GT8IOM (Island Radio Club) managed to put the Isle of Man on the map over the weekend with a massive 2230 Contacts over the weekend! Great when you consider that this was just us having fun and not taking it too serious.
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The GT8IOM Island Radio Club Team
Saturday 26th October 2013
I arrived at Mike’s (GD4WBY) for the CQ WW DX Contest just after 10pm on Friday night after what was a long day, so much for having a sleep during the day which I was aiming to do, so I was already knackered and in need of sleep when I opened the door to the shack to find Mike checking the radio and making sure everything was OK. Shortly after we retired to the front room for a much needed coffee and a chat.
We dragged ourselves back to the shack just before 1am in the morning and planted ourselves on 40 meters and listened to the stations camped out on the band already, we did not expect too much as the bands have not been too good of late, but dead on the hour the noise level went through the roof and we started the hard slog of trying to pull stations out of the noise, and with an average of just 1-2 stations every minute it was a little painful, especially with the lack of sleep during the day and the even more lack of coffee, with only the odd cup before the start of the contest and a bag of sweets since.
It started to rain outside the shack at around 2am and with it we seemed to have exhausted 40 meters of intelligible contacts so we decided to move down to 80 meters to listen to more noise, and even at this early hour of the morning, the band was bouncing and so was the noise level, somewhere around 10+ on the meter which made pulling out the contacts a little on the hard side, and we soon managed to drop well below our average, I blamed it on the rain and the lack of coffee.
As time went on we on we were not finding any new stations and even though the stations that we were hearing through the QRM were quite strong and clear, it was a still very hard to add them to the logbook, the noise was practically impregnable and even the local UK contacts were becoming hard to contact, with many stations literally working on top of each other, which resulted in such a high level of noise that it was making this fun task a real headache and chore to do. Poor old Mike’s voice kept failing and I was running out of sweets and yawning so much more than I would like, I need my sleep and I knew that I was still a few hours off getting any sleep soon and it was still not even 4am!
At this point we decided to catch a couple of ours kip, the bands were just way too noisy and lack of sleep during the day was starting to take effect.
We cracked on and as the clock started to get to 7 am and started to hit the USA much more which was great to help. We were able get many more multipliers than before by just selecting the stations we wanted, plus it seemed most of Europe had fallen asleep except us and a few other mad stations, we ended up sitting on top bad and enjoying adding yet more multipliers!
With a fresh cup of coffee we went back to 40 meters and enjoyed a band with a lot less noise and more interesting stations to boot.
As the morning crept in and daylight started to appear through the window and we started to give away more multipliers than we got in return, with most of the stations on the band being from the Americas we notched up some nice station from the Caribbean though and also some from further south. As for us, we were soldiering on thanks to the constant infusion of caffeine, but we were already knackered due to the lack of sleep having only 2 hours earlier whilst the band was too noisy to work without causing a migraine.
It was a hard slog but we finally managed to get to 150 in the still very early hours of the day and with it we decided to leave the vertical antenna and move to the Beam and the 20 meter band and boy do I wish that we hadn’t! Some kind chap must have added us to the cluster as for the next hour we got thrashed in a really nice pile up that ended up pushing us up to 510 contacts and gave me a sore throat to boot, but also that nice warm feeling of a job well done, how little did we know!
Ralph (GD4IHC) turned up around midday so I left him and Mike in the station whilst I raided the food and stretched my legs, and the guys then found a very small gap on 15 meters and started calling, but this proved to be too hard a job with stations basically camped out on top of each other, so after a few hard won contacts they moved to 10 meters, found a slightly better gap and start working contacts again.
(There was a Typo above in that I wrote 12 meters instead of 10 meters, so I apologise to the American station that was a little too out spoken (rude) to one of our team, but it was an honest mistake).
It was not too long before Mike and Ralph were in need of a break and then with the tally being 650 they decided to let me back on the mic and this time with John (GD0NFN) handling the logging we managed to land ourselves right in the middle of a pileup again, and with them two laughing at my failing voice, it was not too long before the logbook went above 1000 contacts and with some cracking contacts from all over America’s including a lot from the West Coast, Mali, South Africa and Venezuela to name but a few, the band was defiantly buzzing, just like my throat which was not only buzzing but showing sounds of wear, thankfully 10 meters was dying and John had to go home to collect his wife for a nice meal out (lucky git!), so at least I could hand the shack back to Ralph and Mike so that I could have a rest.
Back on 15 meters the guys were steadily adding contacts to the logbook and all whilst the weather was turning horrible and basically chucking it down.
