This was intended to be a blog on "National Science and Engineering Week" at Heron Corn Mill.... I'm sorry for the delay but I have to get permission to use some audio clips from BBC Radio Cumbria .... We'll hopefully have that sorted within the next week. However we are not short of things to talk about, so here's the Blog on our last contest.
The CQ Worldwide WPX contest was unusual in a number of ways this year so I thought I'd put a blog together "Anatomy of a Contest" based on how we put our contest together and what we aim to achieve this year.
All our contests start with our contest manager Damien G0LLG who posts a spreadsheet in the documents section of our group website where members are asked to indicate if they are free to participate, list two hour slots for operating and they are also asked to confirm if they need food during their time with us.
Damien was out of the area for the contest so Martin M0ZIF volunteered to take over the practical duties of being contest manager and QM for the event where he made sure:
- A Venue was available to host the event
- He had a team to erect the Antenna's
- A Radio for operating and a computer for logging were both available
- Everyone was up to date with the plans for the weekend
- and last but not least everyone was fed and watered
- Did he have enough members available to run the event?
- Should he restrict the operating hours to daytime hour only?
- Should he cancel the event?
This was both a positive and innovative approach that worked, building on skills like putting the antennas up in a new environment. It also allowed members to get used to equipment like the Elecraft K3 effectively and how to load up the linear amplifier correctly.
The group have a number of radios available for use in a contest and although we use the K3 a lot, we also use the following radios.
The 2000D is usually taken out to IOTA as a second station where it's 200W output complements the main station that uses the Linear. We also tend to use it for special events and DXpeditions where it's usually found on 40/80m as a ragchew station.
This has proved to be an excellent radio that is very easy to use and ideal for all members of the group to operate.
TS-2000 and TS2000X
The TS-2000 has earned a great deal of respect since it was launched and its durability can be seen throughout the years as it has undergone numerous upgrades. We have used both the TS-2000 and the TS-2000X on many occasions both as a backup radio and for events like Contests, Special Events and DXpeditions. Martin's TS-2000X was used more recently as a data station during Science and Engineering Week at Heron Corn Mill.
Sands Contest Group does not own any radios these are provided by the members as needed.
We started our contest year by introducing a competition to find the most improved contester of the year and this could be any member, old or new. The most improved member wins the prize of a weather station that will be presented at our Christmas meal and I have to say that the field is wide open.
Back to the contest preparation
Thanks to Andrew G0LWU who allowed the group to operate from his conservatory.
Martin arranged a working team to set the antennas up for the bands we planned to use which consisted of a Dipole for 80m and verticals for 40m, 15m and 10m. A phased array was setup for 20m that worked very well.
Hughie and Ian are in the process of building another phased array for 15m and we look forward to seeing how well that works.
Teams were setup to assemble the various antennas safely.
It is important of make sure that the boxes and the coaxial cable are water tight and that both were marked up so that the antenna could easily be identified.
We continued to find that the electric fence posts we used last year were effective to mount the ground plane radials, even when the terrain was not particularly helpful
Good use was made of the full garden and consideration was used whilst planning where each antenna should be sited. This picture is looking back down the garden towards the conservatory where the station was sited.
We have not used our nest of dipoles in this contest because of the lack of space but all members have new and old have erected a whole array of antennas and enjoyed the experience of experimenting and assessing how well they work. Antenna design and experimentation is one of the few areas in amateur radio that does not cost the earth.
Our group chairman Ian was not intending to operate during this contest but sadly Martin had to go home due to illness (Martin was later diagnosed with glandular fever and will be out of commission for a few weeks......). Ian filled the gap and lent his support and experience to the new operators along with other members of the group.
As mentioned earlier we used the K3 for the contest. For those of you going to the Norbreck Rally in Blackpool, Ian and Kev will be displaying the K2 and K3. Pop along to the group stand and say hello.
It was good to have Hughie back after his holiday and it was not long before he took up his role as elder statesman and group foreman. Sadly he missed the International DX Contest at the beginning of the month and with all honesty I can say we missed him...
One of his pet hates is seeing someone standing around with their hands in their pockets when there's work to be done. Hughie is old school and lets you have both barrels should he think you're slacking or not doing your job properly.
Sands Contest Group Special Offer for a limited time only
Should you have any members of your contest group that needs whipping into shape, his services are available at very reasonable rates! We had to confiscate his Cat O' Nine Tails due to complaints from members spouses, so your members should be pretty safe.
Back to the Contest
Operators for the weekend included two new members Paul M6APB and Paul 2E0EET.
Paul has been gaining experience in contesting starting literally at grass roots level, learning how to put the antennas up and although it may not have dawned on him, he's learned quite a lot. Paul has actively taken part in both erecting and taking down antennas at various event. At the recent Science and Engineering Week he ran PSK31 on SSB .
During the WPX contest he operated on 15m where he had a live Mic in front of him, and although nervous at first soon grew in confidence and learned how to use the K3 effectively and how to load and operate the linear. Paul has now added SSB contesting to his skills and in the space of a week, he's also included operating PSK31 Data at Heron Corn Mill.
I thought I'd get some input from our newest members on how they felt having operated in a contest for the first time and asked them for their thoughts.
Paul summed the experience up with the following words. Terrifying, exhilarating, satisfying and he felt a very positive sense of achievement.
Our other Paul has only done SSB so far. In much the same way as M6APB, Paul has started at grass roots level understanding how the antennas are put up.
He started operating SSB with the group making his debut at Science and Engineering Week which had pressures of its own when you're trying to operate with a good number of children and teachers looking over your shoulder. However the experience has emboldened him and it did not take long before he was in the groove learning how to operate a new radio and getting used to loading the linear.
When I asked Paul for his thoughts he said, the experience had been fun and enlightening. He had learned how to use the logging software and in his time away from the radio he enjoyed talking about different aspects of amateur radio with other members of the group.
So what are we looking forward to in the next few months?
On the weekend following the "Royal Wedding" we hope to put a special event station on air to celebrate the occasion that will be 30th April 1st May.
Our aims for the rest of the year are to continue taking part in both contesting and special events, a few members will be joining our friends from Workington in a DXpedition later in the year..... But the most important aim is to continue enjoying ourselves in everything we do where we aim to hone are operating skill and as always enjoy each others company.
In closing we wish Martin a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him again soon.
Sands Contest Group will be at the Norbreck Rally 10th of April..... If you're able to attend, pop by our stand and say hello!