The inaugural Swindon National Qualifier began in May looking for hidden station sites. Power lines, watery bits, and other obstacles designed to deceive were considered when scrutinising the map. The southern site was visited first and immediately selected. The Swindon site was selected Saturday afternoon before the hunt, although the Country Park was added to the list around a month before. The number of power lines overhead, the canal, river, and railway, seemed just too good to be true for a DF station. I wanted the sites to be within 10km of each other, but the quality of the sites persuaded me they would set a stiff but fair test and warranted their selection. Both sites took 4 hours plus to set up, each with 500-600 meters of wire.
The sites were designed to keep competitors running around and to work out where the operator is hidden. Station ‘A’ to the South, operated by Andy Collett, comprised a horse-shoe shaped aerial circling the clearing. The far end nearest the most likely run-in was connected to earth, while the other end was left ‘hanging’ over the other side of the river. The transmitter was teed in to the main aerial in the top of a tree and intended to be invisible, although the wire to the station was deliberately left open close to the tee for competitors to follow. Most of the aerial was hidden in the trees, especially the final few yards in to the station operator.
Competitors were first heard on site around half two. Transmissions seemed to reduce the volume of the shouts and whistles. Later it was learnt the signal peaked all around the clearing tending towards the earthed end of the aerial, exactly as intended. I was glad to hear most people parked by my car (deliberately parked) and followed the path in to the lively end of the aerial. Steve Stone was first in at 15:00, all remaining competitors coming in one by one until Paul Clark joined me at half three.
Station ‘B’ in Swindon operated by Colin Boyce comprised a long wire with several tees and earth stakes. A couple of wires were ‘thrown’ over the canal aiming to tempt competitors to follow yours truly across the canal. A length of wire, terminated in an earth stake, was laid under the main power lines to give competitors something to investigate on the run in. The station however, was on the other side of the river, the small bridge (not marked on the map) being the easiest crossing just beyond the aerial. Further tees and an earth stake helped to deceive competitors before finding the operator about six feet from the ground in a sizeable tree.
Three competitors found two stations, Bill Pechey with twelve seconds to spare. Andrew Mead was following his DF set around numerous peaks through the clearing on the ‘A’ station when Philip found me around ten past four to win. Geoff Foster followed a few minutes later.
On taking down the Swindon station aerial today, I was pleased to see some sizeable tracks into and through the canal, and much thrashing on both sides of the river. It will be interesting to compare with the Southern station later this week. I trust a good time was had by all, the time off work and sleepless nights proving worthwhile, more so this being my first time running a National Qualifier.
One question - How many competitors will join me on the next Swindon event?Andy Collett
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