ordeal didn’t discourage Branson, who was determined to try to break the record a year later.
He accomplished this on the Virgin Atlantic Challenger 2. Branson has said that breaking the record was great fun but that he doesn’t enjoy using a motor yacht for recreational purposes.
Branson sold the VAC II the day after he and his crew broke the record and he has not owned a motor yacht since.