The planned EU-VK S2S SOTA event was set for Saturday October 22nd, here’s my piece on ARNewsline:
October 22nd. 2016 will see an increase in Summits on the Air activity between Europe and Australasia.
As has been the case for the last few years, a special event is being organised by Andrew VK1AD and Mike 2E0YYY to coincide with the improving radio propagation conditions.
This “S2S” (Summit to Summit) ‘all mode’ CW, SSB, Data, and even FM, event already has commitments from VK, ZL, G, GM, DL, and OE stations with other European stations expected to join in the climb to the top of mountains in each region. These “activators” aim to make as many “S2S” contacts as possible with other hams on SOTA summits in Europe and Australasia.
The timing will be from 06:30 UTC for about two hours and is planned to coincide with long path propagation between Europe and “down under.” Around the same time, short path communications between Europe and North America is often possible. So if some SOTA activators in North America could listen out from a SOTA summit, this activity has the chance to create a World-Wide Summit to Summit event this year.
Most stations will be running low power with simple omni-directional antennas, so this event also aims to show just what can be achieved with limited equipment from a location with a low noise floor.
Although I had originally planned to use my new EFHW vertical on the 10m mast, at the last minute I decided it was better to go with the tried and tested linked dipole as risk the antenna collapsing on me again. I need to build some more confidence in the new antenna/mast before it can be used reliably. In fact I plan to create a lightweight version of the antenna using RG-174 co-ax in place of the RG-58 reducing its weight considerably.
Equipment would therefore be the 817, the 20W amplifier, the 6m mast and the linked dipole antenna.
Pießenberg is about 45 minutes drive from where I live and a drive-up summit, making an early start as required for the long path propagation to VK a possible option. There is plenty of parking and a short walk to seating at the far end of the path around the church with railings to attach the mast to. As I have already activated this summit twice this year, I would not get any activator points for this extra activation but it is the most practical for an early morning activation and my S2S points are fast approaching 1000 – perhaps I could break the magic number on this outing? (the answer was NO – not quite).
The trip down to Pießenberg almost was a problem with a major accident closing the main road between Pießenberg and Hohen Pießsenberg where I needed to go. Luckily I was approaching on the back roads and when I was stopped by a young fire brigade officer he said I was fine to get through the village as far as the road up to the summit and take it up to the church.
While setting up, in the dark, I found a broken link connector on the linked dipole, which would not affect 20 metre operation but would stop me from being able to move to 40m to catch local summits, and what I thought was a broken bongo-strap (turned out it was ok when I could see it in the light later). I was set-up and started operation at 0530 UTC (too early – also too dark and too cold!).
I was happy with one good contact with Jason ZL3JAS in Christchurch at 06:31 UTC. While tuning the band I heard his 5-9 signal, called him and he came back to me, giving me a report of between 4-4 and 5-5 – considering I was running 20 watts to a dipole and he was running 1KW to a cobweb antenna, I’m happy with that report. It seems that the grey line long path window at the moment from ZL to DL is around 0630 UTC. I also bagged 5 x S2S contacts within Continental Europe summits but could not hear the UK activators on 20m.
It was very annoying to find that whichever frequency a VK activator was spotted as being on had either a Russian or Italian 2KW+ station chatting to his mates – how do they manage this? Probably the same way as the Italian and Russian stations would come up on my (checked free before calling) CQ frequency meaning I was constantly having to move. I found out later that my signal was getting through the VK2 but I was not hearing the reply because of this QRM – that’s annoying.
By 0715 UTC I was hearing less on the band and the battery in my amplifier had run flat so I packed up at 07:40. Later I heard that VK6 was coming through at around 0800 UTC but without the amplifier, I suspect my signal would not have made the trip. I also had a family trip I had to be back for. I’m kicking myself for forgetting the spare battery for the amplifier and for having two conflicting requirements on the same day, but I couldn’t do much about the latter.
Here is my report publshed on ARNewsline and WIA NEWS:
Summits on the air Summit to summit international event 22nd. October 2016.
October 22nd saw the Summits On The Air, Australia to Europe Summit to Summit event. Fifty one summits across Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan were registered by their activators as intending to take part in this 2 hour “super-activation”.
When 0630 UTC arrived with weather varying from freezing cold to pouring with rain in Europe and not a lot better in Australia, the SOTA activators started their calls. Between 6:30 and 8:30 UTC seventy three summits were activated – twenty two more than expected.
Mother nature and propagation were “variable” to say the least but contacts were made between continents as well as within each of the regions.
At times the number of active summits made it difficult to find a free frequency on 20 metres to call CQ on.
Thanks to Gerard VK2IO for the following audio clip of my signal making it through the “ether” from Southern Bavaria to New South Wales Australia. Unfortunately no contact was made due to QRM from QRO stations in Europe who often started up transmissions on top of the QRP SOTA stations.
< the audio clip was played here >
The organisers Andrew VK1AD and Mike 2E0YYY declared the event a success and planning is under way for future Australia to Europe SOTA events, most likely twice a year around the dates that we change the clocks in Spring and Autumn.
A similar event is being discussed between European and North American activators. Once details are confirmed, you’ll here about it here on ARNewsline. In the meantime checkout sota.org.uk to find out about Summits on the Air.
For AR Newsline this has been Ed Durrant DD5LP from Bavaria in Southern Germany.
Modified Ramsey power amplifier.
SOTAbeams linked dipole.
6 metre “lambdahalbe” fibreglass mast.
Thick plastic painters sheet
I had a few “OOPS” moments and wrong decisions:
- I was on site FAR too early, it was cold (but thankfully there was no rain), dark – I almost needed a torch to set-up but managed without and because I started so early I ran my rig’s (and more importantly, the amp’s) battery down.
- Rather than risk the newly built vertical, I decided to go with the tried and tested linked dipole. On putting it up I found one of the link connectors had broken off the wire – not an issue for 20m but this meant I couldn’t switch to 40m to pick up EU S2S contacts.
- I forgot to take the spare battery for the amplifier. In fact when I saw the amp was no longer turning on, the Internal LIPO had hit zero percent on all 4 cells. Later I managed to recharge the battery and it “seems” no worse for wear. Time will tell. Normally I avoid taking LIPOs below 25% charge.
- Timing – not only was I set up too early, I also shut down too soon (partially due to the amp battery but also as I needed to get home for a family outing). If I had stayed another 30 minutes, I might have bagged John VK6NU in WA.
Even with these errors I managed 5 x S2S contacts but only within Europe. I’m rather proud however that I managed a good contact with Jason ZL3JAS in Christchurch.
What I found REALLY annoying was the fact that I was not able to even listen for spotted VK & ZL SOTA activators as in EVERY case when I went to the spotted frequency a local high powered Russian or Italian station was chatting away to his friend down the road on exactly the frequency the DX SOTA station was spotted on. I also had to move several times when calling CQ when an EU QRO station simply decided they would use the frequency to natter on, without first checking it was free!
73 ’til the next Summit!