Another IOTA weekend has been and gone but what a great contest it was. The weekend started for Sands Amateur Radio Contest Group at 4pm on Friday 23rd July with members collecting together all the fibreglass poles, ropes and associated equipment we planned on using.
The moment you enter Sunderland Point there is a real sense of peace and tranquility which has to be sampled in person to really understand it... I have included a few shots I took on the day we arrived.
The last two pictures were taken as the sun began to set at the end of a successful day where we had most of our antenna's up for the contest. A few members of the team made for The Owl's Nest to sink the odd pint and reflect on the evenings work.
Essential Local Knowledge: The road leading to Sunderland Point is a causeway that spans mudflats and a good local knowledge is essential not only with the time of the tides but also the type of tide and the period the causeway would be covered by the tide. We are very fortunate in having the help of Peter Gilchrist who gives us all the local information we need for the time we are there.
We were on site outside the reading room by 4.30pm and all the equipment was unloaded from the vehicles very quickly so that local residents were not inconvenienced with a blocked road. Both First Terrace and Second Terrace have single track roads with few passing points.
The Spiderbeam: This is the first year we have not had the Spiderbeam available for the contest. After 6 years use we decided that the antenna lines for each band needed re-measuring and tuning, especially the 15m elements. The antenna lines are the one part of the Spiderbeam that has not been touched or replaced since we bought the spiderbeam and they have stood up to some horrendous winds and extreme weather conditions including the "Great Storm of 2009" which caused so much devastation to our equipment.
Members of the antenna erecting team were: Andrew Scarr G0LWU, Hughie Park G4UME, Damien Davies G0LLG, Martin Hazel M0ZIF, Kev Redmond G6FKE, Ian Maude G0VGS. Brian Watson G0RDH took care of most of the photography. It would be remiss of me not to mention Kev's dog Pippa, our canine mascot for the event who was on her annual holiday. Her two pleasures in life are persuading someone to throw "Round Thing or Stick" for her to fetch.
No sooner was the front door opened at Kev's house, she was out and would have driven there herself had she been big enough to see over the steering wheel!
Ian G0VGS and Kev G6FKE in conversation and Hughie G4UME helping with measurements.
Using vertical antennas for the contest made life a little easier than normal because all the poles are pulled out a section at a time and secured with jubilee clips to lock each section in place. All that being said it is still time consuming exercise.
The mast is held up at waist height and each section is secured with jubilee clips. By doing this there is no strain to the back. The nuts to the jubilee clips are all locked at 12 O'clock which again makes it easy when taking the mast down.
This sequence of pictures shows one of the fibreglass masts being erected by 3 people. Kev, G6FKE is adding the spring loaded technique to the mast as Martin, M0ZIF being the tallest member of the team is walking the mast up and Hughie, G4UME is making sure that the base does not slip.
As you can see in this shot, Hughie is getting ready to hold the mast in position as it reaches its vertical position. He's also there to counteract the whipping effect which could cause the mast to flip over in the other direction.
If you look carefully you should be able to see the orange guy lines which will be adjusted to make the mast as close to 100% vertical as possible
A nice shot of Hughie holding the mast.... looks like he is doing nothing but he is making sure the mast stays steady as the rest of the team adjust the guys each pulling the mast in various directions.
The masts are up and each antenna is checked by Ian and Hughie to make sure it's resonant an the band of choice.
(I see no ships!)
Damien, G0LLG had a good thought prior to the contest and wondered if the posts used by farmers to erect electric fencing could help us raise the ground-planes to various heights for for an improved SWR. It was an inspired idea that worked very well. We can see Martin, M0ZIF bringing a couple of the posts, Ian, G0VGS is unwinding the ground-planes and Damien, G0LLG is standing ready to connect the wires to the feed point that can be seen around a metre off the ground.
I should point out that there are no local farmers looking for livestock because someone pinched their posts.... ours are new and were sourced in the Internet :)
In total we had verticals up for 10m, 15m, 20m, 40m and 80m and all worked very well.
