All posts by felodden

Cubical Quad Antenna 25/2/2023

A group of antenna builders travelled to Robertson on Saturday to finish off the installation of the donated cubical quad antenna.
These hams were Barrie VK2IBE, Skip VK2ALR, Stephen VK2RH, Raffy VK2RF, Bob VK2NRC and Fred VK2WS.

On a previous visit to build and erect this antenna we were forced to stop work as the mating of the boom to the spiders holding the spreaders appeared to be a mis-match. It was subsequently ascertained that the aluminium boom was out of round causing the issue.
For this visit we took the boom down and with a little ‘bush panel beating’ re circularised the boom end. With everything on the ground we were able to adjust and test fit things so we were sure that things would go back together when it was all up in the air for assembly.

We then fitted the reflector element and the radiating element to the boom, rigged the feedline and we were ready to extend the telescopic mast for testing.

This whole process sounds like a 5 minute task but all this took us about 5 hours.

The reflector of the cubical quad is a closed loop. We had initially not closed the loop as the length of the shorting wire was where the adjustment of front/back ratio was done.

Anyway, we measured the SWR, then lowered the whole antenna assembly, closed the reflector loops with some shorting wire and re-raised the antenna – and measured again.

The results were surprisingly good!

The SWR was quite flat across all three 10m, 15m and 20m ham bands. The lowest SWR (just below 1.5) was right in the low part of the SSB section (and so not that far from the CW section of the band) and even at the band edges the SWR was not higher than 1.5.

We tried rotating the antenna but quickly came across an issue where the wire termination on the reflecting element fouled the guy ropes. We lowered the antenna again and lifted the wire termination block as much as we could. Plus, we re-positioned two of the guy anchor points in closer to the mast to improve the angles. And then re-raised the telescopic mast.

We then hooked the antenna to a radio equipped with a pan-adapter and observed the signal strength of beacon signals. This was compromised a little by the fact that the beacons were DX and the ionosphere was causing some QSB. However, over an extended period of observation we feel that the antenna has a front/back ration somewhere in the region of 15-20dB. Which a very useful characteristic for our contesting operations.

As a parallel activity, we completed the replacement of the old kerb find laptop computers, with different operating systems, with three small form factor desktop machines all running the Windows 10 operating system. The desktop machines also have 10 USB ports which we need many of due to all the peripherals that are connected during contests. We also installed two 24″ monitors for each operator position and an external keyboard and mouse. This was done to improve the ergonomics and provide larger, brighter monitors with more screen real estate for the multiple windows we open up during contesting.

Raffy went through the process of cloning the HDDs the computers came equipped to SSD drives (for faster, crisper responses) and swapping the drives over.

So, in summary, we completed the tasks we set out to do and the contest site has been upgraded with a new steerable antenna and the operating environment has been upgraded too.

We are ready for some contesting.

73 Fred VK2WS

CQ WW CW Contest 2022

An intrepid band of CW contesters competed in the 48 hour 2022 CQ WW CW Contest over the weekend. We used the WARS contesting callsign VK2W.
The contest began at 1100 (local time) on Saturday the 26th of November and went until 1100 on Monday the 28th.

The previous weekend had seen some extremely strong westerly winds and one of the WARS club’s masts collapsed in these extreme winds. That mast had been holding up one end of the 20m dipole.
Three of the contesters visited the site a day early to make repairs and to finalise preparations for the following day.
It turns out that the mast had broken in three places, plus the kevlar core antenna radiating wire had broken too. I had thought that the kevlar cored wire was indestructible, but apparently not quite totally indestructible. The mast was repaired, and the dipole wire was repaired too. And then we re-erected the mast, and this time we placed a small water container on the halyard connected to the antenna wire to ensure a continuous tension and allow for any movement in the supports at either end.
We also lengthened the 10m dipole as much as we could. It was tuned for the SSB portion of the band and we hoped to get it better suited for CW operations.

