Skip to main content

Sailing in the YouTube Era

Riley-and-Elayna,-Sailing-La-Vagabonde

At the risk of both dating myself and being accused of gross hyperbole, I will say this: it was a bit like 1964 when the Beatles first landed in New York. What I’m referring to is last fall’s U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis. Playing the role of the Beatles were not one, but two bands of sailing “vloggers” (as in video bloggers)—the crews from Sailing La Vagabonde and Sailing SV Delos, the two most popular sailing video channels on YouTube.

In my 20 years attending the Annapolis show I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it—people lined up literally around the block and down the street hoping to catch a glimpse of and hear live words tumbling from the lips of Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu, the young Aussie couple who make a living posting videos while cruising full-time aboard their Outremer 45 catamaran, La Vagabonde.

To get an idea of the scale of this phenomenon, consider first that the combined circulations of the two most popular sailing magazines in the States—our own SAIL and some other publication with the word “Cruising” in its title—at their peak, before the Interweb started nibbling away at the magazine industry, was about 350,000 readers. Then consider that the current number of people subscribing to La Vagabonde’s YouTube channel is about 1.2 million, while for Delos the number is 365,000—not to even mention the several other sailing vloggers whose individual subscription numbers equal or exceed the current circulation of SAIL.

Does this mean that there are now four, five or even six times as many people sailing and cruising than there were before? We wish! But in fact the majority of the audience for YouTube sailing channels is only living vicariously. I’m guessing most don’t know how to sail and have no interest in learning. They are perfectly happy to sit on their couches watching other people do cool stuff, unlike the majority of those who read sailing magazines, who actually do go sailing and want to sail more. It is a peculiar aspect of the YouTube zeitgeist and isn’t necessarily healthy: this tendency of people to abdicate the living of their own lives in favor of watching others live theirs.

As one who has lived the “cruising life,” I must confess I never enjoyed these videos. For me—as for other experienced cruisers, I imagine—it was very much “been there done that” and let’s change the channel, please. Since Annapolis, however, I’ve studied them more closely. Yes, I have noticed the most successful channels feature young women in tiny bathing suits, and that these images are used to reel in casual viewers surfing YouTube. But drilling down past the bikinis and other fluff, I’ve found some serious sailing going on. Watching, for example, the brothers Brian and Brady Trautman manage their Amel Super Maramu, Delos, on a challenging passage in strong conditions in the southern Indian Ocean, with their autopilot and other gear breaking left and right, I was amazed. As in: how the heck can these guys be dealing with all this crap while also making a really well-produced video about it?

It is, undeniably, hard work. As Elayna of La Vagabonde explained in an interview in the November/December 2019 issue of SAIL, she spends two to three full days out of each week just editing her weekly videos, never mind shooting them. And in order to be successful, you have to keep it up, week in and week out. It is a lifestyle that is not nearly as casual and carefree as it looks.

So if you’re an old curmudgeon like me, feeling tempted to dismiss sailing vloggers and their vast audiences of couch-potato viewers, I urge you to take a second look. As was made clear in Annapolis, a fair percentage of vlogger fans are indeed inspired by what they watch and are eagerly making plans to join us on the Big Blue. This is an important new way to expose people to our sport, and we need to respect it.

As for me, I’ve become a fan myself, following La Vagabonde via her PredictWind transponder (see sailing-lavagabonde.com) on a challenging east-west transit of the North Atlantic in mid-November (yikes!) with teen climate activist Greta Thunberg onboard. And yes, I am looking forward to watching the video. 

February 2020

Related

Alexforbes Archangel1-1 (14)

Cape2Rio Draws to a Close

With just four boats still on their way, it has been a long road to Rio for the fleet competing in this year’s Cape2Rio. Larry Folsom’s American-flagged Balance 526 Nohri took line honors and a win in the MORCA fleet, finishing with a corrected time of 18 days, 20 hours, and 42 ...read more

_01-Steve-and-Irene-1

Close Encounters: A Star to Steer By

I first met Steve and Irene Macek in the proper way—in an anchorage full of bluewater cruising boats. This was in St. Georges, Bermuda, in the spring of 2019. Theirs, without doubt, was the most distinctive boat there—an immaculate, three-masted, double-ended Marco Polo schooner ...read more

14_01_230123_TOR_JOF_0414-2048x

The Ocean Race Leg 2 Kicks Off

After a trial by fire start to the race and only a brief stop for limited fixes, the five IMOCA 60 crews in The Ocean Race set off for Cape Town, South Africa, early on January 25. Despite arriving somewhat battered in Cabo Verde, an African island nation west of Senegal, the ...read more

Lead

Cruising: Smitten with a Wooden Boat

I was sailing down the inner channel of Marina del Rey under a beautiful red sunset when Nills, one of the crew members on my boat, pointed out an unusual and unique-looking 40-foot gaff-rigged wooden cutter tied to the end of a dock. Its classic appearance was a stark contrast ...read more

Screen-Shot-2023-01-23-at-12.03.19-PM

Racing Recap: Leg One of The Ocean Race

New to spectating The Ocean Race? Managing Editor Lydia Mullan breaks down everything you need to know to get started. ...read more

image00001

From the Editor: Keeping the Hands in Hands-On

SAIL Editor-in-Chief Wendy Mitman Clarke enjoys a sunny autumn cruise in her Peterson 34 on the Chesapeake Bay. It was late afternoon just after the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis when I climbed aboard the last boat on the schedule. I and others who review and sail boats for ...read more

P1580711

B&G Announces New Zeus S Chartplotter

B&G has long been putting out top-of-the-line electronics, but the new Zeus S Chartplotter is a new take on the best way to give sailors the exact information they need, when they need it. “So many more people sail shorthanded these days, whether as a couple or when they’re ...read more

00-LEAD-DSCF1601

Charter: Mission to Mars

In the wake of the pandemic, many sailors are seeking adventure and grabbing onto a vision of their best lives. For some, that may mean sailing across the Atlantic with the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) while for others, it could be a yacht charter in the Caribbean. The ...read more