AREG and the WIA RD Contest 2018

RD Trophy

The Remembrance Day Contest 2018 has come and gone. This year AREG put it’s club station on the air from a new location thanks to Paul VK5PH and his new hills retreat. Just 20 minutes into the Adelaide Hills, this new location was absolutely RF quiet and had an excellent HF takeoff angle in almost every direction. At 548m ASL, it was only 150m below Mt Lofty (the highest peak in the southern Mt Lofty Ranges).

The operation was led by Grant VK5GR who supplied the station, with assistance from Andrew VK5AKH who supplied the main generator and AC power grid. Quite a few AREG club members came up to the site and helped construct the station, as well as Paul,  Gerard VK5ZQV and Paris VK5FPAR from AHARS.

The core operating team consisted of Theo VK5MTM, Andrew VK5AKH, Grant VK5GR, Mark VK5QI, Chris VK5FR, Matt VK5ZM and Paul VK5PH. Construction assistance was provided by Kym VK5FJ, Dennis VK5FDEN and Irene with catering provided by Sharon VK5FSAW. It was  great to see so many members braving the freezing conditions to make their way up the mountain to support the event. Special thanks to Andrew and Mark who also took on towing the rented port-a-loo up to the site.


Preparations began the week before when the first antenna was erected and tested. Paul, Gerard, Mark and Grant erected the 80/40m crossed inverted V antenna and tuned it in horrific wind conditions the previous Saturday (with winds gusting at 50-70km/h). That feat achieved meant that the following weekend things would go more smoothly (or so we thought).

The Friday night before the event saw Chris VK5FR and Grant VK5GR pack the station trailer ready for a 6.30am departure the next day. A huge thanks to Chris for his help.

On Saturday VK5GR, VK5FSAW and their daughter headed out along with VK5QI, VK5FR, VK5MTM, VK5ZQV and VK5PH and arrived on site around 7.30am. The first order of business was to erect the pre-tuned 40/80 dipoles into the air and then build the station. The weather hadn’t improved much over the previous week with conditions still somewhat blustery with rain and biting cold thrown in for good measure.

80/40m crossed inverted V dipoles on a 10m fibre glass mast

Once 40 and 80m was complete, the team turned their attention to the 160m antenna. This antenna was the same one VK5GR took to Vanuatu earlier in the year (that at the time he was able to put up single handed). This time, with the wind, rain, slush, mud and cold it was a very different prospect with numerous false starts and growing frustration as we raced against the clock and the weather. After about 90 minutes the first attempt was shelved as the weather closed in. The crew retreated inside the main shed to complete the setup of the station and get ready at least for 40/80 at the start of the contest. The team planned on returning to the 160m antenna project in the afternoon once the contest was running.

By a fortuitous mis-calculation, the team thought it started at 11.30am local and had completed preparations by 11.00am. This was fortunate as then the heavens opened. Down came the hail and sleet, up came the wind and boom went the thunder as antennas were hastily unplugged. It was as though someone didn’t like the teams presence on the hill. The temperature dropped even lower reaching 2 degrees Celsius at midday and the wind chill climbed. The thunder passed by 11.20am so cautiously the antennas were reconnected, only to be met with S7-9 hail static. Finally the worst of the weather passed and things settled down for the expected start at 11.30am. The clock clicked over and VK5ARG started calling CQ – only to see no one else on the band. A hastily recheck of the rules and the mistake was realized. Phew – three was another hour available to further preparations around the site.

The final bugs were worked out of the software system and some tidy up completed before finally opening on time at 0300z (12:30pm).

Mark VK5QI operating VK5ARG

By 0500z (2.30pm) the weather cleared enough that a second attempt at 160m was made. It has to be said that if it wasn’t for the calm arrival of Kim VK5FJ, VK5ARG may not have been heard on top band this contest! Finally, however, the inverted L was rasied into the air and tuned successfully. VK5GR was very happy to see it tune up with a 1.4:1 VSWR around 1840kHz with about 40kHz of bandwidth. It later was proved to work extremely well despite the horrible QRN (storm static) that was to descend across the low bands later that night (due to a large thunderstorm in the Tasman sea).

