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Autour du monde

Around the world


All the sea is a stage and we are acrobats

Sailing around the world was not their intention, but a desire to share their art has made it a reality for a family of French acrobats.

Franck Rabilier and Delphine Lechifflart took their acrobatic show on the road - or more precisely on the water - eight years ago, travelling and performing in more than 100 ports around the world since.

The couple, and their two young daughters, recently moored their 40-foot yacht La Loupiote at Tauranga's Bridge Marina, where they have based themselves over Christmas and New Year.

The family plans to explore New Zealand for the next month but will be back in Tauranga to perform their unique nautical acrobatic show in early March.

Using 18m of fabric, suspended from the yacht's mast, Mr Rabilier and Ms Lechifflart use theatrical movements and expressions to tell their stories. They perform two 20 minute shows - Between Wing and Island and The Navigators - which are free to watch, although donations are appreciated.

Sailing around the world was not the couple's original plan, Mr Rabilier said.

"We didn't plan to make a world circumnavigation at first, but now we are in the middle of the way so we have no choice, we have to keep going."

The couple's two daughters have been brought up on the 11m yacht, and know only the life of the travelling performer.

"Loeva came on-board when she was four-years-old and Ondja came on board when she was one month and a half, so she doesn't know anything else except sailing," Mr Rabilier said.

Some people might consider bringing up children on a yacht to be dangerous, but Mr Rabilier sees it a different way.

"It's more dangerous to be in the city and the children cross the road without your attention. For people who are not living on a boat it could be dangerous because they are not used to being careful with the waves and the movement of the boat, but [Loeva and Ondja] are used to it so it's not a problem."

The close connection the family had developed with the natural elements was the best thing about their lifestyle, Mr Rabilier said.

"We are living with the tide and the wind and the sun, we have no choice."

Sailing also allowed the family to keep their distance from the consumerist lifestyle of the developed world.

The major downside was being away from family and friends and not being able to travel back to France regularly.

However, the difficulty of being away from home had been softened by a visit from Mr Rabilier's mother, who had also visited the family in other countries.

On Saturday La Loupiote will sail to Auckland where the family will be reunited after Ms Lechifflart returns from her father's funeral in France. Details of the family's Tauranga shows will be available from the Tauranga Bridge Marina office by the end of February.

Photo: HIGH SEAS: Loeva Rabilier, 12, climbs the mast while 4-year-old Ondja stands on her father Franck's shoulders, on board their yacht La Loupiote. John Borren