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Buccaneer goes under the sea

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Richard Branson
Image: NASA

Since leaving school at 16, Richard Branson has been rocketing around Britain and the world starting Virgin music, mobile phone, airline, railroad, and spaceship companies. Early on he received some critical assistance from his family, akin to Sir Francis Drake receiving help from his kinsman Hawkins to go to sea. Mostly he made his success - £billions in revenue - on his own. He has been named one of the 100 Worst Britons and one of the 100 Greatest. Clearly people like and dislike swashbucklers.

Branson’s goatee lends him a buccaneering air, but so do his ventures, named Virgin in an echo of the Elizabethan Queen or, more plausibly, in tribute to his pleasure in breaking new ground. He shares the energy of the Virgin Queen’s privateers who crossed uncharted seas.

Like them, he has made mistakes. Unlike many today, Branson does not believe in asking the government to sort out his life.

Offshore

Branson has escaped increasingly onerous business regulations from Westminster and Brussels by setting up his companies offshore. Passionately (and we think mistakenly) concerned about global warming, he promised to invest in alternative fuels some years ago. At the present time, alternative fuels cannot make money without huge taxpayer investments and government mandates. Branson probably figured out that in-built profit angle, but he also supports the development of an alternative fuel good for the environment and free of government bail-outs.

He long ago shed any soul-shrinking assumptions about what he could not achieve. Clearly he is not afraid of failure.

His books, Losing My Virginity: How I've Survived, Had Fun, And Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way (1999) and Screw It, Let's Do It: Lessons in Life (2006) are pretty clear about his mistakes and his philosophy.

Virgin ads have been criticized as "naughty". They are about as sexually-charged (that is to say, quite) as the jests traded by Mercutio and Romeo in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Branson is Patron of the International Rescue Corps. He does not bankroll it. A UK-registered charity, financed solely by donations, and manned totally by volunteers, the Corps has responded to emergencies around the world and in Britain. In 2009 the Corps rescued more than 50 people from flooding in Cumbria.

Another Branson passion is space flight.

White Knight & Britomart

Britomart is Spenser's female knight in the Faerie Queene, and the name of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, which, if all goes well, will have a stunning future.

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WhiteKnight

WhiteKnight will carry Branson's Britomart 50,000 feet into space, where her rocket engine will fling her 65 miles above Earth's surface.

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SpaceShipTwo - Britomart

On board: six passengers and two pilots. Three hundred people have already paid deposits for the $200,000 ticket price and the chance to see Earth from the stars while experiencing weightlessness. Richard Branson and his family intend to be among the first travellers. "After reaching the top of its trajectory, the craft will fall back into the atmosphere and glide to a landing like an airplane. Its descent is controlled by 'feathering' its wings to maximize aerodynamic drag." Returning to the good Earth should be a happy feeling.

Going underwater

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Virgin's Necker Nymph

Meanwhile Branson has just unveiled an underwater plane for guests visiting his Caribbean island - "The £415,000 prototype submersible is called the Necker Nymph and can dive to scuba depths in tropical waters. Guests on board can uncover ancient shipwrecks, fly side-by-side with dolphins or follow whales. Unlike conventional submersibles, which use ballast to sink in water, DeepFlight submersibles use downward ‘lift’ on the wings."

We look forward to hearing about Branson's next adventures.

A future like Branson's for young men and women?

Will young men and women in Britain, America and the Anglosphere have a chance to do what Sir Richard Branson has done (offshore accounts excepted)?

If government stops regulating life, and stops confining children in schools that teach them cynicism and despair and little else, and if young men and women turn toward the world with imagination, self-discipline and generosity - yes. We think so..

This is an update of previous posts.

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