ARDF Update: Texas Hosts USA's ARDF Championships
Bastrop State Park in Central Texas will be the site for this year's USA championship of on-foot hidden transmitter hunting. Fans of this international sport -- also called foxtailing, radio-orienteering and Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) -- are making travels plans now. They want you to join in.
Interest and participation in ARDF has been growing every year since stateside hams first competed at the World Championships in 1998. Beginning in 2001, we have held annual national championships to see who is best at the sport and to select our team members for the World Championships. The Texas ARDF group and the Houston Orienteering Club are combining to host this year's events to be held the second weekend of May.
Thursday, May 8 is scheduled for arrival and equipment testing; 2 and 80 meter transmitters will also be on the air near the event headquarters. There will also be a get-acquainted meeting and drawing for the starting order. The 2 meter contest will take place Friday morning. Competitors will start in small groups made up of different age and gender categories, in the drawn order.
The 80 meter event will be early Saturday morning with starts in reverse order, highest numbers first. After everyone returns from the woods and the results are tallied, medals will be presented for first, second and third place in each category. There will be ample time for everyone to return home in time for Mother's Day activities.
On both bands, each of the five foxes transmits for 60 seconds at a time in numbered order on one frequency, and then the cycle repeats. Fox #1 continuously sends "MOE" in Morse code, then #2 sends "MOI," #3 sends "MOS" and so forth. Knowledge of Morse code isn't necessary, because the number of dits reveals which fox is on. Find your required foxes in any order and then head for the finish, following your map or the continuous beacon transmitter on a second frequency.
Organizing co-chairs for the 2008 USA Championships are Kenneth Harker, WM5R and Jennifer Harker, W5JEN. Both have competed at four USA Championships and have won medals on both bands at the 2007 combined USA and IARU Region 2 Championships near Lake Tahoe. The Harkers organized the first Texas ARDF Championships in October 2005.
Finding Foxes in the Lost Pines
With rolling terrain and woods full of loblolly pines, Bastrop State Park is an ideal orienteering venue. Locals call these trees the Lost Pines, because they are over 150 miles from the large forests of East Texas. Deer, raccoon and armadillo make their homes there, as well as more than 250 bird species.
ARDF competitors navigate through the forest from the starting corridor to the finish line, a distance of 4-10 kilometers. They plot their field bearings on orienteering maps showing terrain features and elevation contours. Color codes indicate vegetation density and ease of running. The Bastrop course sites are now off limits to anyone who will be competing, ensuring fairness for all.
If you plan to travel to the championships by plane, you will get closest by landing at the new Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (IATA code AUS). It is 25 miles from the park and provides non-stop service from 46 airports around the country. A variety of lodging options are available in the area, as well as overnight camping. You must find your own transportation between the airport, your lodging and the park. You can probably arrange to carpool if you coordinate with other attendees ahead of time.
Competitors are responsible for bringing their own direction-finding sets. Extra gear might be available for loan from other attendees, but inquire ahead of time. Receivers must not radiate signals that can be heard by others. Transmitting on the course is forbidden, except in emergencies.
As always, the USA ARDF Championships are open to anyone of any age who can safely navigate the woods. A ham radio license is not required, so encourage your unlicensed-but-athletic friends and family members to join in. Each person competes as an individual; there is no teaming or person-to-person assistance allowed on the courses. Using GPS as a navigation aid is also forbidden.
Our annual ARDF championships are an ideal opportunity to watch and learn from the best radio-orienteers in the country, as well as visitors from around the world. Previous USA championships have drawn experts from Australia, China, the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
Registration for the 2008 USA championships is now open. A $70-per- person package includes the practice session, both competitions, Friday dinner and a T-shirt. Check out the Texas ARDF Web site for detailed schedules, frequencies, lodging information and registration forms. An e-mail reflector is available for Q&A, as well as for coordinating transportation and arranging equipment loans.
If you have never participated in an international-style transmitter hunt, you will find all the basics at my Web site -- Homing In -- including the rules and signal parameters. You will get equipment ideas for 2 meters and 80 meters. You can also determine your own age category. The pages of photos from our previous championships will help you decide what gear to carry (the lighter, the better) and what to wear.
On to Korea
ARDF Team USA will travel to South Korea for the 14th World Championships of ARDF from September 2 through 7. Team positions will be offered to best performers in each age and gender category at Bastrop in May, and at Lake Tahoe last September. A maximum of three persons per category may be on a nation's team.
This is the first time that the Korean Amateur Radio League (KARL) has hosted the World championships. It is only the second time that the ARDF World Championships have taken place outside Europe. KARL has selected forested sites in the Gyeonggi province, about 30 miles from Seoul. Participants will be housed and fed in a nearby resort hotel.
An individual entry fee of US $400 covers double-occupancy room and board for the entire World Championships competition period, plus a sightseeing day and souvenirs. Team USA's competitors and spectators are responsible for this fee plus their own transportation to and from Seoul.
As ARRL's ARDF Coordinator, I will submit USA's roster of travelers to the Korean organizers this summer. If you wish to represent our country at the ARDF World Championships and cannot attend the USA Championships in Texas, please contact me via e-mail to discuss your interest and qualifications.
I hope to see you at the USA Championships in Bastrop Park!
Joe Moell, K0OV, ARRL Amateur Radio Direction Finding Coordinator