We ran three rigs, each with an amplifier.
The operators in attendance were –
VK2AVH Simon
VK2IBE Barrie
VK2ICJ Chris
VK2RH Stephen
VK2WS Fred

How did we go?
At the end of the contest, we had 649 QSOs in the log.
Was this good, you ask?
Our previous best was 343 in 2020 and in 2019 we had 333. So, we achieved an 89% increase over our previous best result! Pretty darn fantastic, I think.

Interesting side notes:
• Chris’s partner Ruth comes along for these contests even though she is not a ham. Ruth is the most amazing cook. Ruth brought along homemade cupcakes (with a ham theme) and brownies to snack on. To add to that Ruth made a chili beef for dinner on Sunday evening. We had this meal while seated around a worktable in one of the outer buildings and dinner was awesome. Plus, the operators who were around for breakfast each morning got a very nice cooked breakfast. We were well taken care of.
• On late Saturday afternoon, near sunset, a very violent storm passed overhead and we had some very heavy rain accompanied by lightning and thunder. This went on for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the static being generated wiped out 40m for the best part of 3 to 4 hours. Later that evening the contest site was shrouded in very thick fog.
• In 2022 we made just one 160m contact in the log. This was with an Australian station VL2G. VL2G is located in Ulladulla and that is about 100km away in a straight line. Significantly, this was our first 160m contact ever, in any of the CQ WW CW contests we have entered.
• On other bands we worked the world. It was quite amazing the stations that were on the air that would normally be considered quite rare/exotic – Palestine, Brunei, Palau along with Chile and Peru in South America.
• For both the SSB and CW contests that we have recently entered, we have made a very large difference to the level of interstation interference that we were experiencing. Previously this interference made operating some bands, anywhere from very awkward to near impossible. It was frustrating. Over the last few months some of the team have spent considerable time investigating possible causes and solutions to the problem. What we have done now to fix the problem is to pay close attention to separating any extra lengths of feedline from each other, by pulling them out of the shack and arranging them on the ground for separation. For those band combinations where we still had a small problem, fitting a bandpass filter reduced the issue even further.
• We had the usual experience where we seem to be able to hear many stations that are unable to hear us. This is despite us running maximum legal power. The noise floor at Robertson is very low and so we can readily discern quite weak signals. Many of the signals that I was receiving that were quite readable, were not even moving the S-meter.
• The wildlife at the Robertson location is quite iconic. Besides the bird life, we were also dodging the kangaroos and wombats (they are out at night, and they are big) plus Chris and Ruth had an echidna scurry across the road as they drove in.
• VK2WS Fred, purchased a portable flagpole on eBay. It came with an Australian flag, lightweight aluminium snap shackles to clip on to the flag, plus a halyard to haul it up. The pole has a gold dome and a plastic pulley near the top plus a cleat to tie off the halyard on the lowest section. The flag was surplus to portable antenna mast requirements, so it was brought down to Robertson where we proudly flew it over the weekend during daylight hours on a short pole..

The higher frequency bands are really starting to come on. In previous years 40m was where we made most of the contacts, while this year 15m was clearly the best followed by 10m and 20m. 40m is now our 4th most productive band.

Contesting concluded at 1100 local time, and we had all the rigs, amplifiers, tools, masts and antennas packed away by 1300. Another 30 minutes to tidy up and we had all left the property by 1330.

The log is quite large and rather than list it here, a copy is in the files section.

73 Fred VK2WS

2022 Trans Tasman contest

The operations space during the contest
Searching the band

A crew of contesters competed in the 2022 Trans Tasman contest from the Robertson contest site. This contest was held on Saturday the 16th of July 2022.
We used the WARS club’s contest callsign VK2W.
We competed for the full 6 hours of the contest duration, from the start time at 1800 local time on Saturday evening, to 1159 Saturday.

