Difficult on the low bands from a city centre apartment plagued by heavy local QRM on 40 and especially 80m. Feel that the level of participation is dropping each year. Great to see so many HQ stations active and meet a few newcomers. 73 Andy 5Z4/G3AB Nairobi Rig IC-7300 Acom 1000 Amp Hexbeam 10-15-20m 1/4 vert for 40m and 80m.
I decided against my better judgement to try and do the whole 24 hours without real breaks, but there were times when I had no contacts for an hour or more and I did end up taking quite a few short breaks. So probably spent 21 hours in the hot seat and around 17 hours actual operating. On the whole condx seemed to slightly better than recent few years, in fact made my most contacts since the 2016 contest. As always in this contest working as many of the possible 3 bonus BCA’s on each is band vital for a good score. G, VE3, VK2, VK4, VK6 and ZL3 were the only ones maxed out on most bands. My three 10m contacts were all ZL3’s. Had a nice short session on 80m LP to G land around 7pm on Sunday, the level of my usual local QRM seemed to be a bit lower than normal. Final 20m run to G land on 20m was very productive. Non G/VE/VK/ZL dx worked – 9H, 9V, V3, VP5, VP8, VU, ZF, ZS, but but not worked included – 6Y, 3B8, 5H, 9J2, 9G, 5Z4, ZB, VP2V, V5 Highlights – being called by VP8NO (many years since last qso) and ZS1C via long path of course as it’s very difficult and rare to work central and southern Africa via short path because this path is via Antarctica. I think I sort of may of heard 3B8XF down the bottom end of 40m where the Chinese OHTR was in full swing.
Had a great weekend. 80 40 and 20m in good condition – especially 80m with virtually no local QRN. Good conditions to VE on 40m and 20m both short and long-paths. Good run to UK on 40m long-path. Antennas 10m: rotatable 4 element Yagi at 14m 15m: rotatable 4 element Yagi at 16m 20m: rotatable dipole at 17m 40m: rotatable three element Yagi at 14m 80m: fixed wire dipole to EU 80m: fixed wire two elements to NA Reverse beacon: Multi-band Vertical (MBV) 80m and 40m: receive antenna – Vertical Phased Array (V
Many more Q’s and “b’s” than last year but there was a noted dearth of HQ stations worked. Enjoyed a short run on 20 and was astonished when Nigel, 3B8XF, called me. Quite a thrill for someone running 100 watts and a 31 meter long G5RV 13 meters h igh! Signals from UK stations were good but a high noise level developed late Saturday afternoon which obliterated all but the strongest stations. Propagation to VK/ZL was poorer than last year. Conditions to the Caribbean and Central America were good and allowed me to work my only 4-band set of QSOs with V31GX and ZF2CA. No African stations were even heard in far western Ontario, about 45km from the Manitoba provincial line. VE activity was very good with all Canadian call districts worked, save for VY0. During the run shat produced the QSO with 3B8XF I was called by VY1KX, which was a complete, and welcomed, surprise. My rare VE4 QSO was also in a very short run on 40 meters with, Jessy, VE4JBB finding me at just the right time. No signals were ever heard on 10 meters. There were only three QSOs on 15 but thre could have been more, especially to the Caribbean. I am of the opinion folks wrote the band off and gave it little thought. My QSOs on 15 were with V31GX, ZF2CA, and VE6KC, who was well over S9 and called me during one of the three or four occasions I called CQ on 15. All in all an enjoyable Commonwealth Contest. Thanks to all who provided QSOs!
I felt like I was doing better than expected (using my usual method of setting very low expectations and being fully prepared not to meet them) until late on Saturday I was called for a work escalation and had to spend a lot of time on it. Managed to take care of it working remotely but sharing my time between the work and the radio certainly threw a wrench into my contesting gears. Or given that it was a Commonwealth contest perhaps it was a spanner not a wrench. The good side of it was that maintaining motivation in the second part of the contest when I usually run out of stations I can hear and work with my vertical was less of a challenge – I was busy otherwise. Propagation has marginally improved over the last year but still much worse than the top of the cycle. The best that can be said for 10 and 15 m is that they gave me the sensation of a coma without the worry and inconvenience; 20 m – average but not much that I can do with 100 W and an 80/40 vertical; 40 and 80 m – noisy but otherwise OK. 80 m was a trickster: I felt deaf and inconsiderate for the longest time as I knew the callers were there when I tried to run but couldn’t quite get them out of the noise and felt really bad causing hurt or inconvenience to others; and then late in the game it opened for a couple hours allowing me to fairly easily get my usual share of Gs and assorted others. Strange this but have not heard a single VK or ZL the second sunrise and the only band I heard them at any time was 40. As usual it was tough slogging with LP and an 80/40 vertical. But a positive side of not using a yagi or even a hexbeam is that it builds character and grows hair on your chest. And as usual I cannot help it – I like this contest very much. See you next year…
Last year I had good success operating from a rural farm stay property in Hoddles Creek (about an hour’s drive east of my city QTH in Melbourne) so I decided to book the property again for the 2020 contest. I originally planned to set up and test the antennas on Friday afternoon but bad weather in the form of high winds and rain soon killed that plan. So, as usual, I ended up scrambling to erect the antennas on Saturday afternoon and finished just in time to join the start of the contest. I was pleased to see a noticeable increase in the number of QSOs on both 40M and 20M this year. This can be attributed to the use of two separate multiband dipole antennas aimed at North America and Europe respectively, whereas I only used a singl e dipole aimed at North America in the 2019 contest. 80M was disappointing. Although the band appeared to be in good shape, many stations could not hear me calling and I ended up making fewer QSOs on this band than in 2019. I used a full-size quarter wave vertical wire with 2 sloping elevated radial s. This configuration has previously performed well for me at other locations but I’m suspicious its proximity to the supporting tree and other trees at this QTH was introducing losses. The measured radiation resistance was around 65 Ohms whereas m elling suggested it should have been close to 40 Ohms. Horizontal polarisation should be less susceptible to any losses from adjacent trees, so I think I’ll try a horizontal 80M dipole next year, assuming I return to the same location. I only managed to make 6 QSOs on 15M but was pleased to work ZF2CA and 3B8XF, along with 4 VK QSOs at near ESP levels. No stations were heard on 10M.
