Greta Thunberg just set sail for Spain with 2 Australian YouTubers, their baby, and a professional skipper

Greta Thunberg just set sail for Spain with 2 Australian YouTubers, their baby, and a professional skipper

  • Climate activist Greta Thunberg and her father set sail for Spain on Wednesday with two Australian YouTubers, their 11-month-old son, and a professional yacht skipper.
  • The group is racing to make it across the Atlantic in three weeks for COP25, this year’s most important UN climate-change summit, which got moved from Chile to Spain at the last minute.
  • Thunberg refuses to fly because of planes’ heavy carbon footprint.
  • “We hope dearly that we can get Greta to COP on time,” the skipper told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Greta Thunberg has set sail across the Atlantic on a last-minute voyage with an impromptu crew. 

Thunberg refuses to fly due to the heavy carbon footprint of aviation — a single round-trip flight between New York and California generates roughly 20% of the greenhouse gases your car emits in a year. But when this year’s most important United Nations climate summit, COP25, got moved from Chile to Spain at the last minute, that left the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist stuck on the wrong continent. 

Thunberg traveled from the UK to the US on the Malizia II, a sailboat that runs on solar power (and wind, of course), to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit in September. Her plan was to stay in the Americas until COP25 in early December. But the change of plans forced Thunberg to seek out a low-emissions way to get back to Europe as quickly as possible.

The solution, it turned out, is a 48-foot catamaran belonging to two Australian YouTubers, Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu. Their boat, called “La Vagabonde,” is powered by solar panels and hydroelectric generators.

The couple has been sailing the world and making YouTube videos of their adventures since 2014. For this Atlantic crossing, they’re sailing with their 11-month-old son Lenny, professional yacht skipper Nikki Henderson, and Thunberg’s father, Svante.

The group set sail on Wednesday morning. 

They expect the trip to take about three weeks. If all goes as planned, Thunberg will arrive just in time for COP25, which starts December 2.

—Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) November 13, 2019

“The trip’s length depends on the weather,” Henderson told Business Insider via Twitter. “You never know exactly what that will bring, particularly in this age with the climate increasingly unpredictable. We hope dearly that we can get Greta to COP on time.”

A map on the YouTubers’ website will track the group’s progress across the Atlantic.

COP25’s last-minute move left Thunberg on the wrong continent

Greta Thunberg

Climate activist Greta Thunberg and skipper Boris Herrmann wave from the Malizia II boat in Plymouth, England, August 14, 2019.
Associated Press


Boris Herrmann, the captain of the Malizia II, volunteered to sail Thunberg and her father to New York, but Thunberg never planned to travel back to Sweden on the same boat; she hadn’t yet made return plans.

Bu that became a problem when the UN announced on November 1 that COP25 would no longer take place in Santiago, Chile due to riots and protests there. 

“It turns out I’ve traveled half around the world, the wrong way,” Thunberg tweeted that day, adding, “if anyone could help me find transport I would be so grateful.”

Even given the time crunch, Thunberg still did not want to take an airplane.

“I decided to sail to highlight the fact that you can’t live sustainably in today’s society,” Thunberg told The New York Times. “You have to go to the extreme.”

‘Spending time with Greta will be an honor’

climate strike new york greta thunberg

Greta Thunberg participates in a climate protest in New York City, September 20, 2019.

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton


Whitelum responded to Thunberg’s request for help on Twitter.

“If you get in contact with me I’m sure we could organize something,” he said on November 4.

Thunberg announced on Tuesday that she’d accepted the offer.

“So happy to say I’ll hopefully make it to COP25 in Madrid,” she tweeted.

greta thunberg sail la vagabonde

Greta Thunberg and crew depart for Spain on the yacht La Vagabonde, from a marina in Hampton, Virginia, November 13, 2019.

REUTERS/Ryan M. Kelly


The group recruited Henderson to be the expert on board, since she sails in transatlantic and around-the-world yacht races. 

“Spending time with Greta will be an honor,” Henderson said. “She is changing the world simply by standing up for what she believes is right and staying true to her values. That is very inspiring and she is a strong woman. I hope to draw strength from her.”

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