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)

RSGB 144MHz UKAC 7th February 2017

Round two of the 144MHz UKAC series in 2017. This is the first year I have taken part from the start so I am intending to put a good effort in and hope I can continue to do well as I did in the end of 2016. Also now as part of a participating club team I feel it important to contribute as good a score as I can. This month we have the addition of Dave G4ASR adding his score as well as a few more of the club.

Anyway, business as usual and crack on. This is being written a month later as it has been a busy month for me with more bands and more jagi building, so memory of details is now faded. Activity was good for me which is essential as although I often do very well on QSO points based on basic points per km, the biased B2 bonus system makes it hard to stay ahead of those with those in good reach of the juicy 2000 point red squares. Anyway, soap box over all we can do is bash away and if I can get 3G signal try and find some mults on KST chat. recently I have had 3G access a few times and this contest may have been one of those. Even so I got the lowest bonus points in the top 3 places in my section.

My QSO map:
144MHz UKAC 2017-02-07 map
Claimed scores (top 10):
Claimed scores 144MHz UKAC Feb 2017
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 144MHz UKAC Feb 2017
Full result list (PDF)

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

RSGB 144MHz UKAC 6th December 2016

This was my last contest session of 2016 on the back of two successive section wins. So the pressure was (put) on myself to try for a hat trick of section wins.

No changes to the actual transmitting station this time but some refinements to the overall station environment.

First up was a quickly deployable rain shield for the generator. I have the Honda EU20i suitcase genny:
Honda EU20i Generator
This is a great little genny that is electrically quiet on HF and at the low power I am running doesn’t change a beat between receive and transmit running on the economy mode. In that mode I reckon it should do 9 hours easy on one tank. However the AC outlets on this model are normal BS 1363 three-pin 13A sockets which are not very rain proof. So far I haven’t had this in the rain but I no doubt will so for my UKAC site I made a simple shelter to stop direct heavy rain (it was very low cloud for this contest and with flash the picture is not great!):
Generator shelterIt is a £1 tarp 1 square metre from Tesco with an eBay lightweight key ring size karabiner on two corners and two tent pegs on tent guys. Takes literally 20 seconds to deploy here as the genny is set up next to a chain link fence.

The other issue I addressed for this contest is in car lighting. I log on a Micro$oft Surface Pro 3 tablet with keyboard. I turn of the key lights to save battery, and even if I leave them on they go off after no use to save battery, so I like to have a light on to see the keyboard so I can spring into action when I get a call. This current car as well as having the first headrests that are a nightmare to get off (and needed mods to make that fast) the rear light will not stay on. It has some stupid timer on it so I am probably often heard on air slamming my car door as I have just opened it to get the lights on again. In these winter months it doesn’t help keep me warm. My daughter was throwing out her touch bedside lamp as the touch part doesn’t work any more and it is on permanently so it seemed a plan to recycle that for contesting. Sorted!

Anyway, the contest went well although a LOT of QRM from a couple of local as crow flies stations tonight, more than usual. Not as many QSOs as last time but some good spells of activity. But this was the first contest this year (and century!) where it was judged I had a perfect log!

My QSO map:
144 UKAC 2016-12-06 QSO map
Claimed scores (top 10):
Claimed scores 144MHz UKAC Dec 2016
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 144MHz UKAC Dec 2016
Full result list (PDF)

UK and Europe VHF Contesting Maidenhead Locator Map

With the introduction of the B2 scoring system in 2017 I decided it was time to update my VHF contesting map that I use to help me aim the beam and find multipliers and bonus squares when out portable.

I have beam heading marked centred on my portable locations. They are close enough together at this scale to us just one point.
G1YBB B2 contest Locator map
I usually take an A4 print of this map with me to refer to but the PDF file is fairly high resolution and should be printable at least A3 size at decent quality. Here is a 100% view of the map to see the detail:
100% scale view of detail

You can download it if you wish but if you wanted one centred on your location you can always email me (my email is on the home page here). The annotations are all done in vector layers and can easily moved around to suit. Here is my PDF for a look but it’s probably only any use to David G4ASR and other portable stations in my area.

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe (15.4MB PDF)

Edit:
However several people have asked for a copy of the map centred on their locator so one of these below may be of use for you. The centre point of the beam headings covers a couple of squares around the actual centre so one near yours. If not you can always email me.

