|Radio Sport in Australia
2007 SERG Convention
tx June 18 2007
So you've got spare time on your hands, and your looking for a challenge to keep yourself occupied in the coming years. You love getting into the bush, you like to explore new places – maybe you have a 4WD and in interest in GPS navigation and radio communications. On the other hand, you may have an interest in orienteering, the sport of finding your way through all sorts of terrain with only a map and a compass… and these days a GPS. Or perhaps you just like socializing with like minded people with love of technology and the great out doors. If you take everything I've just mentioned and combine them together in one sport, have an event called radio sport, or as the regulars like to call it – foxhunting.
Now before you get on you high horse and start ranting and raving about crewel and barbaric sports, there's not a furry little critter to be seen anywhere. The fox is a radio transmitter which is hidden somewhere in the bush – anywhere in fact, and the hounds are the team of runners who go in search of these transmitters.
The radio signals from the transmitters concerned can travel many kilometers, and hence the use of a vehicle to get you close, certainly saves on the leg work. Teams consist of anywhere from 2 or more members in one single vehicle, or just a single runner or hound if a vehicle isn't necessary.
Armed with a radio receiver, a directional radio antenna, a GPS mapping device and the spirit of adventure with a dash of adrenaline, teams, otherwise known as the hounds, compete to see who can find he fox, or hidden transmitter first.
Who in their right mind would be involved in such a sport you may ask? Well, would you believe Radio Sport is an international competition? Suffice to say that I'm currently standing at the bottom of a volcanic crater in the middle of Mt Gambier in South Australia, for the first event of the 2007 Australian Championships.
It's a brisk June afternoon, about 10 or so degrees as about 30 or 40 people prepare to walk or run around the Blue Lake Crater in search of 11 hidden radio transmitters. They're holding what are called sniffers – Directional radio receivers which make a high pitched noise when you're heading in the right direction...
Wayne Kilpatrick is the Convention Co-coordinator of the South East Radio Groups 2007 convention. After a brief run through with the competitors on what to expect, Wayne unceremoniously started the event sending the waiting masses off into the volcanic bush with the quest of finding 11 transmitters within the allotted two hours.
Adam Scammel was first to complete the course finding all 11 transmitters. Adam also takes the sport seriously having competed in several overseas events over several years. As you'll hear, spirits were high with a good sense of humor as the first event concluded.
The Saturday night hunt is what makes the teams trek to Mt Gambier. This year there are entrants from South
Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales.
The evening hunt starts at 8PM and sees teams cover anywhere from 150 to 400 kilometers depending on how good their equipment and navigation is. The town of Mt Gambier itself is a bustling country town which is home to several thousand hectares of pine plantations. It's also not far from the coast, has lush green farmland and some amazing volcanic attractions. This in itself makes the deal countryside for such an event.
The night hunt has 5 transmitters to find in a specific order. As the teams arrive for the start the air of excitement starts to get the adrenaline pumping.
Bryan Ackerly from Melbourne is a member of the defending champion's team.
It's not long before the teams are on their way in search of the five hidden transmitters which are hidden many kilometers apart. It's this night hunt which really brings out the team work needed for success. The driver keeps a careful eye on roads and terrain as the beam turner, calls the direction from which the signal is coming from. The navigator then pulls all the information together to try and get the team to the fox using the most direct route. That's the theory at least. Like in any sport, there's team rivalry which means there's no amount of tricks and decoys to try and distract others who maybe following close behind.
GPS navigation is absolutely essential to pinpoint exactly where you are in the pitch black South Australian Pine forests, and to add an extra element of excitement to what is already an action packed night, thick fog, with consistency of pea soup descends to the forest floor, making visual navigation almost impossible.
The what seems like sub zero environment makes also adds to the challenge of the Mt Gambier night hunt. After 2 and a half hours, the first team successfully finds all five transmitters, but it's not until after midnight that all teams have completed the course. The night hunt never goes without some form of incident and tonight was no different. One team managed to get well and truly bogged, and another just ran out of petrol.
The Australian National Foxhunting championships are certainly something to behold and to compete in. There are several local competitions run in various states around Australia on a regular basis. Most groups are actively seeking new members and teams so if this sort of fun is for you then why not give it a go. You'll need a vehicle of sorts, some amateur radio gear and a GPS. A zest for a bit of adventure is also mandatory. Contact your local Amateur Radio club for more details or the Wireless Institute of Australia. Radio Sport is one of the best uses for out door recreational technology there is. And the 2007 winner, Congratulations to Bryan's team again for the third year in a row.
Download and listen to the story
The Wireless institute of Australia
South East Radio Group