As in past years I operated in this event at Mt Ginini in two ways. On VHF/UHF bands I used my standard equipment powered by a Honda EU20i generator, with 100w output on 2m/6m, 75w on 70cm and 10w on 23cm. On HF bands I ran 10w from battery power, to be SOTA compliant.
I started the site setup at 5pm Friday night, setting up the tent and the HF antennas. Two squid poles supported these antennas. One was a linked dipole for the HF bands from 40 to 10m. The other antenna was a quarter wave vertical with elevated radials for 20m.
The VHF/UHF antennas were erected on Saturday morning. Matt VK1MA and Glen VK1XX arrived to perform some maintenance work on the tower for the repeaters run by the Canberra Region Amateur Radio Club. When I was ready to lift my antennas they were ready to help and fortunately I only needed to adjust the guy ropes.
On VHF the band conditions seemed ok, with the VK3RGL beacons on 144.530 and 432.530 were both received with reasonable signals. Towards Sydney the beacons on 144.420 and 432.420 were weak but detectable. Propagation in the north east direction (Sydney and up the NSW coastline roughly) remained ordinary for the weekend.
By the late afternoon, I had logged a small number of contacts on 40m and on the VHF/UHF bands. There were a few other field stations, the most prominent on VHF being VK3ER and VK3KQ and I could work both on 6m/2m/70cm without much trouble. The 23cm signals were detectable but only workable on peaks of the fading always present on that band.
In the hour before sunset I was working some 20m CW contacts as a SOTA portable, conditions did not seem too good on 20m towards Europe but I made a handful of contacts with Europeans and some Australians. The planned ssb activations in Europe were basically inaudible, though with some imagination I could hear faint voices and stations calling them. When you cannot really hear the chasers you know it will be hard to work the activators.
Returning to the VHF/UHF bands I had some good contacts into the area west of Melbourne, then heard VK5SR in the Mount Gambier area with a big signal. Contacts with VK5SR were made on 144 and 432, but no signals heard on 1296. Contacts were made at much increased signal levels with VK3KQ and VK3ER on 1296 as well as the three lower bands. VK5RX was worked also on 144, a much more westerly contact in the PF95 grid.
I made a recording of an hour of the vhfuhf contacts on Saturday evening and it is published on dropbox. The link is https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nk1raqnjobsi05q/AAC0xA2I82UVYjDQvD_gxpo2a?dl=0 and when listening to the signals from vk5sr on 144 and 432, remember that those signals are from a station 777 km away. VK3KQ was at a distance of about 500 km.
During the recording you will hear a contact with vk3er on 1296 where they were so strong with their dish on my direction that I thought they were a local. Then I could hear vk3er at a distance of 460 odd km on 1296 even while they were beaming to Mt Gambier with their their dish 120 degrees off my direction. Conditions were unusually good! Following the contacts with vk3er on 1296 and 50 mhz there was a contact made on 1296 with vk3kq after several tries using 432 for liaison. There was an unsuccessful attempt, another set of dits used as a beacon, then finally a successful contact on ssb.
By about 10pm the wind had increased in strength and it seemed unlikely there would be any new contacts made. I didn’t plan to operate after midnight to make contacts in the next 3 hour period so I closed down for the night, lowering both antenna masts so as to protect the antennas from the wind. Having seen stakes almost completely ripped out of the rocky ground by gusty winds in past events, I didn’t want to risk damage to the antennas, the tent or the operator!
I woke at about 5am and was very cold, having packed the wrong sleeping bag. It was about 4C that morning which was an improvement over the 2C of Saturday morning, however I warmed up in the car for 20 mins before raising the antennas and getting the station back on the air. A few field stations were ready for contacts prior to 6am but despite trying to work them all before 6 on all bands, a few contacts were missed. Due to the 3 hour time blocks used in this contest it is possible to make contacts in each 3 hour time block, at any time. After the initial flurry of contacts with VK3ER VK3KQ and VK2WG it was time to check the beacons especially looking for VK5 beacons given the good conditions into VK5 the night before. Some of the VK3 beacons were audible, the VK3RGL were good signals on 144 and 432 but the Mt Gambier VK5RSE beacon was not heard. However the VK5VF beacon close to Adelaide was a good signal so I started making CQ calls beaming to Adelaide on 144.150. During the next few hours several VK5 contacts were made on 144 and 432, with a marginal contact made on 1296 with VK5PJ. Jeff VK5GF joined in the fun and his signal remained good for several hours. The VK5 signals were still good after 9AM so we were able to make several contacts for the field day log at these excellent signal levels.
Near Wagga the VK2WG club station was also making contacts into VK5 on 144 and some on 432, though signal levels were markedly lower than those received at Mt Ginini’s altitude of just over 1700m. John VK2YW was operating the VHF station there and he has since commented that he wants to get onto 1296 after hearing of the contacts made there.
I think this event was my most successful field day from a VHF/UHF perspective. The conditions on 144 and 432 were above their usual level but the results on 1296 were my best ever. The vhf and uhf bands are a lot of fun in these great conditions.