160m Inverted L built on a 12m Spiderbeam fibre glass pole (8x25m radials)

Back a the operating table, the station itself consisted of an Electaft K3S Transceiver, with a KPA500 Linear and a KAT500 tuner (needed for the CQ section of 80m). The logging and CW keying was provided using N1MM software with a Microham Keyer II. All up a very capable station (with one niggle with a SW fault with the voice keyer on the K3S which is being investigated further).

As night fell, Paul VK5PH fired up the BBQ and all the operators were treated to a great meal thanks to the catering planning and shopping of Sharon VK5FSAW. Operators kept rotating to keep everyone fresh and the contacts rolled into the logs. Since the plan was to run for the full 24hrs, Paul VK5PH took the first shift in the graveyard zone (2200pm-0300am). Grant and Andrew then took over for 0300-0700 just as the temperature fell even further…

Overall, the bulk of the contacts were made on 160 and 80m at night and 40m during the day, with a small number of VK6 and VK4 stations on 20m. Nothing was seen on 15 or 10m despite repeated spot checks and the odd CQ call. None the less, the tally continued to rise, with a final score of over 530 contacts and 880 points. Most importantly, everyone who came had a lot of fun, despite the cold temperatures and the weather.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone from AREG and AHARS who participated and in particular a huge thank you to all of the amateurs across Australia and New Zealand who took part! VK5ARG looks forward to running in the RD Contest yet again in 2019!

(Photos thanks to Mark VK5QI)

VK5ARG in the Trans-Tasman Low Band Challenge Contest 2018

Another TT-Lowband contest has come and gone and this year AREG has set a new personal best score! A huge thanks to everyone who came along and operated, helped set up or sat in the bleechers cheering us on. A huge thanks to Steve VK5SFA who allowed us to setup a 3 seat Multi-Multi station in his home covering all three bands. Steve also fed the team (the BBQ was excellent) and kept us plied with copious quantities of coffee! The unofficial final score was 5360 points for 280 QSOs over the 6 hour event. We now eagerly await the official results.

The Station

The setup consisted of the following:

160m – 2 turn Magnetic Loop Antenna (which is barely 5kHz wide and difficult to tune in hunt and peck mode – much easier when we were running)

80m – we had a choice of 2 antennas – an Inverted V with it’s apex at ~9m above ground as an NVIS antenna and an 80m monopole which worked better for the longer paths such as ZL.

40m – we had a rotatory dipole as part of Steve’s SteppIR  Beam

The transceivers this time it was an all ICOM affair with:

An IC7600 and SPE-1.3KFA Amp on 40m,

An IC7610 and Elecraft KPA500 on 80m

An IC7700 and an AMCOM1000 on 160m

All stations were running 400W PEP simultaneously thanks to a set of 500W rated filters from Low Band Systems loaned to us by Peter VK5KX (thanks Pete!).

The Team

We had a great turnout from the club with lots of people contributing. Thanks must be given to Grant VK5GR, Mark VK5QI and Andrew VK5AKH who together with Steve provided the station equipment. Chris VK5FR also helped with installation on the day. We were also visited by Ben VK5BB and Olga VK5FOLG whom we are trying to recruit as future contest operators – great to see you drop by!

The operating team then consisted of Theo VK5MTM, Darin VK5IX, Steve VK5SFA, Grant VK5GR, Mark VK5QI, Andrew VK5AKH. Between the 6 of us we kept all three stations manned running CW and SSB for the full 6 hours – a fantastic result.

We also had Matthew VK5ZM and his son Daniel along with Darin’s son Cameron and Steve’s wife Linda as the cheer squad. It was all most pleasant being able to sit in the lounge chairs with the contestors going hard at it all around us. A fantastic atmosphere and a great night.

The Contest

So how did it go? 80m was the stand out band of the evening with it generating the majority of the contacts. 40m was great early on but once the sun set across the contest area the band filled up with stations from across the Pacific with the hum of several other contests running at the same time. Unfortunately the TT Low Band contest doesn’t allow you to log calls from other than VK & ZL so 40m became very hard going later in the evening. 160m saw a steady stream of signals throughout the night and was a lot of fun, although challenging to work search and pounce as it would take 2-3 minutes to change even 5kHz in frequency to call someone new on SSB.

All up the following map tells the tale of where we managed to work in the contest

Map processed through tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

Conclusion

Overall it was a great night and this year has cemented this as a regular fixture in the club’s contesting calendar! We now eagerly look forward to the results to see how we did!

