Category Archives: Contesting

2017 Summer FD

This year,  for something a bit different the FD was never about building a full-on 4 band station and going all out for a big score – it was all about doing more with less.

We (Me, Bob VK5FO and Ray VK5RR) teamed up with Andy, VK5AKH and went QRP portable and went for a “nice” hike up to Black Hill Summit – a summit that is a hike in – and at 460M above sea level in PF95ic

We met down the bottom of the hill about an hour before the start and packed up the gear and antennas and away we went

We were taking gear to get us on the air on 4 bands for field day – 6m, 2m, 70cm and 23cm.

After nearly an hour, we finally made it to the summit at around 01:10 UTC just after the start time and proceeded to set up Antennas and Radio’s

Here you can see the Antenna’s – 1/2 Wave Vertical for 6m on the blue pole, and on the Camera Tripod, you can see the 11 Ele on 23cm, the 6 Ele on 70cm and the Slim Jim for 2m.

Andy making a contact on 6m with the KX3.

The summit, while it doesn’t offer great views has shade! which makes for a pleasant place to operate from.

Did I say minimal station set-up.  Here I am with the KX3 and you can see the 70cm XVTR and batteries in the foreground.

We were set up pretty much at the old trig point – I say old, because someone has ripped it all out of the ground at some point and built a pile of rocks adjacent to it on the walking trail.

The aim of the day was to enjoy the hike up to the top of the hill and play a bit of radio and within an hour or so we had contacts on all 4 bands.  It was all about getting out for a few hours, and getting a few contacts and handing out contacts to the other stations who were also out and about.

As far as FD goes, it is a decent location for a minimal set-up basic antenna’s that we carried in, and very modest power  on all bands – we had 5w on 6m, 2m and 70cm and 3w on 23cm.  It truly is a case of “height is might” when it comes to VHF/UHF and above.

Mid-afternoon we packed up and headed back down the trail.

It doesn’t look it, but it was a decent hike – with about 2km each way and 250+M elevation change.  Coming back down was a bit quicker it was only about 40 minutes. Here we were about 5 minutes from the bottom.

 

We had APRS running on the Handheld while hiking in and out.

At the end of the day, I logged 16 contacts for FD, and Andy logged 21, in the 3 hours or so we were at the Summit.

As we were operating from Black Hill, this also qualified as both a SANPCPA and VKFF Activation.

 

Team VK5FI

Well, for something completely different.

Team VK5FI is VK5RR and VK5FO, and FI is ‘5RR’s other callsign.

We decided to have a go in the VHF/UHF Spring Field day.  With the introduction of the (up to) 4 band section, and having both reasonable power and antennas for the task on the 3 low bands where we put the station together over a few weeks and yesterday morning got out and had a good solid go in the 8 hour section.  The intention was to operate SSB and FM on 6m, 2m and 70cm

For the location, we decided on the Ardrossan lookout at PF85WN – which is about 80km (los) across the Gulf back to Adelaide.

spring-vhf-uhf-2015Screenshot from contestradar

Now a little about the station we put together

The Common Equipment

To power the station we had a 165aH AGM 12V battery, and A huge thanks to VK5AKH for the loan of his Honda Generator – which we used to “float” the battery and to also provide power to the logging Laptops – we had no issues at all with power for the day.

We had the battery in the trailer, which also served as a support for all the antenna’s.

The station consisted of 3 txcvr’s – 1 for each band we were operating.  All 3 Radios used have remote heads, which makes setting up a lot easier than having to set up right next to the battery in the trailer!

We used the Armstrong method for rotating the beams.

The 6M Station

The station was quite simple – we put back into service the ancient IC-706  and coupled to a 2 Element Beam (horizontal), running a full 100w.

The antenna was on the same pole as the 70cm beam and up at about 4m High.

The 2M Station

On 2m we used the IC-7100 feeding a 6 Element Beam (Vertical) on it’s own pole up at around the 4.5M mark.  After about the first 2 hours, we realized that when you unplug the remote head from an IC-7100, that it reset the output power – so for the first 2 hours, we were only running 1W output instead of the intended 50W!  (and surprisingly, we did not really suffer too much as a result).

We also put up a Slim-Jim vertical at 10M high for 2m and had it connected up to a handheld, but in the end did not use it or the contest.

The 70cm Station

On 70cm we opted to us the TS-2000 – as it is the highest power we have on this band.  It was coupled to a 17 Element short boom yagi (approx 2m long) and put on the same pole as the 6m antenna at about 5M high.  We set the polarity to be 45deg – so not truly vertical or horizontal.

We arrived at the Ardrossan lookout with a bit over an hour to set up.

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Overlooking the Gulf from the lookout with the antennas on the roof racks.

So, we positioned ourselves where we could set up and operate and also so as not to be in the way with other visitors to the lookout and set up the station.

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The station, set up and ready to go.

