The 2017 RD Contest was over the weekend of August 12-13 and I was keen to participate this year, having been unable to participate last year due to my involvement in the Festival of Bright Ideas. With Tasmania winning the state vs state competition, I was keen to do my bit to defend that title.
With the waning solar cycle leading to pretty poor propagation conditions in my near NVIS antenna setup, my focus had been working local stations on VHF and higher bands. Critically, I was now in a position to take advantage of the allowed RTTY digital mode, which was worth double points on 144Mhz and 430Mhz, 4 points on the 23cm band, and a triple multiplier between 1am and 6am meaning there was up to 12 points per contact on offer!
Attempting to do RTTY with 3 radios, 1 of which has no computer interfaces lead to interesting challenges. The following methods were used:
- HF Rig – Mostly not used – has a proper USB computer interface
- IC-706 VHF/UHF – Home brew Audio interface with USB Audio device and Usb-Serial for PTT. No Rig Control
- FT2311 23cm – Computer Mic to listen to radio speaker, quiet room, Holding radio mic to computer speaker for TX
The locals have had it drilled into them over the past 4 weeks through various media platforms, and this was obvious from the flood of people on air at exactly 1300 when the contest started. It took nearly 2 hours for all the contacts to work each other across the various bands. After that, it was time to try our hand at some RTTY with some “known” frequencies to transmit on.
Once set up, the most challenging thing about RTTY was minimising the amount of information transmitted whilst still exchanging enough information. Add it to an FLDIGI macro and suddenly RTTY contesting is a whole new thing!!
Once working VHF+ was out of the way between cycles, time was then spent working HF. Predictably, conditions were terrible at home, with almost no contacts on 20m, and most coming from 80m and 40m. 40m went quiet by about 6.30pm, leaving only 80m for the rest of the night, along with some 160m work.
I took myself to bed around 11pm, to be awake for the 1am triple point multiplier and then back to bed at 2.30am to be awake at 5am again to take advantage of triple points. I’m glad there is no photo of me at 5am, because that picture would not have been a pretty site! Back in bed around 6.30am, and slept until 9am before back at it again.
This is the second time I have taken part since significant rule changes to the RD in 2015, and I have to say the exchange of “years license held” is definitely a better exchange than a serial number, removing the competitive pressure aspect of the competition. It also means that I was much better paced overall rather than being frantic to keep up with others.
2017 Claimed Score and Stats
This year was definitely a personal best for me, and I attribute it to focussing on the VHF+ bands, increased participation on VHF by local VK7s and the use of what was for me a new contest mode in RTTY:
|HF Contacts (0-30Mhz)||74|
|VHF Contacts (144Mhz)||92|
|Unique VK7 stations worked||22|
|Unique Interstate stations worked||15|
|Total Unique Stations||37|
The unique station count really tells the story of HF, with only 15 interstate contacts over 24 hours. I will admit to not attempting to contact any stations that were way low down for me, as past experience has found that if I can only just hear them, the remote station usually has little chance of hearing me.
58 Contacts were made during 1.00am and 6.00am on VHF and full credit goes to those committed (and crazy) people who stayed up for those bonus points.
Next year will definitely see me investing some more time in refining my RTTY contesting skills and improving the computer interfacing to the radio. I may also consider contesting from the REAST club rooms, taking advantage of the better HF location than I have at home.