The Remembrance Day (RD) Contest commemorates those amateur radio operators who made the supreme sacrifice and died during World War Two. The contest is designed to encourage friendly participation and help improve operating skills of participants. The RD Contest is held on the weekend closest to the 15th August, the date on which hostilities ceased in the southwest Pacific area. This year the RD Contest took place on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th August 2016 and I took part, operating portable from the Totness Recreation Park, VKFF-1754. The aim of the RD is for amateurs in Australia (VK), New Zealand (ZL) and Papua New Guinea (P2) to contact other amateurs in VK, ZL and P2.
The RD Contest is one of a handful of Contests that I go in each year. I did read some derogatory comments on Facebook regarding contests leading up to the RD. But for me, this is one of the amazing things about amateur radio, in that there as so many different incredible facets. And what floats one persons boat, may not necessarily turn on the next.
Totness was recently added to the Directory for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, and I activated the park for the very first time on Wednesday 3rd August 2016, just a week or so ago. For more information on the park, and that particular activation, please see my previous post……
Above:- Map showing the location of the Totness Recreation Park in the Adelaide Hills near Mount Barker. Map courtesy of Protected Planet.
Although my noise floor at home on 40m is pretty good compared to some of my amateur friends, I decided to operate from the park as I was assured that there would be no man made noise at all. A dead quite band is fantastic. My noise floor at home during the day on 40m is around S5. I suffer quite a bit from plasma TV noise, inverters, etc. But from parks and summits it is ‘ham heaven’, generally with ZERO noise. You can hear a pin drop on the bands.
Above:- Aerial shot showing the location of my home QTH with respect to the Totness Recreation Park. Image courtesy of Protected Planet.
I headed to the same spot as I had operated from previously. This is off Haines Fire Track. Due to the recent heavy rains, there is a lot of water on the track and plenty of very big potholes. So if you are planning on heading there soon in a conventional vehicle, I suggest slow going. There is a nice cleared area between the boundary fence and the scrubline, and plenty of room to string out a number of antennas. And a good spot to park your vehicle. My wife Marija kindly drove up with me in her vehicle, a little Mitsubish Lancer, and I’m sure I could hear Marija cursing and swearing from behind me, re the road conditions.
For a few years now I’ve been using a little app called ‘treksafe‘. Using GPS and mobile phone coverage, it allows you to provide a line of communication with friends and family on your location. Not that I needed to use it this time, as Marija knew exactly where I was. But I highly recommend that you have a look at this great little app.
Marija helped me to set up and I was all ready to go by 0200 UTC (11.30 a.m. South Australian local time). For the RD I ran my Yaesu FT-857d set at 40 watts output, and the 20/40/80 linked dipole which I supported on the 7m heavy duty squid pole from Haverfords. I tied one end of the dipole off to the boundary fenceline and used a fallen limb from a tree to secure the other leg in place.
It was not a particularly nice day weather wise, with just small pieces of blue sky and quite a low temperature. Netherless, we also set up the solar panels, hoping for a bit of sunshine to top up the 44 amp hour power pack.
I took my Apple Mac laptop out into the field for the first time in a very long time and used VK Contest Logger (VKCL) for the RD. I normally run a paper log out in the field and when I get home I use Fast Log Entry (FLE) to rapidly create an ADIF file which I then upload to my electronic log (Maclogger DX) and also to WWFF Logsearch. But by running VKCL I was able to see what stations I had and hadn’t worked in the 3 hour brackets of the contest.
I’ve been asked a few times how I secure the squid pole. Well, it depends on the activation. If I’m activating a SOTA summit where I have to climb or a park where I have to walk in, along the Heysen Trail for example, I secure it in any way I can. Octopus straps are an amateurs friend. I carry quite a few of these, of various sizes. The squiddy gets attached to a tree, a rock, a stump, whatever I can find. But if I activate an easy summit or park, I use a squid pole holder and sit the squid pole in that, and hold it in place with an octopus strap.
