The report summarizing the survey responses and proposal for changes is now available at http://vk1da.net/VHF_report_final_rev1.pdf
After discussion for several months a proposal has been published for revision of the scoring rules for Australian/WIA-sponsored VHF/UHF Field Day contests.
The proposal is here: vk1da.net/vhffielddayrules.html
A survey of active VHF/UHF amateurs seeking views on the proposal and other aspects of these events is here: vk1da.net/survey/index.php
The proposal was developed by a group of interested radio amateurs, primarily Colin VK5DK and myself but in consultation with a number of others.
For this event I took my usual station on 50 to 1296 MHz, plus my transverter and gridpack for 2403 MHz, Ted VK1BL’s transverter and gridpack for 3400 and Dale VK1DSH’s 10 GHz station (IC202, transverter, dish and tripod).
Contacts were made on all these bands.
Performance of the station on 1296 MHz was not as good as in previous years. This may be due to conditions, or to a problem with my antenna or my location on Mt Ginini. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find suitable places where even two required directions are not partly blocked by the trees on that mountain.
Some pictures are already on http://www.flickr.com/photos/exposite/sets and I’ll be putting some also onto the vk1da.net photo pages.
The January 2010 event was much more successful for me than the Spring field day about 6 weeks earlier.
This time Dale VK1DSH and I operated as a multiop station on 50, 144, 432, 1296, 2403 and 10368 MHz.
- Dale made several contacts on 10 GHz with Andy VK2AES operating south east of Bungendore.
- Despite leaving the feed for the 2.4 GHz dish at home, we still made a contact with Andy on that band, using a “field day special” feed constructed onsite from a piece of wire and a N type socket connected to a piece of cable through the dish centre and attached to the normal feed hardware. Signals S9 over the 70 or 80 km path.
- Several successful contacts with Dave VK2JDS near Bathurst on 1296 MHz. Some persistence was needed for the first contact, when conditions were not so good and we had to get our beam headings right. More power at both ends would have been a help.
- Other than that, we had a fair contact rate on 144 with many throws to other bands.
- For this event I used one of Owen VK1OD’s Roger Beep boards. I assembled the board on the previous weekend, mounting the board into a small box with the Icom mike plugging into a socket on the RB box, and mike output to the IC910 through a short section of shielded cable. I set the CW speed to 30 wpm and selected the K option.
- Despite some thunderstorm activity in the area, we didn’t have to shut down.
Activity was a little lower than in the past. Chris VK2DO was away on a business trip and Matt VK2DAG was roving up and down the NSW coast and unfortunately we didn’t work him once. Our score was just over 2000 points, though, with the help of the additional microwave bands. We were grateful for Andy VK2AES’s efforts in going portable on both days and giving us contacts on all bands, in particular 2.4 and 10 GHz.
For this year’s JMFD contest I thought weather and propagation conditions were fairly bleak.
The weather was wet and windy to say the least. Many field stations reported having their tents and masts blown down.
The high point for me was working 3UHF on 1296 with only a single 18 el yagi, and barefoot (10w nominal). The distance was 501 km according to the VK1OD distance calculator, using the VK1DA/p and VK3UHF locations from the VHF Logger.
I didn’t like my chances of having hf antennas stay up and didn’t want to extend the tear down process, so I limited myself to the vhf/uhf bands. I had a car full of antennas and several extra masts but in those conditions, there is no point in trying to do too much.
The temp in the tent at 5AM Sunday morning was 3.5 C though the official overnight minimum according to BOM was 2C. No wind gust peak data was available.
Operating techniques and problems observed.
There is a continuing tendency for operators to call and make contacts on only one frequency, 144.150. Can everyone please tell their club operators that there is no repeater there, they are allowed to move the big knob in the middle of the radio panel. It is ok, nothing will break, the rest of the band also works for making contacts. It would be better to train vhf ssb operators on HF so they get to know how to operate on ssb, how to work the tuning knob and how to tune around the band to find stations to work. FM channels and repeaters are quite the wrong training ground for SSB but I’m afraid that the FM repeater operation mode (staying on one frequency, as if it is the only conduit to any other station) is the method many operators learn and continue to use.
It is up to the experienced operators to teach new operators better techniques. I appreciated those experienced operators who I heard requesting a QSY as soon as initial contact had been made.
During the contest I tried many times to make contact with some stations in the greater Sydney and Melbourne areas, whose signals were perfectly readable, but whose operators seemed to want to chat to locals interminably, on 144.150. There are bonus points for working longer distances and these operators were ignoring those chances. eg. a contact with another local station is worth 2 points, but a contact with a station 300+ km away would be worth 50 points. This surely would make it worth listening to a weaker signal.
We should encourage people to operate in vhf events in a manner similar to the HF bands. Find a clear frequency (within the band plan) and call CQ. If looking for a contact, tune the band. If activity is low, don’t move too far from other activity (but be mindful of local interference problems – this is why I qsy 30 kHz up from 150, not just 5 kHz as I might on HF). If activity is high, move further out. Give the dx something to tune for. Don’t clump up and make it impossible!
My QSO tally
All contacts ssb. These scores are about half the corresponding number from the summer VHF/UHF field day in January.
6m – 9
2m – 54
70cm – 31
23cm – 7
13cm – nil.
As we had scheduled a house move one week prior to the January 17th VHF Field Day, I had to set aside the equipment needed for the field day so it wouldn’t get packed up and be lost for months, which can happen when you move house.
