Six Metres from Burkina Faso

By Andy Cook, G4PIQ

In the equipment pile which followed us from country to country there has long been a small 6m yagi, but for some years it went unused due to us having no 6m equipment with us. However, as we started to carry in some more modern radios, and these radios started to include 6m by default, it seemed only sensible to throw that small antenna into the air and see what we could work with it.

G4PIQ operates 6m

G4PIQ operates 6m

So, we did just that in 2002 at XT2DX- a small 5 element yagi on the end of a long run of RG8X connected to an IC756Pro radio running 100W, but with probably not much more than 25W making it to the antenna. With the antenna freshly erected we made a patchy QSO to a 4X station, and over the next few days we caught a number of reasonable openings into Europe, with Fred, G4BWP doing the lion’s share of a few hundred QSOs. I seem to recall that only Fred’s licence – XT2WP included 6m – that’s certainly the call which we used on that band.

During the CQWW contest itself of course the team needed to be properly focused on maximising the overall score. However, with a relatively big team that years, and with only 3 bands being open during the day time, we all had a moderate amount of off-time. The IC756 was on the 160m position, and on one of the days of the contest at about midday as I wandered into the shack after a rest period looking for something useful to do, I happened to check 6m. It was open! Now – my background in radio has its roots firmly in VHF. In spite of bypassing the UK VHF only licence and going straight to a full licence, within a year I had been bitten by the VHF bug and over the years progressed through to a very competitive VHF/UHF contest station, a decent amount of CW EME operation at home, and a number of meteor scatter and EME VHF expeditions to remote parts of OY and TF. So – VHF is firmly in my blood – and I can’t resist a good opening on those bands because I know just how fleeting and un-predictable they can be. So – I started to work a few – quite a lot actually – and the opening really started to intensify. It was the real spotlight Es propagation common at VHF, but as the spotlight moved to the right places, I was working people at 599+ who I knew we’re only running 3W to an HB9CV. It was these really strong signals which differentiated this opening from those which we had experienced in the previous days.

This was all on CW. After a while, the pile-up started to subside, and I began to think about all the people I knew on VHF who had no-code licences. There really were a large number of those folks in Europe at the time – especially in the UK and the Netherlands and this was an intense opening where SSB could work well. Now – the Voodoo CG trips have historically been firmly CW only events. A few SSB QSOs have been made, but anyone bringing a microphone into the shack had to be prepared for a substantial amount of good humoured ridicule. On top of that, I had 3 operators sitting directly behind me trying to run big hours with monster pile-ups in the main event of the weekend who didn’t need disturbing. However – as a dedicated VHFer, this was too good an opportunity to miss. So I plugged in the microphone, turned up the mic gain, and started whispering. And, in spite of the whispering – the pile up came to SSB as well. Some of the stations I worked were surprised when I called them by name – they didn’t recognise the whispering voice… Some of the stations were dupes between CW and SSB, but I also worked lots of unique stations on SSB who otherwise wouldn’t have got the QSO with XT on 6m. I think that one opening resulted in over 300 QSOs in just a couple of hours.

This was a classic case of right place and right time. The following year, we also erected the 6m yagi in the hope of more fantastic openings – we made barely a QSO.