Calgary Amateur Radio Association
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Rally Radio Recce
As some of you are already aware, to protect my health, I have stepped aside from the Radio Coordinator role for this event. Thank you for your time and support.
Rally Radio Operators;
Dana and I went to the venue (the Powderface area of Kananaskis) this past weekend to check RF propagation and look over the general state of the area. Here are a few notes for your review.
The South Jumping Pound Loop is closed for construction and will not likely be available for this event. The rally organizer did not plan to use this road, so this should not affect the rally.
Parts of the North Loop are also closed and there is some remediation being done to the Interpretive Building at the North Loop Lookout. The event organizer is aware of this and is following up to determine if the work will be complete in time for the rally.
The paved part of Hwy 68 between the Jumping Pound Loops and Powderface Trail is being re-paved. This is very good news, as the road had reached a level of disrepair that made it dangerous to travel at the posted speed limit. The paving was ongoing over this past weekend, so it should be done in time for the upcoming rally.
Powderface Trail is in generally good condition, for the kind of road that it is. There was some rockfall along the sides of the road in several places, so operators posted to this road should use caution to avoid the larger rocks. While washboard effects were no worse than usual, there are some places where extra care is needed to maintain good control of the vehicle, especially going up and down the steeper hills.
For those unfamiliar with this road, Powderface Trail is a back country road. It is gravel / rock and sees less maintenance than typical gravel secondary roads. In places it is narrow and there are blind curves that require care to navigate successfully. Operators travelling on this road should reduce their speed, minimize distractions, and drive well within their own capabilities and those of their vehicle(s). Good tires are important for driving on these roads. If your tires are getting worn out, this may be the excuse that you need to get something new before winter arrives.
There was some snow in low lying areas and on the north sides of some hills! I saw no snow or ice on the roads, though. This can change over the next few weeks, so please be prepared.
We tested various repeater and simplex paths for communication at the rally. Of course, multipath is always a problem in this area, especially toward the south end of Powderface Trail. Our tests confirmed that nothing has changed out there in this respect. if you are unfamiliar with multipath effects, a quick Google search will return several pages that describe why this happens. In the Powderface area, the signals reflect off of, and refract around, the hills and mountains. So, in any location, multiple "copies" of a signal can arrive simultaneously at your antenna from various different directions. These different copies can essentially cancel each other out, resulting in a "null" or "dead spot" at which you can't receive one of the repeaters. Moving the antenna (i.e. your vehicle in most cases) often gets out of the dead spot and into a place at which you can hear the repeater again. Sometimes moving as little as 50cm can achieve the desired effect.
We concentrated much of our radio testing on VE6RYC and VE6AUY, the repeaters that we'll likely use for this event. It was often necessary to move the vehicle around a bit to find spots at which the repeaters were accessible. However, with some work, both repeaters were accessible from all of the currently planned radio operator locations.
Having a good antenna does make a difference in RF fringe areas, such as Powderface. If you are considering any upgrades to your existing radio equipment ahead of the rally, look into what improvements are possible for your antenna. While more power is nice to have, it won't do you much good if your antenna isn't pushing that power out as effective RF energy! What's more, all the transmit power in the world won't help you to receive any better - and if you can't hear them, you can't work them.
Hello Rally Radio Operators!
The Kananaskis Rally is now one month away! it is time to begin making preparations so that your kit is ready to go on event day. Below are links to documents that you can use to get started.
These guides are oriented at new or returning folks and also serve as secondary checklists for others. The material was provided by some of our most seasoned field radio operators. Most items on these lists are recommendations and suggestions, but a few are required.
Here are links for the documents:
Packing and Preparation Guide
Vehicle Preparation Supplement
Keep checking this blog regularly. More materials and information will be posted here soon. I hope that we we will see you at the rally!
The Kananaskis Rally (KAN) is next month, and several of you have already registered. Thank you!
Below you will find a link to the most recent version of the Radio Operations at Rallysport Events '101' Guide. If you are new to rally radio operations, or you have been away from the scene for a while, then this document is made just for you! The guide was written to help radio operators get comfortable with the sights and sounds of rally day action.
At the pre-op briefing, we assume that everyone is familiar with the contents of this guide.
Here is a link to the current version of the 101 Guide:
Rally Radio Operations 101 Guide
Volunteer registration for the Kananaskis Rally (KAN) is now available.
Instructions provided in other locations may be inaccurate for Radio Operator volunteers.
Please use the following instructions:
This URL will take you to the volunteer registration form:
KAN 2023 Volunteer Registration Form
We hope that you will join us for a great time at the Kananaskis Rally!
Mark your calendars!
Looking ahead into autumn, here is a heads-up for your calendars:
Planning has started for the Kananaskis Rally (KAN). The intended date is Saturday, 28 October. We'll be back in the Jumping Pound / Powderface area of Kananaskis Country, West of Calgary.
Watch this forum for further information at it comes available.
