By Clare Morin
This year’s Atacama Crossing has featured a record number of teams. There were five in total, from the Swiss Mountain Runners of Switzerland, to the well-dressed Hombres de Maiz from Guatemala, Chilean teams AndesGear and Nunatak, and a group of young British men named teamHSX.
The latter were the winners of the first two stages of the race, so we caught up with them in the early stages of the course to as about their tactics. We found Richard Batstone (20), Chris Laws (29) and Alan Braithwaite (32) as they were catching their collective breathe at the end of the difficult second stage.
The trio first met through Hampshire Scout Expeditions (hence the team name), where they help to organize expeditions for young people in the United Kingdom and abroad. “We like to call ourselves the competitive arm of the HSX,” explains Alan.
In addition to organizing adventures for young people, they also compete as a standalone team in a range of events, from 10km road races to two-day mountain marathons, such as the 3 Peaks Challenge in Yorkshire, England.
The Atacama Crossing, however, is their first major expedition. “We talked about it 18 months ago,” Alan explains. Richard chimes in, “Three nods in a room in South Wales confirmed the team. When we gave our first deposit about a year ago, it became real.”
Despite this being their first 4 Deserts challenge, they were performing very well in the first stages. Was it a surprise? “It was a big surprise when we were the first team home on the first day, plus today” admits Chris. But he insists that success is not getting to them. “We won’t alter our race tactic to win. That’s not the goal.
There is a strong about bond between these three Brits. “It’s all about the team,” states Alan. Richard nods and agrees: “We trained together every other weekend for the past six months… we trained hard and only drank one large glass of wine each in the evenings.”
Wine appears to play a significant role in the training regime. Chris explains: “Ranulph Fiennes in his book ‘Fit for Life’ says a glass of red wine a day is good for the heart, so we figured it would do us good!”
And what do they do to stay together, when the going gets tough? “Be open, honest, say what you think and be yourself. Supportive girlfriends also help!” says Alan. “Chris is a man and gets on with it, Alan whinges like a girl and Richard falls somewhere in between.”