QRP Hours Contest 4/4/2015

With no 80m antenna at home I went portable for the QRP Hours Contest. A large body of water provides a good reflector for the antenna and the nearest for me is the Hawkesbury River. I drove 30 mins to Cattai National Park but being after 8pm, the gates were already locked. Driving back towards Windsor through Pitt Town there were 3 other potential sites checked out but I found none were suitable. Finally I ended up in Macquarie Park on the opposite side of the river from the Windsor Town Centre, a location used in a previous contest. At the far end of the carpark there are no power lines or street lights, it is flat and metres from the river, but unsealed. The kind of place that should be compatible with 80m and QRP.

Antenna

In-car shack for the QRP Hours contest

In-car shack for the QRP Hours contest

The day had been very rainy so the carpark was very muddy. Having spent an hour looking for a site, there was less than 25 mins to set up before the contest started at 9pm (1000z). Luckily, it had stopped raining. Even more luckily, there was a sturdy signpost next to the carpark, perfect for attaching the antenna mast. The 10m squid pole was launched and in order to gain a bit more height, an extra 2m Aluminium mast was installed and strapped to the bottom of the squid pole. The antenna, a full size 80m dipole, was up at 11m in the centre and tapered down to 3m at the ends. It was oriented NW-SE with the SE end less than 10m from the river. There was no time to add more than 2m to the mast with the start looming.

Radio roulette

The KX3 was set up as the contest radio, but unfortunately the power cable was missing. The radio did not want to transmit for more than a second from the internal batteries without shutting down. I would have to use the mobile rig instead, a Yaesu FT100D. The mobile whip was disconnected, a UHF joiner put in and the 80m dipole connected. No tuner is needed with the dipole as the VSWR is flat at 3.560 MHz. Changing rigs meant I had to use the straight key from the car rather than the paddle used with the KX3. Also, the radio has no memory keyer so all CW would have to be sent by hand.

Being a QRP contest, I jumped into the menus of the FT100D, found HF power and dropped it from 100 to 5 in the hope this would be under 5 Watts. These adjustments are not usually linear, but the power meter still kicked from zero into the first bar so I knew something was being radiated – and that was enough. Must admit, it felt a little strange winding the wick back that far – in the mobile you want as much grunt as you can get.

Logging

Computer log and radio for the contest

Computer log and radio for the contest

The contest has 2 parts, the first hour being for CW/RTTY/PSK31 and the second hour being for SSB. For logging I used my trusty 10″ Netbook computer running VK Contest Log v3.11. This software has a lot of customisations to suit many contests. In the case of QRP Hours, there is no customisation. To get around this I chose the QRP Day contest which is a 4 hour contest that runs in August/September. Or at least it used to. Perhaps 2011 was the last year and QRP Hours replaced it – there are a lot of other local contests in August including the Remembrance Day and ALARA.

CW

A few minutes after the 9pm hooter sounded I got started on CW. There were some stations calling CQ TEST but I decided to find my own clear frequency and send some CQ calls rather than hunt and peck. This proved to be quite fruitful as once I got my first reply, the callers kept on coming with not too much down time. After half an hour things slowed up markedly and I started to hunt around the band, but all the callers had already been worked. I kept calling on my original frequency. At the end of the first hour I’d made 14 CW contacts.

SSB

Extended antenna mast on handy signpost

Extended antenna mast on handy signpost

The second hour and time to switch to SSB. 3555 kHz was clear so I started calling there and soon found some other contesters. In VKCL I just had to click SSB to change modes. First up i worked Paul VK1ATP and we discussed resetting the serial number. He reassured me that the rules just say keep incrementing the number so I presumed there was no need to restart. It would have meant starting a new log which would have cost time. I pressed on and there was a steady stream of calls. After 20 minutes, another station came up close in frequency so I shifted a little higher, made some more contacts there and then things got quiet so I decided to hunt for callers I hadn’t worked. After working a few I found my previous calling frequency in use so had to find a clear one. The new frequency was 3590 and with 15 minutes to go I kept calling there until the end of the contest. The last minute was a big rush with 2 callers and no time to give out a signal report, just serial numbers. At the end of the hour I’d made 30 contacts on SSB.

