Post Action Report
Rally Radio Operators:
Thanks to all the radio operators who came and "chilled" with us at the Cochrane Winter Rally 2019. This rally was one of the coldest on recent record, with reported morning temperatures as low as -36 degrees Celsius! Our operators had to come up with some inventive ways to get equipment working under those conditions. Frozen winches, frozen batteries, frozen generators, frozen masts - we dealt with it all! While there was not as much snow as last year, there were still some challenges due to ice and snow from recent storms.
The following people were part of this year's rally radio team:
Pericles Afaganis VA6PTA
Grahame Booth VE6PFL
Ray Bourne VE6LG
Dave Cason VE6DED
Larry Chapple VE6KC
Timothy Graham VA6TDG
Robin Greig VE6RBN
Dana Harding VA6DJH
Alan Kearley VE6BUZ
Peter LaGrandeur VA6RPL
Wilson Loree VA6JWL
Greg Maciejewski VE6AFT
Robert MacLachlan VA6BM
Harry Maylor VE6HRY
Stephane Raimbault VE6NR
Michael Ross VE6TC
Ameer Shaikh VA6QAS
Patrick Spencer VE6PDS
Garry Spicer VE6GDS
Ken Vigar VE6DXM
Jim Weisert VE6GO
Matt Wilfort VA6AMX
Robert Wilson VE6CCL
Ian Willumsen VE6IAB
Ian Kerr VE6IKR
The Comms Trailer team got on site extra early this year and started setting up before most of us got to the venue. While the pneumatic mast was not in favour of full operation in the extreme cold, the Trailer got into place and provided a good environment for the Net Controllers. Thanks to Peter (VA6RPL) and the rest of the team for all the hard work they put in on rally day, as well as the hours of preparatory efforts that went in to getting the Trailer ready beforehand: Alan (VE6BUZ), Patrick (VE6PDS), Ameer (VE6QAS), and Ray (VE6LG).
Dana (VA6DHJ) and Ray (VE6LG) got our temporary repeater (VE6RNQ) up and running for us, despite a series of equipment problems in the severe temperatures. Apparently a winch had to be defrosted and the generator had to be warmed up before it would start and provide reliable power! Due to factors outside of Ray and Dana's control, we had to take our third choice in repeater location, and this limited the repeater's coverage. So, VE6RNQ was used only for the South stages on Waiparous Road. However, this got us started on time and kept things going safely until other options were available.
In total, we had three repeaters configured for this event The VE6AUY repeater was used to support approach / departure, but suffered from some squelch tail issues that may have been exacerbated by the extreme cold (a known problem that the CARA repeater team has been investigating). The VE6RNQ repeater functioned well for the early morning stages, but Net Control felt it was best to move operations to VE6GAB once the sun activated its solar panels. VE6GAB was then used until late in the day. All our operators did really well at keeping up with the channel changes.
Our blockers and control point operators did a great job of getting into place, despite the frigid conditions and some snowed in locations. Thanks to those operators who quickly adapted to assignment changes that had to be made "on the fly" as we adjusted to the realities of the day. Dave (VE6DED) and Harry (VE6HRY) opened up a couple of very difficult spots at the North end of the Hunter Valley Road and ensured that we had adequate coverage up there for the related stages. Mike (VE6TC) and Ken (VE6DXM) adeptly handled parking for spectators, some of whom managed to get themselves stuck in the snow. Robin (VE6RBN) did well at his first Control Point role at the very far end of the Hunter Valley Road.
I want to take this chance to recognize Grahame (VE6PFL) for his good work in the Ambulance. Grahame is a newly licensed ham and this was his very first rally. He managed to keep the Ambulance in contact with Net Control and calmly addressed a situation in which the Ambulance was immobilized in deep snow just before a stage got started.
Stephane (VE6NR) and Ian (VA6IAB) ran Net Control and kept us on schedule despite some significant technical challenges. In fact, I understand that we were actually a little ahead of schedule after the morning stages! We had to change our main channel a couple of times during the day and our Net Controllers directed that well, keeping our operators all together on the formal net.
I want to commend everyone who put time and effort into setting up APRS screens for the event. Some last minute radio operator location changes were reflected on the APRS map, as well as a hazardous motor vehicle incident that affected movement on the Forestry Trunk Road in the afternoon. I look forward to building on the work that has been done in this area for upcoming events.
In a climactic end to the day, during the last minutes of the final stage, the VE6GAB repeater suddenly lost power as the sun set. Our Net Controllers used REVerse to contact nearby operators and got messages to others via relay operators. The rally cars completed the stage safely and then radio operators were guided off the leg using simplex. All our operators did a fine job under these circumstances, using our channel downgrade procedures in accordance with directions from appropriate lead stations.
Once we got everyone off the stage roads, we all headed back to Cochrane for some much needed pizza to end the day. Thanks to the Calgary Sports Car Club for the closing banquet.
For those who follow the various drivers, here is where you can find the rally results:
I believe that Pat (VE6PDS) has set up an album (https://caraham.org/2019-Cochrane-Winter-Rally) for sharing photos or videos from the event. I didn't get many pictures, so I hope that others brought their cameras and captured some of the action. Anyone with a login to CARAHAM.ORG can add their photos.
Thanks to everyone who helped to make this year's event a fun day of radio and rally in the mountains. I hope to see all of you at Rocky!
Chief Radio Marshall, Cochrane Winter Rally 2019