So the original plan was to be QRV by 7pm local and win the 2m FMAC. The the next 2.5 hours would be devoted to a top 5 finish in the 2m UKAC. All good intentions...
It was a great night with huge activity, lots of high-scoring bonus squares on offer (as much as I detest the current B2 handicap system) and decent conditions. A great night with 150 QSOs there for the taking by any competent and well-prepared SOTA activator. Unfortunately, that activator was not me...
It all started to go wrong when She Who Must Be Obeyed advised me that I was picking Liam up from his vocals lesson, not her. That wiped out any involvement in the FMAC 7-8pm and put me in "last minute" territory for the main UKAC. It was a good job that I therefore decided to make up the SOTAbeams SB5 antenna in advance, so I could just grab it out of the boot and carry it ready-made up the hill...
...Because the two rods for the driven element were missing. I hunted high and low for these after bringing Liam back, eventually finding them, inexplicably, behind the shoe box in the front porch. More time lost.
Fast forward to setting up on The Cloud summit, and me thinking "Why is there only one crocodile clip at the end of that bit of RG58?" There were two when I packed the car earlier. I glanced around the vicinity just in case it had only just come apart there, but no joy. This meant stripping some of the insulation from the core with my teeth, wrapping the wire around the driven element and attaching some tape to try and keep it in place. More time lost.
Imagine my (relative) joy when finally switching on and seeing that it was only 1907 UTC. Remarkable with the last minute arrangements and all the time lost that I was only 7 minutes late QRV. I found a frequency, but no-one was interested in working me. Maybe with all the "exotic" squares on offer, IO83 was just not going to cut it.
I went into S&P mode but I had difficulty directing the antenna. The issue was twofold: Firstly I had not got round to replacing the bottom disc in the SOTAbeams rotating guying kit, which blew away on Merryton Low while packing up one very windy night. This isn't normally problematic, but in windy conditions it proved to be, and my telescopic mast kept collapsing in on itself. Secondly, I had somehow pegged the guys out incorrectly so they were getting all twisted at the top, increasing the strain on the mast, and making it nigh on impossible to direct the beam. More time lost.
I had made two QSOs by 8.30pm. I could have cried! I kind of got going then, but it was still rather stuttery, and all prospect of competitiveness had evaporated, so the enthusiasm tank was running on empty. I picked up some nice squares - IN99, IO74, 76, 80, 81, 82, 83, 85, 86, 91, 92, 93, 94, JO00, 01, 02 and 03 - but missed plenty of others - IO64, 72, 73, 75, 84, 87 and 90 for instance, plus Belgium ON which was coming in really strongly. Worse still, I ended on a pathetic 50 QSOs - all 2m SSB except for one on 2m CW.
It's a good job that I'm not going to make the 8 sessions for a "full score" this year due to all the gigging, as this performance would have been a "killer blow" for my chances in the overall table.
Still the pie and pint at the Harrington Arms, Gawsworth was nice.