Just out of the photo to the left we set up the generator near the rock,  The trailer – it has the battery in it and also supports the 2 (3*) poles for the antenna’s.  The plastic box on the draw bar contains the 3 transceivers – all close to the power source!  On the Other side of the car we tied up a tarp to provide shade over the table we set up to operate from.

The 3rd pole was the 12m spiderbeam pole with the 2m Slim Jim.

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The other side.

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The trailer with the battery and the poles for the antenna’s – and under the tarp is ‘5RR starting to operate on 2M.  The esky was lunch!

We did a simple split – based on the antenna’s – Ray operated the 2M station and I contended with 6m and 70cm.

We were able to plod along and work a reasonable number of stations from this location.  For the most part on all bands we were able to simply leave the antennas pointed (roughly) at Adelaide, but there were a few exceptions where it was necessary to swing around to the North to make contacts.

The day was not great and the wind was quite strong and at around 5:30 the wind literally ripped the tarp to bits!  We had to take a bit of a break and move from the table into the car to keep operating.

With all stations having remote heads, this was not too much trouble to do – just pick up each remote head and feed them in the back of the car.  It made the rest of the operating more difficult.

According to VKCL we ended up with:

6m –  33 contacts
2m – 48 contacts
70cm –  51 contacts

Lessons and Improvements

Now, we are not really big VHF/UHF operators and it has probably been around 20 years since we did any sort of VHF/UHF contesting, let alone operating portable like this.

A decent, high operating point is a real advantage and having additional antenna gain was most welcome.

2 operators would still be easy to add a 4th band to the mix.  The combination of 6m and 70cm worked out ok.

The Good
  • It was a Fun day out!
  • We made a decent number of contacts on both FM and SSB on the chosen operating bands.
  • The set-up proved to be effective – set up in about 45 minutes, same for station pack-up.
The Improvements
  • Antennas for each band on their own pole.
  • Headphones/headsets!  With 2 operators literally sitting next to each other, and all 3 radios turned up at the same time it was difficult at times to hear.
  • Antenna’s – with the wind they moved around a bit!

For this sort of operating, on even these bands we literally pulled together all the gear we had at short notice and went out to give it a go.  It was obvious that there were stations we could not hear from our location and we later found out that there were several stations in the metro area using nothing more than a handheld – these are the one’s we could not hear.

Even the very modest home stations we were able to work in the Adelaide metro area.

For this style of operating, we had about the right mix of power and antenna gain from where we were.  We had no real issues of interference between the bands, maybe a little be of de-sense but nothing too be worried about.

The antenna choices were proven to be effective – vertical polarization (except 6m – we didn’t have the mast height) and the boom length on 2m and 70cm meant we could rotate them without it physically interfering with the other ones on the other pole – it was not necessary to go larger in this case.  It might be a different story if there were stations further afield that  you were chasing – but with the majority of the activity within close proximity to the Metro area  it was a good mix of being both physically easy to manage and gain.

A review on the logs and we determined that the range of all stations worked was between 61 and 158km from us.

Update – The Results

 

Division 1

 Portable Loctn: PF85WN - Ardrossan Lookout

 L'tors Actvtd: PF85 

 Section: B2b: Portable Multi-Op, 8 hours, Four Band

 Division: 1: Locator Based Scoring

 Operators: VK5RR Ray, VK5FO Bob

 No.of Contacts: 132

 Total Score: 792

Division 2

 Portable Loctn: PF85WN - Ardrossan Lookout

 L'tors Actvtd: PF85

 Section: B2b: Portable Multi-Op, 8 hours, Four Band

 Division: 2: Distance Based Scoring

 Operators: VK5RR Ray, VK5FO Bob

 No.of Contacts: 132

 Total Score: 24037

 

2015 QRP hours contest

Last month, on Easter Saturday I participated in the QRP HOURS Contest for 2015.  This year, the contest got a bit of a boost with promotion among the many portable activators including SOTA, VKFF and SANCPA Yahoo Groups.

The concept is simple, it is 2 hours long, split into 2×1 hour categories.  The first hour is CW and Digital including PSK31 and RTTY, the 2nd hour is Phone (SSB) and is on 80M.  Rules are simple, QRP stations (5W CW/Digital or 10W SSB) get 1 point for every station worked and no repeats.

Given the very nature and the fact that the noise floor at home is only s9 when it is quiet, I headed up to my favorite SOTA summit, Mt Gawler, VK5/SE-013  for the contest.  I decided on this for 2 reasons – the obvious being that the noise floor should be a bit lower than home, and the fact that nobody had done an 80M activation of this summit.

Arriving only 15 minutes before the start (nothing like being prepared) it was a bit of a mad scramble to get everything set up, got the table out, set up the laptop with the KX3, then rolled out the 80M dipole and hung it up a 9M squid pole at around 8M.  I should have planned better and borrowed a 12m pole to get the antenna a bit higher, but hey you do what you can.

