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Do you know a good submarine-maker?

Do you know a good submarine-maker?

When the super-rich get bored of their yachts, they ask John Ramsay to build them the executive toy du jour

When the super-rich get bored of their yachts, they ask John Ramsay to build them the executive toy du jour

Catherine Nixey | December/January 2020

Meet John Ramsay, chief designer for Triton and a man who makes Bond’s Q look like an amateur. He designs the executive toy du jour: a personal submarine.

What’s the trend? Nobody who’s anybody in Villefranche-sur-Mer is actually sur la mer these days. That’s so old. They’re all sous it. As Louise Harrison, former European sales director of Triton, says, “The super-rich aren’t happy to sit on the back of their yachts with a G&T anymore.”

So what do they do under the sea? You know, the usual. See tropical fish without getting their hair wet. Drink champagne underwater in the Antarctic. Pop down to the Mariana Trench.

The Mariana Trench that’s 10,994 metres deep and only three people have dived to it? The very same. One of Ramsay’s clients has climbed the highest peaks on each continent and been to the deepest points in the five oceans.

So submersibles are a thing? Absolutely. Richard Branson has one, so does Roman Abramovich. Ray Dalio, a hedge-fund billionaire, has two. Being a middle-aged man in Lycra is out. These days it’s all about being a middle-aged man in aeronautical-grade aluminium.

Why should we trust Ramsay? Because you’re 10,000 metres under the sea and frankly it’s a bit late not to. Even Vladimir Putin trusts him: Ramsay was part of a team that rescued a Russian submarine crew from the floor of the Pacific in 2005.

Any other reason? In David Attenborough’s “Great Barrier Reef” you see him sink beneath the waves in one of Ramsay’s yellow submarines.

Excellent, can we all live in yellow submarines now? Alas no. There’s usually enough room on a standard Triton sub for three people. And forget “live”. It’s more “stay briefly”. Your time on them is limited, says Ramsay, by “the size of your bladder” (there are no loos).

I take it no band will begin to play then? No. But the subs do come fitted with surround-sound speaker systems and the “Das Boot” ping-ping soundtrack.

So what’s the point? Looking achingly on trend. Emerging from the sea in serious style: think Ursula Andress but with ballast tanks. Oh, and commuting. One customer wanted a sub so he could nip about and avoid the traffic in Miami. Submersibles: like Uber but for oligarchs.

OK, I’ll take one of the Mariana Trench ones. Smashing. That’ll be $30m please.

Oh. Are any of them more modestly priced? They start at $2m a pop. But don’t get excited: you’ll need a 165-foot superyacht to store it. Even that, says Ramsay, “is still a bit of a squeeze”.