RSGB 80m CC June 2017 SSB contest

Since finishing my 80m inverted vee in March I have been looking unsuccessfully for a closer spacious site big enough to use for erect the dipole as Westhope Common now is now made unwelcoming by a particularly  whinging woman. Very recently my friend Paul G1YFC suggested some land a friend of his owns not 5 miles from my house that would be available. It’s a perfect location for me.

The June 80m CC SSB session happened to be outside a week when I am doing the VHF UKAC events which meant I was able to take part. The last time I managed to take part in March was my first ever time on 80m and just searching and pouncing I came 107th! My lowest contest position ever at the time, by 90 positions! Hopefully out portable with a reasonable antenna I could do better.

Here is Paul and the setup at the new location:
80m inverted vee setup
Despite terrible QRM from a few KHz up I managed to keep a run frequency going and for the most part of the contest managed to average 2 QSOs per minute.

Final QSO count was 142 in the 90 minutes which put me 11th:
June 2017 80m CC SSB entries
After adjudication where I lost 6 QSOs altogether including two where the serial was one out. Seeing as one was 19 received by me and 20 logged, which sound nothing alike I assume this is the out by one issue HF contesters have said about! Annoying. Anyway I ended up joint 13th, which is a lot better than 107th!
June 2017 80m CC SSB results

RSGB 2nd 144MHz Backpackers & PW QRP contests 2017

For this year’s RSGB Backpackers series we were unable to take part in the first session due to my being overseas on a very important assignment, namely my YL’s special birthday. So we start this year’s series 1/5th behind already!

Well what a day this was! Leaving town the tops of the trees were moving gently in the breeze. Arriving at the bottom of the hike up the mountain, again trees moving gently in the breeze. However at the top of the mountain at 800m which is very exposed a full blown gale was blowing.
ready to set up on top of the Blackies

This was going to be interesting. We’ve had a gale blow up during the contest up there but never really set up in bad wind. This made it take much longer than it normally would and turned out we were setting up for over 2 hours! We also had an operational cock-up setting up the tent which resulted in both poles of my 4 season mountaineering tent getting bent. These cost me £100 to replace! (Once they arrive I will send off the bent ones for repair so at least I have spares.)

Paul G1YFC brought his GoPro and did this cool video of the day.

Radio wise we had a great day. Good activity and great collection of UK squares. Activity in the PW only part of the contest was pretty slow. Only 7 QSOs in last hour, but one was a new square so worth sticking it out. We always stick it out right to the bitter end. Very often we have had a little flurry and some multipliers at the end.

The wind continued to batter us the entire time we were up there and with the bend in the poles the tent didn’t perform as it should so I had to sit in the corner of the tent to stop the pole pushing in with my shoulder. So for 7 hours I had the tent pole bashing me on the head and shoulder! Worth it though as the take off is fantastic.

QSO Map:
2nd Backpackers 2017 GW1YBB/P QSO map
Claimed Scores (10 from 13 entries):
Claimed Scores 2nd Backpackers 2017
Results:
Results 2nd Backpackers 2017
BackPackers-2017-2nd-Winners-cert

Simple inverted Vee wire dipole for 50MHz

Now it’s towards the end of June and I have been listening to the other club members I chat and contest with reporting on all the times 50MHz has been wide open on sporadic E, I decided today I would knock up a simple antenna for 50MHz for the garden. My location is not suitable for any real antennas due to neighbour issues so I thought I would make a wire delta beam and mount it fairly low as I have a suitable 2m length of plastic pipe I could use for the cross boom. A quick look at the design scuppered those plans as I had no suitable 75ohm coax here.

I then considered a simple aluminium dipole as I have loads of 1.5m lengths of 12mm tube in the garage. Then it came to me in a eureka moment. A good old trusty inverted vee would be easy to make and do the job nicely!