Post contest

After the contest I hunted around and found Andrew VK1DA chatting to Ian VK5CZ so joined in for a bit of a discussion on the contest. Neither Andrew nor myself had heard a VK6, but Ian had worked one. Andrew is the acting contest manager. We all agreed that there had been a lot of interest from SOTA people and that it had been a lot of fun.

The following day the power output of the FT100D was checked into a dummy load and found to be 4.2W, well within the limits for QRP operation. The good ground plane on the flood plain had done the job. I was very pleased to make it into VK1,2,3,4,5,7 and ZL1 with such low power.

Thanks contesters for all the calls.

Log

Call Date Time Freq (kHz) Mode RST Sent RST Rcvd STX SRX
VK2AOH 20150404 100806 3520 CW 599 599 1 1
VK2AFA 20150404 101055 3520 CW 599 599 2 2
VK2YW 20150404 101310 3520 CW 599 599 3 3
VK3WE 20150404 101612 3520 CW 599 559 4 2
VK4AXM 20150404 101736 3520 CW 599 599 5 1
VK3HRA 20150404 102205 3520 CW 599 599 6 4
VK3BYD 20150404 102453 3520 CW 599 599 7 3
VK7EE 20150404 102647 3520 CW 599 579 8 4
VK5CZ 20150404 102931 3520 CW 599 9 7
VK3GK 20150404 103257 3520 CW 599 599 10 1
VK5LJ 20150404 103837 3520 CW 599 599 11 10
VK2UH 20150404 104432 3520 CW 599 599 12 14
VK3YE 20150404 104854 3520 CW 599 559 13 10
VK2JDR 20150404 105728 3528 CW 599 599 14 7
VK1ATP 20150404 110129 3555 SSB 59 59 15 5
VK3DAC 20150404 110210 3555 SSB 59 59 16 1
VK2AOH 20150404 110302 3555 SSB 59 59 17 1
VK2AFA 20150404 110343 3555 SSB 59 59 18 12
VK2YW/P 20150404 110418 3555 SSB 59 59 19 9
VK1MDP 20150404 110457 3555 SSB 59 59 20 1
VK2HRX 20150404 110525 3555 SSB 59 59 21 1
VK3MIX 20150404 110631 3555 SSB 59 59 22 5
VK3YE 20150404 110737 3555 SSB 59 55 23 4
VK2UH 20150404 110834 3555 SSB 59 59 24 4
VK5ARG 20150404 110853 3555 SSB 59 59 25 6
VK7JGD 20150404 110927 3555 SSB 59 59 26 2
VK5LJ 20150404 110956 3555 SSB 59 59 27 16
VK5WG 20150404 111101 3555 SSB 59 59 28 2
VK3HRA 20150404 111133 3555 SSB 59 59 29 8
VK2ACD 20150404 111202 3555 SSB 59 59 30 8
VK2YK 20150404 111239 3555 SSB 59 59 31 1
VK5FANA 20150404 111540 3555 SSB 59 59 32 7
VK2BEN 20150404 111749 3555 SSB 59 59 33 1
VK5CZ 20150404 112302 3556 SSB 59 59 34 25
VK5ATQ 20150404 112549 3556 SSB 59 59 35 7
VK3GK 20150404 113659 3556 SSB 59 59 36 26
VK5EE 20150404 114104 3557.5 SSB 59 59 37 20
VK2JDR 20150404 114223 3560 SSB 59 57 38 11
VK5FO 20150404 114302 3563 SSB 59 59 39 22
VK7HKN 20150404 114948 3590 SSB 59 54 40 12
ZL1NAY 20150404 115028 3590 SSB 59 59 41 1
VK3OF 20150404 115408 3590 SSB 59 42 14
VK3MTB 20150404 115925 3590 SSB 43 8
VK5BB 20150404 115959 3590 SSB 44 8
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