STER Endurance Ride 2006




WICEN at Southern Tasmanian Endurance Riders Event
WICEN's Channel group provided checkpoint communications around the Wielangta forest and the coast south of Rheban.
VK7s ARN, BW, FDNA, HAW, JGD, MBD, NXX and ZZ headed for the East Coast to enjoy an early rise - like 0400 and the relatively relaxed pace of horse endurance riding.  Unfortunately the relaxation also seems to cover passing of some of the information necessary to planning and organising a communications system capable of meeting requirements - without last minute run arounds.
This year, early planning was thwarted allegedly by stag horn beetles, swift parrots and wedge tail eagles, the presence of which imposed late restrictions on our access to the most difficult of the checkpoints.  An alternate access plan was developed and organised, only to suffer a last minute change when the keys to the gate to beetle country were unexpectedly made available.  This is where the Amateur network proved it's worth.
Mobile phone coverage at our location was zero but RAF could be accessed.  VK7HGO heard our calls and contacted VK7MBD still at home in Kingston and ready to depart well pre sparrow, to access the wayward checkpoint from the south, thus avoiding the beetles etc.. 
The new arrangements were passed and Bruce and friend Essie joined us on Saturday via the northern route to pick up the gate key.  Here's the twist.  The track has two locked gates and, you guessed it, the key only opened one of them.  So back track through beetle country, head south, and in the way originally planned before all the heartache of the previous evening.  The checkpoint was being established just as the first horses and riders arrived, so none were missed.

Our set up included a 2 metre repeater at the Three Thumbs Lookout, together with an APRS digipeater.  Base was at the shearing shed on the Ringrove property and included a PC displaying the positions of the checkpoint vehicles.  Comms with the southern checkpoint were a little scratchy via the repeater - the late arrival prevented optimal positioning - so a 40 metre relay filled the gap.  Four checkpoints were covered by three teams, stretched to four due to another late change in ride arrangements. VK7s JGD and FDNA were seperated and FDNA established in ARN's trailer at the road side with a portable pack radio.  This set up took place well before dawn when temperatures were at the overnight lowest.  FDNA had expected to be sat in a heated vehicle and dressed accordingly.  An almost Pan Pan call to Base, claiming the loss of both feet to frost bite and rising rapidly to include lower legs and knees,  resulted in the delivery of a sleeping bag.  A suggested alternative involving the use of the still warm residue of the passing of the first horses was rejected. 

A few frustrations but a nevertheless enjoyable and successful deployment.