The IOTA Contest, Friedrichshafen and More
Our HF specialist Steve Telenius-Lowe PJ4DX recommends the IOTA Contest
Our HF specialist Steve Telenius-Lowe PJ4DX recommends the IOTA Contest, enjoyed his visit to Ham Radio at Friedrichshafen and deals with his usual extensive postbag.
Welcome to the August HFH column, reporting on the highlights on HF in May. First, though, a reminder that the UK’s biggest HF contest, the Islands on the Air (IOTA) contest, takes place on July 28th and 29th, from 1200UTC on the Saturday for 24 hours. Everyone can work everyone (with more points for working stations on islands) in the 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10m bands. Activity is on SSB or CW, or both, and there are separate categories for single- and multi-operator entrants, making this an ideal club activity. For single operators there are high power, low power and QRP sections, as well as 12-hour sections for those who cannot devote the whole weekend to operating. Participants should send an RS(T) report and serial number and, for those on islands, their IOTA reference. This is EU-005 if you are on the mainland of Great Britain or EU-115 for the island of Ireland, with other references for offshore islands. The complete rules are at:
Talking of IOTA, the 2018 IOTA Directory was published in May by IOTA Ltd, the not-for-profit company set up in co-operation with the RSGB in order to take over the running of IOTA. The new IOTA Directory contains everything you need to know to become fully involved with this on-air operating programme. It includes a complete explanation of the IOTA programme, its rules, a listing of all 1200 island groups (with around 15,000 individual islands listed by name) and a colour section with IOTA DXpedition reports plus a lot more. The IOTA Directory is edited by Roger Balister G3KMA, Fig. 1, and myself and is available for £12.00 per copy (plus £3.00 P&P for the UK) from the online shop at the IOTA-World website:
I had the pleasure of attending the Ham Radio show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, on June 1st and 2nd. By far the largest amateur radio get-together in Europe, Friedrichshafen is all things to all radio amateurs: a big trade show, an even bigger amateur radio ‘flea market’ in two massive halls, technical lectures, DXpedition talks – and the chance to put a face to a callsign, Fig. 2. Friedrichshafen is beautifully located on Lake Constance with the snowy Alps a spectacular backdrop. Many people return year after year but If you have never been, you really ought to try to visit at least once. Next year's dates are June 21st – 23rd, 2019.
Verticals and Radials
The quarter-wave verticals for the 30m and 17m bands, used so effectively by Victor Brand G3JNB for his DXing, are both helically wound on old fibreglass fishing rods and elevated with sloping radials. The 50Ω coax feed-point for his 30m vertical is about 9ft off the ground. He noticed that the 30m antenna seemed to have drifted lower in frequency over time, with the 1:1 SWR resonance point now at about 9990kHz. Perhaps some turns had slipped down a little, he wondered. Acting on a hunch, he spent time raising the ends of the two radials and, sure enough, the match was restored to health. “Later that day, Steve, I found myself reading your excellent primer on radials for HF verticals in the newly-arrived July Practical Wireless. I bet your recommendations will be really useful to those seeking low-angle radiation. I should add that, in my case, I found the actual length of wire for a quarter-wave helical winding needed to have a bit extra added to move the resonance to the band centres [on both the 30m and 17m antennas].”
May Day morning and Victor G3JNB monitored the VLF transmissions from SAQ at the World Heritage Alexanderson Radio Station in Grimeton, Sweden. With a random LW (low wire!) and his VLF converter kit from Spectrum Communications feeding his FT-2000, the five-minute CW message was copied well while a parallel link to their live video streaming was interesting to watch.
Victor said that “the next day, special calls seemed to be flourishing as our sun started to shine at last, witness the plethora of FOC operators and, working on 20m, E725RRS Bosnia and HF100ZHP Poland.” On 40m CW, Victor worked an unusual ‘unofficial’ station ‘1U4UN’, listed on QRZ.COM as ‘King Dimitry’ in Bir Tawil, a landlocked area between Sudan and Egypt. Despite the lack of sunspots “modest DXing” continued until the 5th but then, “...for days, zilch! A week later and still no improvement. The C8T team in Mozambique was inaudible and even the nearby OT70 anniversary stations were weak and unworkable here. On the 13th, I tried a CQ on 12m to receive just a couple of weak EU replies.” The rest of the month also proved “lacklustre” for Victor although he says, “I did join in the celebrations one evening by airing my GR3JNB call on 20, 30 and 40m CW with a raft of EUs. Good fun!”