Ken Read VE6CBZ has taken on a Radio Coordinator role for this upcoming event.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Rocky Mountain Rally Volunteer Registration Now Available!
The Rallywest Rocky Mountain Rally volunteer registration webpage is now available! Here is the information you'll need to sign up as a radio operator for this event, which is running this year back in Invermere, BC!
These events rely on the generosity and time of our volunteers, we need your help to run a smooth event. Join us in the Columbia Valley for a beautiful weekend on:
Friday, June 2nd
Saturday, June 3rd
Sunday, June 4th
Register to volunteer here:
Enter your basic information. On the bottom of the second page, you will be asked:“Are you a Licensed Amateur Radio Operator?”Please answer Yes to this and continue with the rest of the form. Some of the following questions will be specific to radio duties.
The main event link can be shown below. This should answer most of your questions regarding the event overall.
If you are considering coming to volunteer as a radio operator, then please complete the volunteer registration form.
When indicating the radio equipment that you plan to bring to the rally, try to be as generic as possible. It's much easier to deal with "50 watt mobile radio with APRS and a quarter wave magnetic mount antenna" than a bunch of make/model numbers with which we may not be familiar.
Camping will be available in Horsethief Hideout. We have a group of Radio Op’s already registered to camp. https://columbiavalley.com/venue/horsethief-hideout/Hotel accommodations will be based out of Radium. More information will be available soon.
Finally, please double check that the email address and phone number(s) that you enter on the registration form are correct. Messages that bounce back are not getting to you! It's also important to have valid contact information, should a problem occur at, or just prior to, the event.
Please check here regularly so that you have the latest information!
For questions, please contact both:
Amanda Ann (email@example.com) andKen Read (firstname.lastname@example.org)
At 05:00 in the morning it was 20 below zero.
Dark and cold was not a surprise, but the substantial improvement over the 40 below temperatures seen in previous years was appreciated.
One radio operator has spotted another, and decided to try a different route to see if he could get to their destination more quickly.
The racing for the day had already started!
Overall, the event went smoothly. While some of the competitors’ cars were worse for wear at the end of the day, there were no medical responses and no major incidents.
On the communications side: we overcame a couple of obstacles, there were a couple of new things that we tried, we were able to help out some other volunteers, and we re-iterated the value of some of our procedures.
In documenting the scope of our deployment - it always turns out to have been bigger in retrospect than it seemed to be ahead of the event.
These events are the largest amateur radio deployments that we regularly have in this area, and there certainly are a lot of moving parts to make them work.
We are proud to be part of this group, and are humbled by how easy all of you help to make this look.
Of the 29 Radio Operators signed up with the Communications Team:
7 situated on Waiparous Valley Road
4 on Harold Creek Road, plus one extra operator at the spectator location
8 on Hunter valley - 3 who had relocated from Wiaparous.
1 Repeater operator with VE6RNQ
1 operator situated in the Ambulance
3 Net Control
3 Radio Coordinator and Logistics roles
1 team of two who came out together
1 radio operator in the recovery truck
2 were unable to make it out on the event day
Of those - 3 were new hams, all three were even newer to supporting rally events.
There is a lot of information to take in for these, and you guys performed spectacularly - well done!
There were several individuals who also supported the communications trailer deployment in addition to roadside roles on the same day, and also several that participated in some propagation testing in early February to validate parts of the communications plan.
There were some common assets utilized:
- CARA Communications trailer and team
- VE6RNQ portable repeater was on site and primary for the Hunter Valley stages
- VE6AUY repeater, which worked and continues to work excellently
- SARA repeater network was available as a standby channel
- VE6GAB repeater was used for one of the stage road demobilizations, but some known issues with it (suspected unintentional QRM) precluded it’s use for an active stage channel.
The pre-event briefing on the Thursday night prior to the event was the second time handling this in a mixed mode in-person/zoom.
This time we had a dedicated zoom operator, and CARA's remote meeting equipment available to us.
This setup worked well both for handling remote attendees, and also for using multiple sources for content to be displayed on the projector.
Weather and Road Conditions
On the night before the event, a weather front which was causing reduced visibility and heavier snow in the southern end of the province had a real chance of also causing issues for this deployment. Fortunately the accumulation in the event area ended up not being substantially different than when it had been observed during the recce the day before, and there were not any additional access issues to the stage road locations. It became warm enough during the day, and then cooler at the night to result in icier driving conditions on the way home than on the way out to the event.
On the stage roads, unexpected soft spots temporarily claimed several operators' vehicles - and even the Radio Coordinator needed a few hands with shovels at the end of the day after misjudging a road and getting high centered in a snow bank. While some ribbing is deserved about that one, it was also a useful reminder about the function of our check in and check out procedures.
Had help not been immediately at hand, the absence of a stuck operator on demobilization would be identified at several check points: By the scrub on a stage road, and then by logistics having a missing checkmarks in at least two locations on the headcount: radio call on departing the stage road, and radio call at the final check out location.
