April 02, 2010
WPX Contest "Tales from Hancocks Hut" March 2010
(All pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them)
It does not seem all that long since members of Sands Contest Group were taking part in the WPX last year and hoping that we missed the strong winds and rain we were greeted with in 2009. In that contest we were operating a patched up spider beam..... and using our contest callsign G1T.
For anybody wanting to learn more about the "Great Storm of 2009" go to March on the side menu and scroll down to near the bottom of the page.
So how did this years CQWW WPX start?.... Well as with any contest group, it started with a dedicated team of members erecting antennas and setting the station up. In this case it was Ian G0VGS, Kev G6FKE, Hughie G4UME and Frank G8BME.... Without their sacrifice and efforts the contest would not have been possible. I say sacrifice and and efforts because the weather was unrelenting with a mixture of icy wind and heavy downpours of rain and on occasion, hail. The meadow tends to retain water and conditions under foot were poor with the grass acting like a sponge when you stepped on it. Regardless they worked late into the early evening and did not give up until the job was done.
Our callsign for the contest was (G1T) Golf One Tango
The most popular radio equipment the group uses is the Elecraft K3, and a Ranger 811 Amp running up to 400w dependent on Contest/Band regulations. Audio is supplied via a Heil Headset with the HC-5 insert.
The graveyard shift consisted of Kev G6FKE (Pictured Here), Mark M0DGK, and Brian G0RDH who operated the station throughout the night, handing over to Hughie at 7am
Taking health and safety into account, we make sure there's no chance the operator will suffer from dehydration. Whoever is on the station is kept well lubricated with tea, coffee or their favorite choice of the amber nectar; which I might add is never taken to excess.... mainly because I cannot find the route any where on my TomTom.
Mark and I took over from Kev, taking it in turn to operate. Our aim was to get a minimum of 200 stations logged before the rest of the crew arrived to take the morning shift. We worked some good DX during the night and plenty of multipliers to help boost our score.
On the funny side was the a station from the USA or Canada, sorry I cannot remember his callsign, who called for stations to wait a minute.... He came back quite quickly and apologized..... His chair had broken during a contact and I think he landed on the floor.... We wish him well and hope nothing more than his pride was hurt.
Hughie G4UME arrived around 7am followed a little time later by Ian G0VGS. It's hard to believe the difference in the WX between the harsh conditions faced setting up the antennas up and what turned out to be a beautiful morning on the first day of the contest.
This shot top right shows the nest of dipoles for 160m, 80m and 40m. Below that is the Spiderbeam for 20m, 15m and 10m and then we have the 80m Vertical with its capacity hat which works very well.
Other antenna's used are verticals for 20m, 40m and 15m.
Ian G0VGS took control of the station and the log entries picked up quickly. The casual observer may think that Ian's asleep on the job but I promise you he was concentrating trying to get details from a weak station which was not easy because of qrm from stations on adjacent frequencies.
Whilst Ian was operating a fault developed with the Spiderbeam not being resonant and after some investigation the fault was traced to the balun. Sadly this put the Spiderbeam out of commission for the rest of the contest. The thought might strike you that group members may be looking for divine intervention but in reality they are checking the balun out. Sadly we did not have a spare with us.
On a lighter note it was great to see the newborn lambs in the meadow who were both playful and inquisitive, especially around the radials of the verticals but neither the lambs nor the radials came to any harm. We did however have to pop out a few times to reset them. We even had a trainee Guard Sheep!
Ian gently herding the sheep on away from the 80m mast on Sunday afternoon.
One of the great views from Oysterber Farm
We were joined in the afternoon by Frank (shown operating here) and Steve who gave members who had operated already a welcome break.
As the daylight draws to a close, if it's not pelting with rain we are treated to a fantastic sunset and what a beautiful one this was
The group are always looked after well by the owners of Oysterber Farm, Barrie G1JYB and his wife Kathy M3YOG and Stephany G1LAT. From the first time Barrie and Kathy invited us to use his meadow and site our station in "Hancocks Hut", they have also been fantastic in treating us to a two course meal on the Saturday Night.