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO93EG

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO90WX

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO92FI

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO92IR

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO93KE

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO90HX

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from JO02KM

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO82PC

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO93TB

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO93KH

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from JO01JK

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO70SS

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO71LX

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO82RJ

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO83PN

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO93MG

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO93RF

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO71VO

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO83MR

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO91QN

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO91WP

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO76XA

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO70TQ

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO85NS

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO92PU

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO82KR

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO70UM

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO86JV

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO86GB

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from JO02MA

G1YBB B2 Contesting Locator Map of UK & Europe from IO83VT

RSGB 144MHz UKAC 3rd January 2017

In this first UKAC of the new year many things have changed. Not my station or location but most notably changes to the rules. Causing much controversy a new B2 bonus scoring has been brought in to replace the M7 multiplier giving a heavy bias to Scottish squares. More than enough (and some!) has been said about it so I will not pursue it any further here. Instead of multipliers for squares like M7 we get a different bonus values for squares to this map:
RSGB B2 bonus scoring system

Anyway, my plan is to crack on and see how it goes and hope the VHFCC’s promise of a review comes to fruition, and sense!

One more major rule change is the splitting of the club categories from one overall category to a local and general. As all our members (bar one!) are covered by the local category it gives us a bit more of a fighting chance not being grouped in with groups recruiting from all over (and outside) the country.

The other big change for me this year is in terms of my club, Hereford ARS. One of our existing members Matt G8XYJ is now putting his efforts in UKAC in for HARS and we have two new members Tristan M0VXX and Craig M0BUL. All three are winning VHF contesters meaning HARS will get four times as many points a month in 144MHz. Not only that but the several other club members are also joining in to build up the scores! Amongst these are Stuart G3WRA, Bob G3IXZ, Richard G4FAD (on SSB not CW!!), Alan G7RHF, Nigel G4XTF, Derek G3WAG and Duncan M0OTG. This is great to see and I hope we can get even more members interested.

Anyway, the actual contest went well for me. Activity was very good and I managed to work 153 QSOs, which in 150 minutes of contest is the first time I have averaged over 60 per hour for an entire contest. I’ve done 80 or so an hour in a couple of hours of a 24 contest but this is the first overall average over one a minute! Well chuffed.

Even better after adjudication I still had 153 QSOs, my second perfect log in a row!

My QSO map:
144MHz UKAC 2017-01-03 map
Claimed scores (top 10):
Claimed scores 144MHz UKAC Jan 2017
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 144MHz UKAC Jan 2017
Full result list (PDF)

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

 

RSGB 50MHz UKAC 12th January 2017

For 2017 the RSGB VHFCC have moved the 50MHz (and 70MHz) UKAC events to a Thursday night. Whilst a lot of UKAC regulars are not happy about this it suits me much better than a Tuesday so I have made myself a 6 element DK7ZB yagi for the 50MHz series!

It was a rush to get it done in time as Xmas break slowed my building of the new yagi down but I managed to get it usably finished mechanically on Wednesday the 11th after work and then drove out to test it electrically, getting home by 10.30pm on Wednesday night. The match to 50ohms wasn’t as good as I would have liked at an SWR of 1.5:1 but I decided it was usable anyway so headed out on the Thursday after work.

This is a terrible phone picture of the yagi on the mast taken on the Wednesday test night. The yagi is actually longer than my normal size 6.1m scaffold pole mast:
first test of 50MHz 6 element DK7ZB
On the evening of the contest several heavy snow showers were forecast and then changed to some light ones. I decided to head up to my usual spot anyway. On arrival on site I was pleased to see no snow at all. However getting out of the car to start unloading the car I nearly slipped over. The single track dead end road apparently was covered in frozen rain! Undeterred I started to unload the car. Shortly after the snow started! This is how much had fallen in the short time it took me to fit the mast to the base and set the guys (which takes a few minutes):
snow starting to stick already
Boom supports set down for about a minute!
boom supports gathering snow
There was nothing for it really other than to carry on setting up and worry about getting down the hill after the contest.

This was my first time on 50MHz since the late 80s so it was a relatively first time for me. I found conditions weird. They seemed very poor but for the first hour I had a lot of activity. It was a lot harder work in the last 90 minutes though. I was surprised to have G4CLA call into me! Only two of the very controversial Red Scottish 2000 point bonus squares. It was pretty cold, the first time I have had to put on gloves whilst operating as I don’t run the car engine normally when operating.