Above:- Aerial shot showing my operating spot in the north western corner of the Totness Recreation Park. Image courtesy of Protected Planet.
Totness is a beautiful little park with very thick scrub. The wattle was blooming, and there were quite a few Western Grey kangaroos grazing in the paddock on the western side of the park. As I’ve mentioned, some more interesting history on the park can be found on my previous post.
As I had a bit of time up my sleeve, I walked along one of the tracks in the park to take some photos. You can get some nice views out through the trees towards Mount Barker and Littlehampton. Until you reach this point, you would never know that you were so close to a built up area.
I then returned to my station set up an listened to the RD Contest opening address. I also worked Rob VK4AAC/3 who was portable in the Nooramunga Coastal Park VKFF-0748.
At 0300 UTC it was all go for the RD. My first contact in the RD was on 40m with Peter VK5KX who had a booming signal. This was a good sign as recent close in propagation has been very spasmodic. Next up was Gerard VK2IO/p who was portable in the Maroota Ridge State Conservation Area VKFF-1348. It was nice to get a Park to Park (P2P) contact. I also worked Marcus VK5WTF/p P2P. Marcus was portable in the Red Banks Conservation Park VKFF-1086.
I worked a total of 45 stations in around one hour, from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK7 on 40m and then headed off to 20m. I must say that despite conditions being very good, it was relatively slow going on 40m. As I was in the contest, I did not self spot on parksnpeaks, as this is directly linked to the DX Cluster, and this would be in violation of WIA General Rules for contests.
My first contact on 20m was with Martin VK7GN in Tasmania, followed by Dianne VK4HH and the VK4TS team in Queensland. All had booming signals. I made a total of 40 contacts on 20m into VK2, VK4, VK5, VK6, VK7, and VK8. I also logged including Owen ZL2GLG, Andrew ZL3CC, Mike ZL1MRC. They were all booming in from across the Tasman. Sadly, they were to be my only New Zealand stations for the whole contest. And I didn’t work any stations from Papua New Guinea (P29).
My one VK5 contact on 20m was with Geoff VK5HEL at Murray Bridge, about 40 km to the east of me. I was really surprised to hear Geoff with such a lovely signal (a genuine 5/9). It was also nice to log Heath VK3TWO/VK6 who was on Barrow Island, OC-140. Barrow Island is about 50 km northwest off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia.
I then headed back to 40m where I worked a further 103 stations in VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6, and VK7. This included some more Park to Park action with Ray VK2HJW/p portable in the Royal National Park VKFF-0435, Mark VK5MK in the Yumbarra Conservation Park VKFF-1129, and Marcus VK5WTF/p (love that call sign) in the Red Banks Conservation Park VKFF-1086.
When things slowed down I tuned around the 40m and found that the Europeans were coming in extremely well. In fact they were the strongest on 40m that I had heard in a while. There were around 6 European stations on 40m who were S8-S9. The strongest was EA1DLU from Spain who was 5/9 plus. I tried to break through the USA/South American/VK pile up to work him but was unsuccessful.
I then found Rob VK4FFAB/p on 7.195 calling CQ from Bunyaville Conservation Park VKFF-1493 (5/3 R and 5/7 S).
It was down with the squid pole and in with the links on the dipole for 80 metres. It was around 0845 UTC (6.15 p.m. local time) and it was now dark, so I expected 80m would be humming along nicely. And it certainly was. I made a total of 199 QSOS into VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6, VK7, and VK8. I just needed a VK9 and a VK0 to round it off, but that wasn’t to happen. I also scored a few more Park to Park contacts with Marcus VK5WTF in the Red Banks Conservation Park and Gerard VK2IO in the Maroota Ridge State Conservation Area VKFF-1348.
My last contact for Saturday was with John VK5PO at 1218 UTC (9.48 p.m. South Australian local time). It was now absolutely freezing and I was starving, so it was home for me. Tea that night was from ‘the Golden Arches’ (McDonalds).
