Calgary Amateur Radio Association

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CWR 2023 - Post Action Report

26 Mar 2023 1:18 PM | Dana Harding (Administrator)

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
    1 Service
    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.

Pre-event Briefing
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.

Event Startup

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.

Dana, VA6DJH
Garry, VE6GDS

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