There is no room for gender stereotypes on board Rimantas Gutauskas’ yacht. Here, each and every one is considered equal, and when learning to sail, one must learn to perform all the necessary actions. Kristina Ramonienė, who, together with her husband, decided to learn to operate a yacht twelve years ago, is still grateful to captain Rimantas for such attitude.
“He For She” is a United Nations initiative that has travelled around the world, calling on men to stand in solidarity with women and actively work for the benefit of gender equality, to change stereotypes, to be a united and visible force of change. In Lithuania, the campaign was initiated by the National Olympic Committee of Lithuania (LNOC), which approached the project through the lens of sport.
The stories of “He For She Lithuania” are about women in sport and men who support them, about problems and challenges, and serve as a way to speak about it loudly, referring to the current affairs of our country and telling athletes’ stories.
The story of friendship between Rimantas Gutauskas and Kristina Ramonienė, which was inspired by sailing, is the third one in Season 2 of “He For She Lithuania”.
After greeting Mr. Rimantas and boarding the yacht, we all went our own ways. As we move away from the shore, the captain remembers the song “Žuvėdra Baltoji” (White Seagull) and tells us that he has been featured in Alex Leman’s music video. The cameraman and I joke that in this case, he is used to being filmed, he won’t feel scared. “I’m not used to it at all, but life makes me do it,” he laughs again.
Although the story characters had not seen each other for a few years, Kristina gets an immediate chance to remember the lessons she has taken with Rimantas and to show that she has not forgotten what he has passed on to her. Thus, taking turns in managing the sails and showing us around Trakai, they begin telling us about their sailing experience.
“Don’t ask me how I met Kristina, I don’t remember, having so many pupils in my portfolio,” he giggles. Speaking more seriously, he found the woman who came to learn to sail to be “terribly adventurous”.
“She was already very motivated and stubborn. Please remind me what you remember, I am struggling with it,” Rimantas urges his former pupil.
“First of all, I was in need of doing something, I wanted adrenaline. My husband was also getting interested in sailing, therefore, step by step, thought after thought, we started learning,” says the sailor.
When it came to choosing the instructor, she and her husband immediately opted for Rimantas, a captain who teaches sports sailing. The lessons, which started in 2009, culminated in a passed exam and the right to be called an “an inland navigator”.
On Board, Everyone is Equal
She took an instant liking of captain Rimantas, not only because of his vast knowledge and ability to pass it on, but also because he did not have any prejudices regarding gender.
“Sailing is generally considered as requiring strength, so I was a bit worried. Out of twenty students in the theory class, there were only three women. And I was the only one who finished the practical part. So Rimantas’ treatment of us all as equals without categorising us gave me confidence,” said Kristina, speaking highly of her captain.
Rimantas Gutauskas echoes her ‒ women are not inferior to men. He does not make any concessions on the basis of gender, nor does he extend his hand to her when boarding a yacht.
“No matter who comes, a person has to have confidence in himself, not to be afraid of climbing aboard a yacht that is going to swing, not to be afraid to fall overboard, because what are you going to do when you are alone on that yacht? If the man you love falls overboard, how will you cope? And a man has to be capable of doing the same. Although the Lithuanian Yachting Union exams and the curriculum stipulate that the exam is to be taken in pairs, my course, however, is designed so that everybody has to be able to handle the yacht on their own,” says the sailor.
When teaching a husband and a wife, he is not afraid to say if the woman is doing better. “As far as I remember, Kristina was better than her husband,” he recalls.
They Bought Their Own Yacht 12 Years Later
After training with captain Rimantas, Kristina Ramonienė continued sailing on her own. She had to get used to the process ‒ to feel the wind, the water and the responsibility.
“For a couple of further years, my husband and I would either rent a yacht or sail with Rimantas to acquire more skills. You don’t become a very good driver right away after getting your driver’s licence, do you? We bought our own yacht 12 years later,” she says.
Today, owning their own yacht, Kristina and her husband not only feel safe, but also feel confident when making the right decisions when it comes to taking others on the yacht. And the very process of sailing simply fascinates them.
“To me, sailing means silence, peace, a chance to be with myself and my thoughts. Oftentimes, we don’t have the opportunity to let our eyes slide over the surface of the water. We are in a constant rush,” says Kristina.
Captain Rimantas can also endlessly talk about the magic of sailing. “I want to convey to my students that a yacht is a living creature. When I was in primary school, I was boarded on a beautiful varnished open-hulled yacht with a tall wooden mast and we set sail on the lake. And all of a sudden, under some incomprehensible force, the yacht creaked, came to life and started to drift, I don’t understand why ‒ no engine, no oars. I was fascinated by this characteristic of a yacht. Together we are like one creature in the water,” says the captain.
Don’t be Afraid of the Yacht
But the magic of sailing is far beyond everyone’s reach. There are certain personal qualities you need in order to be able to operate a yacht.
“If you want to learn sailing, you have to have no fear of getting on a swinging object. Some people are panic-stricken about setting foot on an unstable surface. You have to feel where the wind is coming from, because if you don’t have that orientation, it’s difficult to get around,” says Rimantas Gutauskas.
Kristina points out that it is also important to think, to avoid acting spontaneously, and to anticipate several steps ahead.
“With time, one starts observing these rules in life as well. You don’t make spontaneous decisions anymore, you don’t follow your emotions, you look for the best option. It is a coherent sequence of decisions, which is very necessary both at work and in life. When you get scared about what is going to happen, you take steps following the principles of sailing. This strengthens us as individuals ‒ both men and women,” Kristina believes.
She urges other women not to be afraid of pursuing their dreams, of taking that first step when there is no turning back.
“The way forward is ours ‒ nobody else’s ‒ and we ourselves are responsible for where we go. I invite women, girls and their parents to take little girls to learn sailing. It will give them confidence, joy, courage and help them grow up to be strong individuals who are not afraid of assuming responsibility,” she says, inspiring others by her example.