Should contest rules allow and act upon 599K QRM reports?

Saturday, 21 June 2008

All Asian DX Contest

Tried the radio this morning to see if I could bag any dx in the All Asia contest. It seemed that 20m was in better shape than 40m and unfortunately my only antennas at the moment are an 80m doublet and a quarter wave GP for 40m. The GP was performing better than the doublet for DX but wasn't resonant for 20m. I decided to whip up a 20m vertical dipole on a 10m fishing rod in the back garden.
I tried comparing the main 40m GP with the 20m Vdipole but as usual I found too many different cases where one would outperform the other and then on the next stn the situation would reverse so no real conclusions. Also the 40m GP was 20m away from the house and the vertical dipole was 10m away from the house. The 40m GP was therefore less noisy than the Vdipole. On some occasions though the Vdipole was 3-4 S points better than the 40m GP.
I think the Vdipole will be very useful for IOTA as it is extremely easy to setup and performed reasonably well.
Managed to work 8 JAs, 1 HS0 and a VU within 2 hours with it, so the experiment was well worthwhile.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

IARU World HF championship

Another group of hams have been picked to represent the RSGB in the IARU World HF championship for 2008. The first thing us normal RSGB members hear about it, is the already chosen team. The team is typically a mix of present and past RSGB HF committee members and their friends. Most are accomplished contesters, but some are along for the ride on the basis of locality and being well connected.

I expressed an interest in the team back in 2005, but my questions about operator selection criterion in the following months drew fierce criticism and even personal insults from the more insecure team members. In 2006 after not being 'invited', I again attempted to break the wall of secrecy and was nearly successful after several months of e-mails with an invite to come along on a non-operational basis to a nearby stn. Unfortunately the offer was made only a week or so before the contest and I was unable to rearrange other plans I had made for the weekend (my birthday party). Apart from the offer being made too late, there was already too much bad blood to feel I'd really be welcome. The refusal of this offer was then used by the team to sink any chance I might of had of influencing change.

Some of the correspondence about the above was supportive and came from some of the UK's excluded top DXers (not HFCC committee members) who were as perplexed as I was about operator selection criteria. One good thing that happened as a result of my questioning the norm, was that a top UK DXer was 'invited' after me passing on his callsign as example of how insular/nepotistic their selection process was.

I think the main problem is that if you are not known by the chosen few, you will not be 'invited'. Even if you apply and you are not know by the chosen few you will not be 'invited'. This leads to a very private affair suitable for a private contest team or a DXpedition but is hardly suitable for a selection criterion for a national organisation with thousands of members.

It would seem the RSGB is quite happy with the "Win at all costs, tight knit, secretive society of 'best of breed stns' and friends" approach to representation, rather than a fairer, more open mix of suitably experienced RSGB members interested in taking part. It's certainly easier to organise as it is. It would also seem the RSGB are more interested in winning than in the future of the contesting 'sport' by allowing a fair selection to be made of their whole membership. The crowning glory then comes in the form of being asked each year to work them.

Why don't the RSGB think up a fairer, more open selection process, such as a call for operators in the Radcom or as a prize for winning RSGB contests. So what if thousands of 'unsuitable' members apply, at least the RSGB will be operating as an open society again in this respect.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Field Day Cludge

Just back from a very enjoyable field day, but it had some low points:

1) Arrived on site to find no lighting or chairs. Luckily I had brought a deck chair and everyone had torches.

2) The generator died 2 hours into the contest and could not be fixed.

3) A leisure cell and FT897 was used to replace the FT1000MP and generator. The FT1000MP can't be configured quickly to accept 12v. The FT897 needed a special lead for rig control which we didn't have.

4) The laptop that held the log was windows 98 and could not be run from 12v. Being 98 we could not use a pen drive to transfer the log. The wireless router ran from 12v so the log was transferred wirelessly before the laptop battery died. The new laptop was configured for 12v and the log was recovered.

5) The winkey we were using required drivers to work with the new laptop and the key plug was the wrong size for the FT897. We didn't have a parallel keying lead. We had a memory keyer but it took an hour to remember how to program it properly for the contest.

6) The leisure cell would only last 12hrs tops. Luckily one member was joining us the following day so he could bring a second.

7) The plug on the memory keyer was the wrong size for the FT897. An adapter was found but the shell of the adapter prevented it from fitting into the socket recess. A suitable lead was found to allow the adapter to be remote from the rig. The overall length of the new cludged lead was around 5m long.

8) When we fired up the rig and transmitted through the top band doublet, RF got into the long keying lead and caused the rig to go key down. A choke was cludged by winding the long keying cludge lead round a coke can.

We were on the air again......PHEW!

The above problems curtailed operation for most of the first night. Being a relatively new contester I am used to operating with computer aid so the thought of having to do most of the keying using a paddle was a bit daunting. Never the less I managed and actually got into a rhythm and started to enjoy the added involvement. I'll maybe consider doing some /p work now without the computer to weigh me down and therefore less battery weight required.

Anyway it was a first hand insight into how contesting used to be...bring it on :-)

Sunday, 1 June 2008

IOTA 08 preparation

I bought a 'match trolley' , a 'carp umbrella' and some ordnance survey maps of Islay today at a local fishing emporium. Fishing shops are great when looking for equipment for going portable, as comfort and rain proof are high on the design criterion of most of the products, and that's exactly what's needed here in GM for portable work.

I'll need the trolley as I don't want to be limited to operation from the car and the 110A/H leisure cell I'm taking weighs enough to give me a hernia. The trolley has big puenumatic tyres on it to soak up any rough terrain and as an added bonus it will also double up as a rather comfortable chair.

The reason for the umbrella instead of a tent is to get round any objections to 'camping'. With the umbrella I can sit down and operate in any remote spot without any possible land owner getting worried about it turning into a camp site. The umbrella is huge at 2.5M in diameter and has an extendable pole with a spike on the end for ground mounting. There is also a guying point on the apex if the wind gets up. I should be able to sit under it on the trolley with the laptop on my lap and the rig beside me. Imagine a fisherman on a riverbank and substitute an antenna for the rod, a K2 for the tackle box and a laptop and logging software for the keep net. I'll even be wearing wellies for goodness sake! They can sit there for hours in comfort so I'm gambling I'll be able to do the same.

My only worry now is the Midge. Midges are a small biting insect which we have in GM (especially the west coast where I'm headed) which can drive you a man to insanity, a cloud of the little blighters can decend on you and all you can do is run for cover. The fishing shop had some mosquito nets, but the mesh was really too large to deter them. I'll maybe have to make do with a midge hat and repellant.

I hope that a better solution will present itself when I arrive on the island, but I think it's always better to prepare for the worst.