Day two of the HFC arrived a bit too soon after a late night of boozing, but some how we managed to get up early and make it in time for a proper English breakfast! which sorted us out ready for a good day of lectures. I decided to sit in on the Contest University stream which was being sponsored by ICOM. Although I’m not a beginner into contesting in fact I’ve been doing it for a number of years, but you can always pick up something new or some helpful tips!

First up was Lee (G0MTN) who started with the Joys of Contesting, covering why people contest and the types of contests which you can actually take part in, which we all know can vary by large amounts, for beginners it gave a good insight to what they might like to try first while they get interested.

Next up after a coffee break which at this venue was free and you could have as much tea, coffee, hot chocolate (my preference) as you like! so you could be nicely topped up throughout the day, was contest operating procedures by Roger (G3SWX) covering what to expect when operating and how to actually handle yourself on the air like not giving your callsign 10 times, he also covered operating as SO2R and that if you lose your run frequency because you QSY’d to the other radio you can’t expect to have it back.

At the end of this session I decided to take some time out, and prop up the bar for a while and socialise you could also check your email, twitter etc as there was free wifi covering the whole venue! after some lunch I returned back to the lectures Propagation by Steve G0KYA was insightful even though I’ve been licensed since 2002 I’m no expert at this subject he covered the basics of solar physics, explaining things like A and K indexes explaining that the geomagentic field A index is an average over 24 hours were as the K index shows a three hourly effect.

Steve then went on to explain what needs to be considered

  • Solar Flux
  • Geomagentic Disturbances
  • Direction signals travel
  • Time of day and year
  • East west/North south polar
  • Bands
  • Path (long, short, hops)
  • Working mults (important in some contests)

He also covered some of propagation prediction programs like W6EL Prop, VOA Cap and ACE HF explaining they use different algorithms and will normally display different results! but do offer a good guide on what to expect and can help plan what bands your going to use during the contest and when you should expect to work JA, USA etc.

Next session was on Antennas for contesting by Steve G3UFY, who covered antennas which UK gardens can cope like verticals and dipoles explaining what you should expect out of them. He also covered some of the larger antennas which most people dream of like large quads and beams! After this followed a 30minute break before going back to Contest Strategy by Dave (G4BUO).

Who covered what you should do before contest like sorting antennas and sleeping arrangements and food so you have a clear idea of what your going to be doing, he also covered during the contest giving tips like don’t check email, surf the web or even watch the telly! as this means your not 100% focused at the task at hand. Dave also covered post-contest like remembering to send your logs and make sure you correct your log so that its error free! He also said that’s it worth noting down some notes about the contest to help with next years (I do this with my blog!)

The final lecture I attended was Station Equipment & Layout by Paul (G6PZ) who has his on super station, Paul covered how you should layout your shack so that’s its ergonomically correct and comfortable like placing the monitor at eye height and the keyboard and mouse in front of it so you don’t have to stretch around to find them. He also went on to talking about what equipment you need for SO1R, SO2R and M/* style contest efforts and things you should make sure you have more so in a M/* style event so you don’t suffer from any problems.

At the end of the Contest Uni stream if you had attended more than 4 lectures you got issued a certificate to prove the fact which was a nice touch and gave you something to put on the shack wall.

The evening was taken up with socialising and the dinner, afterwards us youngsters hanged out in the bar drinking beer in till the small hours.