September 2016: VHF reloaded
Hard to believe, but the last 144MHz contest for DR9A was May 2013. Due to the various problems the IARU VHF contest was the first time we tried 2m after more than 3 years!
Of course we used the long interruption to work on our setup. Usually, we have the regular 2m antennas: 2x2M5WL M² and 6 short 2M9 M² yagis in a ring to have an almost omnidirectional antenna. For the IARU contest we added in the past a 4x6 Ele Yagi for our best direction - to the east.
Following our experience on 432MHz we decided to build two more of these antennas to have a 4x6 Ele Yagi group on each of the three sides of our mast. As the majority of QSOs into DL goes to JO31 from our location, Helmut had the idea to add a fixed antenna (2x9 Ele) just into that direction. That made a total of 11 antennas... - an arguable approach.
Of course such a big system requires lots of planning, building and - time to install it. Helmut DK8SG spent a lot of time to get the old equipment back into shape, to build or test new stuff and to coordinate the efforts. Henning DF9IC, Klaus DJ7UD, Jens DF5HC, Alexander DL8AAU and Bastian DB1BM had to design and contruct the technical equipment to operate the additional antennas and to do some repairs on PAs and transverter. So we took the decision to start with the setup on Thursday already. We chose very well - the weather was outstanding for end of August: bright sunshine and temperature of more than 25°C. On almost 1000m ASL...
Thomas DF8IJ, Helmuts DK8SG Helmut DB1TP, Henning DF9IC and Alexander DL8AAU had fun installing the antennas. Of course small problems occured, but could be solved easily. We almost finished before dawn, the last antenna (the 2x9 Ele) had to be done with help of electric light.
Friday morning we completed the antenna and tested the receiver - all was ok.
The next task was to get the transmitter running, which proofed to be harder than we thought. The RS1072 PA was a solid worker usually, but broke during a test last year in a burst of flames (literally - the HV fuse holder caught fire). Helmut und Klaus DJ7UD had a hard time to fix everything, but it was ok during the tests before the contest. Unfortunately not on the montain top.
After some testing the anode fuse of the 2C39 driver blew. So we had to disassemble everything until we finally could open the anode cabinet and see the problem: the anode inductor would arc to the antenna coupling loop. But that was not what caught our eye in the first place. Look at the picture - yes these two tubes have been working fine until the incident. And probably would still be on duty if the insulation of the loading loop would have been better...
Anyway, a couple of experienced engineers speechless.
We did not dare to fix the mess, we just used a SSPA driver to provide the ca. 50W the RS1072 needs on the input. We spent the rest of Friday to install the station and setup everything including a dedicated PC for making skeds and checking airplane scatter opportunities, which paid off in the end.
We still had one serious problem: the Wifi link for our internet access wasn't working.
While building the antenna, we always tried and always concluded, that the mast is not yet high enough for the link to work and we just had to wait a bit. But after the mast was at full length, we still got nothing. Fortunately we could reach Herbert DK8IP who checked and found that the dish on his side was pointing off. He immediately climbed to his roof and turned it back - to save our internet link which worked flawlessly for the whole time during the contest.
Friday evening most of the station was ok and we looked forward to the arrival of our old friend Andrea HB9DUR and Suad DK6XZ. We had some fun talking about old times.
This time we had something new: we used livescoring for the first time. A big thanks to the team around Miha S51FB for providing the service and to Frank DL2ALF for providing the software for Win-Test (wtScore)!
So during the contest we always knew were we stood. DA0FF, DL0GTH, OE1W and many others joined this service, too, and we looked forward to an interesting fight. And a fight we got...
The contest started slow on DR9A side - but that was more or less expected. We did our "normal" 100 QSOs in the first hour and slowly filled our log. Meanwhile DA0FF and DL0GTH were 20% ahead of us. Given their proximity to the centers of activity we still were not alarmed, not even after Tim from DA0FF called us to ask if everything was ok. But as the night came, we still were way behind, time to worry? - Sunday morning was not better, OE1W, DA0FF and DL0GTH were way in front, but our rate was still ok, we just could not get any closer.
Then Alexander DL8AAU left the sked PC to replace Suad for a short time as first OP and found a striking difference in score between the Win-Test running on the main PC compared to the sked PC used for live scoring upload. Closing and reopening the log there gave us a huge push, finally we were back on track. We discovered a >6 year old bug in log synchronisation over the network in Win-Test (fixed just after we reported it to the developers the week after).
Of course this did not went unnoticed by the other teams
(some even thought it was on purpose)... now everybody was trying hard
to score, knowing the others are really close. At 12:09 UTC the screenshot
of the livescoring showed OE1W in lead with 403k and IO2V (Marmolada 3300m
asl - real score may have been higher at the time), DL0GTH and DR9A all
with 388k and DA0FF close behind with 382k.
We started the thrilling finish: Helmut DK8SG and Andrea HB9DUR worked QSO after QSO as if there was no tomorrow and Jens DF5HC bombarded all active stations on ON4KST chat with sked request until they gave up and worked us. In parallel he tried to utilize any plane that came into sight on Airscout. It was really bizzare how many QSOs could be done on 2m by help of airplane scatter. In an outstanding run we managed to close the gap and get to second place with less than 5k points behind OE1W, leaving the rest of the competition behind.
So we were right on Saturday: DR9A does not start as quickly as the others and we do not make as many QSOs, because for us the big centers of activity in DL and OK are farer away. But we still work most of the stations there, it just takes longer. This results in our very high average score of more then 440km/QSO.
We were a bit lucky though, DA0FF and DL0GTH suffered from static rain on Sunday, while the weather on Hohloh was not great, but fortunately no rain.
A big thanks to the whole team - there were many helping hands this time. Helmut DK8SG and Helmut DB1TP, Thomas DF8IJ, Ralf DG3IAM, Henning DF9IC, Jens DF5HC, Suad DK6XZ, Andrea HB9DUR, Ralf DL9SK and Renate DO9RK.
HB9DUR, DO9RK, DF5HC, DL9RK, DL8AAU, DF8IJ, DK8SG, DF9IC