A look-back at WARA Field Day 2017

10 Jul

Field Day 2017 may be  over for another year, but 2018 planning and preparation is already underway. How did we do this year? The short answer: very well indeed.

We had 57 people help out at Heritage Acres, our regular site for Field Day, with everyone contributing to the event’s success. With a CFAX radio interview, a visit by CHEK News putting us on TV, a couple of ‘VIPs’ in attendance, plus Chris, VE7ALB, making his always excellent video of the event available online, we ensured our event received unprecedented external coverage.


Goals for 2017
A key priority this year was preventing mutual interference between the two main stations which is a common problem at many Field Day sites. Antenna type and placement, together with sophisticated bandpass filters at each station proved a winning combination with almost zero station interaction. Having the CW and SSB stations co-located under a 20′ x 20′ canvas tent greatly facilitated communication allowing band changing strategy to be carried out quickly and easily.

The marquee provided a perfect focal point for operators and visitors alike, including a CHEK News TV crew who covered the event on their Saturday evening news report. During the heat of the day the tent gave welcome shade for the SSB and CW teams while in the evening the sides were rolled into place to keep the night shift warm and bug-free!

SSB operations in the main tent

CW operations in the main tent

Two dipole antennas were used, one 80m – 10m and the other 40m/20m. The former (look closely in the top photo) was raised to around 50 feet while the dual-bander was in inverted-V configuration with the centre point at about 30 feet. Both antennas used 1:1 current baluns to keep common mode currents off the feed lines which, together with good vertical separation and despite small lateral separation, interaction between the two was minimal. Adding the bandpass filters made for very robust operating on a small Field Day site. We plan to improve on this for 2018 by maybe having two 80m through 10m dipoles which would give us more flexibility. Or we could use a single full-size multiband antenna and multiplex it. Watch this space!


A new approach to Field Day power
This year we decided to let batteries take the strain and use a quiet Honda 2 kW generator to top up the batteries when needed. This worked extremely well and not having a generator running all the time meant the site was much quieter than normal and our carbon footprint (and gas bill) was greatly reduced. We had the occasional technical issue in the tent but this was because we didn’t label our power leads and ended up with a different configuration than intended. However it still worked great and we’ll have it perfected for next year!

Emergency Management Victoria generously made their Vehicle 29 available which was the source of battery power via its onboard 450 Ah battery system. This fed an inverter which provided two lines of 110 V AC power into the tent, one to supply the transmitters and trickle charge batteries and the other for powering laptops and external monitors. Each station had three gel cell batteries connected in parallel hooked to a Samlex uninterrupted power system so that if AC power was lost, the stations shouldn’t notice it. That was the theory and it proved correct: during the afternoon we briefly lost power but the CW and SSB stations carried on oblivious to the power cut. Nice.


Welcoming new operators
It was a pleasure to welcome several of the WARA ham class new licencees to Field Day who took part in operating and logging and learning how to handle the pressure of fast-paced HF ‘contest-style’ communications. They did a great job and who knows, they may be the star operators of future WARA Field Days!

The GOTA station in Vehicle 29 provided an introduction to amateur radio for new and unlicenced operators in a relaxed stress-free environment, ably assisted by Alan, VA7AWM and Andy, VE7PT.

Bailey Moores at his first Field Day having fun helped by Alan, VA7AWM in Vehicle 29

 

This was WARA’s first time activating a GOTA station and something we will definitely continue to do in future years. It is very much in keeping with the spirit of Field Day to encourage new people to participate both in the hobby and give them an introduction to what Field Day is all about. An additional incentive for the GOTA station is the number of Bonus Points on offer. Ramping up this aspect of Field Day could net us a few hundred extra points.


How did we do?
In spite of experimenting with new concepts and pretty difficult band conditions, our stations managed to make a fine total of 505 contacts over the 24 hour period. As expected, 20m and 40m were the main bands with 80m being good for around five hours during the night. We did manage a few 15m contacts but the higher bands were pretty much closed for the duration. The graph below shows our contact breakdown by band:

The next chart shows the bands we operated on over the 24-hour period (times are in UTC, so subtract 7 hours for our local time):

The breakdown of contacts across the two main stations is shown is the following chart:

What the graphs reveal is that the SSB station didn’t get a chance to operate on 80m. Had we arranged antenna switching differently we could have swapped antennas over to share 80m between both stations which almost certainly would have gained us additional points and allowed the phone ops to have a few hours on a busy band. This is something we will definitely rectify next year with each station having full multiband capability.