I took a dive and hit the sack to catch up on some sleep whilst the guys carried on working and instead of a nice nap I ended up falling asleep for hours, it was 9.30pm when i eventually staggered back into the shack with a ‘Pot Noodle’ in hand and feeling the worse for wear.
The score at this time was a pleasant 1200 and Mike was on his own working his way around 40 meters picking off as many multipliers as possible. Shortly after I got into the shack me and Mike switched to top band and picked up some more contacts whilst very slowly heading towards 1300. After an initial flurry of contacts we were finding it hard to get the last 15 contacts to round off the score and at around 11:30pm local time we decided to call top band a day and move to 40 meters and join in with the noise and at least for the moment the weather was a little more settled and the wind had calmed down, it was nice to have the cooling breeze through the shack to cover up the smell of discarded Curry Pot Noodle pots, god you have to love junk food!
As we hit midnight local time we got the 1300th contact which for just a few guys having fun was a good turn out, we did not expect this much…
I spent the next couple of hours working up and down both top band and then 40 meters and then back again picking up the odd contact as I found them, it was slow and hard going but every point counts, on the good side, about every second station I found was a multiplier, I was hoping to at least add another 100 to the list but at 2:30am local time I had only managed to make another 50 so with the total now standing at 1350 I called it a night and switched off all the kit and retired for a hopefully early start.
Saturday 26th October 2013
Bang went the early start and me and Mike arrived back in the shack for 7:30am local time. I managed to crawl in feeling not so human to find Mike with a small pileup and taking the score up to 1390 on 80 meters and when this dried up around 8:00am local time we decided to move to 15 meters and use the SteppIR.
By the time we got to 10:00am local time we managed to land in another pile up and managed to get the score up to 1530 just as the wind outside was picking up. The newspapers were warning of the UK getting high winds by the time the weekend ends and with gusts presently hitting 30mph the poor old SteppIR was taking a beating and we decided to turn her side on to the winds to stop her from being torn apart with the expected winds, this did mean however that we were not exactly pointing where we wanted it and to add the pain we had to work of the off the back of the beam which thankfully you can do quite easily with a switch of a button, also on top of this the noise level and the distortion of the signals meant that it was also making it hard to read the callsigns, that said it was still worth sticking with 10 meters for the moment.
Not long after 11:00am local time we decided to find a spot on 20 meters and at this time John (GD0NFN) turned up with some food, not for us though so he was soon out of favor though his help on the logging was much appreciated and shortly before 12:30 we managed to get up to 1650 in the logbook, one thing about this weekend is that it’s certainly been proof that the bands are not as bad as they have been, we have not just seen hard to get local contacts, but we have had lots of Japanese, Chinese and Korean station of 10 meters, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia on 20 meters, and way to many American station to count on all the bands. Except for the back scatter the bands have certainly need good to us.
I decided to go and grab some food with whilst Mike was on the Mic and John was logging and also while it was quiet. When I returned from the fridge I heard the guys in the middle of another pileup with stations from all over the place coming in, one minute we got another state side contact, then a German station, then the Azores, and then the Italians and back it goes again, will this never end!? Not really hoping that it will, the bands are defiantly rocking and what turned out to be a fun weekend on the radio has turned into a really hard slog on the radio and with a very respectable score.
Just been outside to look at the antenna again, the wind is relentless at the moment, constantly above 30mph and gusting as high as 50 every now and then, thankfully the antenna is side on and handling the conditions quite well at the moment, but it looks like we are in for a beating, a real shame as the sun is out and I’m having a nice break away from the radio with some quality junk food!
I was dragged back onto the radio to give Mike a break and in typical fashion just after he left we had a nice monster pileup which if the logbook stats were correct meant we were averaging 211 contacts per hour, all I know is that my throat was complaining and John was having a trouble keeping up with the logging, finally after breaking the back of the pileup we topped 1800 contacts at 2:30pm local time and when started to spend more time calling that logging, at this time we deciding to change bands and also let me have a breather to boot.
Now on 15 meters Mike and John started to scan the bands for the odd multiplier and looking for a nice gap whilst I sat outside the shack looking out the window and thinking that we are certainly looking at some rough weather coming in, the wind meter is now spending most of its time above 30mph, the shack is shaking and it may not survive the night, actually I’m sure it will but lets add some drama.
Nigel (MD0FIX) made an appearance shortly after and fought his way into the shack to listen to the Europeans with their booming signals, you know the ones that I mean, they have that lovely warming hum in the background from their 10Kw liners working on tick over, hi hi…
I am now beginning to think that these guys hate me!
