BERU 2009 - ZL4CT                                                                                               Contest report -17th March 2009

This contest was the first ever use of my new 'secondary' callsign ZL4CT, operating from the ZM4A contest station near Dunedin, in the far south-east corner of the South Island of New Zealand. The ZM4A station is at a spectacular location called Saddle Hill - 10km S of Dunedin (locator RE54ec)  - the QTH of Peter ZL4LV. The take-off to the UK and Europe on both the long and short paths is excellent (only due South is screened).  I chose to use ZL4CT instead of my main callsign ZL1CT because I was in the ZL team and a balance of available mults (ZL1, ZL2, ZL3, ZL4) in the team would help our overall score.

Last year I operated GB5CC, making 636 QSOs, so this year was going to be an interesting contrast.

When you are 19200km from the UK during an extended sunspot minimum, you do not have great expectations about doing well in this contest - I was wrong ! The contest went very well from start to finish and I was able to work stations for almost the whole 24 hrs, which was a new experience for me in BERU - in the UK the Sunday morning can often be very slow, with few new stations to work. 

I made a total of 514 QSOs, less 14 dupes = 500 valid QSOs (less about 6 non-scoring QSOs with ZL4) for a claimed score of 5555 pts.  (Operating time = 22 hrs)

WinTest does not seem to show the number of bonuses correctly - I worked 155 bonuses.   Results (unchecked) :

   Band   QSOs (excl dupes) Mults (DXCC) HQ stns
80 96 14 2
40 261 25 6
20 134 24 4
15 9 5 1
10 0 0 0
Totals 500 68 13

Preparations - I put quite a lot of effort into temporary antennas for this contest. From the outset it was clear that this contest was going to be played out on the low bands, so I decided to concentrate on 80/40/20 and not bother too much with 15 and 10m.

The ZM4A antennas on 80m are not suitable for DX working, so I installed a new top-loaded vertical with 2 elevated radials. I needed to test this antenna for my ZK2V DXpedition in 2 months time ( ).  The 'vertical' part of the antenna was only 40' - a 12m Spiderbeam pole, so the 2 top-loading wires were quite long (about 5m) and I was pleasantly surprised at how well this antenna worked.

On 40m ZM4A has an antenna that we installed last year - amazingly this antenna is almost as old as the BERU contest itself - it is a World War II whip antenna which was used for the ZC1 military radio - it is about 33' long copper-clad steel and we added 2 elevated radials. It has the original rope guys and base insulator - it looks terrible but boy does it work well ! 

On 20m we removed the ZM4A Hy-Gain Explorer14 tribander and replaced it with my Force12 EF-320 3ele monoband yagi - this yagi is the actual one which was used by the ZL9CI DXpedition.

On 15m I installed an N4GG array - again testing for ZK2V - I was not able to assess properly if this antenna is any real use or not.

The contest - In NZ, BERU starts at 11pm local time - the temptation might be to start on 80m but a quick listen there about 15 mins before the contest started made me decide to start on 40m instead. I immediately was called by a whole bunch of VE and VK stations, then when Clive GM3POI called me after only 9 minutes of the contest I thought 'wah - this might go better than expected' ! Followed soon after by Chris G3SJJ, Peter G3LET and Eric G0CGL.

One of the problems from NZ, not just in BERU but in other contests, is that often only one band is open at one time - this makes some decisions easy, but also means that 'moving' multipliers can be difficult. This year, there were times when 80, 40 and 20 were all open at once, but I decided to concentrate on working pile-ups and hope that the mults would call me - I could probably have increased my score a bit, but it is a difficult balance to strike. ZL-team member Brian ZL1AZE's great score with fewer QSOs shows how it is essential to move mults for a good score overall.

I slept only 2 hrs, around 0200-0400 local time - when I woke up I felt worse than when I went to sleep, so I mis-read the serial number ZL-team member Gary ZL2IFB was sending when I tuned across his signal and convinced myself he was only 20 QSOs behind - this woke me up and made me work stations as fast as possible !