The second the contest ended I switched off and started to pack away. The genny had collected a little snow despite being in its little shelter:
generator collecting snow
The snow on the mast base. This was actually on the sheltered side of the car:
mast base collecting snow
Just as I finished packing away it started blizzarding again so I was lucky to have a small window without snow to tear down in. I used the Passat Alltrack’s descent assist to get down the hill on the 2 inches of fresh snow. It worked really well and felt completely in control and secure.

I ended with 104 QSOs which seemed disappointing, but it turned out to be the highest QSO count and highest claimed score of the event which I was very pleased with. All the frantic work on the long yagi looked to have paid off! Not many portable stations out tonight though.

My QSO map:
50MHz UKAC 2016-01-12 map
Claimed scores (top 10):
Claimed scores 50MHz UKAC Jan 2017
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 50MHz UKAC Jan 2017
Hereford ARS member scores:
Hereford ARS Member scores
50MHz Local club standings so far:
RSGB 50MHz UKAC Local club standings Jan 2017
Full result list (PDF)

End of year contesting roundup 2016

The first year of my return to Amateur Radio contesting (or Sport Radio as it is often known as these days) came to a close for me after the December 144MHz UKAC event.

Overall I have been delighted with the results I have had both as a single op and also the invaluable help and second pair of ears from Paul G1YFC.

My year started late in the season, partly because I was still building a new 144MHz yagi and partly because I did have a few failed starts.

My first attempt in the UKAC was in March. I decided to try operating from the Blorenge as it is a drive on site and I’d planned to set up in or next to the summit car park. That was scuppered by extreme wind and my finding the ground adjacent to the car park was just too rocky to take the guy pegs I would need to have a chance of keeping a free standing mast up in the strong winds. This is what happened to my yagi while still strapped to roof bars on the car:

Myself and Paul G1YFC next planned to give some points away in the RSGB March 144MHz contest and duly arrived on site and set about erecting one of my old DJ9BV yagis. When it came to attaching the coax feeder we discovered a small issue in the fact we had different coaxial connector types and no adapters! Fail.

Finally I did get on air successfully in the April 144MHz UKAC event, backpacking to a site I used to use in the 80s. I managed 3rd in the 10W low power section with 5W from the FT-817 so was pleased I could still do the business under contest conditions. Here is a brief clip from a later UKAC event that Paul took of me, notice the signal report I receive and the fact I am using an FT-817 barefoot (5W):

We were now away and managed to enter all the contests we could attend bar a failed attempt on a UKAC later in the year (wrong battery to power lead adapter, doh!). As the season went on I honed the UKAC station, adding a rotator, new generator to power the rotator (after first using an inverter) and stop needing to use the backpacking battery, and a drive on mast base and scaffold pole. All changes were primarily to make the UKAC station quicker to erect and tear down. The scaffold mast and drive on base making the most significant gain.

Here are the events entered over 2016 with the results and sections where applicable:
G1YBB 2016 results list
Very pleased with EIGHT 1st place results from 13 entries! Also of note is the 4th place result in the Open section of the 144MHz Low Power contest. That event is 6 hours long and up to 25W RF output and any antenna array. Our entry was the 3 hours of the 4th Backpackers event that co-incided with the 6 hour event, and we were using 2.5W and a single yagi ! We did have a fantastic location and good conditions, but still very pleased with that.

Final standings in the RSGB Backpackers series (which was the main goal at the start of the year, along with PW):
GW1YBB 2016 Backpackers results
Full results table of the 144MHz Practical Wireless QRP contest:
GW1YBB 2016 PW 144MHz QRP results
G1YBB station final section standings in RSGB 144MHz UKAC (top 20 from 193 entrants) 14th from entering 7 out of the 12 sessions:
G1YBB 2016 144MHz UKAC results
In the UKAC 144MHz section Hereford Amateur Radio Society managed to get 38th position from 105 clubs and groups, but bear in mind that is a one station entry (until some help in last two events) up against groups and clubs with dozens of team members. In 2017 we are hoping to do better!
Hereford ARS 2016 144MHz UKAC results

Entering RSGB VHF contests with Minos logger

As not everyone is familiar with the process of entering RSGB contests using the online system and generating their logs from within Minos I thought I would do a basic run through of the process.

