I usually write two blogs when doing a WICEN event. Once for the WICEN web site and one for the hiking ham. However I’m being slack and using the WICEN blog post below. Enjoy.
The Eureka Rally is the opening round of both the Australian Rally Championship and the Victorian Rally Championship. It’s held around the Ballarat region and is hosted by the Ballarat Light Car Club. The event also includes classic rally cars. WICEN Victoria was there on Sunday 25thAugust to provide emergency communications support, which is the second time WICEN has supported this great event.
Around a dozen WICEN members took up positions at seven SOS points across the course to provide communications back to AWI, the WICEN HQ located at Rally Base in Beaufort. Many members arrived the day before as Beaufort is approximately a two-and half-hour drive north west of Melbourne. The township is located on the Western Highway midway between Ararat and Ballarat, in the Pyrenees Shire. Many operators had to manage fatigue, and with an early morning start on race day, elected to camp at or near their checkpoints. The night before the race several operators were heard on VK3RWA checking in with each other and discussing local conditions. Mobile phone coverage was patchy so getting an up to date weather report from another operator is very useful.
The rain mostly stayed away, with Saturday temperatures reaching 16 degrees Celsius, making it a great day to be out in the forest. Overnight lows were just above freezing, but with experience comes preparedness and WICEN operators in the field need to be fully self-catering with shelter, food, clothing and radio communications. For most is was an early start with the requirement to be operational by 0830hrs. WICEN was to provide voice communications only at the SOS points. Preplanning identified the use of VK3RWA a local 2M repeater, which would provide very good radio communications across the event.
Operators reported the first of the pre-race cars, usually identified as the 0, 00 and 000 cars, and then the first competitive car, as they passed our SOS point. After the last competitive car passed - and there was 47 that started in this year’s event - there came the sweep, or a 999 car, and possibly others such as the MIV (Medical Intervention Vehicle). So, radio traffic in general would be considered light.
However just before the end of the day’s proceedings, SOS Echo reported a roll over and literally minutes later a second roll over was reported. Radio traffic started to build as the Rally Safe System in the rally cars alerted in real time Rally Base HQ. VK3LEL at SOS Echo called for medical assistance and dealt with lots of chatter from officials on the ground.
This is where keeping your cool is key, sifting through the pieces of information knowing what to relay and when. Lachlan VK3LEL was dealing with all this while information from mobile phones, the rally communications system and mobile event apps on smart phones transmitted and received information. The roll overs were out of his line of sight, but Lachlan is an experienced WICEN operator familiar with such events, and managed the situation with professionalism, keeping his cool while under pressure. Great job Lachlan, and if you’re wondering, all the drivers and co-drivers in the roll overs walked away with only very minor injuries.
As quick as the radio chatter rose, near silence returned. It was time to seek permission to close, as the final official vehicle arrived at our SOS point. We made our way out of the forest back to the black-top for the drive home. As operators are scattered across a wide area and closing their check points at various times, we don’t often to get catch up before and or after an event. Our event logs are usually scanned and emailed to the WICEN Event Commander once home. These events are training exercises to practise our skills and hone our equipment should in the real-world event were needed ensuring we are truly ready.