MC5A : IOTA Contest : July 2023

Ian G3WVG travels to Flat Holm island (EU-124 : Welsh Coastal Islands group) in the Bristol Channel for the IOTA Contest : operating with the Three A's Contest Group call : MC5A.

Single-Op : 24-hours : Island-DX-pedition : Low Power-Assisted : 1,239 QSOs : 2,653,030 points

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Ian G3WVG and the (no longer operational) Flat Holm fog-horn. The view from the rib approaching Flat Holm island (EU-124)
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All equipment is loaded on and off by means of a ramp into the sea The solar panels caused some QRM during daylight hours.

Ian G3WVG writes :

Flat Holm or ‘Ynys Echni’ has a resident population of just one person, and he is the Warden for the island. I felt that it might be fun to try a trip for the 2023 IOTA Contest. It had been done the previous year by Gareth G0MFR who operated QRP from a tent, and he gave me lots of great advice. However, I thought that what he did was too hard-core for me. A 100W operation from a brick building would be more my style, rather than operating QRP in a tent! I discovered that there was a building I could rent. This was the old Foghorn keeper’s cottage.

Seemingly travel to the island from Cardiff should be easy. However, sometimes, the high tidal range and strong currents in the Bristol Channel can make landing impossible. I discovered this the hard way when I was unable to leave the island until a couple of days after the contest.

Everything has to be taken along as there are no supplies on the island. Not knowing exactly how long I would be staying on the island I took enough food for a week. For equipment I took two of everything with me, radios, laptops etc. However, in the event, nothing went wrong, no equipment failed. One large waterproof Peli-case with all the standby gear never needed to be unpacked.

Similarly, I took a small Honda E10 genny and fuel. That was never used either because the island had solar panels and a battery system which kept my 100w radio working fine for 24 hours. However, the solar panels did cause quite bit of rf noise … but only during daylight. The antenna was a simple affair. I used the lower 10m sections of an 18m spider-beam pole as a mast which supported a fan of dipoles for 80m, 40m and 20m at about 9m high. There was a separate vertical dipole for 10m. The major problem with being in a contest with low power and simple antennas mean that DX QSOs are difficult, one simply doesn’t have the fire-power. Being unable to crack pile-ups I missed out on many distant IOTA Multipliers.

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MC5A QSOs were made by Ian G3WVG during every hour of the 24 hour IOTA Contest. There were no sleep or significant rest periods.  

For the first few hours I found HF conditions rather poor and disappointingly hard going. Propagation seemed to improve as the contest went on and by nightfall things seemed a little better. As shown in the graph above, I stayed at the radio for the whole 24 hours and by the end I was quite pleased with the results from my simple IOTA Contest set up. The MC5A score summary is in the table below. This was the first time that the Welsh variant (MC5A) of the Three As Contest Group’s contest callsign (M5A) has been used.

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MC5A made 1,239 QSOs in the 2023 IOTA Contest Fortunately the fog horn on Falt Holm is no longer in operation.
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There are many hundreds of gulls on Flat Holm   Radio gear waiting for the boat to Flat Holm   Fan dipoles for 80-40-20 at 9m on one coax
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MC5A operator Ian G3WVG looking shattered during the IOTA Contest The LED lighthouse on Flat Holm is powered by a solar battery system
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The rib sets sail for the return journey from Flat Holm to Cardiff Ian G3WVG travels on the return journey on the fast and furious rib
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Ski-bag with all the dipoles and poles for the antennas at MC5A Steep Holm island in England is close by to Flat Holm EU-124 in Wales.
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Yaesu 710 radio - small but handy for IOTA Contest trips Arriving back on dry land at the Cardiff Bay Barrage