VK5ARG on the air OCDX Contest 2017

The Oceania SSB DX Contest is over for another year, and AREG again participated in the Multi-Multi category. The team set the bar very high for themselves this year with a new site and new antennas and equipment to try out. It has taken 4 months of construction work (since the Australian Contesting Technical College event held in May) but the results were worth it, with the club improving over our previous all time best scores. Hats off to the many members of AREG who contributed to this effort.

YearScoreCategoryOperating Location
20171,907,423Multi-MultiKoch Hill
20161,388,251Multi-MultiYounghusband
20151,662,552Multi-MultiPara Wirra
2014959,616Multi-OneYounghusband
20131,073,252Multi-TwoYounghusband

(Video by Gary VK5FGRY of activity inside the main station hut)

It was all made possible by Steve VK5SFA who negotiated access to the new site on behalf of the club at a dis-used microwave site ~70km north of Adelaide. Ordinarily we would have operated from Para Wirra conservation park but it wasnt available this year. Having seen what this site can do on HF now with noise and take off angles I suspect we have found a new home for AREG Club contesting

Theo VK5MTM has made the following summary video of what we ran at the station which gives a very good idea of what was going on (and the conditions we faced with the wind on site).

Band by band we had the following

160/80m – Led by Grant VK5GR and Steve VK5SFA

1x Elecraft K3 Transceiver + KPA500 Amplifier + KAT500 ATU
1x Dual-Band 80/160m dipole at 25m oriented NE/SW towards North America (resonant on 3790kHz/1850kHz)
1x Tri-Band 40/80/160m Trapped dipole at 27m oriented NW/SE towards Europe (resonant nearer 3640kHz and mis-behaving at 160m likely due to the microwave tower right next to it).

40m – Led by Andrew VK5AKH

1x Icom IC7600 + Acom 1000 Amplifier
1x Elevated feed 1/4 wavelength vertical (19m high to the top)
1x Inverted V (10m high for domestic NVIS coverage)

Both antennas were switchable via a remote WiFi link and were down range 250m to provide some isolation to the rest of the stations. Mark VK5QI provided the WiFi switching control while Andrew achieved a fantastic feat of engineering standing up a 6m mast with another 14m mast on top of it to support the 40m antenna.

20m – Led by Darin VK5IX & Peter VK5KX

1x Elecraft K3 Transceiver + Elecraft KPA500 Amplifier
1x 20m Monoband 3 element SpiderBeam
1x 20m Elevated Feed 1/4 wave vertical (designed by Steve VK5SFA)

Darin coordinated the construction of this station and allowed others to do much of the operating. We had some spectacular openings on 20m particularly short path in the evening hours to Europe with this setup with S9++ reports being received from Switzerland.

15m & 10m SO2R – Led by Matt VK5ZM and Peter VK5KX

2x Elecraft K3 Tranceivers + 2x KPA500 Amplifiers
1x MicroHam MK2R+ SO2R Controller
3x 25A SMPS PSU’s
2x RFSpace SDR’s (SDR-IQ & CloudIQ)
3x HP i7 SFF PC’s & 24″ Monitors
3x StackMatch (designed VK5ZM)
1x 6×2 Crossbar Remote antenna switching matrix (designed VK5ZM)
1x Low Band Systems 20/15/10m Triplexer
3x Low Band System 500W Filters
1x Tri-Band 20/15/10m SpiderBeam + Alpha Spid rotator + 7.5m pump-up mast
1x 15m elevated feed vertical (by VK5SFA) + 1x 10m elevated feed vertical (BudiPole)

This station would not have been possible without borrowing equipment or assistance from the following AREG members; Chris VK5CP, Peter VK5KX, Matt VK5ZM, Scott VK5TST, Steve VK5SFA & Andrew VK5XFG.

This was by far the most complicated of all of the stations, and the most fun as you can see in the following video showing the “Dueling CQ” call pattern to have one operator run both 15 and 10m simultaneously.

Everyone wanted a turn at running what can best be described as “The Beast”. You certainly had to have your wits about you when operating it. The addition of antenna control where combinations of beam, vertical or both in parallel on both 15m & 10m also added additional spice.

