Team Name: Team Away Team
Team Members: Kris Amundson, Larissa Lane, Drew Smith
Hometown: Portland, Oregon USA
Race vessel: Express 27
Human propulsion: Paddles & Oars
If you read anything about ancient Sparta, a few pages in and one thing is pretty clear: not only were they every bit the impressive fighting force Hollywood makes them out to be, but the reason we’re still reading and making movies about them 2,500 years later isn’t just because they had better swords or more people or smarter tactics but because their entire society was designed to foster toughness and cull out those who didn’t hit the mark; an entire culture existed in the $10,000/steak knives game starting at birth. Newborns were assessed by soldiers for signs of strength then bathed in wine to see if they twitched, and when they turned seven they were taken from their homes to train in fighting, marched without shoes, denied food, beaten routinely. Miss the mark at any point, you’re a slave. Keep making the cut and you get to fight for Sparta. Make every kid run that gauntlet for several hundred years and you have a cultural machine that cranks out toughness in sufficient quantity to set them up for their big Alamo moment when 300 would hold off 100,000 Persians…for a while. They all died, but count it as a victory if you’re trying to rack up tough guy points and stay culturally relevant MMDXXXVII years in the future. Remember Thermopylae!
The first sentence of Team Away Team application had this brain searing quality of Sparta:
“I grew up in Tasmania, and on the weekends my parents would drag me through thigh-high bog mud to go hiking.”
23 words in and we were wide eyed. We weren’t dealing with a normal set of humans but the progeny of modern day, down-under Spartans so bent on toughening up their kids they would drag them through Tasmanian mud, then make them walk it off. That’s for nothing, now make sure you don’t do something.
From their wine bathed beginnings, Team Away Team has been racking up tough guy points across the globe. Two years sciencing in Antarctica’s least hospitable posts, summiting the premier peaks of the West Coast, crossing oceans, canal transits- they even made the South Pacific harder by criss-crossing it a bunch of times rather than just finding the first beach with an ice machine and drinking high-octane fruit juice until the numbers wore off the Master Card.
Even the small indulgences that sneak in (12 combined total trips to Burning Man) are well offset by the optional hardships: squatting on the anchor in the middle of a large city while they rebuilt the boat they lived on, hard charge racing up and down the west coast, Northern Ireland, and as far as India, two years off the grid living in the Sea of Cortez.
If this crew carries the torch of Sparta’s legacy, their 21st century trireme is the Express-27, the second to enter the R2AK (see Team Salish Express, 2016). Times change, they’ve shed the bronze ramming beak, scaled back from 180 oars to 2, and mounted in a sliding seat arrangement from the cockpit. They apparently still reserve the option to shackle in the rower.
Welcome to the R2AK battle hardened souls of Team Away Team, depending on your perspective, we wish you better and/or worse luck than the famed 300.