First of all a very big thank you to the folk who gladly and positively responded to my requests for UK Headquarter stations in this year’s contest. Disappointed that I couldn’t complete the list with the 3 Crown Dependancies but pleased and relieved that those who committed turned up on the day and put in excellent performances. Plenty of appreciative comments already on here and other sources so thank you all – great job! And huge gratitude also to the likes of Bob G3PJT and all the others who work hard organising Beru plus of course all the travellers who add so much to making this contest unique.
I’ve now had time to look through my log and think about the contest so can post a fuller account. First a run down on kit used. The radio was my K3 in SO2V mode feeding a newish Gemini HF-1K amplifier. Antennas here are all wires; I’m very lucky in being in a fairly quiet rural spot. The garden is small though and the pride of my xyl so I take advantage of a surrounding farm field normally occupied by sheep for my aerial hardware. The farmer is happy for me to put up ‘temporary’ poles/wires but permanent towers are out of the question. I’m still working on the possibility of him accepting a mobile tower! So the line up was – 80m dipole at 45ft, 40m quarter wave ground mounted vertical used for 15m too, 20m dipole at 30ft but up on a small hill with good slope towards North America, and a dipole for 10m.
The first QSO in the log was GB5CC and N1MM+ complained about ‘another HQ in the same CCA…’! I then spent 15 minutes trying to find what I’d screwed up in the set up before I gave up and decided to ‘forcelog’ any UK HQ call and not use ESM for them. Needless to say I kept forgetting the latter which caused it to send ‘AGN?’, slightly embarrassing but not major. I spent the first hour or so jumping from 40 to 20 with the odd foray to 15 chasing spots like Nigel at 3B8 and the two 5B4s. Don G3BJ moved me to 10m for my only 10m Q (I was declined a move request by one particularly strong and fairly local station later on). I’m not sure what Don did but I could hear something way down in the noise totally unreadable but then suddenly he shot up and stayed there, didn’t sound like reflection. The next 6 hours were spent mainly on 20m with again jumps to 15 for spots – having this new auto band and antenna switching amp is very neat! From around 1530 40m came into it’s own with a nice mix of UK and DX – VK6LW and VK6VZ were worked within minutes of each other as early as 1540. Without directional antennas I can’t know if it’s LP or SP, I just hear ’em and work ’em (hopefully..;-) I tried at all times to be running on one band while perhaps S&Ping or picking off spots on a second; I saw that as part of my job description as a **6XX station to give the UK entrants a fair chance of the bonus points. Having the 2nd receiver in the K3 enables that to be done very efficiently. This was also the reason I kept out of the DX slots at the bottom end of each band, trying instead to find a spot just slightly above so as to still be close to the action.
The action was then moving more to 80m and just before 1800 I worked VK4, VK6 and VK7 in quick succession in between productive runs of UK calls. By then 20m was done for the day but 40 and 80 were still good for both UK and DX. This continued up until around 0130 and then things became very quiet as we entered the ‘graveyard hours’. I had last year’s log open on a second monitor and it was interesting how similar this year was turning out to be. Like last year 40m opened up to ZL around 0430 for 2 hours or so followed by a bunch of ZLs calling me on 80 just before 7. My time in the graveyard yielded just 6 QSOs from 0115 to 0315 although they did include V31GX and C56DF. To help keep myself awake and CQing I watched the replay of the earlier Scotland v Wales rugby game on iPlayer and was timed to perfection as the final whistle went minutes before 40m opened to ZL. A few years ago I was surprised to find 20m suddenly opened to ZL in these dead hours so I kept checking but nothing – we probably had sun spots then! The final couple of hours of Beru always seems quiet especially when 20m is not in good shape and 15 and 10 remain pretty much closed to a dipole and 5/8 vertical. Three more VKs on 40 and a couple more ZLs on 20 but enough Gs and others to keep me occupied by then.
VEs of course were everywhere and Beru aficionados everywhere owe them a debt of gratitude. Surprised to work just the one VE7 which was VE7RAC on 20 in the middle of Saturday afternoon. VE6WQ was my only Alberta station a little later on the same band and I managed 3 VE5 calls on 20m in the same period with VE5MX being worked also on 40m at midnight here. Again on 20m VE4EA was my only VE4 so thank goodness for all the VE3s…
My general impression was of the bands being in quite poor shape. In particular 40m whilst being very productive was at times extremely noisy with signals way down and sounding fuzzy. This often made for difficult copy and necessitated repeats and the occasional abandonment. Slowing down speeds was usually the best way to ensure successful copy. I very often had the impression I was being heard better than I was hearing the dx which is not a situation I’m used to. I began to wonder if I would benefit from a decent receive antenna.
The only 5 band call in my is not unexpectedly Don G3BJ. DX calls on 4 bands are ZF2CA, V31GX, VY2ZM and 5B4AGN.