Since I made my first 20m inverted vee dipole I have since butchered it by cutting off the coax to use elsewhere and it has been lying around the garden for a year or so in the grass in the corner of the garden. Rescue that and put new coax on and I am good to go!
50MHz inverted Vee dipole centre
Next (as seen already above) I needed a pole. I took the bottom 3 sections from my 8m SOTA fishing pole which gives me about 3m of lightweight but stiff pole. In the garden there was fitted a rotary washing line with a two part stem set in the ground. Amazingly it was the perfect fit for the bottom section of the pole! The two sprung plungers even stopping it flapping around:
rotary washing line base section
Into the HF antennas odds and sods box and I got out one of the SOTAbeams lasered guy rings I bought to hang the dipole from. I slid it down to a reasonably but not excessively snug point and wrapped some tape around below that to stop drifting lower and possibly cracking as the plastic is fairly brittle feeling. I also sealed the feed point with liquid insulation tape which is great stuff and taped the coax down the pole to take the weight of the coax, which is longer than I need and only RG223 but I am just looking for something to get on the air and do some tests:
50MHz inverted Vee centre detail
With my HF dipoles I usually peg the other end to the ground with a length of string to insulate and keep the voltage maximum point off the ground but that really didn’t seem a plan. So that delta beam boom was called into play as a dipole spreader:
50MHz inverted Vee close up
It’s literally just lashed on with insulation tape:
50MHz inverted Vee spreader detail
At each end I drilled a single hole to thread the wire through which actually retained the wire quite well due to the tension and angle. But I backed that up with the ubiquitous cable tie. Also visible is a blob of the liquid insulation tape on the end of the wire to stop water seeping up the wire via capillary action:
50MHz inverted Vee end detail
Here is the finished set up ready for tuning. On the left of the image you can see the coax running into my custom wall mount coax connector box:
50MHz inverted Vee
Talking of tuning…
To ‘design’ the dipole I use done of my favourite sites I use for all my HF dipoles over at sotamaps.org. (Click on the 2nd tab for the calculator). I put in the centre height measurement from my set up and adjusted the end support height to get a little under a metre horizontal distance between mast and end support. You can set the wire type via the settings button. You can see it offers me  1.32m for each side. So I cut mine to 1.42m to start as it’s always easier to trim than add!!
50MHz inverted Vee design
First measurement showed beautiful resonance a little under 50MHz, so I trimmed 10mm off each end. Nearly at 50MHz, so 10mm more. Resonant now more in the CW end so I took off another 5mm. The final cut length is actually 75mm longer than the designer suggested, so it could be my  selection of wire should have been for a thinner one or thicker insulation than I chose. (that’s ex red wire with a dose of UV fading applied!):
50MHz inverted Vee SWR trimmings
SWR 1:1, zero reactive component and 49ohms resistive component (50 ohms a tad higher up the band but still in SSB section). I’ll take that!
50MHz inverted Vee SWR
Plugged into the trusty Yaesu FT-857D and a quick scan showed some Es stations calling. Found an EA station and called him, replied to me first time! As did the next 4 stations. Nice one!
first 5 QSOs all one call
So there you go. It is dead easy to get on 6m even with very awkward neighbours and small gardens. 50MHz truly is the magic band when those Es open up too!

Car portable cable access

Nearly all of my radio is done portable in one way or another. When I am car portable like many people I bring the cables in through one of the car windows. As I like to operate both through the winter and in the summer I wanted to keep the cold and rain out in winter and the flies out in the summer.

My simple solution to this is a strip of 1 inch thick closed cell foam with a shallow slit in one edge to fit on the top of the window, and a notch for the cables. Simple but works for me. It also doubles as rattle reducing packing on the way up and back!

car portable cable entry

Lightweight 80m Inverted Vee dipole

My local club Hereford Amateur Radio Society has been embracing the RSGB VHF and UHF activity contests but also some members have been taking part in the RSGB 80m CC series of contests which have SSB, CW and Data sessions. I wanted to join in so needed at make an antenna, which I decided should be a trusty inverted vee dipole.

My first consideration was how was I going to support the centre high enough. I have an 8m and 10m fishing pole but neither are really high enough on their own. So my solution was to attach the 10m fishing pole to the top of my VHF portable mast (a 6m scaffold pole) which will get me the centre of the dipole about 14m high:pole fitted to contest mast
Off to the SOTAmaps dipole calculator website (link on my useful links page) to calculate the lengths:
80m dipole calculations
The fishing pole is pretty flexible using the upper sections so I have a pair of guys lower than the dipole to stabilise it a little made from thin but strong cord. These will go at 90° to the dipole, using the dipole itself to steady the very top of the pole:
80m dipole pole guy winders
Typically it was a pretty windy day when I set it up on my favourite test setup hill:
Dipole erected and tuned
As the wire is quite thin it’s fairly narrow band but I got a reasonable match mid band:
tuned for centre of band
All ready to go.

Apart from the fact that my favourite test site and intended 80m CC portable operating site Westhope Common, that I have been using on and off for about 35 years now has a resident that hassles everyone and anyone who goes up there, and has hassled me each time I have been there lately. So I need to find another site.

RSGB 432MHz UKAC 14th March 2017

2017 is the first year Hereford ARS has been actively participating in the RSGB UKAC series of contests. As we as a local club were doing pretty well by being 4th overall I felt I should expand my band operations onto 432MHz to help the team score points. I don’t have any antennas at all for 432MHz but Craig M0BUL offered to loan me his 19 element Tonna. After using my 7.2m long 50MHz yagi this seemed like a tiny thing but Craig assured me it was a contest winning yagi.
432MHz 19 elementTonna yagi
It was certainly much easier and faster to set up. I could take it already assembled and fit it to the mast in seconds. As a result on tear down I was through the gate at 10:58 after the contest ended! First time away before 11pm.

