GM0B 2004 ( CQ WW SSB )
Tom - MM0BHX ( GM0B )
January 13, 2005
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The Contest group of the Mid Lanark Amateur Radio Society once again participated in the SSB section of the CQ WW contest using the now familiar callsign of GM0B.
We operated from the Avondyke Scout Centre which is located above the town of Stonehouse, in South Lanarkshire ( IO85AQ ). This is the second time that we have operated from this location and we plan to operate there again next year.
The majority of our operators live within a 40 mile radius of the contest site, but Mark GM0WIB and Lorraine MM0BCR have to travel down from the far North of Scotland and Craig MM0BUL has to travel up from the South East of England. Craig is in the R.A.F and does not know until very near the contest if he will is able to arrange leave. Fortunately he has only missed one year which is good going for someone in the services.
We arrived at the contest QTH on the Wednesday prior to the contest to set up the towers, the antennas and to organise the “shack”. As this was our second year at this location everyone was familiar with what was needed and where everything was to be positioned.
We had previously decided to put the 10m and 15m antennas in slightly different positions and to erect them higher than the previous year. We also planned to use LDF 450 / 550 Heliax, cut to exact lengths, to reduce cable losses both on transmit and receive.
The first task was to get the towers positioned which normally takes all of the team most of the first morning, after which we have lunch ( usually eaten on the “hoof” ) then we erect the 80m 4 square array comprising of 4 @ 37 foot high verticals.
We then split into three teams; one runs the Heliax and rotator cables to the towers, one assembles the Yagi antennas and the other installs the external switch box and elevated radials on the 80 m vertical antennas. It always amazes me how our team swings in to action getting a considerable amount of work done quickly and without protest, regardless of the weather. It is very, very important in a Multi-Multi contesting team that everyone pulls their weight. ( Not only operating in the contest, but assisting in the less enjoyable tasks. )
Each member of our contest group pays an agreed sum of money every month into a central fund, starting in November, immediately after the last contest. This money pays for renting the contest accommodation, the food, drink, QSL cards and updating/repairing/replacing equipment.
Earlier in the year at one of our “GM0B” meetings, I suggested it would be no more expensive to allow a potential new member join us free of charge. ( As we had already hired the site which would easily accommodate another person and as we could feed eleven people for almost the same price as ten. ) The other members of the group agreed wholeheartedly and decided to ask Paul MM0STH, a member of Mid Lanark ARS who had previously shown an interest in GM0B, but being unemployed found the cost prohibitive, We invited Paul to our meeting and put the proposal to him, it took him less than two seconds to accept our offer, with the smile of a Cheshire cat on his face.
The antenna erecting was going well with the extra set of hands and nearly a full day had past without “Murphy” visiting. However, whilst elevating the tower with the 10m antenna into the vertical position, the winch handle slipped out the operators hand and the whole thing came crashing down to the ground. Fortunately no one was hurt, but the antenna hit the ground with such violence that two elements completely snapped off and the other two were severely bent.
Immediately Kenny GM1MMK our “Mr Fixit” leapt into action ~ out came his digital micrometer ( He has every tool that you can possibly imagine hanging from his utility belt ) the elements were measured and the sizes were phoned through to a local supplier of aluminium. The supplier did not have the exact tube sizes we required, but advised he could have them collected from England and delivered to his warehouse by Friday morning. We ordered the tube and kept our fingers crossed nothing would go wrong with the arrangements.
After the first day's work outdoors it is great to get into the centre, changed from our outdoor clothing which in Scotland in October means WATERPROOFS & WELLIES ! and to relax over dinner. The dinner having been being carefully prepared by Mark, who used to be a full time chef. Mark, “volunteers” to do the cooking each year for which we are all very grateful and I must say the meals are superb.
Afterwards everyone mucks in with the clearing, washing up, cleaning etc, as previously mentioned, it is not only operating the radio that needs to be done when you are a team member of a Multi Multi contest group.
After dinner on the first night we set up the transceivers, linear amplifiers, rotator controllers, 4 square switch box, laptops, etc, etc. We were once again using the “CT” logging programme on seven laptops networked together using a 2.4GHz wireless LAN. We had used this the previous year and were delighted with its performance, this year was again was no exception, the system was faultless. It is great to see the QSO's being racked up by the other operators especially when a new multiplier is worked on a band.
