First thank you Andrew (VK3ARR) and the rest of the SOTA Management Team for bestowing the 2016 Sherpa Award on me, it came as a huge surprise, thank you.
2016 was a year of consolidation having spent 2 years developing SOTA in VK1 and nearby VK2, without having an active Association Manager, well one in name only, plus organising simultaneous VK activation events in Summer, Autumn, Winter (brr) and Spring which for the most part are now in a mature state. In VK1 we now have a core group of 10 VK1 & VK2 SOTA activators from a Canberra population of 300,000 people. If you knew the VK1 radio amateur population base and age demographics you would understand why having a core of 10 activators is a good outcome! Promoting SOTA/portable ops in and around VK1 has been a major part of my efforts and comes with a few challenges however the reward of meeting new SOTA activators and seeing higher participation rates from SOTA chasers makes the effort all worth while.
2016 was a year to focus on the use of different bands and modes*, encouraging VK activators to venture away from the safety net of 40m (it's easy to make 4 QSOs on 40m, there are very few challenges left on 40m) moving to WARC frequencies and the higher bands 6m, 2m and 70cm, experimenting with Aircraft Enhancement using a simple 2m wire dipole versus a 4el yagi (8 am activations), messing around with homebrew 2m and 70cm SlimJim antennas while in summer trying to predict the formation of Sporadic E over VK1. The latter has been made easier with the use of VK SWS prediction services http://www.sws.bom.gov.au/HF_Systems/1/3 Ionogram Viewer, a brilliant tool!
This year was also a year of reviewing my homebrew SOTA antenna collection, it's vast and nothing is consigned to the trash can! In 2015 Herbert OE9HRV dispatched a 10m 1/2 wave J-Pole, 'a must have' for the 10m Challenge he said. On arrival (complete with a series of technical drawings for all HF bands, written in German!) I set about building 1/2 wave EFHW J-Poles for 20, 17, 15 and 12m and sharing the antenna designs with the VK1 radio amateur group, encouraging the group to experiment with antennas that don't fit with the traditional old-school teachings, some get it, others are rusted-on to the classics!
2016 was also a year of travel in Europe meeting up with Mike 2E0YYY, Heinz OE5EEP and Herbert OE9HRV for joint activations of summits in the UK, Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, sharing stories of SOTA activations while drinking local beers and enjoying great food in good company. Very sorry not to have met Sylvia OE5YYN and hubby Peter OE5AUL, next time I will.
2016 was not a year of complete success and while I set myself a challenge to activate and qualify all summits on 70cm (mostly achieved), I also made a grand statement to be proficient in CW by December 2016, FAIL!! My excuse, I was distracted by the challenge of building new antennas including a 70cm HALO and making 70cm SSB contacts over hundreds of km! Lets see how 2017 shapes up for CW, cracking CW will open new opportunities to work the JA SOTA group and potentially set up a VK - JA CW S2S exchange, which BTW anyone in VK can take the initiative.
Speaking of major SOTA events, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of my good friend Mike 2E0YYY. Mike and I have exchanged many emails on the subject of VK - EU S2S activations, some of which lead to short notice S2S alerts between Mike and I while others take a little more planning. This year Mike renewed his interest in a simultaneous EU - VK S2S event which in previous years 2014 and 2015 were regarded as successful in bringing together like-minded radio amateurs from VK and Europe. Mike planted the seed for the September 2016 EU - VK S2S event and with as little as 2 weeks notice Mike was organising and encouraging folk across Europe to join the event. Without Mike's efforts that event would not have been as popular in Europe as it turned out to be and may not have lead to the follow-up proposal for a EU - NA S2S event. Well done to Mike!
2017 is almost here, the grand plan in 2017 is to encourage VKs to take up the challenge of working North America S2S, which we all know is not as predictable as working EU S2S. I suspect I have many more early morning SOTA activations ahead before I can say with any confidence there is a predictable path and time window for VK - NA S2S. I have one W6 in the bag, lets see if VK activators can crack 'W' land open and work a few more!
Thanks everyone for the kind words, wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a great New Year in 2017. Travel safe over the holiday period.
73, Andrew VK1AD