Where did our antennas reach?
Two more graphs for you to ponder over. They show breakdown of contacts by ARRL Section for the SSB and CW stations:

Breakdown of main station contacts by ARRL Section

The pie charts indicate that both stations, unsurprisingly, scored most of their points in W6 and W7 areas. The multiband antenna used by CW appears to have performed better for the eastern side of the USA but this may be due to the better signal-to-noise ratio that CW inherently possesses, enabling weaker stations to be copied by us and our signal being easier to pick out of the noise compared to SSB signals.

It’s interesting to note the large difference between the number of Midwestern United States (W0/W9) contacts made by both stations: 5% of SSB contacts against 22% of CW contacts.

Both antennas were aligned with their main lobes oriented SE. The 80/40 dual-band dipole as used by SSB was configured as an inverted-V due to tree and end support locations and with a lower feed point while the 80-40 multiband dipole was about twenty feet higher up and horizontal. The differing angles of radiation were possibly the reason with the lower dipole firing most of its energy at a higher angle. It might also explain why the SSB station worked almost 25% more W6 and W7 stations than on CW.

A final interesting observation is the number of Canadian contacts made, with the SSB station making nearly three times the number worked by CW.


Score breakdown and Bonus Points
Although Field Day is not a contest per se, it is a ‘contest-type’ event in that the organizers, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), provide an incentive for everyone to make as many contacts as possible over the 24-hour period. Additionally, we can earn Bonus Points for providing features such as a public information table, organizing an educational activity (see the 6m antenna build below as an example), having a site safety officer amongst many others. This year we wanted to acquire as many ‘low-hanging’ bonus points as we could. With not a lot of work, we can claim quite a few more next year. Here’s a summary of our submission this year:

Bonus Points: 1,070
Total QSO points: 1,778
TOTAL CLAIMED SCORE: 2,848

Comparing this figure with last year’s published results table, we would have placed 4th position in Canada in our category 2A, the most popular Club class. That’s a fantastic achievement BUT not only that, second and third place were only marginally above our submitted score so next year we’re shooting for second place or better. With your help we can do it!


Other site activities
For visitors not operating, those taking a break from operating and the public, we provided some interesting extra-curricular activities. Thanks to Larry, VE7EA, we were able to observe the sun live where we could clearly see a nice sunspot group:

Larry’s Celestron telescope

The sun on June 24, 2017 (Pic: NASA/SOHO)

 

We also held a group activity to build a 6m (“the magic band”) antenna which proved fascinating and educational. As none of us (as far as I know) had any 6m experience, it was interesting to build the antenna from scratch using readily available hardware-store parts at very little cost.

Photos: Peter Cross, VA7PTR

It was trimmed to resonate exactly where we needed it (I want one of Henk’s antenna analyzers – I have analyzer envy) and then hooked it up to a rig. It worked! Al Muir, VE7BEU, used his SDR to make a good contact with a Vancouver station. We didn’t see any Sporadic-E openings on the waterfall display – maybe next year!

Another first this year was a bring-and-buy table where money was raised for the Club; thanks to Henk, VA7HV, for looking after this. The Public Information Table was ably staffed by Alison, VA7ACO, and our guest book had some wonderful comments, a nice memento from the weekend.


Food & presentations
An excellent BBQ was once again provided by Audrey Chew, VE7ODD, and her daughter, together with two splendid pots of chili from Judy Muir – a big thank you from everyone.

David’s XYL, Karen, created a special Field Day cake for the event – thank you Karen!

Congrats to Hans, VE7OES, on receiving the special Field Day award of an engraved tray. Hans puts in a lot of work every year and the event wouldn’t happen without him.

Huge thanks go out to Alan Mallett VA7AWM, Glenn Lindsey VE7GRQ, and David James VA7VK for their huge contributions and support this year. It wouldn’t have happened without you.

Finally, I’d like to personally thank Jim Chew, VE7GOF, who handed over the reins for Field Day this year after many years of organizing the event. His past support is greatly appreciated. Thank you Jim, hope to see you next year.


Sadly, that’s it for 2017 but Field Day 2018 is already in preparation. If you came this year and had a good time please spread the word. I guarantee next year will be even bigger and better.

Have a great Summer and 73.
Steve, VA7KH

P.S. Any errors or omissions, or forgetting special mentions, please let me know!

 

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