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Page Edited by Niall Reilly - MIDCARS Contest Manager

Radio contesting has always been a great opportunity for the club to operate the wide range of equipment at our deposal. We usually take part in the midweek RSGB 80m Club Contests and Sprints when they synchronise with our Wednesday evening meetings. Individual members often operate from their home stations on non-club nights to help keep MIDCARS active.

       VHF, UHF & SHF

MIDCARS have traditionally taken part in the RSGB’s VHF National Field Day from various locations over the years from Mow Cop, The Yeld at Kelsall and Plumtree Farm near Tarporley. In July 2016 we returned to Wales in locator square IO84KW at 376m above sea level near Chirk Castle with a well organised effort focused on the frequencies we could manage to build and operate for 24 hours with the small group of club members able to travel from our Mid-Cheshire base. A dedicated team endured a very cold, sleepless, wet and windy Friday night but their hard work enabled all the stations to be ready with hours to spare, definitely a record.

 

In previous years we’ve always entered the ‘Open’ section of the contest despite not always having linear amplifiers and large antenna arrays for each frequency band. When the results came around we rarely finished above an overall mid-table position. This time around we decided to enter the ‘Mix & Match’ section were we could compete at a level best suited to the ability of the equipment available.

Therefore on the 50MHz & 70MHz bands we entered the ‘Restricted’ section. The operating position was in a long wheel based van using the new ICOM IC-7300 Software Defined Radio Transceiver and an InnovAntenna 6 element dualband Yagi. The propagation during the contest was average with no enhancements but the elevated site gave us a great take-off for inter UK contacts but we eventually ran out of contacts before the contest finished.

       

 

This years results were published very quickly and we finished 3rd on 50MHz and 2nd on 70Mhz which was a great achievment and vindicated our decision to be in the 100W/40W category.

The 144MHz station was in the ‘Open’ section running a ICOM IC-271, Linear Amplifier and 16 element Yagi. Radio conditions were pretty flat but some nice long distance contacts were made. The 24 hours were badly affected by interference from a very strong local carrier on 144.350MHz which de-sensed the radio receiver. This reduced our final QSO total and we finished 10th in the final results.

The fouth and final station was on 23cms (1.2GHz) in the open section using an ICOM IC-9100, Linear amplifier with 180W output and 55 element Yagi. Contacts were very difficult because of a powerful broad noise source to the northeast. The antenna was rarily pointing at the stations we contacted as we were keeping the noise in the null of the antenna radiation pattern. Despite the issue we came 6th in the results.

Overall in the ‘Mix & Match’ section MIDCARS was 4th which is a fantastic result.

 

HF

This year MIDCARS took the plunge for the first time in many years into a weekend HF contest, the RSGB HF SSB Field Day in September. We operated from a very accessible site next to the Trent and Mersy Canal in Acton Bridge. The restricted section of the contest allowed us to use a single antenna and a 100 watt transceiver so a fairly simply set-up was envisaged to make life easy for the small group of members taking part.

Heavy rain on Saturday afternoon made building the tent and antenna mast a very soggy business but we were ready in just over an hour. The equipment used consisted of a Kenwood TS-2000 transceiver, 40m long invertered Vee doublet antenna, balanced antenna tuner, switchmode power supply, laptop PC, large 12V battery and small petrol generator.

We started the contest on 20m (14MHz) and soon realised that conditions were very poor and only contacted one station in 15 minutes. A retune of the antenna revealed that there was plenty of activity on 40m (7MHZ) so we ‘searched & pounced’ our way up and down the band for several hours. We did try to call ’CQ Contest’ several times but got squeezed out by bigger stations. It really is a dog-eat-dog world in HF contesting. Switching to 80m (3.7MHz) later in the evening allowed us to work a fresh bunch of stations taking part in field day. Eventually we ran out of steam and called it a day before midnight.

As Sunday dawned we restarted the generator and found a clear frequency on 40m to work 20 odd contacts before being pushed out again. The rest of the contest was spent moving around all the bands from 80 to 10m searching for new stations.

To sum up propagation across the HF spectrum during the contest it was pretty awful. The vast majority of contacts were made with Danish and German portable stations. The upper bands only had glimmer of hope before going quiet. 40m suffered from deep QSB throughout the whole 24 hours.

The only equipment issue was the generator stopping on Saturday with dirt in the fuel filter which our engine expert sorted in the evening. Luckily the use of a battery helped keep the transceiver operating. The electrically quiet rural location was a revelation and prompted a visual check of the antenna to make sure it was still at the top of the mast.