Saturday night was pretty chilly up on the hill and it was down around 10deg and a decent wind made it feel more like zero!

Only 2 minutes late starting, I finally got on air running PSK with only 3W to find a reasonable number of signals.  Now, I was going ultra-low-tech here and was only using the KX3 Utility program and relying on the built-in features of the KX3 to decode signals.  Yes, no waterfall display, just tuning the approx 3khz and trying to land someone calling cq.

The difficulty here was that I had never actually had a PSK31 contact using the KX3 beforehand so other than reading the manual and watching a few YouTube video’s on how to set it up earlier in the day I was totally unprepared for the first hour.  As a result, I probably did miss out on at least 5 or 6 more contacts that went begging during this hour.

It was pretty tough operating like this, and there were quite a few incompletes that I did not log.  Yes, there was a bit of noise about on 80M, but still nowhere near as bad as at the home QTH.

It was only moderately successful as far as the contest was concerned but did manage to complete 4 contacts, VK1, VK3, VK5 and VK6.  from a SOTA perspective, this was great, I qualified the summit on 80M DATA – 2 firsts for this often activated summit.

Qrp Hours 2015 Mt gawler
Headset – check, Foot switch – check, Torch – check. Everything in order contesting /p

 

SSB –  the 2nd hour

At the start of the 2nd hour, I unplugged the computer, cranked the power up to a massive 5W and went about doing the “hunt and peck” and worked the 5 or 6 stations whom I could hear across the voice segment.  As soon as I had worked as many as I could, I found a clear frequency and started calling CQ.  It was a case of calling and waiting for them to come to me.  There were bursts of activity and long periods of no replies and the unfortunate fact that with storms between VK5 to the East it made some contacts quite difficult!  There were probably a lot that I missed out on no doubt.

At the end of the night I had 23 contacts in my log, only to find that on checking later there was 1 dupe, so it will not count towards my score, with contacts to VK1, VK2, VK3 and VK5.

I already know that there were several other stations who managed bigger scores than myself – as 1 serial number I was exchanged was 39 – and that was about the 42 minute mark!

This sort of contesting taught me quite a few things and things I could have done better

  • Get set up early!
  • Make sure beforehand how to operate a particular mode
  • Antenna, Antenna, Antenna
  • Trial the location beforehand

All in all it was a somewhat cold, but interesting evening of Radio Sports and yeah, Like Arnie say’s “I’ll be back”

AX Award 2015

For chasers of the AX QSL Award  I have created a Special AX5FO QSL card.  When I had my last lot of cards printed, I had 25 AX cards printed as well, so the first 25 cards received will be replied to within a few days.

I will respond to all DIRECT QSL requests only – Do not send via buro (I will never see the card and therefore not respond).

Please send cards to:

Bob – VK5FO
GPO Box 2900
Adelaide, SA,  5001

Enclosing a SASE will guarantee a fast turn-around and would be appreciated!

Hope to get you in the logs and receive your card for this historic year.

JMMFD 2015 Results

While not a part of the big VK5 multi/multi effort  (see  John Moyle Field day station  VK5WIA – On the air and John Moyle Memorial Field day over for another year for some details) – we had a go!

We operated from PF95tx near Morgan in SA.  We have a “shack” (well 4 walls and a roof!) on a 5Ha bush block just out of town that offers a reasonably quiet HF environment and no neighbours close enough to bother when running the generator to charge the batteries!

I did a 6hr from around 16:00 Saturday afternoon and ended with 84 Contacts across 80, 40, 20 and 15M – Yes, I did it tough using only the KX3.   And no there is not a QRP section for the JMMFD!

Yes, running QRP did put me at a disadvantage, but that is not the point!  Reality is,  that at any given moment, I can grab my QRP kit and be ready to go portable and set up with the minimum of fuss. after all, the aim of the contest is  to encourage and provide familiarisation with portable and field operation  and one would wonder why there is not a QRP portable section for this Contest.

The other side of this is that given I was only running a QRP station I still had a reasonable number of contacts.

  • 80M – 5 Contacts
  • 40M – 71 Contacts
  • 20M – 7 Contacts
  • 15M – 1 Contact

Nothing on 160M or 10M

When we woke up this morning, Ray (VK5RR) proceeded to have a go, with just under 5 hours worked and ending with 89 contacts across 80, 40, 20 and 15M – but he was using the 7100 and 100W!

  • 80M – 1 Contact
  • 40M – 66 Contacts
  • 20M – 21 Contacts
  • 15M  – 1 Contact

Anyway, we had a bit of fun – yeah, we were by no means a big gun and nowhere near a winning score – but it was good to be able to give it a go.

Given we were only using quite modest Antenna’s and most of the contacts were made using one of the 3 dipoles, it was not too bad.

Looking forward to hearing the rest of the results.

Edit – adding a couple of photos from while I was operaing

Bob JMMFD Bob JMMFD 2