Once you got the hang of it however, it was a lot of fun and helped keep VK5ARG visible and active on both 15m & 10m. A more detailed description of the setup will be on Matt VK5ZM’s personal blog soon.

On top of all of the radio activities was the logistics of supporting the nearly 20 person team on top of a very exposed hilltop for 4 days.

The first setup day was Friday before the contest. On site we battled 20-30 knot winds all day over very rocky terrain. To offset the hardships, Scott VK5TST volunteered to lead the camp logistics, and in conjunction with Sharon VK5FSAW (offsite) undertook the catering and most importantly the coffee supply role (the team consumed over 1.5kg of coffee beans over the weekend). Portable toilets, tents, cooking facilities and most importantly on Sunday a TV viewing area to watch the Bathurst 1000 motor race (an iconic race on the Australian motorsport calendar) were all part of Scott’s domain. No one went hungry and everyone was very happy with the facilities!

It was great to see some members also come up for the afternoon on Sunday to see what we were all up to. We hope to coax Olga VK5FOLG and Ben VK5BB to do more operating next year!

Conclusion

Everyone who took part had a fantastic time. I will attempt here to name everyone who contributed and apologies if I missed someone out:

VK5AKH, VK5ZM, VK5KX, VK5GR, VK5SFA, VK5FDEN, VK5MTM, VK5TST, VK5NAL, VK5IX, VK5QI, VK5CP, VK5FGRY & VK5FSAW. Thanks also to our visitors VK5BB and VK5FOLG plus VK5DGR and Sheree and most importantly thanks to the land-owners (3 of them) who allowed us to sprawl our station across the top of the hill for the contest.

Finally thanks to everyone who worked us and made the effort constructing the station worthwhile!

VK5ARG’s Big Build – OCDX 2017 Koch Hill

This year AREG has a new site to trial for the OCDX Contest. With exceptional HF take off angles in all major directions this site could be something special. Work installing the 160-10m station started today with 160-40m complete (mostly) and work begun on 20 + 15/10m. That will be completed in the morning!

Here are some of the shots from today thanks to Mark VK5QI

AREG Members On Air: 2017 Remembrance Day Contest

WIA RD Trophy

The weekend of August 12-13th once again saw the running of the Wireless Institute of Australia’s annual Remembrance Day Contest. While AREG did not mount a club station, the club did encourage as many members as possible to get out there on the air! The members didn’t disappoint with 7 members active over the weekend.

Three members put together a team entry, known as “AREG: Team One”. The teams category is an additional endorsement available for the contest where pre-nominated teams scores are aggregated. Pitched at clubs and groups, it is a great way to foster comraderie among members. The other members each put in individual efforts.


AREG: Team One – Grant VK5GR, Mark VK5QI and Marcus VK3TST (aka VK5WTF)

Sunset over VK5QI’s QTH

Grant, Mark and Marcus joined together to run a team entry this year. Mark VK5QI ran from home, and managed with the help of a borrowed tuner to operate on 160 and 80m as well during the contest. Meanwhile Marcus and Grant elected to run portable operations.

Marcus this year again used an SO2R setup (Single Operator 2 radios) from a location inside the Murray Sunset National Park (hence he used VK3TST).

Meanwhile Grant VK5GR went north west and operated from Tickera on the eastern shores of Spencer Gulf. No SO2R but three different antennas were tried,including a 160m dipole, a G5RV for 80-10m and a elevated feed folded monopole which could be tuned from 40m to 6m. The purpose for the antenna mix was to gauge the effectiveness of the vertical, which is the antenna Grant will be taking to Niue in the South Pacific in September (where he will operate as E6AG – see e6ag.net for details).


Theo VK5MTM Portable

Also out in the field was Theo VK5MTM who operated for a few hours from the back of his car! Now there is dedication for you!


Home Stations

Operating from home, we also had Chris VK5SA who said “62 unique contacts in around 4 hours of operation, in around 6 blocks. Mainly 40m, with some huge signals on 20 from VK6 and VK4”.

Peter VK5KX also put in an effort and was worked several times by Grant VK5GR and others from the club.

Also on air was Chris VK5CP who operated his remote station from the comfort of his lounge room {smile}. Way to go Chris!