Our technical wizard Faris, M0ZFA was able to setup our internet access for the event. Sadly he was unable to join us for IOTA as over the last couple of years he has joined a number of local Search and Rescue/emergency organisations where both his technical skills in setting up emergency communications systems and his abilities to join rescue teams as they perform their duties have been greatly valued.
Logging Software: When the group started nearly six years ago we used Wintest as our logging program. For this event we decided to try N1MM for the first time in contest conditions and were pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. It was a new learning curve for all members but once we got the hang of it, I for one found it easy to use. We have to thank Ian the groups' chairman for that. He spent quite some time working out which menu items we needed for IOTA and got some very good advice in contacts with the programs author.
Station operators over the weekend were: Beccy Frost 2E0BEX, Mark Luby M0DGK, Steve MulderG1TLQ, Andrew Scarr G0LWU, Damien Davies G0GLL, Hughie Park G4UME, Martin Hazel M0ZIF, Ian Maude G0VGS, Kev Redmond G6FKE, Brian Watson G0RDH.
Two stations were operated over the weekend
Station One: was the K3 owned by G0VGS which operated as the main DX station using a mixture of spot frequencies and search and pounce. The station used SSB and CW for contacts. The station had the added advantage of a Ranger 811H Linear Amp.
Ian G0VGS making some CW contacts.
There was an intermittent fault on the K3 during the early part of the contest which was traced down to one of the TMP leads having a high resistance contact on the synthesiser board. The joys of being able to fault find in the field :).
Station Two: was the FT2000D a new radio to the group owned by Brian G0RDH. This radio offered 200w output and was used as the Mult Station. Because of close proximity of the antennas and radios there was some interaction during the contest but that was expected and worked around.
Mark M0DGK operating the Mult Station.
I'd like to introduce you to the rest of the team using photographs taken at this years event. It's always nice to be able to put a face to an operator.
Beccy, affectionately known as Bex, 2E0BEX. If you worked a YL operating the station G1T then it was Beccy you were talking to.
Steve, G1TLQ and Andrew, G0LWU discussing the new logging software.
Martin, M0ZIF operating the FT-2000D for the first time.
Damien, G0LLG operating our main station on the K3.... Damien was also our QM for the event and I can guarantee that nobody was left hungry at any time. Our main meal on Saturday night was a Corned Beef Hash made by Kev and served with the normal condiments along with beetroot or red cabbage. There's nothing better than sausage, bacon, fresh mushrooms and a free range egg placed delicately of a teacake/bap for breakfast. Your biggest problem is getting your mouth around it to take the first bite although rumor has it that some members of the group had no problem..... I really must stop starting these rumors!
Our foreman/site manager for the event is Hughie G4UME seen here with Beccy. Nobody knows quite how old he is (it's a closely guarded secret known only to a select few) but he puts me to shame with his enthusiasm and work ethic (Old School.... I wish we still had it in the work place today). He takes a personal pride in anything he turns his hand to and makes sure it's the best he can do. He's always there when the call goes out for an antenna rigging crew and he gets stuck into the contest when somebody needs a break or because its his turn to operate.
And finally we have Kev (The Hat) seen here with Andrew and Steve checking one of the antenna's out prior to the contest starting. Thanks to Bob G1OCK for this picture.
All members who attended enjoyed the experience of meeting up with friends, learning new skills and perfecting their individual contesting techniques.
That's it for another year of IOTA at Sunderland Point. If you worked G1T in the contest thanks for being there and we look forward to meeting up again in future contests. If you are reading this and have never tried contesting give it a go.
The next contest is RSGB Field Day 3rd & 4th of September and then it's our biggest event of the year. Sands Contest Group with Workington ARC and other friends will be doing IOTA from the Isle of Arran from 18th -25th September. We hope to be operating stations on most of the bands and using most modes. Have a listen out for us and we look forward to hearing from you.
Brian G0RDH ( The Reluctant Contester)