After managing some late assignment changes, addressing safety and snow issues observed on recce the day before, and working through this iteration in improving the volunteer check in process – the first stage was able to start only a few minutes late. We do our best to have contingency in place to manage equipment issues as they come up, there were a couple of equipment issues that came up for this event, and they were resolved on site.
One thing that we tried new this event was the use of simplex for stages on the first two road segments.
It is not new in the sense that this rally has been run on simplex in the past, but that has not been for a number of years and was not from the same Net Control location. Some empirical propagation assessment in the area in early February determined that simplex with the selected Net Control location would be suitable for the event.
Simplex removes a single point of failure from the channel (any repeater issue), does not require any additional set up time, and provides some limited isolation from other amateur activity - mitigating potential interference and also a potential to interfere with others.
Ideally simplex could be a good option wherever all stations involved on a stage can reach each other, but the minimum requirement is only that every station can reach Net Control and wherever Rallymaster chooses to operate from.
An additional hope for simplex is that it would reduce the strong pattern of mulipath fading that we see in these areas. This was a partial success - with stations still needing to tune their locations by short distances to get the best path. Ongoing work is happening for working with multipath propagation - there has been feedback from another American event that beams work well in a multipath environment, and we encourage operators to bring high gain antennas and provide reports of their observations with them in these areas.
The logistics role was split to two operators this time. The Cochrane Winter Rally is logistically challenging because of the timing and sequencing of the roads. Aside from the first and last stages of the day, there is always a road being set up or torn down while there is an active stage running. Our perfect-world models show the longest break on the logistics channel is 90 minutes (09:00-10:20), and only 30-40 minute gaps afterwards. In practice, the time distribution of the traffic has some randomness in it and the addition of extra (not perfect world) traffic means it is unlikely to see a gap of more than 20 minutes during the day. The use of a second logistics operator was a success at this event, keeping the management of arrival and departure traffic smooth while the other operator could focus on resolving assignment adjustments and contingency issues.
Hunter Valley Demobilization
Exiting Hunter Valley Road has historically been burdened with irregularities resulting in a longer exit than expected. This time, there were only a few minor issues and the exit progressed much more smoothly than in the past.
This time was the best exit from Hunter Valley Road that we have ever performed!
Good work by all involved.
The hunt for an iPhone.
As an example of the unexpected scenarios that come up which we are sometimes able to assist in:
On exiting the Hunter Valley Road segment at location Echo, the scrub operator for the segment was met by some event volunteers (control point marshals) who were asking about any kind of internet connection. One had a missing iPhone, and was wanting to use the 'Find My iPhone' service to look up a location. New iPhones have satellite communication capabilities which can be configured to provide this kind of location service including when the phone does not have any cellular service.
After considering some options, the group proceeded to the Net Control location and decided to try providing the credentials over a radio channel to somebody who had internet service.
Two operators responded to the call and the information that they were able to provide – that there had been recent location reports from the phone, the phone appeared to be moving, and the general direction of the movement – was enough for the marshall to infer which friend’s care the phone was probably in. This iPhone was going on a camping trip without it’s owner – and it was not going to suffer the environmental ravages of being on the roadside on Hunter Valley Road.
We don't know more than that - and likely will not hear about the outcome beyond this.
At a minimum, this was an amateur radio success at saving this individual a handful of extra hours out in the cold and dark, and possibly also saved them a lot of stress.
For future reference - Known locations in this area with some cellular internet service are: Location Delta, and at a cattleguard south of Waiparous Valley Road on Highway 40. One radio operator reported some data getting through on a slow crawl between the Waiparous Look Out (Net Control Location) and entry to Waiparous Vally Road.
Thank you all for your preparations, we know how much extra preparation that it takes to upgrade a mobile station to one with higher reliability on the day of the event.
(edit 2023-03-10) Radio Operator Handbook v5.3 now available.
Two operator assignments swapped. Added "Supply" to the location notes for the Volunteer Check in Location.
No other changes.
Extract of only the log sheets:
(edit 2023-03-09) Radio Operator Handbook v5.2 now available.
Changes are some assignment updates:
Operator Assignments only:
The Radio Operator Handbook v5.1 is available here:
Operator Assignments are on page 9.
v5.1 is the first publicly posted revision - updates will be indicated in edits to this post.
This Saturday, March 11, is the 2023 Cochrane Winter Rally, and CARA will again play an integral role as the main communications provider for the event.
A few good men and women are required to set up, and pack up, the Communications Trailer. Please contact the comm trailer coordinator, Peter, VA6RPL@techworld.ca .
Deployment site is the Waiparous Valley Lookout:
N 51d 24.7777’
W 115d 1.8995’
42 km north of Highway 1A, on the Hwy 40 forestry trunk road
Arrive on site by 0615 AM, on the Saturday morning, with the comm trailer up and running for net control by 0700 AM.
Location maps on FaceBook: