Field Day 2011 Recap

by: Tray Murphy, N4PAT

The ARRL Field Day event was held this last weekend, June 25 and 26, 2011. Members of RARC and RATS decided to join forces this year to provide a quality event for both organizations. Chris Walker, N4CBW, and Robert Orndorff, W4BNO chaired the event for our clubs.

Hams began gathering at the Laurel Recreation Area at 1400UTC, Saturday, June 25. By noon, the two dozen folks were engaged in setting up the four operating positions for the event. We set up a 144Mhz and 50MHz station using an Icom 746 PRO II feeding a 2M beam, and a 6M halo about 20 feet up on a mast. Two HF stations were set up. One was a 746 PRO II feeding a 160M full wave horizontal loop, the other was an Icom 718 feeding a 160M full wave delta loop. Finally, a Get on the Air (GOTA) station was operational with an Icom IC-718, but that proved troublesome with the 718 next door to it, and rotating the antenna and feedline didn’t help, so a Yaesu 897D was later replaced with it, feeding  a 40M full wave loop. Lessons learned; much of the reason we have Field Day! Logging was accomplished with the N1MM logging program, with all four stations’ laptop wirelessly  networked to provide combined logging and dupe checking.  Power was supplied by a generator. This allowed us to operate as a class 2A station – two primary stations, multiple operators, with emergency power (the GOTA position and VHF position are “freebies” in the Field Day rules).

By 1700UTC, everything was ready, and we had an hour to test the rigs, and socialize before the event officially began at 1800UTC (2:00PM EDT, remember, UTC is EDT + 4 hours).  We hit the ground running with all four positions being manned as we got to 1800UTC. The bands were open, and we ran on 40, 20 and 15 meters simultaneously and continuously, with contacts also being made on 6M. 2M contacts remained elusive all weekend.
Naturally, there were plenty of snacks, and lots of cold water on hand, though the temperatures were in the comfortable 80’s, with low humidity. Operators rotated in and out all afternoon and into the evening, and at times, operating/logging pairs were approaching 130 contacts an hour on phone. It’s a lot of fun as well as challenging to be at the bottom of pile-ups like this! It’s great practice for DXpeditions.

Dinner was hot dogs and hamburgers with all the fixings, pasta salad, and cupcakes. The meat was all grilled on site so it was hot and fresh!

We had plenty of operators for overnight operation, and a highlight of the overnight shift was an antenna modeling class led by Robert, W4BNO. Contacts were made from start to finish!

Sunday morning was another beautiful day, and several hams showed up to help dismantle the operation and pack it up. It’s fairly typical for Field Day operations to start to wind down about noon local time, and the same was true with us. The two hams who had made it all the way through, Rob Marshall, KI4MCW, and Bryan Walker, K4RKR  looked none-the-worse for wear, and still had plenty of energy to help take down and pack up. Chris Walker even made a special dip and chips dish to celebrate the end of a successful Field Day operation.  We were packed up and ready to drive home by 1:30PM EDT.

The log showed 44 hams in attendance, with 4 guests. We had Joe Lander, KE4EUE, come by as both a media representative from the SERA Journal, and as the official designee of VDEM. Steve Crow, KG4PEQ, was also a member of a served agency as a SKYWARN coordinator.  SGT K.R. Burnett of the Henrico Police Department also visited our operation.  Three operators were under 18 years of age. We made nearly 1200 contacts over the operating period.  We had a mess of 80M contacts overnight, and even 10M opened up late at night and early into Sunday. We also made around 95 contacts on 6M to places as far-flung as Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin! That is more than double the number of VHF contacts we’ve ever made (at least by RATS operations in years past).

Art Williams, W4TY, copied the ARRL Field Day Bulletin. Extra points! The logs will be submitted under the W4RAT and W4ZA (GOTA) call signs, so look for the results in QST and on the web at arrl.org; it usually takes a few months before they are published. And of course, as is the case with any Field Day operation (and isn’t this the real reason we do this?), we figured out a few things that hadn’t occurred to us during planning. More on those when we begin preparing  for another great Field Day in 2012.

If the smiles on everyone’s faces were any indication, everyone in attendance had a great time meeting with fellow hams in person and on the air! Thanks to everyone who lent support and your operating expertise to the effort, it was time well spent!


RATS/RARC Field Day Photos Online

Here are some links to photos of the RATS/RARC Field Day: