Seemingly there has been a contest hiatus at the club for many years, so I threw the idea out there 3-4 months ago of perhaps trying to enter the RSGB SSB Field Day Contest. Now we all know that contesting is not for everyone, but not everyone has to operate. It seemed like a great way to have a club excursion, portable operation, tents, generators, burgers, bacon’n’eggs and everything that an outdoor event can offer.
So we decided to go for it, and we are all glad that we did. The RSGB SSB Field Day Contest is run over a weekend, the start time being 1300UTC on the 2nd through to 1300UTC on the 3rd of September. The objective to work as many stations and multipliers as quickly and accurately as possible, operating under portable conditions.
Preparations started weeks before with a couple of us trying to locate a suitable field to operate from. Ken (2W1ADO) managed to arrange with a friend the use of a spare field, a stones throw from the West Usk Lighthouse here in Newport. Mike (GW8MER) donated a ‘spare’ tent as the communal gathering area. Checklists were made, kit tested and packed. Steve (GW4OGO) generously let us use one of his transceivers, a rather smart Icom-7300. I managed to put together a 4:1 balun in readiness to be used with my LDG ATU and Ross (GW3NWS) was purveyor of all things masts, aerials and generators. A couple of us popped down for a ‘site survey’ and the decision was made that we were good to go.
The Saturday morning arrived, and personally I managed very little sleep that night, and somehow I had managed to fill a car and a small trailer with ‘stuff’ ! We arrived around 8:30bst and the first order of the day was to erect the masts and aerial of choice, an 80m doublet, donated by Bryn – N4VM from his late father Dave – GW7SNF.
A number of us were sorting the mast erection and at the same time the communal tent was being set up. The newly acquired club port-a-loo housed by Carol’s (MW3ZCO) utility tent. The operating tent was the last thing to go up, arranged so the 450ohm feeder ‘fell’ into place on the end of the 4:1 balun. Everything connected and tested we were ready to go with an hour or so to spare.
We also made the decision to run on batteries from around 10-11pm to limit the noise to the adjacent properties. I brought my 2 x 100Ah gel’s along and paralleled them up, more on that later. You can see in the picture the power lines on the east side of the aerial, and some phone lines on the west side. We managed to get the doublet to fit in between using only two masts (in the centre and on the west end) due to the contest rules. The east end of the doublet was guyed out with a long guy-rope to try and maintain some elevation. We estimated that the top was around 11m at the feed point, with a very shallow V to the elements.
Our main (well mine) worry was of noise from the local houses and possibly the power/phone lines, but it turned out to be a very quiet site. Thankfully the lines were at 90′ to the aerial so perhaps this helped. A couple of pre-contest test transmissions were made and all seemed to be in the green.
As the contest was about to start, members gathered around the op-tent in anticipation. Ross (GW3NWS) was given the honour of bring the band’s to life using a contest call he looks after GW8GT/P. We quickly discovered that a cable between the TRX and the ATU hadn’t been connected, so a couple minutes passed where we looked like a bunch of rabbits in the car headlights !
With everything under control once again, and the ATU playing ball, Ross worked away getting contact after contact in the log. Steve (GW4OGO) was next up followed by myself, followed by some stints by Alan (MW0GZL) and Paul (GW7RIB), yes we have photographic evidence of Paul on the radio! Ross headed off late evening and returned on the Sunday.
Ken, Doug (MW0OPY) and Dave (GW8SZL) were keeping us all fed and watered. Declan (MW6SZL) was also in attendance enjoying the whole experience.
Conditions during the event were up and down, and definitely got quieter during the evening. We managed to work stations on every band, 80-40-20-15 and 10 meters, the doublet tuning with relative ease, running 100w.
We were on about 200 contacts as late evening arrived when we decided to switch from generator power to battery. The two 100Ah gels keeping the station running, TRX, ATU, and laptop until around 10am the following day, and still with a reading of 100w pep on the atu. During the night I worked from around 2am until 7am, powered by chocolate and diet coke. The weather had turned and we were in for a wet and windy Sunday.
After bacon rolls, hot dogs, burgers, cups of tea, coffee, diet coke and everything else, the port-a-loo was given a good testing by a number of members. The weather had really turned, Saturday was a ‘scorcher’ with lovely blue sky and a couple of clouds. Sunday was a normal British summer, grey, wet and windy. The contest continued through to 2pm bst, and in the end we had just over 400 contacts. It wasn’t the busiest contest, in terms of stations calling or band activity, and it worked out to be something like just under 2 minutes per contact average, or 33 qso’s per hour. We have since submitted our log and are placed at around 7th in our group out of 33 or so at time of writing. A fantastic result when you consider that it was our first attempt for a long long time.
The de-camp started shortly after the contest end, the rain stopping in the last our of the contest, only to return even heavier as the last 73’s were said, sods law at play again. The tents came down in no short order, the communal one stored in the farm barn to dry out and be collected later in the week. All the kit performed flawlessly, and the voice keyer integrated into the Icom-7300 a god send !
We headed off around 3:30pm bst, all of us somewhat running on empty but everyone happy that we gave it our best shot !
Thanks to everyone who helped out and to those who couldn’t make it but no doubt cheered us on.
73 until the next time.