HAMNET Report 25th February 2024

The Dischem Ride for Sight is an annual cycle event held in February every year. This year marked the 35th cycle race held at the Boksburg Stadium and attracted 2800 cyclists who participated in one of three race distances: 116 km, 62 km and an 8 km fun ride.

SARL HAMNET Gauteng has been involved with providing communications and other services for the event for a number of years and this year once again excelled at ensuring that the race was successful, enjoyable and safe for all the participating cyclists.

The HAMNET contingent consisted of radio amateurs from Gauteng as well as their neighbours from across the Vaal from Sasolburg in the Freestate. HAMNET Gauteng and Freestate regularly assist each other on either side of the Vaal and between them are quite a formidable team who do not stand back from any challenges. The HAMNET members within the Vaal Triangle encompassing Vereeniging, Vanderbijlpark and Sasolburg areas are known as HAMNET Vaal even though they technically belong to two different regions. Members of Pro-Ethnos Search and Rescue as well as the Chaplaincy also assisted in the event, either as drivers, co-drivers or medical response alongside Dial-A-Medic, who were the official medical support service providers.

The VOC situated at the Boksburg Stadium was already being set up on the Saturday preceding the event where sweep vehicles all driven by radio amateurs were installed with radios and APRS tracking devices, whether RF, GSM or phone based. All medical response vehicles and ambulances were also installed with radio and tracking devices. A number of the HAMNET members who had travelled long distances slept over in the VOC so that they could be up and about by 03h00 on Sunday morning, the 18th February.

There were 4 water points on the long 116 km route that extended from Boksburg down to Alberton, Midvaal, around the south and eastern side of the Suikerbosrand to Heidelberg and back to the Boksburg Stadium via Carnival City. Each water point manager set up a mini-JOC and managed two sweep vehicles that patrolled their section of the route.

The Short 62km route had only one water point at the 30 km mark and one sweep.

As the race proceeded and the back-marker closed the various water points as the last cyclist passed them, the respective sweeps were re-assigned to the next water point and the water point managers escorted their water trucks to the next water point to supplement the rapidly diminishing stocks of water and Coca-Cola. Temperatures along the route on the day were in excess of 30 degrees and all sweeps who had a BLS medic on board were on the look-out for signs of dehydration amongst the riders, and encouraged those who were showing symptoms to abandon the race and rather opt for a free ride back to the finish on a sweep vehicle or one of the two buses that were available.

The event ran seamlessly and no serious incidents were reported, thanks to the sterling work done by the team lead by Leon ZS6LMG and Johan ZS6DMX, the Regional and Deputy Regional Directors of HAMNET Gauteng. Well done to everyone involved.

This report was compiled by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ, HAMNET Deputy National Director, who on the day performed the duties of water point manager and later a sweep along with his daughter Anja ZS6SJC who was also a sweep and participated in her first HAMNET event on her own. Thank you, Brian, and congratulations to you and Anja on a job well done.

A message from Michael ZS1MJT, HAMNET Regional Director for the Western Cape says that the Western Province Disaster Management Agency is planning a communications system test on Friday the 1st March between 08h00 and 10h00. In anticipation of that, HAMNET will hold a test session today the 25th activating both our Cape Town stations ZS1DZ and ZS1DCC.

The idea will be to confirm good enough links with George, Mossel Bay, Agulhas, Porterville, and possibly Beaufort West. Although HF will be used between these areas, were it to turn out that the disaster management centre in any of these areas cannot hear or be heard, the plan is for local participating amateurs to attempt HF comms with Cape Town, and then relay their messages by VHF to the centres that are not hearing or being heard.

So it will be a combined effort amongst those at the disaster management centres, and local amateurs in the neighbourhood who can relay information on.

Michael notes that “Our performance on Friday 1 March is crucial, and it’s essential that this exercise is meticulously organized. We are under scrutiny, and it’s imperative that we excel.”

Designated HF frequencies will be 7110 kHz LSB and 5410 kHz USB.

I hope to carry a feedback report of this exercise of 1st March on next Sunday’s bulletin.

Three top-tier X-class solar flares launched off the sun between Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The first two occurred seven hours apart, coming in at X1.9 and X1.6 magnitude respectively. The third, the most powerful of the current 11-year “solar cycle,” ranked an impressive X6.3.

Solar flares, or bursts of radiation, are ranked on a scale that goes from A, B and C to M and X, in increasing order of intensity. Solar flares and accompanying coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, can influence “space weather” across the solar system, and even here on Earth. CMEs are slower shock waves of magnetic energy from the sun. Flares can reach Earth in minutes, but CMEs usually take at least a day.

All three of the X-class solar flares disrupted shortwave radio communications on Earth. But the first two flares did not release a CME. And, after careful review, scientists confirmed that the third also did not produce one. Therefore, no additional impact on Earth was expected. Three back-to-back radio blackoutsdidoccur in response to the trio of flares, but primarily over the Pacific and Indian oceans. They were rated “R3” or greater on a 1 to 5 scale.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Centre, such a radio blackout results in a “wide area blackout of [high frequency] radio communication, [and] loss of radio contact for about an hour on the sunlit side of the Earth.”

Thank you to the Washington Post, for this report of solar activity.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.