After several cancelled (because of weather and unplanned commitments) tries, I was determined to get out to “a” summit again. Originally I wanted to test out the “wavelength-plus” on-the-ground antenna however following some positive comments from John VA3KOT on the VP2E antenna after I pointed him at it as an interesting antenna, I decided I probably should give it another try after building it nearly two years ago and only using it once or twice!
John VA3KOT, by the way, has a nice and friendly website that he calls Ham radio Outside the box, where he likes to look at unusual solutions used by hams to solve portable operations issues. The site is well worth a read and is where I found out about the wire-on-the-ground antenna while I was looking for a small lightweight antenna to use with my G106 radio while travelling.
I have built two VP2E antennas (actually three, but the third one was an attempt to make the antenna multi-band through the use of links – it failed). So I have a 40m and a 20m version at the moment. Both are twice the size of a normal dipole on the band and hence need space for any tests. For antenna testing, Rentschen is ideal as it is a drive-on summit with a plateau top. So I have lots of space to set up the antenna. I decided I would only test the 20m version as that is the band where some directional gain might prove the difference between making a DX contact and not doing so. It has to be said that, the possible 2 dBD gain in some directions compared to a dipole, is not a lot – but as we know, every little bit counts and the 20 watts of SSB from the G90 radio is hardly a “QRO” set-up, so “all help is gratefully received”.
To find out all about the “Vertically Polarised Two Element” VP2E antenna, a little of its history, how I built mine and my calculator for you to get the needed lengths for whichever band you choose, click here.
Ernie VK3DET had kindly said he would listen for me and Wx dependant, Mike 2E0YYY might get out to his local hill in the UK to give me an S2S contact.
As usual, all gear was packed in the car, the night before the activation, so that I could make an early start. That being said, this would not need to be a really early start as the 20m long path had been opening only from 0830 UTC (09:30 am local time) recently, so leaving home at 8:15 – 8:30 am would be fine.
The weather forecast was for a cool overcast day but, most importantly, no rain.
Rentschen – HEMA DL/HAM-014 and SOTA DL/AM-176.
The good drive down in just over 40 minutes and I was parked on the summit by 9 am local time (0800 UTC). 25 minutes later I was all set up, with the VP2E “pointing” due West – my long path direction for contacts into VK. First in the log after a CQ call – Ernie VK3DET 5-4 in both directions.
Mike 2E0YYY had been unable to get out as they had constant rain all morning, so he kindly acted as my spotter and starting with the HEMA designation, I quickly put 18 contacts in the log. Many from the UK and many commenting on how loud and consistent a signal I had, while there was QSB on the band. In fact, surveying the contacts later I can tell that skip was short, which also explained why the band seemed full almost from end-to-end and this on a weekday! Ernie heard a couple of other European stations but none from Germany – perhaps we hit the best time with our contact or perhaps this antenna was achieving a good low-angle radiation pattern as the models show it should do. Some callers were weaker than I normally hear them, especially to the north and southeast – this could be the antenna’s directivity or simple conditions.
Once the callers dried up, I asked Mike to spot me again but this time on the SOTA cluster and the DX cluster and again I had a pile-up – another 18 contacts in the log. Of all the 36 contacts, Bernie was the only one from outside of Continental Europe. the majority of callers were from the UK, including one G0POQ from my town of birth – Hull in East Yorkshire. several of the contacts were conversations rather than only a report exchange, so the band conditions and the antenna were holding up well. After the second pile-up finished, I decided to pack up as it was only 3°C and the primary 4AH LifePO would have been somewhat drained after about a full hour of constant usage at 20 watts output. I did have a second battery with me (a LiHV 4 AH one) but I had achieved what I had come to do in testing the 20m VP2E and I am glad to say all worked well. None of the equipment had any issues on this outing.
Below as an extra in this report, I have the SOTAMapping map of all of my contacts.
- Mountaintop travelling 40-litre rucksack.
- Xiegu G90.
- Komunica Power HF-Pro2-PLUS-T loaded vertical antenna. (not used)
- Modified mini photo tripod with clip-on radials (not used)
- Lamdahalbe 6m mini-mast.
- Screw-in sun umbrella support (not used).
- Converted Surveyors tripod.
- SotaBeams linked dipole (not used).
- Aerial-51 404-UL OCF dipole antenna (not used).
- 20 & 40m VP2E antennas (20m one used).
- 4000maH LiHV battery (not used).
- 4 Ah LifePO4 Eremit battery.
- Painter’s thick plastic sheet and gardener’s kneeling pad.
- Lightweight headphones.
- Smartphone to spot and back-channel comms.
- Band conditions at the time of this activation were short skip not as good as they have been, which makes the contact into Australia (albeit an arranged, scheduled one) all the more of a success.
- The equipment all worked as it should. The combination of the Xiegu G90 with its 20 watts of SSB and the VP2E (Vertically polarised 2-element) antenna on the 6m-high mast supported by the surveyor’s tripod worked very well from the first moment it was plugged into the radio. I now believe the antenna has “some” directivity however I suspect its greatest asset is the low-angle radiation and the amount of wire in the air, being twice as large as the dipoles that I normally use. The fact that it is purely a single-band antenna is a drawback as is the need to use the large tripod to support the mast.
73 ’til the next summit.
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