VK4HH and VK7GH Clean up the VK Shires

Pretty obvious from the results of the VK Shires that the ladies have cleaned up…

We asked the ladies how they did so well?

Can you please describe your station’s setup to help our VK3 friends perform better in the RD Contest?

Di and Catherine were happy to respond :
From Di VK4DI
As Bill VK4ZD & I usually operate either Multi 2 or Multi Single depending on the contest type and duration we have a few strategies to get us through.
Antenna-wise we are spoilt with 5 acres and 2 x 2 element 5 band quads: one is 19.5m and the other is around 15m high, 2 x 160m delta loops in the trees around 20-30m up, and a 320 m loop of no particular shape strung up through our neighbour’s and our properties also around 18-30m up. We also have a 10/12/15/17m 13 element Andy Coman Yagi which currently has a faulty rotator so is not being used. (it’s on the to be fixed list with a different rotator)
The 20/40m Yagi is about to be built.
We have 2 dedicated stations and use a 403A antenna switch and a set of VA6AM high pass filters for each band.
We both use Radio Sport CF60 headsets which give better audio results than our Heil ones and are way more comfy on the ears with great noise cancelling, and of course we use footswitches to allow free hands for the important work of logging, tuning, searching etc. We have good supportive office chairs as well. We have recently invested in large curved monitors so we can display what we want easily for aging eyesight!
We historically used VKCL for logging but are now moving over to N1MM especially as Alan VK4SN writes great UDC’s for it.
If we are going into a 24 or 48 hour contest I usually put a meal in the slow cooker and it’s ready whenever we need to take a break. We usually have a few snacks, avoiding carb heavy ones and trying for lighter ones like fruit etc and always no alcohol. Tea, Coffee, lots of water & the odd soft drink.
We also look at the expected propagation as well as checking out real conditions in the days leading up to the contest and then devise a plan for who does what band, at what times and what times are best for bonus points or extra multipliers. If possible, we try to take the most effective “quiet” time as our rest time. We tend to sit as a run station and then Search and Pounce once it gets a bit slower: using the dual VFO’s makes that easier.
We also do regular “butt in chair” swaps if only one band is firing.
As yet we haven’t done a voice recording to calling CQ so we keep some throat lozenges and the water close by. We currently only do SSB as our CW skills aren’t good enough yet (work in progress)!
Going portable is different, we just take the caravan, and OCF and the IC7300 and batteries and a generator. We have a laptop we use for logging and sit under a gazebo. We only do Multi Single then. We do have a Tarheel screw driver antenna that hasn’t been installed yet. Hopefully that will happen in the near future.
Contesting is all about having some fun, enjoying the hobby and occasionally getting a piece of paper or a plaque.
Diane Main VK4DI / AG5JI (Contest call VK4HH)

Catherine VK7GH also passed on some tips 

I also have been enjoying the contesting aspect of amateur radio for a number of years now, initially as VK4GH and now as VK7GH. We moved our towers and antennas from VK4, and have re-installed them, and also kept our Elecraft K3 transceiver, and not upgraded that. We do have a second K3 with a built in tuner for when we go portable, so that we can leave the home station set up.
The radio shack is in a small office off the living area of the house, so it is nice and warm in winter, with a comfortable office chair, headphones and a footswitch on a footrest, so I can easily reach it. With my OM John VK7IO on hand a few days before the contest, we test the gear, download the latest version of VKCL and/or N1MM, and have a good read of the rules, and any files I need. I make a decision on whether I am going to do the whole contest, or a shortened one, if available. Repeat times are also noted, they can be blocks of x hours, or x hours between contacts, luckily VKCL lets you know if you are wrong, but it is best to know. For the VK Shires contest, I also have open the spreadsheet of the shires for reference. For the RD Contest, work out how many years licenced.
During the contest, I will work bands according to the appropriate propogation for the time of day, and occasionally I will look at the grey line during international contests.
Fortunately we have a Steppir antenna (13m high) with 40m capabilities, so this enables me to have a beam on that band. From my current QTH when beaming to VK5, I can pick up VK6, but I usually just leave it pointing a touch east of north. I will hear a kiwi accent and move it around to pick up those contacts, and every now and then, beam and call towards the NW for VK5 & 6.
The new antennas that we do have now are 2 beverage antennas, one east-west, and one north-south. These are low cost antennas, you just need a little bit of room. I have found this year in the VK/ZL contests that there has been quite a lot of noise, and many signals were down in the noise. I had good success putting out my call, and if I heard a weak signal down in the noise, would ask them to call again, and I could switch to the north-south receive antenna for a much better, several dB, signal. That is how I was able to get Onno VK6FLAB in my log in the VK Shires contest.
You may not have a beam for 40m, but maybe you can experiment with listening on a couple of your antennas, and even if you can’t transmit on an alternate one, you may be able to hear better.
For 80 and 160 I have a few options of a 160m loop, full size 80m vertical (when not blown down), and a doublet, and swap between them.
During the contest, I will run for a while, but tend to get bored if no one comes back to me, and I go for a “wander” around the band. I do make good use of the voice recorder on the K3, with looping, and “might” even look at Facebook, play a game, or do a jigsaw on the computer in the quiet times. It is the OM’s job to bring me water and lots of cups of tea, but no alcohol, and also make me breakfast in the mornings of the contest. Dinner is usually very quick and easy, but I do stop to eat it, a good excuse. For contests going all night, I will stay up for half an hour or so of the block that starts after about 10pm, and if there is a block starting early in the morning (6am onwards), I will get up especially early. This maximises the repeats with the serious contestors. I also find Sunday mornings there are a lot of new contacts on the band who were not on the previous day.
I do like the feature now available in VKCL to use OMNIrig, which records the frequency used for the contacts, rather than just the band as in the past. I always export my contest files to my main log file, and like that the frequency is recorded for any QSL info. I also add to my main log any notes I may have made during the contest, like name, QTH or state (US).