Once again the bands are, well not exactly quite but also not buzzing and I offered to take the seat again on the mic, and with John logging we started to add a few contacts here and there, it was nice and relaxing, we had small clusters of 5 or so contacts and then a break for a small slurp of coffee and a chat, all was really sweet, well up until someone woke up the Americans just before 4:00pm local time and all hell broke loose and we ended up with a lovely pileup and with stations coming in all over the place, what was really cool was that 99% of the calls were from North America, this carried on till 5:30pm local time and a score on the logbook reached 2066 contacts which was way above our estimates and to boot I had a loverly dry throat (that I know is going kill me later this week) which meant that I needed a break, thankfully Ralph was available to take over the logging whilst Mike went back on the microphone.
The guys carried on adding contacts to the logbook up until some obnoxious German station just plonked himself on out frequency and claimed it, and even after various American and European stations notified him of the fact, he still refused to budge and being a lot ruder than you should be on the air basically told everyone else to bugger off!
We were all too knackered to argue and he was obviously pushing way too much power by the hum that was associated with his audio, that we just decided to move on, so I do apologise to the stations that were trying to get through to us, you know who you are and we are grateful for your comments to the station.
Now that I have had a break and stretched my legs a bit, Ralph was screaming at me for a change of operator which meant the I was being called back to the operating seat so I went back to the shack to find the score at 2104 at 6:30pm local time, roll on midnight!
Things went very quiet after this, we remained on 15 meters for a while more hunting those elusive multipliers but by 8:30pm local time we only managed to add a few to the logbook with the total now at 2125. We came across a classic station on 15 meters that was working using VOX to key his mic, and you could hear the person logging every now in the background making comments, it was very strange, but gave us something to listen to for a while. Things were very relaxed now, I think we are pleasantly happy with the score, it would have been nice to get a few local contacts but it looks from the cluster that no one else was working the contest.
As the contest came to an end and with an hour to go, we found a small flurry on 20 meters which was not too much fun with the number 1 key on the keyboard playing up, and it seemed that every station out there knew it. We milked the contacts on 20 meters and when we came into the last hour we decided to try out top band with Mike on the Mic and his voice sounding like someone of 140 years of age, and as I am now safe at home I can get away with saying that he is not far off that! Opps that’s me in trouble.
After trying to make a difference in top band and failing due to poor conditions we pushed off to 80 meters to try and get a few more in the last 40 minutes to see if we can get some more in the log. As it happened we got some really nice multipliers which were a nice bonus but boy was the noise level high with everyone trying to get the last minute contacts, some came to us really easily but others we had to spend too much time on. With the end in sight and looking forward to driving home and with just 25 minutes to go it was getting frantic for us as well and each station was hard fought for, on top of this we were really tired and getting grouchy, if it was not the sore throats annoying us because we could not shout into the mics, or the keyboard playing up, and deaf operators (they can’t help it after this one), we were wanting it to end!
Just as we entered the last 10 minutes we went to 40 meters and jumped right into a barrel of noise, thankfully with it we picked up contacts and after a last flurry the score finalised at A very nice 2230.
Final thoughts for the weekend.
Generally things could not have been better, the amount of contacts certainly could not have been better, especially as we were not really being to serious. We managed to finish the event with not too many raised voices and as things go this turned out to be one of the better contest weekends that GT8IOM has attended, and my throat seems to have survived, but tomorrow will tell.
The bands were certainly open as hopefully the map image below will show, and considering that we certainly were not using the major antenna arrays that some of the large contest stations use, we think that we did a rather good job and hopefully got the Isle of Man Callsign out there as well, this will boost the QSL cards coming me thinks!
Thanks to all that attended.
Below is a screen capture of the Information window from UcxLog showing that 2229 contacts made over the course of the weekend (we lost one after the logbook was checked due to an incorrect call sign), we managed to get a really nice estimated score of 1,898,016 points.
Below is a Chart showing different Countries worked per Band
Below is list of all the Islands contacted during the contest.
Below is the Time Chart displaying when we slacked off and also when we worked.
Below is a list of Worked Multipliers
Worked CQ Zones:
01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
21, 22, 24, 25, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 29, 31, 33, 35, 38, 40
There are still another 273 contacts that I could not add to this map as there ‘Grid Locator’ is missing from either their QRZ.com or Buckmaster Ham Call databases, shame really, but this gives a good idea of the areas that we were reaching.