Conclusion

All up a lot of fun was had by all, playing what amounts of electronic pokemon where you are competing against the other operators and the ionosphere. Rumour has it a number of points records have fallen this year according to Alan VK4SN, the contest manager, so it will be interesting to see if any of the AREG team place anywhere in the rankings this year.

Thanks to everyone who participated around Australia for making this year’s RD Contest yet another great event.

AREG in the 2017 Trans Tasman Low Band Challenge

UPDATE: The results have been published – VK5ARG came second in our multi-op division! Well done team!


On Saturday July 15th, AREG members VK5GR, VK5QI, VK5MTM and VK5IX gathered together with Steve VK5SFA at his QTH to participate in the Trans Tasman Low Band Challenge Contest  as VK5ARG. Originally planned as a portable operation, the portable activity was cancelled at the last minute due to a critical piece of equipment not being ready (the new club portable 160m loop antenna). The change of venue was deemed a fantastic outcome by all who participated as outside temperatures plummeted into the low single digits. Steve and his wife were fantastic hosts and we were able to operate the full 6 hours in luxurious conditions.

The station consisted of Steve’s IC7700 running either 80 or 160m on the Magnetic Loop antenna, while Grant’s K3 ran on 160/80/40m either on the 40m rotatable dipole or the 80/160m trapped dipole, depending on the combination we selected. We had hoped to also have a IC7000 dedicated to 40m, however the RFI from the MagLoop (one of their drawbacks it seems) was severe and rendered the second 40m station unusable. Something to learn from there when using the loop in later contests.

Four of us operated whilst one was there for moral support (guess which one (chuckle)). Activity came in bursts although there were times when the pickings were very slim and we called for many minutes without a bite. 40m was completely dead after dark, but not for want of propagation. When we did find someone (VK4HH) they were easily workable. It seems that 7MHz is forgotten in this contest after dark – perhaps unwisely so.

We also ran CW (having two gun CW operators helped) which filled in the dead patches  calling on SSB. We were going to try RTTY, but were still configuring the MicroHam keyer and hadn’t cracked the code of how to make it run with MMTTY and N1MM in time for the contest.

A highlight was the a number of contacts made with New Zealand stations this year. ZL contacts were achieved on 40, 80 and 160m, although on 160m it was often hard going.

The Transmitting Magnetic Loop Antenna we used for this contest on 80/160m

All up we made 211 contacts. Here is the map of where we worked

Thanks to everyone who participated from AREG and thanks also to all of the stations across VK/ZL who participated in this unique contest!

AREG’s New 160m/80m Contesting Portable Antenna – Progress

Update – July 12th: Mounting of the tuning capacitor and motor drive is complete. Just a few more things and we will be ready for final assembly and tune up!


A group of members inside AREG, inspired by Steve VK5SFA’s success with his transmitting magnetic loop antennas have banded together to construct for the club it’s own 160/80m TMLA, specifically designed to be portable. It is able to be knocked down into components that can be packed into the back of a station wagon.

Significant progress was made today in assembling the antenna as we had hoped to have it ready to try at the IARU HF contest next weekend. We didn’t quite make it unfortunately, running out of daylight before we completed construction. However, we are now planning another session next weekend with the goal being to have the antenna finished and ready to run for the Trans Tasman Low Band Challenge contest the following weekend.

The club’s version of Steve’s antenna is using LCF78 coax instead of the wave-guide, with the vacuum capacitor mounted inside a water proof ex-camera case (great for transport and moisture proofing). The frame is made out of laminated bamboo broomsticks and a timber hub arrangement with the frame held together through compression provided by 8 ratchet straps. The aim is for the antenna to be suspended from a tree (or trees) at least 1 loop diameter above the ground (to increase it’s efficiency). It has been designed to accept 400W input power as well to overcome the efficiency issues these antennas can have.

Today’s construction efforts were led by Steve VK5SFA, Grant VK5GR and Scott VK5TST. The project wouldnt have been possible without generous donations from Steve VK5SFA, Peter VK5KX and Trevor VK5YFR.

The next steps are to complete mounting the motor tuning drive, do some structural adjustments to the frame, assemble the coupling loop and then test the antenna. This work will be completed next weekend, so keep an ear out for us during the TTLBC Contest on July 15th on 160 and 80m using our Transmitting Magnetic Loop Antennas!