Back at the end of January 2017, I put in an entry to support the French HF CW Championships. That time, I managed 138 QSO's spread out from 80m to 15m.
The SSB leg of the French HF Championships were held last weekend so I decided to concentrate on 80m only. This has the advantage that the band would only be open to France at certain times so it wouldn't take up the whole weekend.
France from my location is between 500kms and 1500kms. That's close enough to make contacts possible on 80m SSB but far enough away that making contacts can still be a challenge. I guess I really just wanted to see what could I work on 80m SSB with 100 watts into a half wave dipole about 5 to 7 metres above ground level.
1) Many of the French stations struggled to hear my 100 watts. I have no doubt that some were using amplifiers and using a lot more power than me. I think another major factor though was that the French stations would have much higher interference levels than me. Signals from other stations on adjacent frequencies would be much stronger for them because of the shorter range. They also have signals arriving from all directions where as I have nothing from the West and only have to cope with interference from signals in the UK and the near continent.
2) I expected to make around 40-50 SSB contacts on 80m. In the end, I managed 111 which was nice.
3) I expected that the bulk of contacts would be in the 500km to 1000km distance. In fact, I managed to work most of France. These are the departments that I worked....
While the majority of missing departments were in the 1000km to 1500km range, I still got a good spread.
4) The strongest signal was F5MUX in Brittany. This was no doubt due to the 500km distance and the sea path for reflections.
5) It's only when I checked the distances on the map that it became obvious what a big country France really is. It seems odd how someone in Brittany can be only 500kms from Ireland and still be 1000kms from the South-East of France.
6) The path to France on 80m was open from about 30-45 minutes before sunset. Any earlier and the signals were too weak as the D layer in the ionosphere absorbed too much of the signal. It might be possible to work someone earlier on say a quiet band but not in a contest....not with my set up anyway. The same applied 30-45 minutes after sunrise.
7) In contrast to the CW contest, I used the SD contest logging programme for the SSB contest. It made things so much easier as it makes checking for potential duplicate contacts so much faster. The only problem I had with it was that it wouldn't accept TK5KP in Corsica as a valid contact with points and multiplier. After the contest, I tried closing and re-opening the programme and editing that contact but to no avail. When I put in a dummy French QSO in its place, it worked ok. I then replaced the dummy French callsign with the TK5KP qso, it accepted it fine. I'm not sure what was wrong but it worked out in the end.
8) Post contest, I had to edit the Cabrillo log file like I did for the CW contest so that the French website would accept it. Other than that, the entry process was simple.
Overall, the 'Coupe de REF' French HF Championships contest seemed to be a pretty good one as contests go. It was also my first SSB contest in about 15 years ;o)
1) French HF Contest website