I have not been on 432MHz since we used to do March 144/432MHz in the 80s and 90s and we always found it very hard work and much slower than 144MHz on QSO rates. I had been checking the previous contest results for a while and could see activity is very similar to 144MHz and more than the other bands. I think the modern shack in a box radios must help as back when we were last on you had to buy a 70cms radio to get on the band. I personally didn’t because it was so much quieter (vicious circle!).

Activity overall was down on 144MHz but I had some good spells of good activity and pileups and was very pleasantly surprised!

My QSO map:
432MHz UKAC 2017-03-14 map
Claimed scores (top 10):
Claimed scores 432MHz UKAC Mar 2017
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 432MHz UKAC Mar 2017
Full result list (PDF)

Hereford ARS Members results:
HARS members results 432MHz UKAC Mar 2017
Hereford ARS standing in local club section:
Local club standings 432MHz UKAC Mar 2017

RSGB 50MHz UKAC 9th March 2017

This month I am hoping to improve on my 3rd from February. It was a close top three but 3rd is still 3rd. Hopefully I can do better this time!

The nights are starting to draw out a little and I managed to get my first photo of the yagi in almost daylight:
6 element 50MHz DK7ZB by G1YBB
Conditions we still flat for me but I did manage to work an F and PA station this time at least.

My QSO map:
50MHz UKAC 2017-03-09 map
Claimed scores (top 10):
Claimed scores 50MHz UKAC Mar 2017
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 50MHz UKAC Mar 2017
Full result list (PDF)

Hereford ARS member scores:
Hereford ARS 50MHz Member scores
50MHz Local club standings so far:
RSGB 50MHz UKAC Local club standings Mar 2017

RSGB 144MHz UKAC 7th March 2017

Next round on the series comes round again followed by the 50MHz UKAC two days later like in February! Busy busy busy. For this round I decided to take the yagi partially built rather than fully disassembled like normal to make set up and tear down a little quicker. It has 3 sections so I assembled the middle and front and fitted the elements only have to add the rear and fitting the elements to that. Every little helps!

Overall activity was down a little for me but I did work a few GM and PA, ON and DL.

My QSO map:
144MHz UKAC 2017-03-07 map
Claimed scores (top 10):
Claimed scores 144MHz UKAC Mar 2017
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 144MHz UKAC Mar 2017

Full result list (PDF)

Hereford ARS Members results:
HARS members results 144MHz UKAC Mar 2017
Hereford ARS standing in local club section:
Local club standings 144MHz UKAC Mar 2017

RSGB 70MHz UKAC 16th February 2017

This is another first for me! I have never been on 70MHz before since I got my licence in the 80s. So this one was going to be interesting! I can see from the previous entries that activity levels are lower than most of the other bands but I think it is on the up and the Hereford ARS does have a few members active on this band.

I don’t actually own any 70MHz equipment myself at all but Matt G8XYJ has loaned me both a transverter (actually both of his) and his 4 element DK7ZB portable yagi. It was small enough to take on the roof bars which is a nice change and helps speed up the rush of building the station and tearing it down to get home when you are operating out in the the sticks portable.

I found it a bit harder work than usual but still better activity than we had on 432MHz in the 80s! I came in 4th in my low power section which I am pretty pleased with. Top of my agenda though was a new longer beam as a few stations I could hear just couldn’t hear me but I am sure a much longer yagi will make a good difference.

My QSO map:
70MHz UKAC 2017-02-16 map
Claimed scores (top 10):
Claimed scores 70MHz UKAC Feb 2017
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 70MHz UKAC Feb 2017
Hereford ARS member scores:
HARS members results 70MHz UKAC Feb 2017
70MHz Local club standings so far:
Local club standings 70MHz UKAC Feb 2017
Full result list (PDF)

RSGB 50MHz UKAC 9th February 2017

Second time out with the long yagi for 50MHz. This time I have the side guys finished for it. These not only help protect the thin 20mm boom from the wind but also help me assemble it. There is considerable sag on the boom and as I assemble the boom to the mast the forces on the clamping of the boom supports to overcome are quite massive. Imagine holding a long pole out horizontally by only the amount you can get in your hand at the very end. But once the side guys are fitted and supporting the boom and boom supports all is great and easy to assemble:
50MHz 6 element yagi side guys
So far the side guys have not been properly tested and I hope it stays that way! That said I have good confidence the system should survive in any wind I am still able to erect it in by myself.

My QSO map:
50MHz UKAC 2017-02-09 map
Claimed scores (top 10):
Claimed scores 50MHz UKAC Feb 2017
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 50MHz UKAC Feb 2017
Full result list (PDF)

Hereford ARS member scores:
Hereford ARS 50MHz Member scores
50MHz Local club standings so far:
RSGB 50MHz UKAC Local club standings Feb 2017
Full result list (PDF)