HAMNET Report 21 May 2017

In a communiqué issued on Wednesday,  Johann Marais ZS1JM has advised that he has decided to resign as Deputy National Director for HAMNET. He says “In the beginning I requested Paul to be the Director and undertook to assist him with the job. It is however the prerogative of the Director to appoint this deputy. I therefore resign with immediate effect to allow Paul to exercise this discretion. I remain a loyal and active member of HAMNET in the Western Cape.” End quote.

And a message received from Paul van Spronsen, HAMNET National Director, says “We wish to express our thanks to Johann Marais ZS1JM, who has served as Deputy National Director of HAMNET for the past several years.  We wish Johann well in his further efforts within the Offroad Rescue Unit, Wilderness Search and Rescue and as a continued member of HAMNET.  Johann’s replacement will be announced in due course.” End quote.

Rory ZS6RBJ of the West Rand Unit of HAMNET Gauteng South has sent me a report of their involvement in a bike ride held on 14th May. The Think Bike marshals have been experiencing difficulties communicating  between their marshal’s on bikes over varying distances using only their Hand Held Radios, even though some of the marshal bikes have been fitted with mobile whip antennas.

Chad ZS6OPS felt that the HAMNET unit could assist with this, and various communications tests were conducted amongst the HAMNET Gauteng South West Rand Unit members and several members obtained licences in their personal capacities for the frequency used by Think Bike in order to communicate with the Think Bike marshals. Tests conducted between the HAMNET vehicles on the Think Bike simplex frequencies yielded positive results amongst the West Rand HAMNET members. The duty on the 14th May was twofold. One, to provide communications for the event, and Two, to provide feedback and possible solutions for the marshals communications moving forward.

The event started with a briefing held at the Sasol Garage on Republic Road from 06h45 by the Think Bike event coordinator, Bill Nash, on the planned formation and route which the bikes would take along the highway. HAMNET gave a brief talk on radio procedure and their role in the morning’s activities and at about 08h00 all Think Bike marshals escorted the HAMNET vehicles to the World Wear Centre on Beyer’s Naude Road from where all bikers participating in the Bike Awareness Run would start.

We had 7 HAMNET vehicles in attendance which were crewed by a driver and two radio operators (one on amateur bands and the other on the Think Bike frequency) ensuring drivers could concentrate on the road during the run.

Although the event was expected to be attended by around 500 bikes, on the day only around 80-90 bikes took part. This was likely due to the cold weather, and the fact that this was the first event of its kind, not to mention it being Mother’s Day!

The group set off in convoy at 09h00, Think Bike marshals blocking the on ramp, left and centre lanes of the N1 South to allow the bikers to join the highway safely.

They rode the route which took the convoy along the N1 South, N12 West, N3 North and finally the Modderfontein off-ramp, with the final destination being the Fireman’s Tavern.

Think Bike marshals and JMPD crew (who unexpectedly joined the run) provided a vital role in traffic control as well as ensuring safety for all. Think Bike marshals are well trained and extremely professional and it was really eye opening to watch them at work. Before the convoy reached the next on-ramp along the route, the marshals along with JMPD had stopped traffic, which allowed the bikers to pass safely. Our HAMNET vehicles travelled on the left of the convoy which took up the centre lane on the highway for about a 1Km stretch of road.

Radio communications were good between Think Bike and HAMNET, with all teams and marshals in contact along the route. Think Bike’s radio procedure was also on point, and it made it very easy for us to keep in touch along the route. Fortunately there were no incidents along the way, and everyone arrived safely at Fireman’s Tavern.

From a HAMNET perspective we gained a lot of valuable knowledge. This was the West Rand Unit’s first official role in a “mobile” event, as we are all used to setting up field stations and control points during exercises and club activities, and working in convoy while on the move was a completely different challenge. VHF simplex operation was very reliable in this instance.

Another good learning curve was the ability to communicate with non-amateur radio organisations. We were given the opportunity to utilise the Think Bike frequencies during this event, which meant a lot of planning and equipment gathering before the event. However on the day of the event all the planning and testing certainly paid off.

Huge thanks to Think Bike for allowing us to take part. We look forward to working with them in the future. Another big thanks to all our HAMNET members who gave up their Sunday Morning and braved the cold to assist with the event, which from everyone’s comments afterwards, was a success.

Thank you to Rory, and the HAMNET volunteers.

And in an extraordinarily precise document, Dave Holiday ZS5HN of HAMNET KZN has sent me further information of the deployment of radio operators during the upcoming Comrades Marathon. I counted 28 amateur call signs in the list, and a lot of Land Cruiser Club members and CB operators as well. The forward planning in Dave’s document has to be seen to be believed, and, in that we are about 3 weeks ahead of the race, he and HAMNET KZN are to be congratulated on organisation well planned and well in advance! Thank you for keeping me in the loop Dave.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR, continuing to hold thumbs for rain in the Western Cape, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.