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The Team! Bill (G0KDL), Mike (G3IAF), Terry(G4GIX),
Mike (G0EFO) & George (G2DBH)
Learning from FD 2006
Last year, CW FD was very much a "fun" affair. The club ran a station at the QTH of Brian, G3GJX, with the idea of levering members into contest mode painlessly, getting some experience of computer logging and submitting a checklog in Cabrillo format to the RSGB. It was very enjoyable - successful too. We were not operating portable ( /P). That was just not possible at Brian's QTH, but we did use a first class rig - Brian's 100W TS570 driven by the 230 volt mains supply - and his R7 vertical. Our QSO tally was 389 QSOs on all bands from 40 - 10 metres (equivalent to 1609 points), working 37 countries in the process. It gave us the experience we needed to plan a proper /P station and submit a fully competitive entry this year, which we duly did.
The site 2007
The location of any FD station is always a matter of prime concern: probably the most important matter, in fact, in the planning of the event. A good location has to offer the facilities needed for erecting whatever antennas are required, good propagation on the chosen bands, easy access for the participants and far enough removed from civilisation as not to cause a noise nuisance to those having little or no understanding of the amateur radio cause and the shinannigins that go on during a contest at unseemly hours of the day and night.
|Mike, G3IAF operating with Peter, M3OSP looking on|
Our illustrious Terry Kearns, G4GIX, came up with a wonderful suggestion. Why not use his delightful QTH in Compton, on the outskirts of Guildford, a location far enough from neighbours not to cause annoyance and with trees galore from which to hang the antennas of our choice?
Mike, G0EFO, who found himself elected skipper of the 2007 event, almost bit off Terry's hand in accepting what turned out to be a first class site for a formidable station, well supported by club members.
Restricted or Unrestricted?
So we now had a site. What type of entry should we submit? Olof, G0CKV, who had joined the FD planning group, but who was committed to supporting another FD station on the day, was all for an unrestricted multi-band entry, with lots of antennas, including multiple dipoles, beams of various kinds, verticals... You name it, Olof suggested it! Roger, G3SXW, also commended a multi-band entry (without specific antenna recommendations), arguing that since we would be on the air anyway for the full 24 hours of the competition, we should make the most of all the bands and not stick to one or two, or even just one - which might be a bit of a bore..
Much debate followed the submission of these ideas. Did we have room for multiple antennas? Did we have the manpower to erect and commission them? Would the operators be slick enough to QSY from band to band without encountering problems? Lots of other questions too!
Single Band Entry 2007
In the end, the concensus of the organising group was that we should exercise caution and go for a restricted, single band, entry on 40 metres. This band offered the prospect of propagation throughout the complete 24 hours of the competition. A half-wave dipole running roughly NE/SW (favouring inter-G and European contacts), could be erected easily at a height of 10 or 11 metres from the ground between two of the highest trees in Terry's garden.
|Terry, G4GIX and the sound proofed generator|
And that is exactly what we did! We used the club's 10m extendable mast (kindly donated by Robin G3+++) and Terry erected the coax fed antenna, with help from Peter, M3OSM and George, G2DBH, on the morning of the competition. The operating station was a tented gazebo with a paved floor. Not the warmest of places in the middle of a cold night, but just about warm enough!
Terry provided what could only be described as his "trusty" 2kW petrol generator, suitably muffled for sound with straw bales. Mike, G3IAF, our Chief Operator, provided his Pro III rig and power supply. Computer logging and a very nicely engineered audio break-out system was provided by Andrew, M0GJH. We were ready for lift-off!
We started well enough, even briskly, at 4.00pm local on the Saturday. Lots of QSOs, lots of fun. Then the generator decided to play up. The terminal voltage available at the rig oscillated wildly. One minute it was 240V, then 180 volts, then even 160V., with no apparent logic for the variations, other than the ridiculously variable QSO rate. Now you may think this would spell disaster for the rig. Not at all! The rig's switch mode PSU took all these variations in its stride and powered the Pro III without a problem. The logging PC was a different matter. We all thought it was getting really temperamental when it decided to shut down with no warning as the supply voltage dropped to 160V. What was the matter with the dratted thing? In retrospect, we were lucky the PC didn't give up the ghost and the fact that it would start up again and return to the QSO in hand at the time of the shutdown was commendable, if not miraculous!
Anyway, we managed to survive for the complete 24 hours of the contest. Operators came thick and fast. No shortage at all, which gave much comfort to the skipper! The stalwarts included the two Mikes, G3IAF and G0EFO, Peter, M3OSP, and Bob, G4HZV. Mike G3IAF and Peter deserve very special recognition for working the night shift. Other operators included Alex, G3IAZ (recently returned from Spain), Bill, G0KDL, and George, G2DBH. Allan, G5OD and Brian, G3GJX did their best to master SD (as did we all!) and gathered worthwhile points for us, before retiring in need of a stiff drink. If I have forgotten anyone who operated, my apologies and thanks to them anyway.
|Mike, G0EFO thanks Terry, G4GIX for his hospitality|
It was probably George, Peter and Terry who did most of the hard work in assembling and taking down the station, but my thanks particularly to Terry for overseeing the whole shebang, supplying all those essential bits and pieces, like desks, chairs, cabling, clock, insect zapper, blankets (for much needed warmth!) and constant wit and good humour to keep us all sane and cheerful throughout. Oh, and let's not forget the bacon sarnies, biscuits, tea and coffee, thanks to Terry and his XYL, Peggy.
What about the outcome?
We made 500 QSO on 40 metres, contacting all continents and 41 countries in the 24 hours of operation. We put in a single band entry in the Restricted section, claiming around 1500 points.
Altogether a great occasion for the Club! Thank you all for making it so enjoyable and successful. Before long we should know how we got on when the RSGB publishes the results.