VHF NFD 2005
John Simkins, G8IYS & Andy Cook, G4PIQ
The problem with any report is that someone, somewhere, will be able to say: "Well, it wasn't like that here!" and of course, they will be right - from their perspective. Anticipating such divergence of views, we may as well start with the weather where we can probably agree that across the UK as a whole it was somewhat better than in 2004 - but that's not saying that much! The Met Office summary of the weekend for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, used the terms "unsettled, changeable and showers". It said the same for Scotland, but also casually remarked that the West and North West of Scotland suffered rain and gales on the Sunday. Of course - when you're on a hilltop with lots of aluminium and canvas, a little extra rain and wind can be quite difficult to handle.
Mid-Lanark, in IO85, were pleased that their antennas held up in the high winds, but their 6m tent failed the stress test. The combined team of GM3TAL, G3SHK and G3RWF, in IO75, said that the wind was at Force 5/6 most of the time - with squalls at Gale Force 8, however for them the bright side was that they suffered no problems with lack of driving force for their wind turbine generators! Cockenzie & Port Seton, in IO84, pondered a second 8 element antenna, stacked, for 4m but sensibly concluded that it would not remain aloft for long. Lothians, from IO74, had to lower their 4m mast twice to refix the couplings - this was a scary exercise in high winds with a big yagi which bowed in the breeze. However their 4 yagi 2m array succumbed in some style when winds increased to gale force and a rotator casting sheared in two.
Up in the far North, Clive O'Hennessy, GM4VVX/P was down to a one man entry and at times had to hold the armstrong rotator to stop it spinning like a rotary clothes line. This left him one hand to hold clipboard, pen & mike on his lap, but on almost every QSO either the pen or clipboard had fallen on floor, resulting in several old Anglo Saxon expletives. Another one-man band, Allan, Duncan, GM4ZUK/P also feared for the safety of his 2m array, but he and it survived to tell the tale.
Moving to the SE corner of England the weather was windy, but not in the same league as up in Scotland: Clifton, in JO01, used an "Armstrong" rotator on 6m, but their arms were just not strong enough to hold their big yagi in the wind. In the same square, Reigate and Crawley were pleased that the winds of 2004 did not revisit them since their 100 ft tower, supporting a stack of 4 x 28 ele 70cm yagis may not have survived with its temporary support for a broken tower stabiliser. By absolute contrast, West Bromwich Central in IO92 and Sheffield, participating in their first field day for some years, in IO93, reported that Sunday was dry, bright and sunny.
Other diversions beset a number of stations. Swindon, with maybe just a little understatement, reported: "a little trouble with our 4m transverter". Wrexham simply commented "70cm PSU blew up..."and Clifton suffered a defective antenna changeover relay - leading to 4m receiver deafness. Sutton Coldfield got through two versions of their on-line computer log - finally adopting a third as a post-log and MIDCARS confessed to insufficient practice with computer log inputting. Their generator ran out of fuel 45 minutes before the end - perhaps due to running the tea urn as well as the amplifiers but spirits were raised, however, by a free firework display from a Live8 concert site. The traditional generator theme continues with the Surrey team whose machine worked for 18 hours without hitch, but when it ran out of diesel, no-one on site knew how to restart it and the club Chairman had to be got out of his bed to fix it. Crawley and Reigate's big, reliable, diesel, intended to power their big 70cm linear, worked perfectly - at least for the first 40 minutes! It's always strange how something normally so reliable will fail at the drop of a hat in Field Day.
Overall, propagation conditions and activity levels appeared significantly better than in 2004, and the table shows how this is reflected in the actual numbers of points scored and QSOs made by leading entrants on each band.
Max points change Max QSOs change
50. Up 270% Up 50%
70. Less than 1% Up 8%
144 Up 39% Up 21%
432 Up 34% Up 21%
1296 Up 62% Up 45%
Points & QSO totals for leading stations in 2005 compared to 2004
Compared with 2004, the overall level of entries also showed some increase. By benefit of the overall growth in numbers and migration from other sections, the Restricted gained most, increasing by 50%. As usual there were a few no shows from pre-registered stations and a few entries from non-pre-registered stations. There were also a number of UK portable stations active who, for some reason, did not submit an entry - if you were one, do think about entering next year. A number of UK and overseas stations submitted check logs which are much appreciated by the adjudicators.
This band exhibited lengthy periods of both Tropo and Sporadic E propagation. Good DX into the Balkans, Romania, Greece and Israel was worked by many stations. Best DX was achieved by Edgware from IO91 with TT8 (Chad) at a distance of 4559 km. South Birmingham found activity to be the best for some years. Maidenhead, operating beside the road from a car, remarked at the good DX offered by the Sporadic E opening. MIDCARS, however, suffered from reverse TVI which for much of the time with TV timebase swamping incoming signals rendering many QSOs impossible.
