RSGB COMMONWEALTH CONTEST (aka “BERU”) – G3BJ
From: Don Beattie, G3BJ
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2019 15:16:22 GMT

This is my report on the weekend. I entered the unassisted section – which makes for extra work!

 

I had hoped that after the poor conditions of last weekend for ARRL SSB, BERU would be better. I suppose we should be grateful for an “A” index of 8 , following last weekend’s 24, but apart from that , the two contests seemed to suffer similar conditions. These manifested as relatively poor LF conditions, moderate conditions on 20, poor on 15 and almost nil on 10m. I felt that this was a weekend where SO2R was likely to be helpful, and so it proved. The contest normally starts with the usual puzzle of “where do I start?” but conditions helped that choice. 20m was the banker band, and so any decision was bound to use 20m as the anchor. I recognised that with the new abundance of HQ stations in the British Isles, getting all the bonus points from them was essential. In the end, I did that, with the exception of GI6XX on 10 and 15m.  So initially S&P on 20 and 15, then running on 20 with S&P on 15m and taking bonus stations to other bands was the order of the day. A lot of this contest depends on catching the 40 and 80 LP and SP openings to Asia and Oceania and this year, 40 was in good shape to the Far East and VK/ZL quite early on Saturday afternoon. This raised the spirits, and when 80 contributed quite a few VK on Saturday dusk, motivation took an uptick. The Saturday afternoon was marred by some electrical noise locally on 10 and 15m – I thought from the nearby farm, but a quick trip round there showed nothing in use. So I suspect a powerline fault – perhaps a faulty transformer or insulator. As soon as the sun went in and the air cooled, it stopped. Something to investigate before CW WPX.

 

The UK traveller stations were there, of course, but strength did not seem up to the usual level. Nigel was there from 3B8XF, but on 80 was not his usual strength when I worked him. Don at C56DF was there too, but not as strong as I had hoped. Peter at VP9I was pretty good strength, but  stand-out travellers were Iain at V31GX (big signals on all bands)  and Mike at VY2/G3VYI.

 

Perhaps I was looking the other way at the time, but I found no VE7 on 40 or 80 this year, which is unusual. VE6 and VE5 were in short supply. David, VA7DXX (G3OUF) was very loud on 20m.  Congratulations to the UK HQ stations (the “6XX” team, GB5CC and GM3DR) for moving when asked and for good ears. Some of the 10m signals inter-G were ESP. As I said earlier, I missed Rich (GI6XX) on 10 and 15, but otherwise, a clean sweep.

 

When we got to the overnight session, it got pretty dreary. QSO rates dropped way down, and yet you had to keep up the motivation to catch the odd bonus extra. For distraction I spent a short while calling the 7P8 DXpedition, but by the time I found them, they had propagation to the US and it was pointless. When we got round to dawn, 80m and 40m were noisy – static crashes and band noise, which made copy a little harder than usual on the weaker DX.

 

Callsign of the weekend must be 5I9/F5PLR – actually HI9, but it had me fooled, as he really was sending 5I9 which would have been a nice bonus!

 

In passing, a comment about the band below 3510. This is marked in the rules for “DX contacts”. Bob, PJT, says in his website “Commonwealth Contest A DX contest and DX means long distance and challenging radio contacts”. So I guess I’m a tad unclear about the objective here. I can see it is OK to call a “dx” station there, but under what circumstances can (eg) a UK station initiate activity there? One view might be “if there is propagation and likelihood of DX QSOs”. But how to guarantee that? I’m coming around to the view that perhaps we should mandate a sub-band for BERU to avoid the doubt – but perhaps someone can provide an answer to the “acceptable” usage of 3500-3510. IARU band plan states “priority for intercontinental operation”. Now that means that with the exception of a few European stations (ZB2, 9H) and the G “HQ” stations, all BERU QSOs qualify for this segment.  3510 – 3560 is the “contest preferred” segment. So I’m just a little confused about what is and is not acceptable here. Certainly over the weekend, there was a lot of contest activity below 3510, perhaps encouraged by the Tesla contest occupying 3510+ with quite a few clicky signals!

 

Anyway, a good weekend of dial spinning, scouring the bands  and also a fair amount of F1 pressing.

 

Congratulations to Chris, G3SJJ, for a great score in the assisted section – it goes to show what I missed hearing! My numbers appended below.

 

73 – and thanks for all the QSOs