At the International DX contest we had a Mexican themed meal and for WPX we were treated to Individual Cottage Pie cooked and served in earthenware pots, with homemade Mushy peas and red cabbage. Our sweet for the evening was a choice of either homemade apple or rhubarb pie served with double thick cream.
A quality wine always flows freely throughout the meal and the meal is finished with a choice of tea or coffee. Stephany G1LAT was our chef for the evening, ably assisted by Barrie who's a wizard with a potato masher. This is always a great time where we can chill out in the company of friends chatting on what ever subject comes up. It would be remiss of me not to thank Kathy who quietly slopes off to the kitchen, dons her marigolds and sets to work on the washing up.
As you can imagine it's a struggle to get back to the radio and the contest but we radio amateurs are a hardy breed who in the true spirit of amateur radio say one and all "Well I guess we'd better get back to the contest then!"
Saturday night / Sunday Morning was very good with Brian G0RDH working through the Wee Small Hours until Kev took over at around 04:45. I was ready for a break! I'm sure there are many contesters / Special Event operators and those great people who trek out and put DXpeditions on for us who will know that time when your tongue goes AWOL and fails to connect with the brain.... I had reached such a point and welcomed Kevs return from "Hancock's Pit", a place once occupied you're reluctant to vacate.
Access to "Hancock's Pit" is all a matter of timing and as usual I was running late!
Sunday was great although the weather was not as good..... I set to making the breakfast on the "George Foreman Grill and Hotplate". "A masterpiece of culinary delight" was about to be created: Irish Sausage, Danish Bacon, Mushrooms and a fried free range egg were all delicately cooked to perfection and then slapped into a large teacake to create the Sands Breakfast Special.... The only cry of dissent was from Hughie "Why's there no butter on these teacakes". I told him straight "Cos butter's fattening and not good for you!"
Around lunch time Andrew G0LWU arrived with his son Graham M3OBM and it was good to see Graham's enthusiasm asking his dad if he could operate the station.
Graham did really well contesting at an event that can have grown men withering at the thought of talking live into a mic.
Sadly one of our group, Chris G4LDS was unable to be with us because he had just been released from hospital after surgery.... He is a man for all seasons (usually wet) and never far from our thoughts, especially at contest time.
Welcome back Chris
Gary M0RGB made a welcome return to contesting after lunch on Sunday and stayed until the end of the contest helping to notch our score up. He's a natural operator who has held run frequencies and managed them with ease.
One of the stations worked in the contest is one of our members. Mike (M0PRL) joined the British Antarctic Team late in 2009 and works at Rothera Base on Adelaide Island, Antarctica. Mike's callsign is currently VP8DMH and was able to make contact with our station although conditions were difficult.
You can see one of Mikes reports on his radio activity a little further down on the blog site. I'm sure Mike will be looking forward to IOTA in July where he will be a very popular station to work with his IOTA No. AN-001.
This has been a great contest and the band conditions have been favourable with the world as our oyster. It's still a little on the chilly side but the WX has been good to us, at least during the time the contest was running. Having worked all the stations they could the remaining members of the team bugged out half an hour before the end of the contest. All were beyond tired and made home to a warm and comfy bed for a few hours sleep.
And so ended the CQWW WPX Contest for another year. Although very tiring, everyone who took part enjoyed themselves and the bands were kind to us with few areas of the world not worked.. A heartfelt thanks to all the stations we worked, both for the contacts and occasional humour.
The WX forecast was poor for the first two days of the coming week with wind and rain forecast for Monday and more wind rain and snow forecast for Tuesday, a decision was made to take the antennas down on Monday morning. It was a good call. The wind was just a little stronger than a breeze and the rainfall was light.