ARDF World Championships 2002

Two First-Person Reports from Team USA

Thanks to Bob Frey WA6EZV and Karla Leach KC7BLA for sharing their experiences at the 2002 ARDF World Championships in the High Tatras of Slovakia on this page. You can read quotes from Marvin Johnston KE6HTS, Bob Cooley KF6VSE, and Dick Arnett WB4SUV in a two-part Homing In series in the November and December issues of 73 Amateur Radio Today magazine.

Bob Frey WA6EZV

In the photo below, Bob awaits his turn near the starting line in Slovakia.

Bob Frey WA6EZV

How do you consolidate the events of the 2002 ARDF World championships into a few pages? To detail the preparation, practice, anticipation, success and disappointment as a member of Team USA would result in a short novel. I hope rather to give you a flavor for the completion by describing the events of a single day.

Confident that my 80-meter receiver was in good working order and after a disappointing VHF event, I was more confident, determined, and relaxed as the buses carrying some 310 competitors from 25 countries left the hotel at an early 6:30AM for the starting area.

After a 45-minute ride, the buses made a right turn down a gravel road and stopped. Then a kilometer walk to an open meadow brought the competitors to a roped area just 50 meters from the starting corridor at the base of a mountain. Results of the starting draw the previous evening had me starting late, with nearly a three hour wait. The first two hours were spent napping on the grass, and verifying that team members were ready for their starts. One hour to go, time to get ready, gaitors, orienteering shoes, compass, map board check! Time to take a slow jog around the holding area to loosen the legs.

Fifteen minutes before the start, group number 33, my group, is called to the ready area. Here my SPORTident number is checked and rechecked before the chip is cleared and verified. Ten minutes to go, I retrieve my receiver from impound and grab a map. At the starting tables I mark the start, finish and out-of-bounds areas. Five minutes to start, I am standing in the starting corridor, D35, M40, and M21 in corridor one, D19, M50 and M60 in corridor two, I think. The map shows that I am at the bottom, north end of the map with the finish to the west. I am guessing that one transmitter will be far out to the east, away from the finish with at least one other in the valley on the far south side of the mountain and another west near the finish. The big question, where would the other transmitters be located?

"Five, four, three, two, one, BEEP!" I'm off. Ten meters south then a right turn up the starting corridor at a steep 50-degree angle. A quick tune of the receiver and MOE, transmitter number one, can be heard weakly ahead at 180 degrees. It must be over the hill and far away, or so I think. The normal starting corridor is 100 meters long, this one is an easy three to four hundred meters, and all uphill. Not being allowed to stop in the corridor to take bearings, I finally reach the end of the corridor while MOS, transmitter number three, is on. Not having to find MOI in the M50 division, I ignored it while trying to stay with the group while climbing the hill. MOS is at a 240-degree bearing, toward the finish and fairly strong. It will have to wait till later. Another 100 meters up the hill and MOH starts. Bearing 190 and weak, this one of the transmitters I expected to be south in the valley. MO5 must be to the east, as it starts transmitting I get a bearing of 140 degrees and medium signal strength. As expected, it is away from the start.

One cycle compete and my game plan is to go for MO5, then MOH. Dismissing MOE as also far away and south, I figure to track it from MO5 and get MOE, MOS or MOS, MOE in that order. Cycle two starts and MOE is still very weak. I continue to climb the never-ending hill. I thought I was in shape for this. Was I wrong! Three is west; four is south and five still southeast. Cycles three, four, and five show no drastic change in bearings and I am just now reaching the top of the mountain. A check after the completion verified that the climb to the top was just over a mile with a 200-meter elevation change. Alexander from Kazakhstan and group 34 just passed me heading in the same direction. His speed is too much for me to follow and he may be heading for MOI. Continuing toward MO5, I try a shortcut off the trails. The brush is thick and I lose a lot of time. At 45 minutes, I am near the transmitter. Two other competitors are waiting on the trail for the transmitter to start. At 50 minutes we all make a dash down a side trail and right into the woods. Finally MO5 is punched as Pan, the juror from Belgium, watches.

Back to main trail and MOH is at 240 degrees dead ahead. Three other competitors are heading the same way. One cycle later, I break from the woods to overlook a field heading to the valley below. It's at least a half-mile, but I am determined to keep running with the group. Two more cycles and I and others are near the lake in the valley. MOH is strong and southwest. MOS is medium strength and North. How to proceed? My original plan to get MOH and then MOS or MOE will not work. I decide that I can get MOH last while on the way to the finish and decide to head up a trail toward MOS. To my surprise, I cannot hear MOE. I thought it to be in this area. The climb is slow and hindered as the trail I'm on ends and forces me to go cross-country, uphill until I connect with another trail heading toward MOS. On the way, I pass two young competitors, both trying to hear MOE. They both hold up a finger as to say MOE. I just shrug my shoulders and they move on. Still heading toward MOS, I pass Gyuri, who is heading down the trail. I assume he is heading toward MOH.

