March 30, 2009

WPX Musings

This weekend's contest has been really enjoyable. After the disasters at the start of the month, we all needed some fun. As both our masts are now considerably shorter than they were and the Spiderbeam is still out of commission, we decided to work with simple verticals and to put up some low dipoles for 40, 80 and top band. The plan was to have some fun, play with the verticals and give the new members a taste of contesting. We were not planning on a serious entry.

There is a saying in the country about the month of March which says 'in like a lion, out like a lamb' which basically means if the month starts with strong winds and storms, it will end gently. Well when we put the aerials up the day before the contest, you would not have believed it! It blew and blew. It was also rather chilly!
Anyway, by the end of the day we had verticals up for 80m, 40m and 20m. The 80m was based on an 18m fibreglass mast from Spiderbeam. It was designed for our use on our Jura dx-pedition and worked just as well here. The 40m vertical was based on a 12m fibreglass mast from Spiderbeam and was a simple wire with 4 x 5m raised radials. This aerial was our best performer over the weekend but propagation was good on 40m. The 20m vertical was based on a simple cheap fibreglass pole using 4 x 5m raised radials.
These verticals were so good we did not use the 40m or 80m dipoles at all! We were also pleasantly surprised by the top band dipole which returned about 75 contacts over the weekend. Not bad for a half wave dipole whose centre was only at about 25 feet! We joked about it being a short beverage :)

Starting at midnight, the low bands did very well and VK, Greenland and Iceland went into the log in short order. The morning brought a beautiful calm day with sunshine whic was fabulous. We soon realised that we had nothing that would work 15m very well and had not really expected an opening. However we managed to use the 40m dipole to make a couple of contacts. This was rectified the following morning by throwing some more wire at another fibreglass pole.
It only took us about 15 minutes to make and trim this quick and dirty aerial but our first contact was Tanzania!

I think we were all astounded by how well the verticals worked and we now plan to look at phased verticals to give us some 'front to back' rejection.

40m was wonderful giving us several VK's, ZL, OX and other contacts in Hawaii, Andorra, East Malaysia and the States. But all bands were good and we had a ball. We finished on 753 Q's and just under 750k points in the Multi-Single category without the use of a second mult station which was a lot more than we expected. We broke several pile-ups with the verticals and a maximum of 400W (sometimes less as the bottles are getting a bit past their best in the 811!) most notably Andorra which had a massive pile-up..

All in all we had a great time and it just shows you what can be achieved with simple aerials and legal power. There was a good bit of banter between the group members on who had the best contacts and who slept far too long :)

Thanks go once again to Barrie, G1JYB for the use of a fabulous contest site and a really nice warm shed for the shack!


And So To Bed!

March 29, 2009

Sunny Sunday

A beautiful day in North Yorkshire for a change! All is working well and we have also managed to put up an antenna for 15m as the band opened fairly early on Saturday. We have had some super contacts so far and everybody is enjoying themselves, whether it's operating the station or just enjoying the company.....

March 28, 2009

The 40m Vertical Rocks!

What a night! Already worked several Australian stations, Greenland , Iceland and other exotic DX. We can safely say that the 40m vertical works very well indeed! Kev and Brian are now off to bed and are letting the morning shift take over.....

March 27, 2009

Windy....Must Be Contest Time!

No it's not Time Team!!

The CQ WW WPX contest is this weekend and guess what? Its blowing a gale again! We are up at the contest site erecting some verticals for the weekend. The plan is to put up separate verticals for 20/40/80 meters. For once this will not be a serious contest for us but more a time for experimentation with antennas and a chance for our newer members to get used to taking part in contests. Again this is a long contest of 48 hours with British Summer Time coming into force in the early hours of Sunday morning. On a good note the sun is shining and the forecast is for the wind to abate by Sunday. Barry has promised homemade Chilli Con Carne for the troops on Saturday evening! It feels like its going to be a good weekend whatever happens.....

March 18, 2009

Constructing Simple Verticals

A lovely sunny day was ideal to start constructing some verticals for contesting and portable work. Using the tools we had to hand we managed to put together two verticals, one for 40 meters and one for 20 meters. Both are very lightweight and very inexpensive to build. We took the 20 meter vertical down to the shoreline and it performed beautifully. Stateside was very good and plenty of DX to be heard. Gary's Elecraft K2 is ideal for this sort of thing, just 10 watts and a built in battery gives a good few hours of operation!

