Monday, 3 November 2014


Following arm-twisting from the Bristol CG to make sure that we had a good selection of stations on the air, Dave (G4FRE) and I spent time undertaking site surveys to find a reasonable /P site. 

My normal Welsh site was rejected as it is very close to one of our other team members and there is absolutely no point in mutually wiping each other off the air.

Eventually we revisited the site above Dorstone  that we used to use about 25 to 30 years ago.  And the farmer remembered towing my Ford Fiesta out of the field in the mid 80s !
 It was exceptionally windy and keeping the antenna pointing in the required direction was hard work.  Note the rope to the reflector end of the boom!  Conditions were not good but 94 QSOs were made and we eventually managed a GM about 10 minutes before the end.

And then. 10 minutes before the end it started to rain.  But at least this caused the rainbow above.

RSGB Convention

A new venue and what an improvement.  There was a good selection of talks across a number of themed streams.  We had a breakaway VHF meal for 16 at the Shoulder of Mutton - continuing the event from the Horewood House days.

One reason for attending was to be presented with the SMC 6m Cup for winning the Single Operator section of the 2014 50MHz Trophy.  It came as a surprise when looking at the previous winners engraved on the trophy to be reminded that I had previously won the cup six years in succession from 1994 to 1999 !!

Dunsfold Wings and Wheels

WOW - this is a sight that none of us will ever see again.  What an amazing sight with the UK and Canadian Lancaters flying in tight formation.  What a sound as well - eight Merlin engines.  Even the commentators were overcome and lapsed into silence - now when did that last happen?!

Continuing the theme of nostalgia of UK air power - an old, very noisy, friend appeared and performed an impressive flying routine.

The quality of the flying display participants was such that the gates were locked at 11am with a nine mile queue of aspiring attendees still outside.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

50MHz Trophy 2014

This event used to be one of my favorites and I had a string of successes in the 1990s.  The last time I put on a "proper" station was 2007 (see  And then I did the 6 hour section in 2010.  So it was time to "do it properly" again.  My only concession was to go with a main array of 2 * 5 element NBS yagis and a single 5 element Tonna.  (The full system had a pair of Tonnas for the second array but takes even longer to build !!).

So forget all of the pre-event testing and vehicle packing, this is still a mammoth undertaking.  Leaving home at 08:30 on Saturday morning, it takes 90 minutes to get there and five hours to build the station.  (Then there is a contest - see below).   Then it takes two and three quarter hours to disassemble and pack it up, a thank you call to see the farmer followed by the drive home to arrive at 19:00 on the Sunday.  Thankfully the weather was dry all weekend and the was more cloud cover than forecast which kept me a bit cooler.

OK - enough of the logistics - how about the contest ?!    Well here is the main antenna system on its 36 foot mast under construction.  Remember that this is single operator so that is me holding the antenna up while taking the photograph ?!


 And this is the full system with the second antenna array.  This is looking North East and you can just spot the Malverns on the horizon to the right of the main mast. The first test is to usually see if you can receive on both systems and that the pair gives a stronger signal.  Panic (?!) - I was hearing completely different signals on the two antenna systems.   Yes - they were pointing in the same direction - not !!  One was east and the other one was west !!

  And then there is the station.  Note the extremely comfortable operating position complete with extra padding!

The event got off to a swift start with 60 tropo contacts in the first hour.  Then at 15:24 the Propagation God switched the sporadic E on.  No weak stuff first like there usually is, but bang - there you are!  The Es lasted for about two and a half hours and there were two, or maybe even three, reflecting centres.  The main one gave activity mainly into Italy, Croatia, Serbia and surrounding countries.  The second one was into Spain.  So with the two systems it was two different pileups - one in each ear ... decisions decisions!!  There was also a more minor event at the same time into Sweden.  And that was the end of the main excitement.  There was a tropo enhancement into PA and ON and one ON called me to say that I had been a very steady S7 for hours on end.  At dusk on Saturday evening there was a very visible inversion.

So in all I operated for about fourteen and a quarter hours.  It would have been 15 but the K3 developed an interesting fault where it would not receive or transmit !!  I worked a total of 487 stations in 122 squares and 33 countries.  The only one missing on the map is the best DX which was the Canaries at 2865 kms. 




Apathy has ruled

Well the blog seems to have taken a back seat in recent times.

So you haven't heard about:
1.   The March 144/432MHz when I took my 70cms system to G4TSW to investigate the 144MHz QRM into the 70cms system that plagued VHFNFD in 2013.  Well - we confirmed that we have a big issue and didn't find a solution!  Though the preamps work fine in the shack if you can put up with the added cable loss?!  And then we had a weather event during the takedown and I haven't been as wet for a long time.

2.   The First 50MHz contest.  G4FRE returned from Dallas for a family wedding and managed to arrange dragging me out on this one during his short stay in the UK.  A pleasnt event with good weather from Ankerdione Hill.

3.    The CQ WPX CW contest at the end of May.  I was sort of arm twisted into this one by a friend (G4FJK) who I narrowly beat in the CQ-WW-CW contest in November last year.  We decided that we would both do a single band entry on 10 metres using assistance - i.e. the cluster, reverse beacon network etc.  I would be using 100 watts to my end fed half wave vertical with the base at about 30 feet.  Tim would be using 100 watts to a 4 element beam - but he claims not to be a CW operator !!

