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 2nd Backpackers 2017

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)

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)