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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Call||Date||Time||Freq (kHz)||Mode||RST Sent||RST Rcvd||STX||SRX|