After the euphoria of the 10 metre conditions over the winter, this was a reality check.  Signals around Europe varied from massive to very weak.  Africa, Asia and Oceania were virtually non-existent.  For the first time ever in an HF contest I did not work a single station in either W or VE.  Interestingly the VOACAP online propagation predictor got that just right.  There were a lot of South American stations on.  Most of them were very weak.  Had I not been used to listening to white noise on VHF and UHF, this would have been an interesting challenge.  Whether this was F layer or multi-hop Sporadic Es I'm not sure as there were openings on 6m at the same time and that is definitely multi-hop Es.

Given the band was not packed, I found the combination of the pan adapter and the RBN spots in the N1MM band map to be a very effective way of identifying new people to work.

It is quite surprising now looking at the log to discover that I only actually operated for a total of eight and a half hours - it seemed much more than that.  Though I did manage to watch both the Monaco qualifying and race as well as both the Championship and League One play off finals!.

Most of the operating was search and pounce as I really struggled to get a run going when calling CQ.  An amplifier or an antenna with gain would have been a massive boost under these conditions.  So, I managed 211 QSOs into 52 countries.  Of these 171 were Europe, 24 were South America, 9 Asia, 6 Africa, 2 North America (actually the Caribbean), and one into Oceania.

Given that prefixes are multipliers, a lot of really obscure callsigns appear on the band.  I think the best I worked was 4X266POPE !!!!  Why 266 ?

As you will have guessed by now, I was soundly thrashed by Tim who worked 299 QSOs - I really think that the beam helped under these conditions.  Still my overall 2014 score has increased to 138 countries and amazingly I've worked 108 on 10m so far this year. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

80m Affiliated Society Contests - the good and the bad

This year to a bout of apathy I stayed at home for the two legs of the 80m AFS.  So it was the K3 barefoot to a 66 foot long doublet.  The doublet had to be replaced the day before the CW leg as the guy who took the top out of the silver birch also managed to break the antenna!  Using the Spiderpole it is really easy to accurately place a rope over the wanted fork in the tree.

The good:
The CW leg was good fun.  With this system there is little point calling CQ early on.  So in search and pounce, the first hour netted 54 Qs and the second hour 59.   From then  on it was a mixture of CQ and S&P.  I finished the event with 188 QSOs which is only 40 less than 2013 with a full size higher antenna in the Swan back garden.  With the K3 filters it was always possible to find a "clear" frequency.

The bad:
 Before the SSB leg people were staking their frequency claims from mid-morning onwards.  With only 125kHz to play with it is always going to be challenging.  I started late due to the poor system and two sweeps of the band took an hour and netted 54 QSOs.  From that point onwards it was downhill and a case of waiting for new stations to find a CQ frequency.  The best quote I saw was "it felt like a rave in a shipping container with people banging the sides with sledgehammers" !!  The end was a disappointing 90 QSOs and a remembering of just why I usually avoid this one.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

ARRL 28MHz Contest

With the sunspot cycle still humming and 10m lively during the week, it was time to plan on being active during the ARRL 28MHz contest.  I actually planned in advance for this one and had the vertical up and tested prior to it going dark on Friday.  I even played with the tapping point on the torroid to improve the match.  I’m getting more practiced at getting the Spiderpole mast up in the garden and the top of the pole was at 50 feet this time and it was visible over a far greater area!!  Excellent – time for a beer or two.

Propagation predictions indicated that the band would open at about 0700 and die at about 1800.  So on Saturday morning I was on the band at 0715 and had my first QSO.  When I called the second station the computer crashed – and I mean died – no blue screen of death – just dead !!  To cut a long story short I was getting an intermittent high SWR on the vertical and I assume the resultant RF in the shack was bombing the PC.  So the vertical had to come down.  It turned out to be a whisker of coax braid flapping around in the breeze so it was easy to fix, but it probably cost me a few hours.

Conditions were quite different to the CQWW a few weeks ago, or maybe it was that there are far less expeditions for this event.  Saturday was spent searching and pouncing on CW, mainly Europeans in the morning as I'd missed any chance of the DX to the east sorting tha antenna out, and then the band opened up well to the States in the early afternoon.  As predicted the band died just after 1800.

On Sunday I was up at 0700 again and managed to work a few stations to the east – VK, JA, BV.  But I always seem to miss out to the east and I failed to work 9V, JT, NH2 and VR.  I tried a few CQs during the morning but never seemed to get a run going.  There was one exception when I held a frequency for about 40 minutes and worked 50 stations.  Then a loud Russian with an appalling signal CQ’d in my face so that was the end of that.  Then conditions went strange for a while with multiple echoes on both Far East signals as well as some of the nearer European ones which made CW copy very difficult.  At 1pm I seemed to have worked most of the stations on CW so I had a play on SSB for 90 minutes.  (This was mainly due to the antique ARRL rule that says assisted single operators go into the multiple operator mixed mode category - so you may as well pick up a few multipliers!)  I think that I have now remembered why I hate HF SSB contests!  Later the path opened up well to the US and it was easy picking them off.  Then, at around 1700 (an hour early?!), just when I was homing in on my self imposed QSO target, the band fell off a cliff and died.

So the numbers:
(Remember this is 100 watts into a vertical – no beams – no linears !!!!)
CW      435 QSOs
SSB     62 QSOs
So I just missed the 500 total target.

Countries          69
US States         46 (inc DC) – with Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, North Dakota and Utah being the elusive ones.  In total I worked 255 VE’s and W’s.

A total operating time of just over 13 hours for an average of 38 Qs/hour.

A very enjoyable event and probably the last one of these for a number of years.