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BERU, OR MORE CORRECTLY, ‘THE COMMONWEALTH CONTEST’ 2016

I have entered the BERU contest many times, sometimes from the home QTH and sometimes from my narrow-boat ‘Constance’ somewhere on the canal system. This year I decided to operate from the boat at a quiet location about 3 miles south of Banbury on the South Oxford Canal.

The rig used was my Yaesu FT-897 running 100w into a trapped dipole/inverted ‘V’. Power to be supplied from my pure-sine 1kVA generator. The trapped dipole is a 100w version of the QRP model which I made for my Australia trip. The laptop was running N1MM+ with a G4ZLP keyer.

Left: The operating position.

Above left, right and below: The fibre-glass mast holding the centre feed point of the dipole at about 22 feet above the canal. The ends of the 80m section were about 6 feet above the canal. The cranked TV mast holds the 3G dongle for Internet connectivity.

Meals were taken at the operating position. Can’t miss that important extra point or two!

Promlems? Yes I had one or two problems. All the kit was tested from my back garden at home. The system as tested included the generator and the power supply. When I started up on the boat I had two different types of QRM. One was fairly quickly tracked down to the Solar Panel controller, so the solar panel was disconnected. The second source (S9++) hash was a bit more difficult to track down. Eventually found to be the on-board battery charger which automatically starts up whenever it sees 240v mains. Once the QRM was sorted the background noise was not measurable on the S-meter on any band. I had chosen a quiet location, no power lines, no houses, no trains but close enough to the M40 to get excellent 3G Internet. All was set for a good BERU session except that HF radio conditions were not that good in the higher bands. Throughout the whole contest I never heard any resolvable station on 10m and only a few on 15m.

The results were a total of 59 QSOs spread: 80m - 8, 40m - 8’

20m - 39, 15m - 4 with none on 10m

After working on 40m for about an hour in the evening the 40m leg of the antenna suddenly went VHSWR. No explanation, can’t see anything wrong with it but reckon I lost a lot of points because that would have been the best band for evening working.

Bagged 31 Canadians, 12 VKs and 2 ZLs along with 9H, 9J, 9M, C4, ZS, ZB2, J34, VP9 and really fed-up as I heard AT1 calling/being worked several times but did not recognise the prefix as Commonwealth!

Overall, the kit worked well (with the exception of the loss of 40m) and the location was quiet. I found the band conditions to be unexciting and many stations were a struggle to complete. Oh well! There’s always next year…

Yes, the mast was leaning at that angle deliberately, it follows the angle of the boat’s tumble-home and was securely fixed.