Owen Williams G0PHY said “There weren’t many QSOs in May – but the quality was quite high... I managed to work C96RRC on Mozambique Island, AF-088, on 18MHz at 1659UTC.for a new IOTA. Apart from this contact all others were on 14MHz. I managed a contact with the Belgian team in Mozambique, C8T. This was really lucky: I only heard them once and then at ‘ESP’ levels, got them first or second call and was very surprised to find my callsign in Club Log... A number of special event stations were worked in May including 4X70S, for the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, and 4U29MAY, marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers – the station was at the UN Global Services Centre at Brindisi, Italy.”
The monthly reports from Etienne Vrebos OS8D/ON8DN consist only of SSB stations and this time Etienne gave a detailed explanation of why he uses this mode exclusively: “Even if I read with great care the long technical topic in last month's PW about FT8, I do believe in voice QSOs. This is very important to me: listen to people, about their own story, about their hopes and dreams, and mainly how many are still polite and eager to listen to your story... Give even the most simple station the importance that guy wishes to receive from you. If he starts to talk about his small transceiver with 50W and his small vertical antenna in his small garden or city house, give him the chance to explain even in the most basic English what he’s trying to do on the air. That guy will definitively have a nice day after talking with pride.
“DXpeditions are nice to catch, most of the time they give you an ATNO [All Time New One] – I am still missing 100 ATNOs – but I do not like pile-ups and waiting for hours. You know, they are not all as educated as British gentlemen waiting in a queue at a bus station. I really do not like people calling by constantly repeating their callsign, and I understand some DX stations going QRT after hearing this mess. I leave the frequency then too and have a nice chat with an Italian or Spanish station: they’re always on the air and like talking. This is why for me SSB QSOs are the ultimate joy: talking to other people. I’m very sure CW gives the same pleasure of communication, because it is as individual as a voice communication, except for the guys using decoders.”
Etienne concluded by saying, “I got my very first award, for QSOs with more than 40 of the 58 OT stations commemorating the 70 years of UBA during the month of May, Fig. 3. Not always easy even in Belgium to catch those Belgian OT stations (difficult on 20m and 17m).”
While Etienne only uses SSB, Tony Usher G4HZW now uses only FT8. Last September he set himself a target of working 100 DXCC entities on 10m in one year. He writes, “Excellent Sporadic E conditions during the month and, during breaks from ‘ornithological DX’, I’ve now worked 89 DXCC entities on 10m since starting using FT8 in September 2017. I’m cautiously optimistic of reaching my goal of 100 on 10m in 12 months at the bottom of the sunspot cycle! ON and PA are not readily available from Cheshire but if you wait long enough the conditions will eventually allow these ca 300km contacts on 10m. My best DX was China: BD0AAI on May 10th at 1254UTC. Some days later at around the same time a station local to me was working Japan, also using FT8.” In all, Tony made 158 FT8 QSOs on the band during May.
Terry Martin M0CLH said: “Nice to see a bit more activity on the higher bands now... Propagation for voice modes remains fairly poor at this point in the sunspot cycle but thanks must be given to Joe Taylor K1JT for his team’s work on the data modes that allow compromised antenna stations to make DX contacts. All of these QSOs were made with the Cushcraft R8 vertical, the Icom IC-7610 (a joy to use) and an SPE Expert 1.3K-FA linear amplifier when a little help is needed.”
Martin Evans GW4TPG wrote that, “This month I have noted much tougher propagation with poor band conditions. Much of my operating is evenings and weekend afternoons and is more limited at this time of the year because the longer daylight hours mean 40 and 80m are dead when I have time to check them. 12m and 10m Sporadic E seems to be aptly named and just that – Sporadic: not much, if any, DX noted this year on those bands so far. 15m seems to be barely used and 20m seems to be the band of choice at the moment. The summer doldrums seem to have set in earlier this year. I did manage to achieve 100 confirmed on 10m this month, which was a big milestone on my way to 8-band DXCC. I now have 100 confirmed on 10, 15, 17, 20 and 30m, with eight left to go on 12m and just one left to go on 40m, using a mix of cards and LoTW. On 80m I have 86 worked and 68 confirmed, so 80m needs more attention later in the year.”
Carl Gorse 2E0HPI Is still suffering from a chronic knee injury which is curtailing his portable operations. However, before a sudden relapse, he “headed over to the Solway coast on the west of the UK with the folding bike, Fig. 4. The weather was amazing with highs of 28ºC and no wind.” He worked 82 stations using his X5105 transceiver running 5W. Carl also went out portable to use the special prefix for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. He operated as 2R0HPI/P from St Mary’s Island in Tyne and Wear as well as the Guisborough Moor SOTA summit G/TW-003. He comments that although “conditions over the month have been up and down, being portable and away from the QRM does help with weaker stations.”
The May highlights of Kevin Hewitt ZB2GI included some good openings on 10m at the beginning of the month, and operating portable from the top of the Rock with a 10m low-power radio and a two-element Yagi, Fig. 5.
