MAKERS AND SHAKERS
Yachting World|February 2021
WHY DO SAILING’S MOST SUCCESSFUL INFLUENCERS THINK THE BEST BOAT FOR NOVICE OCEAN CRUISERS IS A PERFORMANCE MULTIHULL? ASKS TOBY HODGES
TOBY HODGES

Over the last seven years Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu have advanced from novice sailors to logging more ocean miles than most of us will sail in a lifetime. And they’ve managed to translate their journey in the most engaging way, reaching more people than any other sailors on the planet. This Australian couple are actively influencing a new generation of bluewater cruisers.

Millions of viewers watch their weekly episodes of the Sailing La Vagabonde channel on YouTube, which brings multihull cruising into your living room (or office). In them they share their liveaboard lifestyle by providing 20-minute hits of endearing weekly escapism.

But their reach is now ensuring they have the ear of the industry too, with the couple starting to leak plans of a new emission-free vessel, which will be sponsored by marine manufacturers.

One of Riley’s latest videos is more opinionated and advises people what to look for – and what to avoid – when buying a new catamaran. Just how much do these influencers want to influence?

NOVICES TO EXPERTS

For those unfamiliar with Sailing La Vagabonde, the channel has accrued over 1.5m followers thanks to the fresh, self-deprecating, and admittedly easy-on-the-eye nature of its bronzed protagonists. Riley and Elayna are supported by the crowdfunding model Patreon, through which they have accrued over 3,600 paying members, and make a healthy return from YouTube revenue.

Their journey began when Riley, now 33, bought a 43ft Beneteau Cyclades in 2013, financed from eight hard years spent working on oil rigs. He met Elayna in the Greek islands, where she was working as a musician for a travel company. Seduced by his characterful moustache and the appeal of life afloat, the 21-year-old from Geraldton soon agreed to join Riley aboard.

She began documenting their budget cruising adventures for family and friends, including the myriad trials, challenges and plain scary moments of liveaboard sailing, before sharing the videos publicly.

After three years, including crossing the Atlantic and Pacific, they struck a deal with Outremer for a new 48ft catamaran on a hire-purchase agreement. This provided a more comfortable base for shooting and editing video, which has transformed into slick TV-quality production. It also provided a stable platform to bring a mini Vagabonde into the world in the shape of their son Lenny.

In November 2019 they made headlines by carrying climate activist Greta Thunberg eastwards across the North Atlantic (along with 11-month-old Lenny). However, it was only once Riley had completed this intense, stressful passage as skipper and topped up his estimated 80,000 sea miles that he says he felt more “comfortable handing out advice or behaving like an expert”.

Riley’s video on buying a new catamaran centres on why it makes sense, particularly in terms of safety, for anyone thinking of going long term cruising to opt for a performance multihull over a charter-style production cat. He thinks more buyers should look at the numbers, demand the polars, ask more relevant questions of brokers and not get sidetracked by sales talk.

“If more people start going into boat shows asking better questions and it all filters back through, then the second-hand market would be full of much-betterperforming vessels,” he reasons.

CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS

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