ARDF Update: Foxes, Fitness and Fun in 2010
By Joe Moell, K0OV, Contributing Editor
ARRL Amateur Radio Direction Finding Coordinator
There are radio transmitters to find and medals to be won at ARDF events around the nation and the world. Make this your year to get involved!
"Geeks in the woods!" That's how Jay Hennigan, WB6RDV, of Goleta, California, describes Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF). Several times a year, Jay gets together with friends for a session of this international Amateur Radio sport -- also called foxtailing and radio-orienteering. California hams (and would-be hams!) arrive from cities as far away as San Diego, San Luis Obispo and Lancaster to these local events.
As they set out, five 2 meter "foxes" are somewhere in the woods, transmitting for one minute each in sequence. Armed with a special ARDF set or just a handheld transceiver with a measuring-tape Yagi and attenuator, they see how fast they can run or walk from the start to each transmitter in optimum order and then back to the start, or perhaps to a separate finish point. To help them navigate, they carry compasses and special orienteering maps, but they aren't allowed to have GPS displays or other high-tech navigation aids.
Standardized ARDF courses provide a good test of equipment performance and hunter skill. It's friendly competition combined with great exercise. It attracts "techies" and "jocks" of all ages, who don't need a ham license to get started. And for some, it leads to medals at national and international competitions.
Similar informal sessions take place regularly during weather-friendly months in other places around the country, including Albuquerque, Boston and Cincinnati. If there are no such opportunities in your area, why not get the ball rolling yourself? Read about the international rules and simple equipment then talk it up at your local radio club. A future championship foxtailer may be sitting there, waiting for your encouragement and support
USA ARDF Championships Take Place in Ohio this May
Many of the radio-orienteers attending these sessions are preparing for the 10th USA ARDF Championships, taking place near Cincinnati, Ohio on the weekend of May 21-23, 2010. This is one week after the Dayton Hamvention®, where the annual Foxhunting Forum will be led by the championship's organizers.
The championship's headquarters of will be in Franklin, Ohio -- halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati. Formal activities begin on Friday with a practice and equipment testing session. The championship 2 meter competition will start early on Saturday in a nearby forest, followed by a banquet that evening. On Sunday, the 80 meter competition and medal award ceremony will take place in a different location.
Organizers of the 2010 championships are members of OH-KY-IN Amateur Radio Society, Orienteering Cincinnati (OCIN) and the Butler County VHF Association (led by Bob Frey, WA6EZV, and Dick Arnett, WB4SUV). These are the same folks who put on the very successful 2003 USA and IARU Region 2 Championships, although the 2010 competitions will take place in different forests. Bob and Dick have won medals at previous USA championships and have been on USA's team to the World Championships four times.
USA's ARDF Championships are open to all, regardless of radio-orienteering skill level or ham radio licensing status. Medals will be awarded for the top three finishers on each band in 11 age categories: six for males and five for females.
Registration is now open. For the second year, there is no entry fee for first-time participants and for persons coming from outside North America. The form is available for download at the championship's official Web site. That site also has lodging suggestions and information about two optional days of intense ARDF training just before the championships.
ARDF World Championships Set for Croatia in September
After our national championships in May, USA's best radio-orienteers will be invited to travel to Croatia for the 15th ARDF World Championships -- hosted by the Croatian Amateur Radio Association (HRS) -- which take place September 13 through 18; the HRS is Croatia's IARU Member-Society. The headquarters site will be a hotel in the century-old resort city of Opatija on the Adriatic Sea coast, about 80 miles southwest of Zagreb. About 30 other countries will also be sending their best foxtailers, all hoping to bring home medals. USA has been represented at every ARDF World Championships since 1998.
As always, there will be separate events for each competitor on 80 and 2 meters, each with up to five transmitters scattered in a forest that will encompass 1000 acres or more. Medals await the top three individual competitors in each age/gender category, as well as the top three nations' teams in each category. Team scores are based on aggregation of individual performances. Team members may not assist one another on the courses.
If being a part of the ARDF World Championships appeals to you, now is the time to plan and train. Each country may send up to three competitors in each of 11 age/gender categories. Team members are responsible for their own event registration fees (estimated at 320 Euros, including room and board), as well as transportation expenses to and from Croatia.
Team USA selection in contested categories will be based on performances and standings in this year's national championships in Ohio and last year's national championships in Massachusetts. The categories for males under 20, for males over 70 and for all females are expected to have some uncontested openings, so it will be possible for inexperienced radio-orienteers in these ranges to join the team. It is also possible to attend as a non-competing visitor, but all visitors must be registered and listed as such on the national team roster.
If you are interested in traveling to the 2010 ARDF World Championships as a member of Team USA or as a USA visitor, please contact me now via e-mail. I must submit our letter of intent to participate with estimated number of team members by March 31 to ensure that there will be adequate rooms at the hotel for us. If you have not been on Team USA before, include your full name and mailing address, call sign, home phone number and date of birth. You must be an American citizen or have resident status in this country to be on our team. At my Homing In Web site, you can read the latest news of Team USA formation, plus stories and photos of previous Team USA trips, giving you an idea of what to expect.
If you wish to participate as a citizen of another North or South American country, contact IARU Region 2 ARDF Coordinator Dale Hunt, WB6BYU, via e-mail. Canadians should also contact RAC ARDF Coordinator Joe Young, VE7BFK, via e-mail.
Donations Sought for Worthy ARDF Purposes
The ARRL Fund for the Development of Amateur Radio Direction Finding is now accepting monetary donations to support deserving groups and individuals as they expand ARDF activities in the USA.
This fund was first established in year 2000 with "seed money" from the Colvin Award, the ARRL Foundation and the ARRL General Fund. In its first five years, payments from the fund were made on behalf of 18 individuals to help defray the cost of their participation in three ARDF World Championships. Grants from the fund have also been made to the organizers of two USA ARDF Championships.
No further contributions are anticipated from the original sources, so the fund has been opened to donations from individuals and clubs. All contributions are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law and will be acknowledged by ARRL, a registered 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions may not be designated by donors to be granted to any specific recipient, individual or group.
Grants from the fund may be requested by groups sponsoring ARDF events in the USA and by individuals who have qualified to represent the USA in ARDF competitions sanctioned by the ARRL or the IARU. Requests for grants should be submitted electronically at least 60 days in advance of need to Mary Hobart, K1MMH at ARRL Headquarters. They will be reviewed by a committee that includes the ARRL Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Development Officer and the ARDF Coordinator.
You can help support ARDF in the USA by sending a donation to ARDF Development Fund, c/o ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111. Checks should be made out to ARRL with "ARDF Development Fund" on the memo line.
Make it Happen in 2010
The best radio-orienteers are physically fit, mentally alert and technically adept. If you're looking for a way to hook your sports-minded children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews on Amateur Radio, this may be your answer. ARDF is a great way to improve your own fitness, too.
Thanks to all who are sending me stories and photos of local RDF contesting activities. Please keep them coming.