IARU HF World Championships 2005

After a strong start and, rather unusually, having been ready for the contest before it began, our entry into the HF World championships ended with a disappointingly low score. Software and equipment problems (apologies to those who heard our morse software doing an impression of a heart monitor monitoring someone going into cardiac arrest) were compounded by poor conditions and only having simple antennas for the low bands so a final score of only 603064 was achieved. G3ZAY, M0BLF, M0TDG and M0TJH (with BBQ support from G7VJR) were operating as M4A in the Multi/Single category. It was not a score that will make us competitive but it was still an enjoyable contest and gave good practice to the ops, especially those who were trying serious CW contesting for the first time.

Our score was reduced to 563760 upon checking leaving us 19th in Europe in our category. Given better low band antennas and conditions, it’s felt that our score could have been much improved. The top score of 2.8 million is a long way off but better preparation in the future could see us greatly improve our ranking in the future for this contest. Results can be found at http://www.arrl.org/contests/results/prscores.html?con_id=91.

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.

CQWW SSB 2005

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
  • Writelog
  • 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:

Band QSOs Zones Countries
10m 56 11 26
15m 539 34 91
20m 636 25 65
40m 259 13 70
80m 444 15 68
160m 0 0 0
Totals 1934 98 320

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.

RSGB AFS SSB 2006

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:

Callsign QSOs Points claimed
G6UW 317 3170
G3ZAY/P 252 2520
M0TJH/P 173 1730
Total 742 7420

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.

M0TJH/P

Outer Hebrides (GM): 2006

The end of August saw the annual trip up to the Hebrides by CUWS. Tim, M0TDG; Tom, M0TJH; and Martin, G3ZAY, left on the Saturday afternoon to head up the A1 with the intention of activating the Monach Isles group (EU-111) as well as the main Outer Hebrides group (EU-010). With a brief overnight stop near Carlisle, we caught the ferry across to Lochboisdale on the Sunday afternoon. The weather was quite variable with some very heavy showers and a large swell in the middle of the crossing.

The majority of our stay was, once again, in the excellent Gatliff Youth Hostels (see www.gatliff.org.uk). The first two nights were spent on the Uists. The hope of going to the Monach isles was scuppered by high winds and variable sea conditions. Instead, the time was used visiting local sights and a little operating was done by Tim from the hostel in Berneray.

With little hope of an improvement in the weather, the group moved north to Harris to stay at the hostel in Rhenigidale. Whilst here, we also looked into the possibility of making a trip to the Shiant Isles (EU-112) but again, the weather was not suitable for the boatmen to take us there on any of the remaining days of the week. Some operating was performed from the hill behind the hostel and a good pile-up on 40m was achieved including a contact with CUWS member Michael, G7VJR, near Cambridge.

The final few days of the trip were spent exploring the local paths. The weather closed in towards the end of the week and an attempt to climb the summit of Clisham was abandoned. Some operating was again attempted on the final evening but conditions were so poor that only a few contacts were made. On the journey home, we stopped off to pay a visit to GM4FAM and later G3WGV. We hope that we will see them again at the RSGB HF Convention next month.

Overall, some 150 contacts were made from different islands in the EU-010 group of which around 30 were on CW and the rest on SSB.

If there is sufficient interest there will be a return trip to the Hebrides planned next summer – probably to the Shiant Islands (see www.shiantisles.net). One of the large RIB operators in Stornoway will be booked to provide transportation as they are willing to operate in most weather conditions short of a gale.

Outer Hebrides (GM): 2005

Martin G3ZAY, Michael G7VJR, and Danny M0GMT visited the Outer Hebrides from August 23rd to 29th. The weather proved to be exceptionally windy and not only prevented a trip to St Kilda but resulted in an outbound rerouting via Skye instead of a direct ferry from Oban. Danny made some QSOs from Skye in the Inner Hebrides IOTA group (EU-008) and both Danny and Michael operated from the outer islands (EU-010). On the Summits on the Air (SOTA) front Michael and Danny activated Clisham, the highest peak in the outer islands, and Toddun which rises steeply from the youth hostel at Rhenigidale. Propagation from the summit of Toddun was particularly remarkable with a massive pile-up despite only 30W to a low dipole.

The team visited Rockall veteran James Cameron MM0CYJ at his croft on South Uist and had a first hand account of the recent IOTA activation which made a couple of hundred contacts. James is keen to go back but a return visit seems unlikely in the next year or so as all his fishermen friends take their boats up north to Greenland during the summer. We will be staying in touch with him as he is always keen to visit the local IOTA groups (Monachs, Flannans, and Shiants) in his 19 foot dory and we may be able to mount a joint DXpedition next year. James is a keen 6m operator and we hope to contact him when we have our new SteppIR beam installed.

Iceland (TF): 2005

From the 22 July to the 1 August Martin (G3ZAY), Dominic (M0BLF) and Tom (M0TJH) made a visit to the Icelandic mainland (EU-021) and were joined by Tim (M0TDG) for the IOTA contest on the Westman Islands (EU-071). Glorious weather on the mainland meant that there was mostly sightseeing taking place. It was also found that the car battery of the rented 4×4 had very little charge and when on the air one night, the front panel on the rig started to dim after just 12 QSOs. The car then had a lot of trouble starting and it was decided that this source of power would not be used again. No other operating was possible before travelling to Heimaey in EU-071 and a full write-up of that operation is available in the contest section.

TF/M0BLF/P was used from the Icelandic mainland and G6UW/TF was used from Heimaey in the Westmans before and during the contest. QSL info for both calls is via M0BLF.

Jersey (GJ): 2005

Tim (M0TDG) and Martin (G3ZAY) made a brief trip to Jersey (31 March-4 April) for a long weekend during the Easter vacation. GJ6UW/P was active from the newly built youth hostel (highly recommended) in the town of Gorey on the east coast of the island. Once we had the station set up, we got on the air on 40m SSB just before our sunset. Conditions were excellent and we achieved our best DX of the weekend within a few hours with a contact with VK3. As the evening wore on, we switched to CW and had an extremely large US pile up by the time tiredness (and an extremely loud side tone that even the headphones could not block out from the rest of the room) got the better of us. We called it a night. Sadly, conditions on the higher bands were far worse and were not repeated on 40m again that weekend.

Overall, some 600 QSOs were made of which 450 were on CW.

Monach Islands and Outer Hebrides (GM): 2004

CUWS (M0TDG, M0BLF, M0NKI, M3OXY, and G3ZAY) made a short DXpedition to the Outer Hebrides at the start of September (6th-10th) and operated briefly from the Monach Islands (400 QSOs from two stations in about 6 hours of activity) and three summits (for the Summits on the Air Programme). An attempt to reach St. Kilda was thwarted by a poor weather forecast which caused the operator of the Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) on the west coast of Lewis to cancel the trip.

Operating from the Monach Islands.

GM6UW/P QSL card

Jersey (GJ): 2002

The CUWS was active for two days (15-17 February) from Jersey in the Channel Islands as GJ6UW/P. Jersey counts as EU-013 for the RSGB’s Islands on the Air award scheme. Dominic (M0BLF) and Martin (G3ZAY) were operating.

We were active from a location in the centre of the island, St. Lawrance Parish, and worked on all bands from forty to ten metres, SSB. Due to the ARRL CW contest, which was on over the weekend, we did not operate any CW. Topband and eighty metre operation was also not possible, due to high winds which meant that we couldn’t get the antenna raised.

In total, 1533 QSOs were made in the forty-eight hours between Friday and Sunday afternoons.

A Bay in Jersey. Sun, sea and very few clouds.

GJ6UW/P QSL card