In attendance were –
Skip Hodgson VK2ALR
Erik Housman VK2EJH
Sam Cannell VK2HAU
Bob Gilchrist VK2HH
Barrie Egerton VK2IBE
Chris Jacobs VK2ICJ
Bob Christie VK2NRC
Raffy Shammay VK2RF
Stephen Rapley VK2RH
Fred Lodden VK2WS

The plan was to perform all antenna and rig infrastructure installation during the day on the Saturday and then compete in the evening.
Upon arrival on site we worked to set up the dipoles for the three permissible bands, 160m, 80m and 40m, and set up the additional rigs in the shack along with networking them together so that we had three operational stations. We also set up a second 40m dipole antenna oriented at 90 degrees to the first one to provide some directional diversity.
We intended to utilise all three possible modes, SSB, CW and digital (RTTY).
We have three laptops set up as logging computers running N1MM+ and these were networked to permit the consistent handing out of sequence numbers per band, as per the rules, identify potential duplicate contacts and to permit easy band/mode changeovers. The importance of the networked logging computers cannot be understated when trying to prevent duplicate contacts in this environment of multiple operators and successive 2 hour blocks.

The contest is organised in 2 hour blocks and it essentially becomes 3, 2 hour, contests run consecutively. So, you can work a station once in each 2 hour block, and in each of those two hour blocks you can work that same station once on each of the possible modes.

We started operating on all three possible bands on all three modes. Given the number of operators, we changed the operator at each station every 30 minutes so that everyone could have some time operating in each 2 hour block.
Since we had three stations and there are three available bands, each station was connected to just one band. We had originally anticipated that we would need to swap around the rigs and bands to allow us to work RTTY mode contacts. Just two of the three rigs were RTTY capable and we would need to allow each of the RTTY rigs to work whatever RTTY was available on each band.
It turned out that there was very little RTTY traffic that we could see – perhaps just one signal. Because of this we did not need to swap around the antennas onto the rigs that could do RTTY and so each station remained connected to one antenna for the whole duration of the contest.

After 6 hours, at the conclusion of operations, we had 209 contacts in the log.
Total QSO: 209
160m 19 CW 41 SSB x25 multipliers
80m 1 CW 110 SSB x35 multipliers
40m 13 CW 25 SSB x25 multipliers
Total: 17,935 points

I compare this with the last time the WARS club competed in the Trans Tasman Contest in 2016, which was from the Rose Bay site, where the results were –
Total QSO: 121
160m: 2 CW, x 2 multipliers
80m: 33 CW, 74 SSB, x26 multipliers
40m: 5 CW, 7 SSB, x 6 multipliers

The greater number of multipliers (prefixes) in 2022 can be partly explained by Australia now having VJ and VL prefixes along with the traditional VK prefix. Many contesting stations are using these new callsigns.

Interestingly, on the RBN during the contest period, WK2W CQ calls were spotted 264 times at 36 reporting nodes. A few of the highest spot counts were from nodes in North America.

At the conclusion of the contest at midnight some operators stayed overnight and camped out, some slept in cars and some bedded down in the back storage room of the shack.
On Sunday morning we disassembled the antennas and radio equipment and packed things up before returning home.

Many thanks to all that came along. Thanks to Barrie for hosting us and providing the lunch catering as well as doing the run to the local pizza shop. It is very much appreciated.

73 Fred VK2WS


A crew of contesters competed in the 2022 CQ WPX RTTY contest from the Robertson contest site. This contest was held over the weekend of the 12th and 13th of February.
We used the WARS club’s contest callsign VK2W.
We competed from the contest start time of 1100 local time on Saturday morning to around 0130 on Sunday morning, took a break, and then resumed operations at daybreak on the Sunday and continued to 1530 on Sunday afternoon.

In attendance were –
Barrie VK2IBE
Stephen VK2RH
Fred VK2WS

Upon arrival on Saturday we initially worked to erect a dipole for 10m and later (when the rain eased off) another dipole for 20m. These antennas supplemented the permanently installed 15m and 40 dipoles.
The mast and 10m antenna erection activities occurred in persistent drizzling rain and it wasn’t long before we were very wet despite wearing rain gear.

We initially started operating on 10m. We made 21 contacts before the waterfall became rather blank. So, we switched to 15m and continued.
Towards evening we switched to 40m.
Over the weekend we tried 20m several times however there were no RTTY signals to be found on that band. In fact the whole band appeared rather quiet for signals of any type. We suspected the antenna may have a fault, so we replaced it. We had an extra dipole for 20m already tuned and was quite simple to drop the original and install the new one (and it wasn’t raining). However, the 20m band remained rather dead to us.
We repeated the pattern of using 10m and 15m on Sunday. On Sunday afternoon, many of the stations that we could copy were duplicates as we already had them in the log. So our QSO rate dropped off.
At the conclusion of operations we had 141 RTTY contacts in the log.
Interestingly the RBN had 22 nodes report receiving the VK2W RTTY CQ calls, with a total of 205 RBN reception reports.