This year we had another weapon in our armoury, we had the use of two 42inch plasma screens. One was used to display a World Map with a real time grey line for the entire 48 hours of contest, the other displayed the DX Cluster received via a live link to the internet. The Cluster programme was set up so that the spots for each band were highlighted in a specific colour, 20m spots were in red, 15m in yellow, 10m in blue etc, this allowed each band operator to be alerted immediately a new spot came up and to see if it was a needed multiplier.
Thursday morning arrived and after breakfast it was time to put the Yagi antennas on the towers. The antennas had been previously assembled and left on the ground overnight as the weather forecast had advised of strong winds the previous night. The antennas went up, the rotator control cables were attached and everything was checked. The 80m antennas were working, the 40m antennas were working, the 20m and 15m antennas were all working. As previously mentioned we would not be able to put the 10 metre beam up until Friday after we had got the replacement aluminium. The final antenna still to be erected was the top band antenna.
Top band for me is the band that we fall down on during the contest, it is so difficult to get a good antenna for that band. We have talked at length for years about antennas for this band and we have considered buying a Titanex vertical, but the cost, the difficulty erecting a big vertical and the footprint required for the radials and guy wires put us off. ( However, should Titanex donate one for “field trials” we would be more than delighted to try it ! )
During the year leading to the contest I had been experimenting with various top band antennas and had constructed three alternatives. The first one was a linear loaded Inverted “V”, but due to the size of the antenna I could not test it before we got to site, as I don't have the space at my home QTH. The second was a “Top Loaded” vertical which consisted of about 170 foot of wire. The bottom half being wound on a five foot long 2inch diameter former complete with thirty quarter wave radials, the upper half being stretched out a bit like an inverted “L”. I also made a shunt coil and was very pleased when I checked it with the antenna analyser, it was resonant at 1.85MHz with a flat SWR. I carefully dismantled these options and packed them away for use at Avondyke.
Most of the team spent half a day putting the first alternative up on top of a existing flag pole. After it was up it would not resonant anywhere in the band, no matter what we did, we could not get this antenna to work so we had wasted an afternoon. The second alternative, the inverted “L”, was not much better. It was now getting dark so we all decided to give it up for the day. So by Thursday night we did not have an operational antenna top band. ( Or 10m )
Darkness fell and we went indoors to have fun working the bands that were open, 80m and 40m were lively. We played about with CT as most of us had not used it since the last contest and also got familiar with reading the cluster spots on the screens. We were happy with what we had done, although I was annoyed about the top band situation. Later, we ordered a Chinese take away which went down a treat ( with a few beers ) and the excitement of the contest was started to rise within us.
Friday morning arrived and things went smoothly for a change, the aluminium for the 10m beam had arrived so Kenny and Mark headed off to collect it. On their return we rebuild the beam, raised it into position and had it fully operational by mid afternoon.
The top band antenna still had to be sorted, so we decided to put up an Inverted “L” with a tuned counterpoise, the same antenna that we had used the previous year. Lorraine and I spent four hours walking up and down the field, cutting off a little bit of wire at a time, hoisting it back up into the air, checking the SWR at the transceiver and repeating this time and time again until eventually it worked as we wanted it where we wanted it.
The start of the contest was now quickly approaching, so we arranged our pre-op. meeting. This was the first year that we had not prepared a detailed operating rota, we decided that whoever was available would operate on whatever band was open and when they got tired someone else would take over, ( This seemed to work well for us this year and we will probably use this system again next year. )
Operating in the contest this year went smoothly, there were no equipment or component failures, everything worked well and at the end of the contest we were delighted to have a raw score of just under ten million points. Our best score ever, so we hope to improve on this next year.
Highlights of this year where working XX9C on 40m and 80m, being spotted on top band by KC1XX and W3LPL, the great 10m openings on which were unexpected and the fact that again the team got on so well.
All that was left was the strip down on the Monday and to head home with the gear, thoughts of what we had achieved and what we would do to improve our score next year.
Thanks to everyone who worked us, we had great fun, the QSL cards will be printed and sent out in due course. Will we do it again ? the answer is most definitely yes, we have already booked the accommodation and are counting down the days. Please give us a call in 2005 we appreciate the points.
This year we made a video of our contest effort and it is in the process of being edited into the final version. For this we thank Douglas GM0ELP for his time filming, incidentally Douglas will be a member of GM0B in 2005.
The GM0B operators in CQ WW SSB 2004 contest were :
Phil GM0LIR, Iain GM0OQV, Mark GM0WIB, Tom MM0BHX, Craig MM0BUL, Lorraine MM0BCR, Simon MM0GBK, Colin MM0FCM, Paul MM0STH, Kenny GM1MMK and me Brian GM0EGI.
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