I made a lot of band changes - as soon as the ratemeter dropped, I was looking for another better band. This makes it rather difficult to describe which bands were best at any given time.

80m - some UK big stations wkd around 1830z.  I went fairly early to 80m LP and that paid off - called immediately by Gavin GM0GAV then loads of G's wkd from 0600-0700z approx.  Coincidentally I heard F5IN jamming Dave G4BUO as Dave mentioned. Merde !

40m - great conditions - hearing the bigger UK sigs for many hours out of the 24. Best UK times 1000-1040z, 1630-2000z, 0400-0600z, 0700-0930z.

20m - patchy - wkd UK from 1100-1400z, then around 2340z. The long-path did open, but only to northern UK - my friend Jim GM0NAI from near Inverness was a booming signal at 0810 and I worked John G4RCG at 0933z.  In the last 3 hours of the contest I was hearing a lot of UK stations CQing on 20m (e.g. Don G3BJ, Justin G4TSH, Dave G4BUO) - all with fluttery S5 signals which did not seem to peak in any particular direction.

15m - not great - a few mults worked but I only called CQ spasmodically there.

10m - only heard ZL-team member John ZL1BYZ CQing on Sunday morning and could not raise him.

DX worked - not a great volume of bonuses but still some good stuff - only heard and worked Nigel 6Y8XF for the first time with 20 mins to go. Other interesting bonuses : VP8, VK9C, H40, VR2 (mmm...does this count?), J8, V4, VY1, VQ9.  On 20m, I was called by four VU2 stations in a row, including HQ station VU2LYX - thanks guys!  Propagation to the Caribbean did not seem good, despite my efforts to look for bonuses from that part of the world.

I ended up making 283 QSOs with UK stations - 55% of my total QSOs.   134 of these QSOs were with G3 stns.

Equipment - FT-1000MP MkV driving Alpha 76A amp - 500W o/p. Had an FT-840 set-up as a second radio for SO2R, but used it only for checking other bands because of low-level but annoying CAT noise on the RX audio.

Software - WinTest 3.25.1 - the best !  (Sorry but I don't like N1MM on CW - or any other mode to be honest) - 2 networked PCs.

Thanks - to Ken ZL4NR and Peter ZL4LV and the Dunedin Club (NZART Branch 30) for the use of the ZM4A contest station and for helping install antennas.

Summary - I really enjoyed the contest. I'm sure that the location of ZM4A means that 'antipodal focussing' plays a big part in enhancing the path to the UK on 40 and 80m  (maybe that should be 'antipode-al focussing' ?!)  I am sure that the ZL1s and 2s will regain the advantage when the sunspots return and the HF bands come to life.

Great to work many old friends - thanks for the QSOs.  Thanks to Steve G3UFY and Quin G3WRR at GB5CC for calling me on 80 and 40m.

Only 2 negatives - both right at the end of the contest - a loud signal started sending QRL, QRL after I had been working stations on a frequency for about 10 minutes, then started sending 'di-dah, di-dah' i.e. jamming (he has an iambic keyer) and then they seemed to take exception to me sending 'sad, sad' hi. I only waited a few seconds before QSYing.

Secondly, the folly of sending anything other than 599 was demonstrated clearly - about 15 mins from the end a G3 sent me 579 - I dutifully tried to edit the 599 and accidentally wiped the serial number which I had copied correctly. I was working the next station before I noticed this and my tired brain could not even remember the serial number from 60s ago (an age thing I guess) - the second PC screen rescued me from one other instance of accidental deletion earlier, but was no help this time. Later I entered what I remembered as the serial number, but it showed that 599 is the *only* thing you should ever send.

Thanks for working ZL4CT - see you next year I hope .... probably from Scotland ....

73 Chris ZL1CT / GM3WOJ

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