In addition to the stations mentioned above, Victor G3JNB worked 30m CW: 4U29MAY, EG8CID, KP4TF. 20m CW: 3B9FR, 5H0JK, JY5HX, OA1F, PJ6/AI5P. 17m CW: C96RR.
Owen G0PHY reports 20m SSB: 4U29MAY, 4X70S, CR8T, E725SRRS, OY1OF, V47JA, VE1BB. 17m SSB: C96RRC.
Etienne OS8D/ON8DN reports the following DX – all on SSB (of course!) – 40m: HB0/PG8M/P. 20m: 5Z4/LZ4NM, 8J1ITU, C98RRC, E20NGF, EX73KP, HL1ZIX, JD1BMH, JH1GEX, JY4DK, KL7KK, UN7QF, UP73FP, VU3ARP, Z68AA (very few US but a lot of JA stations). 17m: C8T, C96RRC, PJ4DX. 15m: LU4VL, PJ4DX, PV8AL. 12m: Z68AA. 10m: Z68AT.
Tony G4HZW used 10m FT8 to catch 7X2TT, 9L/KW4XY, A61M, BD1AAI, C31MF, CX5ABM, E73DN, EA9ABC, EK1RR, FG5FI, FY1FV, IS0EQP, TF5B, TR8CA, UN7GBX, VP2ETE, W4DXX, WP4PBS, ZB3ER and a whole string of European stations.
Terry M0CLH sent in a log of 252 stations, of which these are the highlights. 40m SSB: OE100XGM, OT70GBN, OT70WRA. 40m FT8: SP2NJN. 30m FT8: A92AA, GS3PYE. 20m: SSB 5B4AIX/P, OT70GTM, OT70HCC. 20m CW: LZ110SAE, OT70LVN. 20m RTTY: LZ110SAE. 20m FT8: 2R0SYI, ND4Q, OH0/OH4SS, T77C, W9RTB. 17m FT8: 2R0OXF, 4X1GT, CT3IQ, EA9ACF, KJ3L, LX1MGG, PY1SX, VE9GLF, W3JU, Z32ZM. 15m FT8: IQ0OH, JY4CI. 12m FT8: 5B4VL, EA6AJ, EA9BO, HF9D, HS0ZIV, IC8XIL, ZP4KFX. 10m CW: CT1JOP, 10m FT8: 3Z9K, EA9ACF, LW3EK, R2FBD, R7KEA, TF5B.
Martin GW4TPG put the following in his log: 40m CW: 9M6ANA (worked 'barefoot' in CQ WPX contest). 40m FT8: VK3DDU, VP2ETE. 30m FT8: S01WS, ZD7JC. 20m CW: 4L0A, 4U1ITU, 5R8UI, 6O0X, 8J1ITU, 9H6A, AH2R, FM5BH, HQ9X, JT5DX, KH7B, VY2TT, WH7AA. 20m FT8: UA9CCC. 17m FT8: CP6CL, HS0ZGV, JA3KVT, JA4FKX. 15m CW: 4X4FR, 8P5A. 12m FT8: 7X2KF, HA5MG/MM, ZB2FR. 10m FT8: 7X2KF, D41CV, EA8DFQ, EW3AA.
Carl 2E0HPI (operating as 2R0HPI/P) worked, on 40m SSB: DL/OK8WFF/P (DLFF-0343), EA3NT/M, F8GG/P Castle DCF-039067, GR9RW (Royal Wedding), GX3SRC/P (Sutton Model Engineers), M/HB9TZA/P, M/SO7BIT/P (GFF-0280 Richmond Park), OT70TWS, S57MS/P (SOTA S5/RG-045), Z33IKN/P. 20m SSB: C31JS, EA3URM/P (EA3/BC-080), HB9BHU/P (HB/AG-003), OT4V/P (ONFF-0725).
Kevin ZB2GI worked, on 20m SSB: E725SRRS (25 years of Amateur Radio Union of Republic of Srpska), II1HKK (ARI Bordighera), OT70DST, OT70MCL, OT70NBT, OT70NOL (70yrs UBA). And, as ZB2GI/P from the top of the Rock 412m ASL with John King ZB2JK, 10m SSB: DO8DL, EA8BVX, EC1AP, EI8IU, F1RAF, G4XRR, HB9MFY, IT9KCD, IV3MUR/M, M3DDY, ON4IA, R3LA, RZ2D, SV1FJF, SV1GSP/8.
Thanks to all contributors. Please send any input for this column to [email protected] by the first of the month (August 1 for the October issue, September 1 for the November edition). I would especially welcome photographs for publication in the column. 73, Steve PJ4DX.
This article was featured in the August 2018 issue of Practical Wireless