Now some 95 minutes into the competition, I have to make a decision. If I continue to MOS, I will never get back to MOH and the route home from this area is slower and farther to the finish. Also, I am not sure how much further to the transmitter. Reluctantly I decide to break off on MOS and head down a main trail back to MOH and the finish area. In all, this turns into a huge 25-minute mistake.

Back in the valley, I get a bearing to MOH south, across the lake toward the woods. Legs are tired but I manage to loop the lake on its east end and head across a field to the woods to the south in one cycle. Never have heard MOE since the start. Two cycles later, I punch MOH tucked in the woods a hundred meters up the hill.

The road home is back down to the field, across a small footbridge at the west end of the lake then west down the main road to the finish area. A right turn on the road around another hill brings the finish area into view. Up a small hill, across the field to a short 150-meter finish corridor. Everyone sprints to the finish, tired or not. I am no exception.

Final results, finish time 127 minutes, two transmitters. Distance traveled was nearly 6.1 miles. Disappointment -- I should have gotten three transmitters. I found out later that MOE had a problem and was running QRP (had very low power output). I had run past it near the top of the hill. It was in a deep valley that further hindered the signal. Many had problems with this transmitter, so I do not feel real bad about not getting it. You might say I was outfoxed.

I was glad to finish in time. It allowed Team USA to post a team score for M50 category, and I didn't finish last.

Bob Frey WA6EZV

Karla Leach KC7BLA

In the photo below, taken at Gyuri Nagy's home during the training camp, Karla Leach KC7BLA is closest to the camera. Others are, going clockwise around the table from Karla: Bryan Ackerly VK3YNG, Bob Cooley KF6VSE, Marvin Johnston KE6HTS, Dick Arnett WB4SUV, Adam Scammell VK3YDF, Bob Frey WA6EZV, and Harley Leach KI7XF. Standing in back are hosts Gyuri, Thomas, Daniel, and Susan Nagy.

Around the table in Pecs

Our trip was wonderful, and I really appreciate having had the opportunity to be on the jury in Slovakia! We had a very uneventful flight over to Budapest. Gyuri Nagy HA3PA/KF6YKN picked us up the next afternoon to head for the Hungarian National Championships. It was at a very nice youth camp. We had great accommodations in a new cabin, and started our rooming together with the Aussies. As I was the only female, My husband Harley KI7XF and I got the small room with twin beds. The other two rooms had bunks to sleep about twelve each.

Some of the organizers spoke some English, but mainly Gyuri and Csaba Tiszttarto were our interpreters. Both days went pretty smoothly and Harley got a third place in the 2-meter event. He had more competitors than I did, as I had only one other woman in my age category. As I didn't time out, I took second. On the second day, Harley took second in the 80 meter and again I took second.

We then headed down to Orfu, Hungary for training camp. Gyuri did a wonderful job in finding a house for all of us English-speakers to room. And again as I was the only woman, Harley and I got the room with one large bed. Gyuri also found a restaurant that would cook both lunch and dinner for us every day we were there. It was YUMMY!

We were then thrown into the heavy training schedule. I wish I had taken advantage of the training more, but as I knew I was going to be on the jury in Slovakia, I didn't do as much. All nine of us got along well and seemed to soon have a routine for breakfast, showers, laundry, and cleanup. The training went well and all of us feel it was well worth it and that Gyuri should do one in the USA, too. The terrain was beautiful and very green. Gyuri's parents and his wife each cooked a special Hungarian meal for all of us.

After an exhausting week, we were soon on our way to Slovakia. As there were so many of us, extra cars and an extra driver had to be enlisted to get us there. After crossing the border and meandering some in the foothills, we arrived at our destination. The registration process did not go as smoothly as it had in China, but eventually it was completed.

After we got into our rooms, we were soon in the hustle-bustle of the schedule. We had an opening ceremony that welcomed us to Slovakia. There were some musicians and dancers that entertained us. I got to go to many meetings, once I found the meeting room, which was in the adjoining hotel about 15 minutes away. I was very nervous and of course had many questions. After introductions, we were soon into discussing rules and equipment. Thankfully there was an excellent interpreter as some of the key officials spoke little English. I was the only woman juror, although there were other women in the meetings.

Some of the issues were discussed at great length and others were agreed upon quickly. It kind of reminded me of a mini United Nations. Several of the more experienced jurors explained some of the protocol to me and what would be expected of us new jurors. (During the meetings there were many other topics that needed everyone's attention.)

