SSB Field Day & 144MHz Trophy Contest

September 6th, 2011 | by M0VFC |

Last year, we entered these contests for the first time, and despite doing reasonably well on 2m (7th in our section, and best placed for a single antenna entry), we thought we could improve on our HF score of just under 200k points significantly this year.

With that in mind, we assembled on site on Friday evening (after Flossie made a quick run around Cambridge collecting a couple of Scam 12 40′ masts, and the CRG’s trailer mast), and began preparation. The tri-band HF beam for 10/15/20m was assembled on the ground, the main 17 element 2m beam on Flossie, and a short 20′ mast supported a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi link back to Gavin, M1BXF’s QTH, providing us with Internet access for the weekend. Two tents (thanks G4ERO and G3VFC) provided a social area and the HF operating positions, whilst the 2m station was in Flossie.

Darkness upon us, the pizza oven was pressed into service, the campfire lit, and an evening’s relaxation began, with marshmallows, and a batch of “Field Day Mild” specially brewed by Dom, M0BLF.

Saturday morning soon arrived, along with more visitors to the site, all helping to get antennas on masts. The tribander went on one Scam 12, a further 9-ele 2m beam on the other pointing up country on a fixed heading of around 320º, and a 60′ high 80m vertical erected. The transceivers were set up, HF comprising M1BXF’s IC-756ProIII driving G3ZAY’s Yaesu Quadra linear, and M0VFC’s IC-7000 as a second “spotting” receiver. Two sets of 5B4AGN’s band-pass filters (built by M1BXF and M0VFC) ensured there was no interference between the two stations. The 2m station featured M1BXF’s IC-910 and linear.

With the 1300Z start of the HF contest approaching, everything seemed remarkably calm – there were few last-minute scrambles, and everything appeared to work as planned. The same held true for the 2m contest an hour later – both of these being a welcome break from the frantic running around of last year.

The HF bands proved something of a struggle for us throughout this contest, with many stations on the band more interested in the “All Asia” contest that ran concurrently, and those outside of Asia refusing to work us (we gave them no points, which was a shame as they would have been very useful multipliers for us!). Nonetheless, 20 and 15m showed significant improvement from last year’s totals, and although 10m wasn’t in great shape, the 9 QSOs we did manage is an infinite improvement on the zero previously achieved.

Saturday evening, aside from the now-traditional BBQ, also gave Jason, M0YJW the opportunity to play with some much higher frequency kit – around about the 532nm mark – in the form of a scanning laser. This allowed us to project “G3PYE” on to the side of the adjacent barn in letters around 20′ high! There could be no missing whose contest site this was…

Back to HF, 40m was, however, something of a disappointment. We initially installed two dipoles at 90º to each other, supported at their centres on Flossie’s mast. Although these appeared to be in order before the contest, the SWR sometimes rose to a little over 2:1 at the top end of the band, causing the linear to get upset. Moreover, they just didn’t seem to work that well! As a result, our overnight score on 40m was poorer than last year, and we missed out on what should have been some easy multipliers – despite working the US on 20m and 80m, we failed to on 40m. At dawn, a 40m vertical was added, the rate instantly increased four-fold, and we made up some lost ground.

The 80m vertical worked well, and provided us with a nice stream of German field day stations (each worth 5 points) through most of the night. Around 50% of our 80m and 40m QSOs were with Germany – something sure to keep the QSL bureau busy!

As night turned to morning, more visitors arrived, allowing those who had operated through the night a little sleep, and also bringing a much-appreciated supply of Camb-Hams doughnuts (filled with custard, of course) and some excellent home-made chocolate brownies, courtesy of Linda, G0TPX.

The 2m score steadily increased throughout, with the addition of the backpackers’ contest, which overlapped with the last few hours, providing some fresh callsigns on the band towards the end of the contest. Although there were no spectacular openings, it was nice to get some reasonable distances, and several stations in Switzerland were worked at around 900km, as well as well into France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. M1BXF, M0MJH and G6KWA in particular did a fantastic job of keeping the station going through what can be the very long hours of the night on VHF.

With the end of the HF contest approaching, so was the rain – quite visible by this point to the west of us. We got everything that wasn’t essential out of the HF tent, and were literally pulling pegs out around Dom, M0BLF, as he made the last few contacts at 1259Z. With the radio switched off, the tent came down and got rolled into its bag just as the downpour started! Sadly Colin, G4ERO’s tent wasn’t so lucky, but did provide welcome shelter when not running around outside pulling down antennas. (Or re-filling a rather large socket set after you’ve just picked it up without realising it wasn’t locked shut – sorry Dave, G6KWA, we’ve all managed it!)

The cars got packed, the site swept for any bits of missed kit or rubbish and, of course, the rain then stopped – typical! Good-byes said, a great team of largely sleep-deprived amateurs headed home, and I suspect all rather rapidly hit their beds, with the sound of “CQ Contest!” no doubt still ringing in their heads.

Scores wise, there’s still the adjudication to go, but on HF we should have easily exceeded the 300k mark from over 700 QSOs – a 50% improvement – and on 2m, our 250-odd QSOs and around 70k points should keep us well up the results table.

There are too many people who were involved in some way for me to list everyone here, and any attempt to do so would inevitably result in my missing someone, but special thanks to Gavin, M1BXF for once again ripping his shack apart for everyone’s benefit, Martin, G3ZAY for doing likewise, Dom, M0BLF for his expertise on the HF side, and Lawrence M0LCM for all the help with the logistics, both pre- and post-contest. Thanks to everyone who came along, helped set up or clear down, operated, made tea, bought petrol, tents or doughnuts, worked us from home, or even just wished us the best of luck on ‘PY as we were driving around!

I certainly had a most enjoyable weekend, and I hope everyone else did too. Now, with that out of the way, it’s nearly time to start thinking about the AFS season…

73 all,
Rob, M0VFC

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