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USA ARDF Championships Coming in June:

Joe Moell (K0OV) on April 12, 2004
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Hams across the country are getting themselves and their gear ready for the fourth annual national championships of Amateur Radio Direction Finding. The sport, which is also known as radio-orienteering, foxtailing and ARDF, is an all-on-foot adventure in the woods to see who can find the most transmitters in the shortest time. Some of the competitors will be experts, having participated in previous national and world championships. There will be plenty of newcomers, too, learning how to become champions of the future.

An optional training camp starts the action during the weekend of June 12-13, with map-and-compass orienteering at Mount Pinos in the Los Padres National Forest. The next two days of the camp will be in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, practicing course strategies, route choices, and bearing-taking.

The main events get under way on Wednesday, June 16 as competitors arrive at the headquarters site in Gorman, California. Next day, they fine-tune their skills and align their direction-finding equipment using short courses on both the 2m and 80m bands. Opening ceremonies and a drawing for the starting order are that evening. Friday starts early with a bus ride to the full-length 2m competition at an undisclosed location, followed on Saturday by an 80m event of similar size in a different venue. Closing ceremonies take place Saturday evening and the competitors take their medals home on Sunday.

The competitive courses will be open to anyone of any age, with or without an Amateur Radio license. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded in five age categories for males and four for females, in accordance with rules of the International Amateur Radio Union. If you're not a marathoner, you still have a chance for a medal, as there will be plenty of trotting and walking on the courses.

Events in California will end just in time for final selection of ARDF Team USA 2004 members, who will travel to Brno in the Czech Republic for the 12th ARDF World Championships from September 7 through 12. Over 200 participants are expected to represent 25 or more countries there. USA's team positions will be filled based on performances in the just-concluded national championships and in last year's national championships in Ohio.

Members of the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club (SBARC) are this year's national championship organizers. General Chair is Marvin Johnston KE6HTS, one of North America's ARDF pioneers. A member of USA's first team to the ARDF World Championships (Hungary, 1998), he has been on the team ever since, making trips to compete in China in 2000 and Slovakia in 2002. He won medals at the last two USA ARDF Championships.

USA's ARDF Championships are open to anyone at any foxhunting skill level, with or without a ham license. Medals will be awarded in five separate age categories for OM's from under 18 to over 60. There are four similar age categories for YLs.

Equipment for hunting radio foxes can be very simple and inexpensive. Most beginners do very well by augmenting their handi-talkies with simple yagi antennas made out of a steel measuring tape and PVC pipe from the hardware store. For closing in, an offset-type RF attenuator made from about 15 dollars worth of small parts will knock down the signal and keep your S-meter on scale. Plans are on the Web and kits are available, so warm up your soldering iron.

The official Web site of the Championships is now online at the SBARC Web site. It has details on the schedule of events for both the championships and the optional training camp, plus a downloadable registration form. For more about the sport of ARDF, go to the "Homing In" Web site. There you will find equipment ideas and photos from previous championships. There is also information about other local, national and international radio-orienteering events and local contacts. You can subscribe to a group e-mail list for updates and discussions of plans for the Championships.

Joe Moell K0OV
ARRL ARDF Coordinator

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