The starting order was decided during those meetings, as was the finger ID tag, the orienteering flags, the equipment needed by the jurors and technicians, the schedule, the weather, and the lack of animals that would cause any problems - such as bears. Transportation, competitors' receivers, cameras, cell-phones, smoking, alcohol, and cheating were some of the issues also addressed at these meetings.

On the first day of competition, we jurors were up early to be ready to head for the site about an hour before the competitors would be bussed. The technician, one of the officials, one of the roaming jurors and I were soon on our way to our site. It was quite pretty in that area, greener than Albuquerque, but not quite as dense foliage as China. We soon had our transmitter set up (number 4) and then sat down to wait.

To my dismay, it soon became apparent that we were not too far from some water, as the mosquitoes found me. I had put on repellant, but it was American repellant and they were Slovakian mosquitoes. (I think there was a language barrier.)

I then got out my pocket dictionary so I could communicate with "my" technician. The others had left for their jobs and I knew it would be some time before we would see any competitors. But his response to my efforts was, no he did not want to communicate. So I spent the waiting time reading.

Once the competitors started coming, the time flew. Sometimes we would only get one at a time, but as the race continued we would often see 5 to 10 at a time. Then it was hard to write down their numbers and times. By having both of us record, we got verification from each other if we were not sure if we got it right. Towards the end they were spaced out more. It was than that we realized how HARD the ground was. We had to stay seated for about 7 hours! Mentally I started making a list of what I would bring to the 80 meter event: No translation book, BIG pillows, a larger tarp to protect from the wet ground, and lots of repellant.

When we were finally given the go-ahead to load up, it did not take long to get moving, although my legs had forgotten how to move. We were picked up and taken to the finish area to discuss any issues that needed to be addressed. One of the jurors reported a competitor had seen a bear! But it was an American who spotted it and chased it away. I found out later it was Harley and later we also found out that the bear was a female with two cubs. Everything else was okay, especially after the last competitor came in (of course she had timed out).

The results were approved and we returned to our lodging. We had an award ceremony that night for the 2 meter hunt. It was outside in light jacket weather. The next day some of us went on a river float and others went to a castle. It also was a sleepy day.

On the day of the 80 meter competition, it was a little rainy and cooler. When the jurors arrived at the starting area, I found out that I would have a different technician than I had before. We hiked to our spot (again #4). There were a lot of stinging nettles in the area. Also we were near a small reservoir. When my technician tried to put the stake into the ground, it kept bending. Eventually it broke! He found some rope in his backpack and tied the two pieces together. He finally was able to get it to stay in the ground. It was about two inches shorter, but still worked. (We discovered that there was only about 6 inches of topsoil on a solid rock shelf.)

When we got our waiting area ready with a large tarp, an inflatable pillow, and our gear, I found out the technician of the day wanted to talk! Of course my translation book was back at our lodgings, so he and I proceeded to "talk" with pictures. We learned a lot about each other and our families without speaking a word. It proves that people can communicate even without a common language.

I want to report here that my mosquitoes found me again. The worst part was in my hair. I had long sleeves, long pants, a jacket, and a hat, but they found a way to get into the hat and dined there all day. (Will have to find a new repellant!) The sitting was better this day but it started sprinkling and rained lightly off and on all day. When it was over, we packed up and headed to our pick-up point. We were then driven to the finish line. There were no competitors there. We had our meeting at the outside table of a farmer who had loaned us his field for the finishing area.

During the meeting, it started raining again, so we finished our meeting in the bus that was waiting it take us back to our lodging. We arrived just in time to have a quick bite and clean up for the award ceremony. That was inside as it was by now raining quite hard. After that we had the hamfest.

The next day, bright and early, we headed back to Budapest to get some of the team members onto planes. Because of a strike, there was a one-day delay for Bob Frey WA6EZV and Dick Arnett WB4SUV. Harley and I continued with Gyuri to his home city, Pecs. His family was very hospitable and even made arrangements for us to go to Romania to see our adopted daughter's foster family. We then went to Poland to see Harley's mother's relatives. We spent a few days there and than went to southern France to be hosted by a couple families that we had met in China and became reacquainted with in Slovakia. They treated us so well and we are forever grateful for all their kindnesses.

We are looking forward to the championships next year in Ohio and again are hoping to return to Europe and tackle the Czech Republic in 2004. What a sport!

Karla Leach KC7BLA

Harley Leach KI7XF

In the photo above, Harley Leach KI7XF works on Bob Frey's ARDF receiver in Gyuri's home.

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This page updated 23 July 2004