Calgary Amateur Radio Association
Enjoy Amateur Radio | Serve Our Community
Bob MacLachlan (VE6BGM) has generously provided some of his photos from the Kananaskis Rally. Check these out and see if you remember these cars from the course! Thanks, Bob.
73, Garry VE6GDS
Hi Garry. I was glad to help out. Will be back again in the future. In regards to VE6RNQ, I tested it once, from my location at Spectator North, and it came in loud and clear for me. The operator that answered, VE6LG, from Charlie, said I was coming in loud and clear. VE6LG (Ray) was saying something about how he had some experimental ideas for next year about a local temporary linked repeater system along the Powderface Trail, so I'm sure we can look forward to some great developments in the future on that.
Post Action Report
I have finally made it to writing up my post-action report!
I want to start by thanking everyone who came out to support last week's Kananaskis Rally. Our radio operators did a fantastic job, we had good weather, and our technology (mostly) behaved itself! The event proceeded very smoothly, and I was impressed at how well our operators handled the addition of the Jumping Pound Loop and the mid-day transition to the Powderface trail. We had fifteen rally cars in this event, and as as far as I know, we didnt have any major incidents with any of them. Our operators all got into place in good time, there were no serious glitches with controlling the roads, and we got everyone out when it was all done. Nice job, all around!
If you haven't seen the results from the rally, you can find them at the link just below. As others have previously pointed out, the top two cars are only seconds apart. That makes for some exciting racing!
We had some new operators and some returning folks who had not been part of a rally for a few years. This is really great to see! If you were one of those people, then I hope that we can count on you coming out for the next rally event.
With regards to radio operations, we used the VE6RYC repeater as our primary channel, as in past Kananaskis Rally events. While no one has been able to explain to me why this repeater covers that valley (It seems like an X-Files case!), it got the job done. We did have some challenges with reaching the far South locations of the event, but communications were generally adequate. We also experienced some unexpected signal fading conditions in the early to mid afternoon, with a few Powderface Trail locations seeming to lose the repeater for a time. We were able to adapt and relay necessary messages during those periods.
As in a couple of our previous rally events, we used a secondary voice channel to support Radio Operators in the field, especially during setup procedures. This channel was run on the VE6AUY repeater. While this repeater does not cover the Powderface Trail as well as the RYC machine, most operators were able to get signals through without too much difficulty. What's more, the Rally Control operators, who were physically located in Calgary, devised a clever relay capability so that they could access this repeater. As before, our operators did a good job of handling the setup net on this channel and transitioning to the primary channel once Rally Control was ready for us. I noticed that several operators also made effective use of this channel throughout the day as a way of taking traffic off the primary channel during busy periods. This was particularly appropriate when the content of the conversation(s) was not directly affecting the active stage. The prize for the most inventive use of this secondary channel goes to the Rally Control operators who used it to request a microphone check when someone inadvertently jammed the primary channel by...you guessed it...sitting on their microphone!!!
A round of thanks goes out to Ray Bourne (VE6LG) for his extra effort in setting up the VE6RNQ temporary repeater. This machine was deployed in an experimental and tertiary backup mode, to determine if a new site identified by Ray would provide effective coverage for this rally. While we found a few spots with sketchy coverage, I was generally impressed by how well this repeater did the job. It was equal to VE6AUY in most places, and better in some. I'd like to hear from other operators who tested VE6RNQ at the Kananaskis Rally. Please let me know your experience. I'd like to seriously consider using this repeater in future rally events. Thanks again, Ray.
I was pleased with the extra effort our Rally Net Control Operators put in. I want to recognize their work to configure access to the secondary voice channel; their use of APRS; the time they put in to be available early in the morning to assist with setup; and the time they put in at the end of the day to ensure that everyone got off the Powderface Trail and back onto safer, more travelled roads. Thanks Roger (VE6RAH) and Dave (VA6DK) for all your help, patience, and support.
Once again, we were a little short on Radio Operators for the event. About twenty licenced operators signed up for radio roles, leaving some posts unfilled and others covered by transitioning operators between roles during the day. My appreciation goes out to those operators who performed both morning and afternoon roles, and those who successfully navigated the switch from the Jumping Pound Loop leg to the Powderface Trail leg. While we adapt to the requirements of the day, I'd like to see more Radio Operators taking advantage of this fun opportunity to engage in real world field operations.
I've been working on some of the suggestions I received for improvements at these events, and appreciate the feedback received to date. Making improvements means making changes, and change is always a challenging process. I am grateful for the support people have shown in the implementation of these changes. Here are some of the efforts made to date:
- Training practices are becoming more standardized and repeatable. Additionally, some of the written material has been reorganized into checklists. These lists group together key material based on how operators are likely to use it. While there is much work to be done here, the material is slowly improving.