With people needing to return to Sydney at a reasonable time on Sunday we took down the temporarily installed mast and antennas and departed the contest site at 4pm.
Many thanks to all that came along. Thanks to Barrie for hosting us and providing the catering. It is much appreciated.

73 Fred VK2WS

VK2RH watching the decode window to see if anyone new answers our CQ
The team

2022 ARRL RTTY Roundup

On Sunday the 9th of January, VK2IBE, VK2ALR and myself, VK2WS, competed in this year’s ARRL RTTY Roundup from the Robertson contesting site.
We used the Waverley club’s VK2W contesting callsign.
We spent Saturday fixing up two dipoles (well, one didn’t really require fixing at all, we just needed to select the correct (mislabelled) feedline and getting the MMTTY digital mode software plugin to work with the N1MM logging program.
Since this RTTY activity was a first time experiment for us, we aimed to work the contest during more ‘normal’ daylight hours and were targetting 0900 – 1500 local time. The contest runs for 30 hours, but we just wanted to see how we would go.
As it turns out our period of operations meant that 40m was not really working for DX. While there were a number of local nets happening on SSB as well as a WIA broadcast, there were no RTTY signals. We eventually switched to 15m (our other dipole antenna) and there we found some stations. Initially we got half a dozen QSOs with US stations (California, Oregon, Washington and one from Virginia) but after that it was only stations around the Pacific.
We got 19 QSOs in the log. All QSOs were on 15m. Having a 20m antenna might have been fruitful – perhaps next time.
We had fun working out and refining operational practices with the software and the mode. It was quite a learning experience.
The log is below:
21101 RY 2022-01-08 2355 VK2W 599 2 K9YC 599 CA
21102 RY 2022-01-09 0006 VK2W 599 3 KA6BIM 599 OR
21105 RY 2022-01-09 0011 VK2W 599 4 K6XX 599 CA
21094 RY 2022-01-09 0044 VK2W 599 5 W1SRD 599 CA
21094 RY 2022-01-09 0048 VK2W 599 6 K7RU 599 WA
21098 RY 2022-01-09 0101 VK2W 599 7 W6BB 599 VA
21098 RY 2022-01-09 0104 VK2W 599 8 ZL3VZ 599 0006
21084 RY 2022-01-09 0137 VK2W 599 9 RA0FLP 599 0120
21085 RY 2022-01-09 0139 VK2W 599 10 ZL3P 599 0131
21096 RY 2022-01-09 0159 VK2W 599 11 JA1BJI 599 0128
21095 RY 2022-01-09 0239 VK2W 599 12 VJ4T 599 0033
21098 RY 2022-01-09 0244 VK2W 599 13 JA7ZP 599 0014
21098 RY 2022-01-09 0246 VK2W 599 14 KH6ZM 599 0441
21092 RY 2022-01-09 0256 VK2W 599 15 BD3CB 599 0073
21098 RY 2022-01-09 0302 VK2W 599 16 JA1WSK 599 0104
21095 RY 2022-01-09 0303 VK2W 599 17 VK4SN 599 0042
21091 RY 2022-01-09 0309 VK2W 599 18 VK4SE 599 0001
21092 RY 2022-01-09 0334 VK2W 599 19 JA1IAZ 599 0035
21092 RY 2022-01-09 0335 VK2W 599 20 VK7BO 599 0014
73 Fred VK2WS

When the results were published in June 2022, and with VK2W entered in the multi operator, single transmitter, high power category, globally we came 8th. (Disclosure – there were just eight entries in this category 🙂 ).
Additionally, in our region of Oceania, we came 1st. (Disclosure – there was just one entry in this category and it was VK2W 🙂 ).
Still, we got in there and gave it our best shot.
73 Fred VK2WS