March 16, 2009

Looking on the Funny Side!

We were all devastated, nay heartbroken when we saw the extent of the damage to our masts after 75mph + winds last saturday night, yet one XYL saw a funny side to our situation....... It may have taken a week for her to think of this but I have to admit it even brought a smile to my face.

Whilst thinking of us and being genuinely sorry that antenna's and masts were bought down in a tangled heap, she would like you to know that...

Her shed is still standing!!


March 10, 2009

Welcome to Chris

Welcome to Chris G4LDS who officially joined the membership yesterday. Chris has helped a lot over the last week or two and has plenty of skills to bring to Sands. Lets hope the next few contests are a little less stressful with a few less problems.

March 08, 2009

Damage Assessment

It's still blowing a gale up here today and it's freezing as well!

Surveying the bent 50' Spidermast

This is one of the fibreglass Spiderbeam spreaders!

Aluminum bent and sheared!

Abandon Ship!

Last night we were again hit by another storm, driving rain and severe gusts. Both masts and the Spiderbeam again suffered damage. It was at this point we decided it was time to abandon the contest and go home to our warm beds. The contest has been hard work and its a shame that a lot of work was put into the set up of the station by our members. These things, unfortunately, happen! Today we will assess the damage but it looks as if its going to be quite expensive to replace the parts for both masts. At least we have a local radio rally coming up in the next few months which will help raise our funds.

March 07, 2009

Antenna Farm

Our 80m vertical using the 60' fibreglass Spidermast

Sunset at the contesting site

Conditions Not Brilliant

It really is quite a slow start to the ARRL contest with conditions not been good at all. The best band at the moment is 20m, even the ARRL guys are finding it hard work, struggling to even hear some of the European kilowatt stations a little earlier. At the moment we are "searching and pouncing" but will try a "run" frequency in a little while. At least we are all warm and dry, its raining heavily outside and getting quite breezy! The spiderbeam and the mast are, for the moment, behaving themselves....

March 06, 2009

All Set Up and Working

Just finished setting the shack up for a midnight start. All has gone smoothly apart from a slight tuning issue with the topband dipole, we can look at this tomorrow. Some of us have gone to get some sleep now whilst we have the chance. Kev and Brian are kicking off the night shift as usual. It has been a busy few days but finally things have come together and we are looking forward to a busy weekend. For a couple of our members this will be their first big contest as well. Good luck to everyone who is taking part this weekend and see you on the bands!

Sticky Tape and a Hacksaw!

A little bit of patience and a lot of work is all that is required to fix a contest station.

For now we have taped up the spreaders on the Spiderbeam...a temporary fix!

All is now working again, the only problem was getting the Spiderbeam resonant on 20 metres again. As thought we will have to replace 2 sections of the mast and 2 of the spreaders of the beam but at least all is up and ready for the ARRL Dx Contest. Ah! the joys of contesting!

March 04, 2009

Slight Technical Hitch!!

This is what happens when a Spiderbeam meets with an irresistible force, in this case gusts of nearly 70mph! So much for thinking the stormy winter weather was over. Never mind, on closer inspection it seems that everything is salvageable, although some new parts will need to be ordered. A couple of spreaders on the Spiderbeam have split but can be taped up for now and 2 sections of the mast need to be replaced. It appears that the top section of the mast slipped down allowing too much play on the guy ropes. For now it will have to do and we intend to go up to the site tomorrow and get everything back up ready for the ARRL contest this weekend. It's all a learning curve as they say...........

March 01, 2009

All Ready To Go!

After quite a cold and damp afternoon's work all the antennas are now up and ready for a good month's contesting. Just the radios to set up a little later this week.

Putting Up the Dipoles

Yesterday went very well despite the cold and a steady drizzle of rain. Managed to get the nest of dipoles up and guyed!

This photograph shows Frank's homemade centre for the nest of dipoles

Faris and Gary hard at work tying the guy ropes off!

Today we will concentrate on setting the Spiderbeam up and getting the shack together. The weather is much improved this morning so we should make good time.