Conditions similar to 2019 with deep QSB on most DXstations after midnight. The ZLs didn’t appear on 20m at 4am like they used to years ago but instead were very good on 40 and 80m. Great to work G3TXF on three of the five bands. I heard him on 80m but could not get through with my 100 watts to a dipole. This year I added an 80m quarter wave inverted L to the “farm” and was glad I did as I read and worked stuff with it that was inaudible on the dipole. Disappointing turnout from Far East. I only heard 9V1YC and VU2PTT all weekend.Outstanding signals on all bands: VP5O VE8CB VK6LW 9G5XA ZF2CA (who was coming through on 40m well into mid -morning on Sunday. Nice to work two old friends from way back in the ’60s .. Barry VK2BJ(ex G3PEK) and Nev Bethune 6Y5FS (ex G3RFS). As always the Restricted Section presents major challenges with Search & Pounce much more productive than CQing and being prepared to spend 10 to 20 minutes trying to work one valuable multiplier! For UK ops this is NOT a rate contest!
Back from Belize now to sunny North Norfolk but it was only just..
The day after I arrived, they banned any more Europeans from entering and Mr.Trump set up his ban on arrivals from EU unless they had been away for 14 days, which was a problem because all flights go via the USA to England from Belize and USA has no real transit area, you have to physically enter the USA and go through immigration customs etc.
No sweat I thought, at least I got in and it just means another extra week in Belize, not a problem, so I ordered another flight. Alas I could not get a refund for the first return flight.
About 2 days into my second week, five days to go before returning, there were rumors about Belize closing the land borders, despite having no cases of the virus confirmed as yet.
The next day I received a message from my hosts, which was sent to them from a government friend, that all the land borders will close at 4pm the next day and the airport a day after that. (Before my ticket home).
Left with no choice, I got into a taxi the next morning to the Mexican border, walked across and then found a bus to Cancun with the hope of getting a flight out from there, being a much larger and busier airport than Belize and it was in the back of my mind that if I did get stuck, Mexico was probably a better place as it had more infrastructure.
I booked the only flight out to London from Cancun, going via Canada. Due to number of people also trying to escape, all tickets were full for days apart from Business Class, which I reluctantly bought as again I was running out of options.
The day of departure, I got a phone call from a friend, who was trying to help some friends stuck in Panama, telling me that Canada had just closed its borders to non Canadians.
Its OK, I thought, I’m transit and Toronto has a proper transit area but when I tried to Check in online it refused me, stating the new travel restrictions.
I went to the airport where the lady at the Air Canada desk agreed new rules were in place since that morning and I would have to contact the airline directly to arrange a refund.
Now thinking waiting for repatriation was my last and only hope, I just tried to check in anyway, with one of the machines. To my great surprise it printed out two boarding passes but stated I would have to speak to check in assistance to confirm.
Fearing the worst I queued up anyway. By this time confidence was running low and expected to be turned down but they just waved me through.
Waiting for the plane, it was repeatedly delayed by 1/2 hour several times, so was still worrying about a last minute cancellation.
There were plenty other Europeans in my situation waiting for the plane, from all over South and Central America, looking for that elusive non USA bound transit flight to EU.
Finally they let me on and we left Cancun and I transited to London with no problems.
I’m lucky that I’m fairly used to thinking on my feet, having travelled quite a lot in 3rd world countries in my youth but even I acknowledge that was a close thing..
I still have no idea what happened toward the end but someone was smiling on me.
Here are some very preliminary charts showing entrants by section, region and assisted/unassisted
I must stress this data is pretty noisy as the definition of sections has changed quite a bit over the life of this dataset and I have sometimes been a bit arbitrary in allocation.
73 Bob G3PJT
A big thank you to all in the Australian teams and our HQ stations for taking part – you did a fantastic job – and to everyone else who took part in the this year’s CC! My summary was 322 QSOs (4 dupes) for a score of 4,455 points.
. 80 40 20 15 10
QSOs 68 157 75 18 1
Bonus 32 55 43 15 1
Antennas this year were a half-square antenna on 80m, an Innovantennas C-140 rotatable loaded dipole on 40m and a Innovantennas XR6 2-ele yagi for 20/15/10m. All the antennas’ highest points were around 20 metres above ground.
Conditions were very bottom of the cycle and, with the exception of 80m, were poorer than in 2019. 10m was dead except for VK6WIA, 15m barely had a pulse, 20m staggered open very briefly on the UK short path/long path, but the 80m conditions compensated to some extent, including QSOs with the UK, Caribbean, VE/VY2 and VO. 40m was the money band, providing about half my QSOs.
Hard work and great fun as always. Biggest highlight was working Peter GM3XOQ who taught me CW back in 1969/70 via his (then G3XOQ) 160m slow Morse transmissions.