In spite of the sporadic-E on 6m on the Saturday, on Sunday 4m contacts
proved to be restricted to the UK - although S51DI (Slovenia) was reported
by Lothians as a "gotaway". Best DX was achieved by Clifton ARS from JO01
to GM3TAL/P at a distance of 638 km. Cockenzie and Port Seton welcomed
the extra points they gained from FM contacts and always worth taking
a look on FM - especially if your PA can take the duty cycle! Fort William
summed things up with one word: "Grim" and Goole found it a "steady slog".
Mid-Lanark, on the other hand, had great fun and found conditions to be
excellent. Likewise, the North Beds Gentlemen found, at their oasis, that
conditions and activity levels to be "generally good".
There was some good tropo - most notably to Spain, but many stations also reported ripples of lift to the East and South East of Europe accompanied by deep QSB. EA1FDI/P appears in many logs as best DX. So did a few other mainland Spain stations: EB1EB/P, EA2DR/1, EB1EWE/P. Even better DX, twice as far, was achieved with the Canary Islands in the shape of EA8/DL6FAW by Bracknell & Flight Refuelling from IO80 (2769 km) in the Open section and Newbury from IO91 (2858 km) in the Restricted Section. Topping the lot was Warrington from IO93 in the Low Power section with EA8BPX at 2994 km. More remarkably than these stations were a couple of CT3 stations on the band and worked from the UK. Not quite as far as EA8, but much less common - it's an unusual and exciting weekend when there is more than one African country to be worked on 2m in a weekend!
Many stations reported good conditions and activity - comparable with 2 metres and EA1FDI/P appeared again as best DX in many logs. Beam headings seemed puzzling at times, with Spanish stations not peaking in any particular direction - but being very loud. Ripples of lift in the sector north east to south east provided enough stimulus to keep the eyelids from total closure during the night hours. Top distance goes to Lothians from IO74 (1377 km) in the Open section with (no guesses here) EA1FDI/P. They just pipped Cockenzie & Port Seton from IO74 (1373 km) in the same section. Close followers were Goole from IO93 (1367 km) in the Low Power section and De Montfort University from JO02 (1350 km) in the Restricted section. It would be interesting to see the log at EA1FDI/P and just how many points / QSO they averaged! Unfortunately no one managed to snag the EA8 guys on this band!
With the odd exception, conditions were reported as moderate to good. However, activity was another thing and several bemoaned its low level, although entry levels are about the same as last year. Two Counties, from IO82, noted a slow start with some DX later. South Birmingham, also from IO82, thought that activity was up and were pleased with their two contacts with Spain. Both Colchester and Windmill in the Open section from JO01 bagged many contacts and moderate DX, but Surrey, in the bottom left hand corner of IO91 thought conditions poor. As usual, this is a band where your experiences can be markedly different from those of your neighbour. Best DX goes to Warrington (as well as on 2 metres) in the Low Power section with EA1BLA (1168 km). Just behind, was South Birmingham in the Restricted section - also with EA1BLA, (1091 km).
As usual logging standards varied enormously between groups and if your
team lost a lot of points, then next year it would help enormously to
just take that little bit more care when logging. If you're not 100% sure
that you copied the information correctly - ask for a repeat. It's much
better to do that than to lose the QSO due to an error being detected.
Just to point out how important logging accuracy can be - even at the
top of the tables where entrants are normally very accurate and only lose
2-3% of their score - the Open Section overall winner was decided purely
on logging accuracy this year. With both the claimed scores and the final
result as close as any of us can remember, the Colchester Contest Group
eventually triumphed over The Windmill Contest Group by only 0.2% in overall
score to retain the Surrey Trophy, despite the fact that their initial
claimed score was slightly smaller. Both entries were checked particularly
even handedly & thoroughly to ensure that the final result reflected the
actual performance of the teams on the day. Once again 3rd place in the
Open Section was taken by an excellent entry from Scotland, this year
from the Cockenzie & Port Seton ARC who win the Tartan Trophy. They celebrated
at the end of the contest with a little Clay Pigeon shooting and hitting
7 clays from the team of 7 people - clearly a lucky weekend for them.
Making it 3 years on the trot, the De Montfort University RS win the Restricted
Section and the Martlesham Trophy, with this year the South Birmingham
Club narrowly beating the Newbury & DARS team to take the runner's
up position. In spite of operating for only 4 hours, the two man team
of David Dodds & Jim Martin, GM4WLL & MM0BQI take the Cockenzie Quaich
as the leading Scottish team in the section.
As usual the Low Power section was won by another two man team - this time G8XVJ & G0CDA operating as the Warrington Contest Group with the Cambridge & DARC taking the runner up position. The Scottish trophy goes to the 3 man team of GM3TAL, G3SHK & G3RWF.
Finally, the positions in the Mix & Match section were also a repeat of last year with Telford & DARS winning and taking the G5BY trophy, and with the Surrey Radio Contact Club a little way further behind.
Congratulations to all of the trophy winners. You will also receive certificates, as will the leading stations in each UK DXCC country.