First up, I HIGHLY recommend logging the actual contest as you go with a computer, and Minos I think is one of the best for VHF contests. It does not do any HF contests. If you are search and pouncing you don’t even need to be able to type quickly as you can listen to the running station and pre-fill in their details ready before you call and only have to type in the report and serial. Added bonus is once you have entered their locator it gives you their beam heading from you too.

This page is quite long as I have gone through each step with a picture to hopefully make it dead easy for the first time user to get going.

Anyway, let’s get it downloaded and installed…

THIS LINK should download the latest version from the main Sourceforge page. If the download does not start automatically click the circled link below:
minos download link

You should see the below (version number may change of course). Ensure you know where it is being saved!
save minos zip file
Once saved double click the ZIP file and extract the files, this time choosing a suitable folder as the program not not need an install sequence so you can run it directly from the folder it is extracted to. To run Minos you just need to double click the MinosLogger.exe:
run minoslogger exe
Once running you need to click OK on the opening screen:
minos splash screen
You’ll probably end up at  a blank screen:
minos initial screen
Go to File/Create new contest:
create new contest
Ideally you want to be online now as Minos will download the current contest calendar making choosing the contest you want to enter a breeze and set up the scoring system ready for you. Click the VHF Calendar button:
minos VHF calendar
Once that is downloaded the calendar pops up with the next contest selected (in blue) but I am going to click on the 144MHz UKAC at the bottom and click Select Contest:
minos VHF calendar loaded
Once done all the relevant details are pre-filled in for you, date and start end times, and all scoring information:
contest details filled in
Next fill in the station details for this contest. Here I have filled in for operating portable. Note that if you are operating portable it will set the main operator to the portable callsign so you need to delete the /P. Not a problem if you are operating as a fixed station:
main station details entered
Next set up the Entry section. Click the edit button (top right) then click the New Setting button, give it a suitable name like “Home station” and fill in the relevant details and click OK:
enter entry details
Next repeat for Station. Here you enter the equipment details so a suitable name might be Low Power:
enter station details
And finally the QTH details:
enter QTH settings
You should now look like the below. The Entry Details button is probably best used after the contest, it is where you can add comments about the contest itself. So now hit OK:
entry settings all done
You will be asked to save the new contest. Choose the Logs folder chosen on extracting the ZIP file. I usually accept the default filename:
save the contest
Once saved you will now be in the default layout contest entry window:
default contest entry window
Now you want to arrange the screen to suit your tastes. If you are starting to need longer arms like me, or have a hi-res tablet like me, the writing may he hard to read. Minos is very good in that you can fix that! Go to Tools/Select Font… and you can change the default Verdana size 8 to a bigger font size:
Minos font size changed
Now would be a good time to re-arrange the screen:
resize Minos screen
To this:
Minos ready to use
We’re now ready to roll.
NOTE: If the time is showing in red as above the contest has not yet started. If your PC time and date and time zone/daylight saving is all set correctly, the date and time will turn black when the contest starts, and back to red when it is over.

Contest use is easy. The cursor defaults to the callsign field. Type in the callsign there. ENTER moves you to the next empty field.
The fields are ordered in this order:
Callsign of station you are working
Signal report you give them
Your serial number you are giving them
The signal report they give you
Their serial number they gave you
Their locator square
Their district (if applicable)
If entering information out of sequence like when the other station shuffles the order up or when you are pre-filling callsign and locator when search and pouncing, ENTER moves through the unfilled fields in sequence, looping around at the end. Once all the fields are entered correctly ENTER will log the QSO and put cursor back in the callsign box. TAB will also move through the fields but I like to use ENTER.
If you lose the QSO for any reason or change your mind about calling in pressing ESCAPE will clear all fields and start over in the callsign field.

Here my first QSO will be Dave G4ASR. I have prefilled his info as I have heard him running, he is 59 with me so filled that in too, I just need to call in and get my report and serial from him. Circled in red is his distance from my site in km and the beam heading to his location:
first Minos QSOThe middle right hand box is a visual aid to always know your current serial number to issue and your call (handy if you often work portable as G and GW !) and locator.

