RSGB IOTA Contest 2005

Our entry into this contest could probably be used as the basis of an article entitled “How Not to do a Contest.” We arrived on Heimaey mid-afternoon on Friday. Heimaey is the largest and the only populated island of the Westman Islands which all count for EU-071. The group of G3ZAY, M0TJH and M0BLF who had been on the mainland for a week were joined by M0TDG who flew out from the UK the day before the team headed for islands. The journey to the islands had been somewhat eventful as we had to divert down a bumpy unsealed road around the coast to avoid a blockade by lorry drivers and we also discovered that Iceland’s largest music festival was taking place on the islands the same weekend. Despite all this, it did not take us too long to find the tourist office who then put us in touch with owner of the site where we would be camping. The normal campsite for the island was being used for the festival so we were staying in the local scout site.

Setup began that evening. We were entering the Multi/Single Low Power DXpedition category so all the antennas had to be single element. We started cutting dipoles for each of the contest bands and after the traditional CUWS inability to cut two dipole legs of the same length, we were ready to get on the air. We immediately found that conditions were extremely poor and very little could be heard. We had intended to try to make a lot of QSOs that evening to spread awareness of our activation but there were very few people we could contact. Other problems that we discovered that evening were that the computer cw keyer was not functioning correctly and the IC-706 we brought with us would not power up. Fortunately we had an FT-100 with us also so we still had a working rig. No amount of adjustment, tin foil or harsh language were able to fix these so we called it a night.

The morning of the contest dawned bright and the good bit of news was that M0BLF’s stern bedtime words to the IC-706 the night before had got it working again. However, the cw keyer still caused problems so everything had to be sent manually and a new problem of intermittent S8 QRM that we never positively identified but we suspect came from the imersion heater in the hot water tank. We discovered an on air problem that as our callsign was not the same as the standard CEPT callsign (our call was G6UW/TF) and some operators refused to work us claiming our call was illegal. This did not seem to be a problem during the contest but it is unlikely that we will ever be able to tell. As the last few adjustments to the station were made (including deciding to build a 20m vertical instead of a dipole), the weather began to cloud over very quickly and the wind started to get up. As the contest started, a full Atlantic gale was blowing towards us.

The contest started extremely slowly and it was very difficult to hold a QRG because of our weak signal. Greater success was had with cw although the keying was dodgy at best due to the complicated exchange and the computer keyer not functioning. As the day progressed, the gale outside strengthened and we discovered that the constant shaking of our telescopic masts was causing them to collapse in on themselves and then fall over. This happened several times and to make matters worse, whilst restoring our 20m vertical to a more vertical attitude, the mast snapped around 2m from the base. This was partially fixed but the mast was still notably shorter. As the evening wore on, we found out that the island’s airfield had been shut and some of the tourists trapped by the closure were being put up in scout building we were operating in. This meant we couldn’t use SSB much as it would disturb them too much. At around 0200, the combination of the appalling weather and both antenna masts falling within a couple of minutes of each other, we called it a night for a couple of hours to get a little sleep and allow the weather to improve. The wind had died the next morning and conditions were slightly better on the air allowing a few more contacts but by the time the contest finished, we had been limited to just 314 QSOs which gave us a paltry final score of just 137970 points.

The score breakdown is as follows:

Band CW QSOs SSB QSOs Total QSOs
10m 0 0 0
15m 4 13 17
20m 196 77 273
40m 17 7 24
80m 0 0 0
Total 217 97 314

While this wasn’t a competitive score, it did give us a chance to see a little bit of the islands (though the weather limited this somewhat too) and it was good to provide a multiplier for other stations. Hopefully conditions will be better in the future allowing a much higher score.

Checking reduced the score to 123546. This left us 85th in our category. Not a great result but we did provide a multiplier for quite a few others. Results can be found at http://iotacontest.com/2005/iotaScores.php?q=ims.

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