Last night was the VK/trans – Tasman 80m contest . A contest that encourages contacts between Australia and New Zealand that has special scoring zones and times to encourage participation on both sides of the ditch. Quite a challenge considering there is a 4 hours difference between sunset in ZL and sunset in VK6 and the contest only lasts 6 hours.
Last year I participated as VK3SAT with my son VK3FASH and, although our score was not included in the official results, we came 20th overall and 9th in the multi-operator section.
This year, for the first time for this contest, I went it alone. Not only did I enter as a single operator but I also ran QRP using my MKARS80 transceiver. This was a strategic decision as there are bonus points for QRP operation and even more bonus points for home brew, including kits.
I also went portable, as I often do, to get away from the suburban noise that floods the HF bands at home. I went to One Tree Hill lookout in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. This location is reasonably high and has easy access. I strung a 1/2 wave dipole in the trees, in an Inverted Vee configuration with the apex about 6 metres off the ground.
Just before the contest I spoke with Greg, VK3LLL, and Peter, VK3AJ, and confirmed that I could at least get a signal to them.
The contest started with VK3AJ and VK3LLL as my first two contacts followed by a really, really strong VK3KID. VK3KID is a club station at the Sherbrooke Community School and is often on air with students from the school. My potable location was only 2.5 km from the VK3KID station so it was no wonder they were very strong. The MKARS80 doesn’t have an AGC so the stronger the signal, the louder the audio. At one point I was caught out when VK3KID called me and I had the RF gain at about half and was nearly blown out of the car.
One other thing I found while running QRP was that some stations that seem really strong are unable to hear me. This may well be because they are working from a noisy suburbs and I am buried in the hash. Where I was located was very, very quiet so I could hear lots of stations.
I moved frequency a few times during the contest due to interference from other stations as the MKARS80 doesn’t have fancy filters and such to deal with congestion. I found the tuning control didn’t bother me as much as during the QRP Hours Contest but it is still really touchy to use.
I finished up with 97 contacts during the five hours. This is not fantastic but for a QRP home brew stations it was OK.
Peter, VK3AJ, posted a message this morning saying his numbers were a little down on last year so maybe the overall participation was lower?
I’ve sent my log off and now I await the results.