Here with a few more QSOs logged with useful information detailed:
Minos screen detailed
If you try and work someone or someone calls you and you have worked before you will get a red highlight in the callsign box and the matching QSO shown at the bottom. Time to press ESCAPE and move on or tell him we have worked before:
duplicate contact highlighted
If you make a typo but you have logged the QSO you can correct it. Double click on the QSO line in the top window and you will see this window. When logging M8AAA I pressed 9 next to it by mistake, so I can edit it here:
edit QSO error
Click the Return to Log button and click OK at this requester:
confirm edit QSO
That QSO line will turn green which just means it has been edited. Here I have made the edit and now worked another station too:
QSO now edited
OK, now we have worked the contest and it’s time to generate the entry file. Start by entering some comments if you wish by going to File/Contest details, and then clicking the Entry Details button at bottom of the screen that pops up:
edit entry details
Click OK twice to get back to the main screen and choose File/Produce Entry_Export file. You’ll get another chance to edit the contest entry details here but can click OK as it should default to the correct Regedit format:
produce Minos entry
Next you are asked where to save the entry file. I have a subfolder below Logs called Entries so I know which is what. I use the default filename:
save regedit file
That’s it done. Now to upload it to the RSGB site.

This link to the RGSB VHFCC site will take you to the current month’s VHF and up contests which will have an upload button for the recent contests:
RSGB current month uploads
Clicking the upload button for the contest you just participated in takes you to a page like this (144MHz UKAC is closed right now so 432MHz is being used to demo) Set your power section and choose your club to enter on behalf of then click Next:
RSGB set section and club
Now you actually upload the entry you just created. Click on the marked browse button and find the log EDI file created earlier. You can ignore the cover sheet browse button. Enter the SAME email address as in the entry details (else you will trigger a bug, as I found out…) and click Next:
upload entry to RSGB
Your entry is now uploaded. Follow the option to enter a claimed score on the next page and everything will be filled in for you. I will screen grab next actual entry.
You should soon receive an email telling you your entry was received.

RSGB 144MHz UKAC 1st November 2016

Since the last round of the 144MHz UKAC contest series I have been busy constructing for more improvements to the set-up. My goal this time was a custom drive on base to enable me to be able to erect the mast single op must faster and securely.  I had to buy a welder, welding table, chop saw, steel and various other tools. Also learn to weld! But I designed my own version of a drive on base and made it up and it works a treat! I can get the mast fitted and guys set up in a couple of minutes on my own now (This video is from a test run, it was dark setting up for this contest):

This was a good job as I am later getting out to the Tuesday night events now so have no slack time, especially single op. As it turned out I had over half an hour extra time before the contest kicked off so I was very pleased with that.

Activity was great! Over 1 QSO a minute for first 2 hours and I ended up with 143 QSOs from 150 minutes operating. By far the best score QSO wise so far. Some late mults helped bump up the score again too.

My QSO map:
G1YBB UKAC QSO map 1st Nov 2016
Claimed scores (top 10):
Claimed scores 144MHz UKAC Nov 2016
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 144MHz UKAC Nov 2016
Full result list (PDF)

RSGB 144MHz UKAC 4th October 2016

I have missed the last two instalments of the 144MHz UKAC series, August was an aborted attempt thanks to an important forgotten part and September I was away on a USA road trip.

For this contest in the continuing goal of improvement I have got a slightly taller mast (6.1m aluminium scaffold pole) to enable a faster set up and tear down time. The 2 or 3 guy sets lightweight mast is quite time consuming to put up. I have made a temporary drive on base  with the rotator at the base to help. Actually setting up on my own as I was involved adding the 3 guys and lifting the mast up and down to find the right lengths for the two ‘downhill’ guys until they were set and then tie off the 3rd guys that stops it falling back down. This would have been way faster with a second op but I got there.

Once up there was a nice sky behind it at least:
G1YBB/P portable mast setup
My other improvement was to dig out the ‘old girl’ my venerable Yaesu FT-225RD. Of all the radios with 2m I have available it still has the best front end for contesting. It also lets me achieve the full 10W in my section (the FT-817 only provides 5W). I’d planned to modify it to take an 8 pin MH-31 style mic cable to use my CQ caller on it but it was easier in the end to knock up a simple interface box run off a battery to power it.

Once I got going in the contest I happened to hear an OZ calling CQ and worked him early on for my best DX of the night which was a great start. Activity was good too and I think I got my highest QSO count in the UKAC this year. A late run of multipliers helped bump up the score too.

My QSO map:
G1YBB UKAC QSO map 4th Oct 2016
Claimed scores (top 10):
G1YBB claimed scores 144MHz UKAC Oct 2016
Final scores (top 10):
Final scores 144MHz UKAC Oct 2016
Full result list (PDF)