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13 Oct 2016


The RSGB Contests Committee announced that the LVARS have been placed 2nd in the 2016 VHF Field Day low power section.

This involved a lot of hard work in the run-up to the contest as explained by Victor, GI4LKG,aided and abetted (or should that be hindered) by Wee Andrew, MI0BPB.

There is a tradition in the Lagan Valley ARS that, once per year, the Wednesday before VHF field day a few members of the club take a few minutes from a club night to discuss the arrangements for this contest. A sked is then set up on 2m SSB for the next night to test the transceiver, keyer, voice keyer and laptop. It is considered that the antennas do not require testing as they worked the previous year and have sat in a pile with out moving ever since.

We have found careful planning like this rarely fails us.

Friday evening is left to test the batch of beer that is being taken to the site..can never be too careful.
Finally on Saturday wives are instructed what sandwiches to make. When this fails fry-up ingredients are purchased and, if there is room, put in the cool box with the beer.

This contest is a team effort with various members having their duties to carry out bringing with them vans, antennas, generator and our beloved “roll-a-long”. A sort of horse box for hams, only not as clean. It takes about 1 hour to tow it to the site in the Dromara Hills. It is a beautiful location with stunning views looking across the Mourne Mountains, Isle of Man up to bonnie Scotland and this year we were blessed with great weather.

It is in this “ham box” that we operate 2m and we have a gas ring to make tea and fry everything else. The 2m yagi is braced against this box and kept vertical with ropes, the Armstrong method is used to turn it.

6m and 4m are operated from a van a short distance away and the antennas for this are mounted on a small trailer tower. This sometimes causes interference but normally not too bad.
Quick tests of the stations are carried out. This is where the intense preparation pays off with the station working first time. A quick snack is eaten and maybe a little tinnie sipped. It should be pointed out the same persons beer is drunk at this time every year but names will not be mentioned as it will show up those who are too miserable to get their own.

By now the tension is palpable, the hours count down to minutes, then seconds. People stand around uneasily, palms sweaty, fingers twitch, the odd head, 3,2,1 hit the button cq contest GI4GTY/P! Anoraks are GO!
Apart from the beer one of the nice things about the contest weekend is seeing the calls you work every year, some taking part for many years. Some of these clubs are almost as good as the Lagan Valley club, but in 2013 not quite!

With fewer people taking part in recent years it was decided to enter the qrp section reducing the amount of people required to run and set up the stations, an unfortunate reality these days. A sure way of knowing if lack of numbers or increased age is affecting your FD..count the empty cans the next morning. Less than a bin bag? It’s affecting you!

Probably like a lot of clubs away from the centre of activity the other useful trick is the voice keyer. It would have been a dream of our forefathers to fry a sausage, drink a can and call cq all at the same time, now we would be lost without it.

As the evening progresses a few people may turn up, normally phoning ahead (rather than the radio!) to check the order for the Chinese and the beer holding. In 2011 a bloke with a gun turned up, though we were relieved to find out he was hunting rabbits not geeks.

Most years about 4 people camp over at the site with others living close by, and looking after numero uno, going home to a warm bed.

Things then kick early the next morning, with the 6m antenna being switched for the 4m yagi, made easy on the tower and then the remaining food being fried.

As the morning goes on and those that slept in a cosy bed finally arrive at the site operators are swapped to give everyone a play and a chance to be part of the winning team!

As is tradition at the end of the contest, things are packed up as quickly as humanly possible with the antennas being lowered and the rest grabbing their respective kit and running. To see this well oiled human machine in action is truly awe inspiring.

Ed is then left to tow our beloved roll-a-long home, behind his John Deere 6400 tractor, at 10mph. I hope he makes it… should hear on the next club night.


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