This first-time yacht owner built his career in gaming before setting his sights on something out of this world. He tells Rachel Ingram how he has built his perfect universe on board 56-metre Galaxy.
“I always wanted a spaceship,” says Dave Hagewood, owner of Galaxy, a recently refitted 56-metre Benetti superyacht. “My dad was in the space programme – he worked on the Saturn V rocket – and I always dreamed of experiencing the freedom of space travel. The more time I spent on boats, the more I felt like this was closest thing to having that feeling on Earth.”
For first-time owner Hagewood, a lifelong pursuit of freedom has been the key driver behind many of his decisions. “When I was younger, I manifested a future where I could have the freedom to do what I wanted and go where I wanted, but I also knew that I needed to be very successful and have the funding to be able to live that lifestyle,” he says.
Hagewood, who grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, dedicated the first half of his life to business and carved out a successful career in the video game industry. “I dropped out of college because I was excited about the internet,” he says. “I was passionate about gaming and I funded myself to learn the ropes of game design and development. This was the beginning of me building my philosophy of creating the kind of life you want for yourself.”Read More/56m Benetti yacht Galaxy emerges from intensive five-month refit
In 2001, he founded video game developer Psyonix, based in San Diego. “We built a culture around enjoying yourself at work, because if we we’re not enjoying ourselves, how can we make a product that makes people enjoy themselves?” he says. “That ended up being one of the most successful parts of my approach. Very few people ever left the company because it was such a great place to work and people were invested.”
In 2015, the company had its big break with Rocket League, a football game in which players drive jet-powered cars. Gamers took to it immediately. It enjoyed great success initially on Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4 and was later released for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, among other consoles.
With Rocket League securing his legacy in the gaming world, Hagewood felt like he “wanted a change” and in 2019, he sold Psyonix, which was acquired by Epic Games. “When I sold the company, the first thing I started thinking about was this dream of being on the ocean,” he says.
It was at this time that he met his partner, Danielle, a Fort Lauderdale native who grew up on the sea, sailing on her family’s boats and going tubing or snorkelling with her friends after school. Hagewood was inspired by Danielle’s sense of freedom and passion for travel and the pair began exploring the globe by boat, starting with a catamaran trip in Puerto Rico. “That time was like a rebirth,” he reflects. “Danielle was part of it, travel was part of it, selling the company was part of it – everything happened at once like a Big Bang.”
During the pandemic, the pair spent three months chartering two yachts – 27-metre Maxi Beer and 28-metre Yvonne – across Europe and found themselves some of the only Americans on the continent. “During this time, we determined that we loved yachting and we wanted to make it a lifestyle,” Hagewood says.
Back on dry land, they started shopping and found Galaxy, a 56-metre Benetti that had been delivered in 2005 and proved to be a popular charter yacht. “It was older than some of the others we were looking at, but it was so well-maintained that it looked more immaculate than some of the newer boats,” Hagewood says. “We also liked the idea of going a little bit lower than our budget and then having a base from which we could really create something very uniquely ‘us’. We had some pretty radical ideas about what we want a boat to look and feel like, as opposed to what the average yacht owner wants, so it was the perfect scenario for us to build our own dream.”
The vision for the yacht is inspired by the lifestyle of Hagewood and his partner. When they’re not sailing, the owners spend a lot of time at music festivals and they’re regulars at Burning Man (an annual gathering that takes place in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert). The festival encourages free expression and individuality, and this can be felt throughout the yacht, from the ambience to the design.
“Many yacht owners want privacy but we’re much more open. Our lifestyle is heavy on socialising, so we wanted the yacht to be a platform for our friends to come together and have fun,” Hagewood says. “Boats are amazing things to build a community around – these floating platforms are literally built to entertain.”
For the refit, Hagewood worked with London-based design firm Njord by Bergman Design House, founded by Marie Soliman, Albin Berglund and Sarah Colbon. “I wanted it to be my spaceship, hence the name Galaxy, and design wise, I wanted to steer everything back to that theme,” Hagewood says. “The designers have been amazing at understanding what we’re going for. When we said we wanted it to feel like a galaxy, they had so many ideas of things I hadn’t even thought of. They just nailed it.”
The yacht combines the ethereal magic of outer space with the mystery and creativity of Burning Man and the practicalities of a “floating venue”. The main deck has been transformed into a giant nightclub-style lounge with high-tech DJ equipment and bespoke decor and colourful artwork, including paintings by Camille Hannah and wall coverings by digital artist Dylan Cole, known for Disney’s Avatar and Maleficent. A closer look will reveal magical creatures and ET aliens hidden in the mystical scenes Cole has created. Taking centre stage in the lounge is The Thinker, an astronaut piece by contemporary artist Joseph Klibansky, inspired by Rodin’s classic sculpture.
The upper deck takes on a different aesthetic and is designed for relaxation, with a lounge and dining space for 12 people. The yacht also features guest suites, named and styled after other planets, and a highly bespoke master suite. The bed’s headboard is transformed into a star-gazing platform highlighting the star signs of the owners and their friends, while the ceiling showcases the owners’ favourite constellation.
Conscious of Hagewood’s eagerness to sail into the next chapter of his life, Njord by Bergman Design House carried out the project in just five months. The refit was completed at Monaco Marine’s La Ciotat yard in France.
Unlike most superyachts, Galaxy will be Hagewood’s primary residence. “When you charter a yacht, you try to squeeze every moment out of every day. We’re taking a more relaxed approach and trying to make it more of a day-to-day reality,” Hagewood says. “With the size and stability of a boat, it feels better than a home. And when you’ve got a whole crew taking care of your every need, it’s so comforting. It’s also more convenient because we like to travel so much – when we are at home, we’re always packing and unpacking, so the travelling lifestyle is actually easier on a boat.”
Naturally, Hagewood still has his sights set on space. “Every day I look at opportunities to get involved in or invest in,” he says. “It’d be amazing to help space travel become a tourism industry – not just for astronauts and people who have $20 million to spare. I’d love to go into orbit, experience zero gravity and visit a space station.”
In the meantime, he’s quite content in his own bespoke universe on board Galaxy. “I like that Galaxy is a self-contained world, filled with a group of people working to make that world the most comfortable, perfect place for us at all times. It’s really the pinnacle of living. And the fact that I wake up every morning in a different place – that’s the most beautiful thing ever.”
First published in the June 2022 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.SHOP NOW