On Sunday morning (14th August) I got up around 8.30 a.m. and with the help of Marija, packed the 4WD again, and headed back out to Totness. It was another chilly morning, with the temperature being around 5 degrees C. I was set up and on air by just after 2330 UTC (9.00 a.m. local time). My first contact was with Gerald VK2HBG. I scoured around the band and worked a few stations before propping on a frequency and calling CQ contest. It was very slow going. I made a total of 40 contacts into VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5. This included P2P contacts with Gerard VK2IO/p, Ray VK2HJW/p and Marcus VK5WTF/p again. Marcus was about 5/5 to me and I was 5/5 to him, and we decided to give 80m a go to see if our signals came up. Before QSYing, Hauke VK1HW came up and put me in the log, before I headed off to 80m.
I met Marcus on 3.600 and sure enough signals were dramatically improved. Marcus was running QRP and was 5/9, and he gave me a 5/9 plus. Marcus advised that he had been listening on 20m and it was open to VK2, VK4 and VK7. After chatting with Marcus, I called CQ on 3.605 for around 5 minutes but had no takers, so based on the comments from Marcus I headed off to 20m. My first contact there was with Dianne VK4HH, followed by Paul VK2KTT and then Dave VK4DA, all with excellent signals. I made a total of 13 contacts on 20m into VK2, VK4, and VK6.
I then moved back to 40m where I made a total of 62 contacts into VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5 and VK7. This included a QSO with Peter VK3YE who was pedestrian mobile in ankle deep water, Keener than me! My last QSO for the RD was with Erik VK7EK.
So for the 2016 RD Contest I ended up with a total of 426 contacts. These contacts were made on the 20, 40 and 80m bands on SSB.
A breakdown of the bands I used and the number of QSOs on each of those is as follows:-
- 20m – 52
- 40m – 252
- 80m – 122
As you can see, most of the activity for me during the RD was on the 40m band (as expected). But 80m also provided some excellent conditions and a lot of contacts across Australia at night (and locally in the middle of the day).
Below is a chart from VKCL showing my activity during the contest. A lot of activity for the first 8-9 hours of the contest before I went QRT for some shut eye. And then another 3 hours at the end of the contest on Sunday morning.
And here is a chart showing my activity on the 40m band. Activity for me on 40m was between 0300-0400 and 0520-0830 on Saturday. And then on Sunday morning between 2330-0015 and 0055-0300 UTC.
And my activity on the 20m band. Activity for me on 20m was between 0400-0515 UTC on Saturday. And then on Sunday morning between 0030 – 0055 UTC.
And finally my activity on the 80m band. Activity for me on 80m was between 0845-1215 UTC on Saturday. And then just the one QSO on Sunday morning.
I did receive a handful of calls from amateurs who clearly had not read the rules of the contest and gave me a sequential serial number, and some no numbers at all……they just wanted a chat. It always pays to read the rules. I also heard this happening to some other amateurs, with patience lost by some of those.
On Sunday morning I called a few stations who were 5/9 to me, but sadly they could not hear me as they were suffering from high noise levels. It’s a real shame that a few more amateurs didn’t give portable operation a go. It is an amazing experience to be able to work stations who are only just operating with milliwatts and hand out a 5/1 signal report but have an ‘armchair’ QSO.
The RD is a great contest which I can highly recommend. And it is truly for a very very worthy cause.
At the end of the contest I put out a few calls on 7.144 and worked a handful of stations including Rob VK4AAC/3 who was portable in the Wilsons Promontory National Park VKFF-0539. I then headed to 20m where I worked 6 stations including Albert S58AL from Slovenia.
I then packed up and headed home for some lunch and an afternoon of watching the Olympics and the AFL on TV.
WIA, 2016, <http://www.wia.org.au/members/contests/rdcontest/>, viewed 14th August 2016