The antennas were no problem as I had to move them on the roof racks of the car. The cables were a possible problem, as were the connectors, camping gear, tent/poles, generator, power cables and distribution boards, power cables for radios, the radios themselves.
The one thing I could not put on hold was myself and I had worked very hard for 5 days straight packing and carrying boxes of household goods. The last move took ages and I had several weekends to sort through 3 garages and dispose of unwanted stuff. This time was a bit better, there was only one garage.
The upshot was that with some encouragement from Dale VK1DSH I did find the energy to pack the car early on Saturday morning and head up to Mt Ginini, a 70 km, 90 minute trip from the new QTH. It took a bit longer as I called in at the bakery and the supermarket for some essential supplies on the way.
We got the station set up by about 3pm and logged our first contacts on all bands. Right away there seemed to be antenna problems on 52 and 432 MHz. Both antennas came down, connectors checked. The 52 MHz vertical had been extended to make it work on 50 MHz on a previous field day. Removing a short length of tubing added for 50 MHz operation returned it to normal operation on 52 which was sufficient for local contacts.
On the 432 antenna, lowering that meant going off 144 as well so we had to get it done quickly. I inserted the Bird 43 meter inline with the 432 MHz feedline and first tried a dummy load on the antenna side of the meter. Perfect, very low reflected power, transmit power fine. Same with the dummy load at the antenna end of the feedline. But with the antenna, quite poor swr at about 2.6 measured at the transmitter end. Later I ran some simulations using the predicted loss in the feedline (CNT400, 10 metres) indicated that the actual SWR at the antenna was somewhat higher. This indicated the driven element of the antenna was not properly connected to the feedpoint connector. however it was sealed in epoxy and nothing I could do up the mountain to fix it. Note that I had previously used this antenna with poorer quality feedline RG/9. The increased losses of that feedline masked the antenna problem.
On other bands all appeared to be working fine, though I never made a complete contact on 1296 with Adrian 2FZ in Sydney, nor with Dave 2JDS near Bathurst. However I made a number of contacts at similar and greater distances into the vk3 area so it remains a mystery.
With Dale 1DSH operating the 6m rig and the IC910 running on 144, 432 and 1296 it was a noisy tent at times. The radios were all together on one table. The other radio on the same table was the FT290 which was the driver for the 13cm transverter.
Dale brought his 10 GHz equipment and made a contact back to Ted VK1BL on Mt Ainslie in Canberra on the Sunday morning. No other 10GHz stations were active within range. Unfortunately the power amplifier in Dale’s transverter suffered a failure so power output was limited to around 1 milliwatt.
Packing up only took 90 minutes, half what it had taken in November. A great pleasure to be on the road heading home at that time. On the way I heard Norm 7AC on 50.170 and had a 10 minute chat with him from the car. Just for a bit of extra radio for the weekend! But I forgot to get a Ross Hull contest number from him. 11 points lost from the RH log!
After scoring the log it appears we did fairly well on 2m and 432 despite the antenna problems. The log has been sent in on time so we will see what the increased activity level does to our position in the results.
Photo gallery for Summer 2009 VHF field day.
These two files may be of use to other entrants in the VHF/UHF contests.
The first is an empty log page which you can simply print on your own printer. These are for handwritten logs.
The second is a spreadsheet template for the Australian VHF/UHF field days. The first worksheet is the summary sheet and worksheets for each band follow. There are only a couple of formulas and they are in the scoring table.
The template, if opened in either Excel or OpenOffice will create a new spreadsheet. When you save it will be to a spreadsheet file. The template will be unchanged so it can be reused.
I received the two 18 element yagis for 1296 Mhz and they appear to be strongly made. We will see whether they are any better than the previous antenna. I have borrowed a splitter for them and will use that for the Summer field day in mid January, unless I can make my own before then.
I found a website offering data on stacking distances for yagis. For a boom length of 1.5m on this frequency the stacking distance recommended is 2.4 wavelengths, which works out at 55cm (23cm wavelength). The feedlines on the yagis are about 25 cm long but that’s not long enough to reach the power divider, so additional connectors and cable will be needed, eating into the stacking gain.
Next step for 23cm is to configure the power amplifier so it can be operated remotely from the tent. I read some comments on the UK microwave reflector about power levels from IC910H not being up to the 10w level expected. Time to get out the power meter and check mine out.
This week’s project is to prepare for next weekend’s VHF/UHF field day.
I plan to operate from a mountain southwest of Canberra, with equipment for 50, 144, 432, 1296, 2403 and 10368 MHz. The first four bands are bands I have used before but the last two are new for my station. The 2403 equipment will be a simple transverter driven by a FT290R radio on 144. The antenna for that band will be a grid type dish.
The 10368 MHz equipment has been borrowed from another local amateur. It is a transverter driven by an Icom IC202 on 144, the antenna is a dish. It all mounts on a tripod which readily allows azimuth and elevation adjustements.
On all bands the main mode used will be voice, using upper sideband. For some contacts with more distant stations, morse (CW) will be used as it is much easier to hear weak morse signals than weak voices.
The equipment was set up and taken down each day as I was not able to stay overnight. The morning temperature on Sunday was about 5 which was much warmer than it could have been. Some contacts into Sydney on 2m and 70cm, with an attempted contact on 23cm with Adrian VK2FZ. Contacts made around town on all bands and a visit from Ian VK1FOTO (later VK1IS), John VK1JST and Charles VK1CM. Power was from the GMC 950va alternator.