A couple of memories of what I trust, was an enjoyable and challenging day of National Topband DF for competitors in Team GB...
I find it difficult to judge the standard of the events I stage. For example, what I thought would be a relatively easy but challenging Club Hunt earlier this year when cover was next to impossible to find, albeit darkness helped out, turned out to be tough with only two competitors finding me just within time. I asked around and the consensus seemed to support the 'make it challenging and difficult' approach.
I set out to try making the drive between stations no more than 30-minutes including bearing taking, i.e. good technique needed, tough sites, with minimum time on the road. My station was an inspired find, in a way, noting a path shown on the map from the housing estate into the woody bit just on the edge of the map. Walking in for the first time I thought I'd struck gold, or maybe oil, it looked to be a tremendous DF site for a national event. Brian's site, some 3-mintues walk from the pub and tea, was found by accident the week before when out for a walk from home one evening, deep mud and water caused a detour from the normal route from my back garden to the pub and I found myself stuck in a field with loads of cover and no obvious way to escape. The idea was Brian's site needed good bearing taking to pin down as there was nothing shown on the map - unless one wanted to end up in Lydiard Park - whereas my site would need good technique when looking for the operator on-site.
The aerial at Brian's site was little more than 20-feet long connecting the transmitter to a short piece of barbed wire fence close to Brian's hide. A longer wire of somewhere between 100-150 yards was hung along the tree-line in the field with an earth stake close to the radiating barbed wire fence while being tied to another fence at the far end. We left quite a motorway behind us into the hide when setting out the station the morning of the contest. Had competitors decided to park up at the tea venue, after a 2-minute run they would have been on-site. Being just the opposite side of Swindon from the start we were keen to reduce power output hence we swapped the original long-wire aerial for the short connection to the fence.
My site was close on 20km from the start, albeit a main trunk road linked the two. After my initial visit it took another three to put up aerial wire, host the event, and fifth to take down the aerial wire. As we know (and my thanks to all organisers) this is the input required when putting on a national event. I estimate I strung up a total of 500 yards or maybe a little more wire designed to challenge competitors when on-site as I felt the cover was not the thickest (Bill's club site last week for example) although there was plenty of it. I made a 4-way tee above the path which split more or less north, south, east and west alongside a wire fence. The transmitter was connected to this tee, as was all the wire on-site. Although perhaps challenging to follow, and agreed there was plenty of it, I did feel competitors would find me in maybe 20-30, perhaps 40 minutes at most. I buried myself into and lay down under some thick cover - you'll find no deck chairs on a Swindon event.
Mark C was the first competitor I remember hearing and seeing on-site. As always seems to happen, he was not coming from the direction I expected, the aerial going in the opposite direction from me more or less. Many more competitors arrived, I well remember thinking Alan S had seen me twice during the afternoon when he looked straight at me. I was surprised that people were crashing around all around me but no one seemed able to find me. I increased transmissions with gaps of something like 2-3, 4-5 minutes only, but I guess the 4-way aerial split covered the area with RF and therefore did little to give away my location albeit I was connected to one end/corner of the assembly. It was something approaching an hour since competitor one arrived on site after which I was found by everyone within ten minutes of one another. Thanks Paul C for your kind comments re the site!
Brian had less luck than I with just two competitors finding him, one by accident after turning the wrong way on to a dual carriageway. By all accounts both competitors failed to find the said motorways into the hide preferring to smash their way through an all but impenetrable hedge. He too put out numerous transmissions attempting to tempt competitors into his site after finding me.
I hope I can be forgiven for choosing my local pub for a tea venue. Others will know when putting on an event solo - although thanks to Cathy for helping with aerials on my site and Brian on the day for his site and operating the transmitter, and Peter for starting the event and confirming signals into the start - arranging tea can be a real pain. With costs souring these days I think it a good idea to let competitors choose what they eat and pay.
I am sorry all but one competitor found just the one station. Both Brian and I tried to get you all in with close on continuous transmissions for much of the afternoon while not giving away our hides until time began to fade away. I will add however, if I were to compete in a similar event with tough hides and almost continuous transmissions, then I'd be very happy although likely feel very frustrated at the time. I'll leave other to decide if I achieved my ambitions in making the Swindon event tough yet achievable, competitors benefiting from sound technique and bearing taking, rounded off with a good tea with plenty of banter.
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