- Initial notification of the rally went out in August, almost three months before the event. Regular updates were also posted to the CARA webpage forum. I trust that this helped our operators manage scheduling better.
- The general forum on the CARA webpage was used extensively to distribute information and guidelines, along with shared links to files on a DropBox space configured by the Calgary Sports Car Club. This helps to get all of the relevant material in one spot and reduces the error prone process of emailing everything to everyone. While some of the material could have been posted sooner, I trust that having one "go to" point makes it easier for people to keep track of what is happening.
- I am pleased to see continuing improvements in handling operator checkin and checkout procedures. This is an important aspect of Radio Operator safety for these events. Knowing that everyone who went in also came back out (and didn't get left behind) is reassuring for operators and organizers.
- I keep looking for ways to make these events more fun for operators. Having our secondary voice channel gives operators more opportunities to actually talk on the radio during the day, and experimenting with the temporary repeater added another interesting dimension. However, we still want to ensure that our operators have time for socializing and being recognized for their participation and contribution. I'm open to more ideas on this!
My one regret is that I didn't get time to take many pictures. If anyone has some good photos of the event and wouldn't mind having them posted, then please let me know. I'll see what I can do to make that happen.
To wrap up, we had a fun day at the Kananaskis Rally. I am grateful to all the Radio Operators who helped make this day successful. I hope to see you at the next rally!
Chief Radio Marshall, Kananaskis Rally 2017
Hi Peter / Wilson;
Thanks for your kind words. It was a fun event and I appreciate your support. See you at the next rally!
I also add my thanks to Garry for great organization & support of radio safety for the rally. Keep on evolving us toward new ways to do things. After I finally figured out how to find the results of the rally - top 2 cars only 10 seconds apart in over an hour of racing. Wow, that's close.
Hi Garry, great job on coordinating the amateur radio operators in the Kananaskis rally.
So according to your information if Blocker 8 moved to location 9 they would still report in as Blocker 8? I had been taught that Blockers are fixed locations/positions and who is manning the blocker (to Net Control at least) does not matter what matters is the Blocker identification number which could also be a location number. I was told from other Net Controllers that adding a second layer of description in past rallies adds confusion. Similar thing occurs with the cars themselves as they don't identify which car started first just what the first cars number is as that is fixed though the start order will change. Sorry to be nit picking but if we can eliminate things to trip us up so much the better. As Net Control we had told the operators that if you move to a new position to assume that locations/positions tatical call sign and notify Net of same. Maybe Vince, Dave or Roger can shed some light on this.
Thanks for your comments - it's good to see that people are reading the material!
I suppose it's true that people could misunderstand the difference between a Location and a Tactical ID. Given the number of spreadsheets that are needed to complete the planning process, perhaps I took a bit of a shortcut and simply used the location assignments column without adding a separate, specific Tactical ID column. However, please note that Locations and Tactical IDs (such as Blockers or Control Point operators) are, in fact, different things. This may be why you saw a similar concept appear at PFR.
A Location is a fixed "thing" and does not normally move during an event. I beacon these Locations as objects on APRS so that operators can see on the map where the various Locations are. While not all operators are equipped with this technology yet, if we want people to adopt new technology we have to make it worth their while.
The Tactical ID refers to an operator. Operators do move around throughout the rally. It is very possible, for example, to have Blocker 8 be physically present at Location 9 or Location ALPHA. Whats more, Blocker 8 and Blocker 9 could both be at Location 7 while Blocker 7 was still at BRAVO. In such an instance, we would want to be clear both on the voice channels and on APRS just what the situation was.
Also, keep in mind that operators sometimes choose to beacon their Tactical IDs rather than their Standard Callsigns on APRS. In such a case, it's helpful to see on the map that Blockers 7 and 8 are both at Location 7, for instance.
In any case, perhaps in the future I'll include a column in the assignment spreadsheet to clarify what the Tactical ID is, as well as the assignment Location. I think we made this distinction clear at the Pre-Op Briefing, but perhaps reinforcing the point on the assignment spreadsheet is a worthwhile improvement for next time.
You might want to think about changing the terminology used in the radio ops positions list. Most rallies I have worked use the term Blocker not location. You might get the odd person who calls in location 3 for example. PFR has a similar problem in they use two methods to identify locations/blockers.
As promised, the APRS objects for all of the blocker locations, control points, spectator locations, service, and key en route waypoints are now available on the IS. I don't plan to beacon them on the RF side until closer to the rally to save bandwidth.
If you have APRSDroid on your phone, then you can receive the objects. Once you have them on your screen, then set the "Show Last" to one or two days and you should have those objects on your phone for the rally. Your phone GPS should then help you find any of those locations.
See you there!