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SDWS & LOCAL CLUBS JOIN FORCES FOR THE IOTA CONTEST

The weekend of the 25-26th July this year, 2015 saw members of four local groups join up to field a strong contest team in the annual RSGB Islands on the Air (IOTA) Contest. They travelled independently up to the beautiful Isle of Arran in the Scottish Clyde estuary and stayed at the excellent Seal Shore Campsite at Kildonan on the south coast of the island.

Arran map

 

The groups were: Sheffield & District Wireless Society (SDWS), The 93 Contest Group, Worksop Amateur Radio Society and the Sheffield HF DX Group. As far as we know it is the first time such join venture has been undertaken in this area and demonstrates the excellent relationships these groups have with each other. Indeed the 93 Contest Group and SDWS had already worked together previously, in the July VHF Field Day and in the 2014 VHF/UHF UKAC contest series when the 93 Group members graciously entered their logs on behalf of SDWS as they had only come together as a contest group at the end of that year.

The IOTA team consisted of the following people: From SDWS: 2E0KSH, G3PHO, G8EQD, M5DWI, M0GDX, M6JIJ From the 93 Group: G0NEY & G4LKD From the Worksop A.R.S: G0EAK, M0PJA, M6XAK, M6ZCA and the following wives/partners: Judy (with G3PHO) Pat (with M5DWI) Bea (with M0GDX), Anthea (with G0NEY) and Carrie (with G4LKD)

bbq1

The unlicensed ladies very kindly saw to the catering over the period (Friday to Sunday), preparing a nice BBQ on Friday evening and another communal meal on Saturday while the contest was in full flow.

GM5TO EU 123 G0EAK at the station on 20m during  the second hour of the IOTA contest V2

 

 

 

Entering the IOTA Contest as an Island DXpedition station, we used the SDWS callsign GM5TO. Outside contest hours the Sheffield HF DX Group call, GM2AS, was used to work a couple of hundred contacts to test out the equipment and antennas. After several months of planning, including contest logging training at SDWS, it was decided to use simple antennas rather than unwieldy tower mounted yagis.

 

Peter, G3PHO had spent some time during March to July constructing and testing a series of low angle vertical antennas based on the well known Spiderpoles, available from Germany.

arran antennas2

vertical fan dipole feedpoint

 

 

The antenna used for 10/15/20m was a vertical fan dipole, three centre fed dipoles on a common 100 foot RG8miniXX coax feeder. The dipoles were cut to size, separated at 3 inches apart from each other by a series of thin fibreglass rods, with the 20m element being taped to the spiderpole and adjusted for lowest VSWR using a Sark 110 VNA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

40m groundplane

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 40m vertical was a single quarter wave wire taped to a 12 metre spiderpole so that the base of the antenna was some 7 feet above ground. Two quarter wave elevated radials and another 100 feet of coax completed this antenna. The 80m antenna (also usable on all the other bands if required) was a 136 foot centre fed wire doublet, held up inverted V style on a 40 foot telescopic aluminium mast belonging to Paul, M0PCF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

current choke 40mgp

The excellent GM3SEK choke balun design used on the 40m vertical

 

Today’s DXpeditions, even those to remote areas of the world, tend to favour Spiderpole mounted vertical dipole arrays rather than yagis for the verticals radiate at very low angles if located on or very the beach, as they were in our case. Yagis , while having gain over the dipoles, have to be rotated and during a contest this can take time and often lead to lost contacts. Though less gainy, the verticals do perform very well and, of course, need no rotation!

The station equipment consisted of G3PHO’s FT5000MP, with his FT950 as a standby rig. In addition a Microham Keyer MkII was used for CW contacts and a Yaesu manual ATU, pretuned to 3.7MHz, for the doublet. Throughout the contest, each operator had to merely change bands and antenna and start to send, no other adjustments to the antennas being necessary. A refinement would have been to include automatic antenna selection …. maybe next time!

 

staion equipment2

 

We were fortunate to have internet access courtesy of the campsite owner, so that we could run the DX Cluster with our Wintest logging software. While it was unreliable at times we did manage to have this facility running for most of the contest.

 

weatherinstrument

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scottish weather can be variable as even the Scots have to admit. This weekend was no exception. Those members of the team who went up to Arran early in the week were rewarded with sunshine and warm weather. However, things started to change on the Friday when the antennas were erected in drizzle conditions during the morning. Friday evening saw the sun out though for the communal BBQ, at which everyone enjoyed themselves immensely. The forecast for Sunday was not good but we were lucky to have a dry spell after 1pm local time when the contest finished (it had started 24 hours earlier on Saturday) and we were able to take down and pack all antennas in just 40 minutes after the end of the contest, leaving just the indoors equipment to be dismantled and packed in the cars ready for an early start back to South Yorkshire on Monday morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To round off a thoroughly enjoyable weekend we went out for dinner at the Lamlash Bay Hotel, just 15 minutes up the east coast from the campsite.

dinner 2

 

dinner 1

 

Monday saw most of us leave (a few stayed on to hopefully enjoy a few days of holiday time) but by then the rain started to lash down and what would have been, for the writer at least, a 5 hour 15 minute journey turned out to be a stressful 8 hour one. The road conditions were extremely hazardous with torrential rain washing across the roads and causing trucks and cars to send out sheets of spray behind them, so dense that at times it seemed as if we were driving in a a car wash! Once back in the home region things seemed more settled and it was long before all the equipment and antennas were reinstalled in the radio shack or stored in the shed.

 

GM5TO SUMMARY

 

 

Thanks to everyone who made this expedition so successful As you will see in the summary score, we did very well, 1008 scoring contacts in 191 IOTAs for a final total of well over 1.5 million points. This is an excellent score for a team whose members were 98% VHF contesters rather than HF ones. For a while they found the pile ups daunting (EU 123 is a relatively rare and highly desirable IOTA!) but they quickly got used to the racket on the bands and made this impressive score. The antennas worked very well and the accommodation, provided by Maurice Deighton the owner of Seal Shore Campsite, was very good. It was a warm, private room with table, chairs and a settee!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally we must thank Maurice for all his help in making the weekend such a success. If you ever want to have a camping holiday on Arran then his campsite is the place to stay. Anyone for ARRAN IOTA next year? Sure thing! We’ve already booked the site!

seal shore campsite

 

 

My thanks to the following members of the expedition for their photographs used in this article:

David G8EQD, Dave M5DWI and Krystya 2E0KSH

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