One of my amateur radio targets for 2015 is to get involved with VHF, to this end I entered the RSGB 2m Backpackers contest. Michael (G0POT) first let me know about this contest and thought I would appreciate it being into “backpack radio” and QRP.
So far this year I have been mostly pursuing 6m and 70cms in my VHF quest and had up until this weekend not used 2m much at all. For this contest I was using all new equipment and deployed a 5 element Yagi and a Yaesu FT-817ND which only arrived a few days before the contest.
Learning to use a new rig and antenna during a contest is not recommended(!) and inevitably I was late getting setup and started, in fact missing the first 30 minutes of the contest. This was through a combination of an extended walk to my operating location, setting the antenna and 817 up for the first time… lessons learnt!
One of the joys of VHF operation is generally you are exposed to the elements if you want a good signal takeoff. The elements, thankfully on this day, just consisted of wind and dust, the rain held off long enough. The wind was pretty strong and blustery, initially I had thought I would be able to keep the Yagi up with just 3 guy ropes, this theory was quickly dispelled! Thankfully I had some extra guying string, so I quickly made up the vital 4th guy and the antenna remained firmly in place for the duration of the contest…
I entered the 3B section of the contest, which means you have to be at least 100m away from your car, use battery powered, have the antenna no higher than 3m above the ground and use 3w or less. Using such low power you really want a high gain antenna and efficient coax to make sure all the power gets to the Yagi, to this end I used Ecoflex 10 to connect the yagi to the 817. This is certainly not the lightest coax and equally not easy to handle, but it does have relatively low loss at 2m! I logged on my laptop using the Minos contest logging software which has been custom designed for VHF contesting use and is quite frankly excellent. I highly recommend this.
My chosen location is a very popular spot with families and as a result at times I had quite a few enquiries as to what I was doing, which I took the time to explain. There was a particular time when it seemed like I was surrounded by lots of screaming kids and lively dogs, but hey it’s a public place and everyone was out for their post-lunch Sunday walk.
The fishing umbrella was a life saver and ensured I remained out of the constant strong wind and remained warm for the 4 hour contest.
I positioned myself right underneath the antenna mast so that I could rotate it by hand, this worked very well and it was easy to hone in to weak signals to make them pop out of the noise. I kept a compass by the mast so I always knew which direction I was beaming in.
I operated using a mix of search & pounce and running techniques, which worked well. I worked some good DX to the North by calling CQ, with the best being G4G at 302km in IO84WK. It was quite a surprise being called by a number of stations well into the North, usually when I call CQ I only really get local IO91 stations coming back from within a 30km radius and that’s using 10w!
Over the 3.5 hours I was QRV for I worked 51 stations, which I was quite pleased with, especially using all new equipment on the first outing. Next time I’ll be ready for the contest kick off and will be more familiar with my equipment 🙂
Here’s the QSO map of the contacts I made, the red pin shows my location:
Here’s my full list of QSO’s, thanks for all the points!