From: Colin Smithers
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2021 22:07:06 GMT
Last year a Hangouts txt came through from my Camb-Hams chums (the generic name for several Cambridge UK ham groups) mid-contest wondering if I was considering getting home PDQ, given the state of the news with travel shutting down rapidly. I tried not to let it distract me and pressed on, not imagining for a second where we would all be by now.
On my route in via Boston I had met and had dinner with Marty NN1C one of the ZF1A regulars and spoke amongst many other things about the bits I had been accumulating on-island to make the travelling less arduous, now including an older and lightly populated K3.
During the year Marty mailed to check whether my K3 was still there and would I mind it being put to use in their remote operation? The ZF1A regulars have put together an entire remote SO2R multi-op system that has continued to do well in the big rate contests. It’s quite a set-up:
– Two full stations based on remoted K3s and an Acom or OM amplifier
– Shared, band-pass filtered switched antennas
– Remote rotator controls
– For multi-op, logging computers networking from anywhere on the planet
So this year I was ZF2CA remote, as some of you read in a brief snip earlier. As ever, in the run-up work behaves like the dog that knows instinctively that you are going on holiday and plays up, so preparation was behind the curve and sleep not sufficiently topped up.
Conditions started well with low QRN on 80, always a dice throw in the tropics and after a few fumbling minutes I was away to a decent start against all the big VEs – you have to tune the K3 remote head quite slowly but given that it works a treat. There had been high winds so the 80m beam was fixed NE, but it didn’t seem to matter. After 30 mins to 40m and then to 20 where as always it’s like coming out from the dark into the sunlight to find the big VEs a 100 Qs ahead or more. From then it’s trying to keep up, keep your chin up, and remember to QSY every rare opportunity. Must have kicked myself ten times for failing to do this.
Operating wise, it is too easy to think ‘I’m the mult, I’ll just bash away’ but with all the additional HQ stations this now requires significantly more adaptation, as they too think they are the mult. I was only lightly affected by DQRM but of course had to send ‘BERU, UK, UK PSE’ such a lot. Almost all got the message although one out of character JM really took his time. I was hit by the ‘Give your call’ police a couple of times, unfairly I think because I did my best not to go beyond two Qs. It is important to note that not giving out your all is the best way to moderate and therefore speed up a big pileup, especially with so many piling on zero beat. The smart ones 70Hz either side get the worm first, and usually first go. I wasn’t caught out by too many callsigns although G3DR and GM3DR had me going: I thought you could only have one ‘3DR’ at once, not two. There were a surprising number of dupes, some with low total Qs; I’m sure they know why but it beats me.
Getting the South Africans is always a challenge as they don’t seem to beam west often, but a bit of persistence pays off – and revealed some high Q counts. Then, at 4pm, just as I was working G3TBK on 15 all went dark. My ISP kicked the equipment off and so a router reboot lots of faffing to bring everything back up. Looking now the log shows 35 minutes lost.
A short break for dinner then I dared to take 40 winks. Being in the Remote section I am not up for the big trophies so staying awake for the normal 22.5 hours is suddenly far harder. It wouldn’t matter I thought, daytime path to VK/ZL not quite open yet. Overslept and came down to white noise. No camera looking at the big amps, no Anydesk into the ZF PC, so no antenna director and no ability to switch any antenna, at all. Huh?… Murphy had visited during my slumber!
My PC had done a reset, another in a string that we have all suffered recently. Perhaps a PC reset also in the ZF shack? I WhatsApped site owner Andrew Eden to have a look and he reported a power outage, now restored fortunately. He reset the ZF PC and quickly the cameras and Anydesk were back up, but no antennas. The Green Heron server that ran it was unresponsive. Now feeling I was becoming a bit of a pain I WhatsApped system architect Marty in Boston. He was out, but 30 mins later we were back up. Lost the whole VK/ZL HF opening though, so many mults L. So press on with openings on 40 and 80 before it all slowed right down by about 3 a.m., and some shuteye until 5.30.
Sunday morning is the chance to catch up as the paths to G on 80 and then 40 is somehow better for ZF then than from VE, not forgetting that it is also wide open to VK/ZL and so the chance to pick up a lot of mults. Constant beam switching to be heard by both but listen to one path or the other. But where were they? I was checking my 2019 log which showed the last 45m filled with them, far fewer this year, though loud when they were there. Hmmm.
Switching back I continued trying to winkle out the weaker Gs. In CQ WW I do QRP from the UK and so I recognise the effort I request of the DX end; this is payback time. Most of the calls are familiar and so easier to decode, but then G3JNB. Not such a regular contest call but it rang strong bells and suddenly I recalled this guy Victor whose name was representing Sutton and Cheam RS in one of those fat chrome folders in Cheam library filled with thin carbon copies and that my Mum had found. I must have rung him 20 times but no joy; out of date number I reckoned. I was just 9. He’s got through now!
I eventually became the club ‘mascot’ in short trousers, until replaced by the younger Gary G4IFB, now ZL2IFB. Worked him too!
BAND QSO BONUS HQ DUP POINTS
80 144 23 12 2 720
40 178 41 18 3 885
20 232 34 12 7 1160
15 53 22 5 1 265
10 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 607 120 47 13 3030
FINAL SCORE: 6 370