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:
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.
The last weekend in October saw CUWS’s annual entry into what has become the largest HF contest of the year. We were at a disadvantage this year compared to last year’s efforts due to a lack of operators. Setup the previous weekend had not been as successful as had been hoped as we had not had time to put up the second tribander on the smaller tower. We knew already that we wouldn’t have enough operators to run a mult station and this removed the chance for people to casually turn up and mult hunt when they were free. A lot of work was required on the Friday of the contest to get the shack up, ready and running on all 6 of the contest bands. We successfully managed to be ready on 10m through 80m but testing the 160m dipole at dusk showed an extremely high SWR. After a little checking, it was found that the balun on the dipole had shorted internally and we didn’t have a spare to quickly change. There was not enough daylight left to try an alternative so that band had to be left. Our link to the packet cluster was also down and despite a scheme using a telnet to GPRS to bluetooth to ethernet to wireless LAN network was a possible alternative, it was decided that it would be too unstable to work for more than short periods of time during the contest.
The start of the contest came and it was impossible to establish a clear frequency on either 40m or 80m. Searching around showed there to be S9+ noise right up and down both bands. Search and pounce was the method of choice for this portion of the contest. Throughout the night, it proved extremely difficult to find a run frequency and it was also difficult to pick out all but the strongest stations. One good run was possible for about 20 minutes on 80m and a few stations were worked in the US on 40m but very few QSOs were made overall. Things picked up a little once dawn came and 20m began to open but things were quite slow and there was not a lot to work outside of Europe. The afternoon gave better pickings with some good runs to the US on 15m then 20m as dusk came and went. Things slowed down again once 20m closed and the low bands, once again, proved crowded and difficult to hold a clear frequency on. The highlight of the night proved to be a good run on 80m to the states at about 0400z. Sunday dawned with better conditions to the east giving good runs on the high bands. Good runs were achieved into the US after midday right through until when 20m closed after dusk. The last evening did not yield much in the way of DX but a few more local multipliers were chased up and a good run into Europe was established on 80m to add a few final points to the total.
The call for this contest was M4A and the operators were Martin, G3ZAY; Michael, G7VJR; Daniel, M0ERA; Elisabeth, M0ELI; Tim, M0TDG; and Tom, M0TJH.
The equipment used was as follows:
- Yaesu FT-1000MP
- Heil Headset
- MFJ-434 DVK
Antennas were as follows:
- 10/15/20: TH5 at 20m
- 40: 4-square and rotatable dipole at 23m
- 80: 3 way sloper beaming west and inverted V at 20m
Once the contest had finished, we had a final claimed score of 1668238 with 1934 QSOs. The score breakdown was as follows:
Given our lack of packet and a mult station, this was felt to be a good effort given difficult overnight conditions, the lack of one band (even if it was 160m) and this being the first serious HF contest for some of operators.
Results are pending.
Mid January is the time for the RSGB’s Affiliated Societies SSB (AFS) contest – a 4 hour sprint for three separate stations to make as many QSOs as possible on 80 metres – no multipliers, just work anyone and everyone. Most clubs encourage as many of their members as possible to enter from their home stations, worrying about who to regard as the ‘A’ team when results are in. But for CUWS it is not so simple – with our only permanent station at the G6UW shack we have a major problem putting two more stations on the air at all.
This year, thanks to Michael G7VJR, we were able to use the Trinity Hall sports pavilion and the offices of his company ‘Third Light’ at Milton. The stations were all ready for delivery and set-up by Martin G3ZAY and Michael on Saturday morning – but drunken revellers caused a serious problem by heaving a milk bottle through the rear window of Michael’s car during Friday night, making it unusable. Fortunately the Cambridge traffic wasn’t too bad and Martin managed to make all the necessary deliveries in time so we were ready to go with 20 minutes to spare.
Stavros, M0BBB, our star contester, took charge of the G6UW station with a dipole at 50 feet, FT1000MP and Quadra linear. He ran steadily on 3699 kHz for more than half the contest, searched and pounced for a few minutes in the middle, and finished on 3618 kHz with 317 valid QSOs.
Tom M0TJH operated /P from the sports pavilion using G3ZAY’s FT890, TL922 linear, and an inverted Vee hung from a support contrived with a 20 foot ladder and the boom of a TH3 beam.
Unlike M0TDG last year (who was forced to operate ‘al fresco’ and was nearly dead from exposure by the end) Tom had a centrally heated position next to the squash courts – though the sound of squash balls hitting the wall of the court behind him did cause some VOX tripping every now and then. Noise levels were a little higher for some reason and Tom managed to finish with 173 valid QSOs.
Martin operated from Michael’s offices with an FT847, 12 volt solid state linear running about 300W, and an inverted Vee at about 30 feet supported by a fishing pole lashed to another old TH3 boom.
He started running just above 3600 kHz and moved to search and pounce when things got slow just before 5.00 pm. He feels he probably left this a bit late as the band had changed with sunset and there was a substantial dead zone close in – only the GMs and nearer EU stations were loud. Nevertheless he was satisfied with his score of 252 valid QSOs.
Tabulated, the results were as follows:
So the team total was 7420 – and based on last year’s scores this would have placed us 5th overall in the team listings. But there was a little more activity this time so we may be lucky to hold on to 9th place. Leading stations were making around 360 contacts so it is clear we need to match their expertise/equipment and ensure that with a suitable remote antenna we can listen around the band at the same time as our voice keyer is blasting out the CQs. Something to think about for next year – there must be enough space at the farm to do this.
Results are pending.