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Ham Radio at the Jay Challenge 2004
July 26, 2004
Earlier this year, the Montreal Amateur Radio Club was asked to help supply communication support for the Jay Challenge across the border in Northern Vermont. The Jay Challenge is a three-day event (July 23-25) designed by Daniel DesRosier and is developing a reputation of being somewhat extreme.
In the first event, on Friday the 23rd, all the participants were to gather at 8 am in Magog, Quebec, to Kayak across lake Memphremagog in the "Jay Crossover." This is a 26-mile race to Newport, Vermont. Everything was planned, and then the weatherman interfered. Because of a severe weather warning for noon on Friday, the race start time was moved up to 4 am. The Hams were advised of this change on Thursday at 6 pm. This meant that sleep was going to be a rare commodity on Thursday night. But in the spirit of good service we were going to be there on time. When most of us arrived in Jay on Thursday night it was already raining, so we settled in for the short night. I noticed at that point that we were missing a Ham, Ron, VA2RJC.
The next morning (if you call 3 am morning), we were on our way out to Magog. We heard from Jacques, VE2CT who was on his way to Magog directly from Montreal. When we met in Magog, Jacques set up an APRS transmitter on the chase boat so that we could keep track of the racers. Unfortunately, it developed an intermittent problem. So we had to do without the APRS for this event. The race went well up until the skies opened up and decided it was time to water the lawn. The downpour was torrential to say the least. By the time the race was over, nobody was dry. Frank, VE2TOR was on the chase boat and at the end we had to run him through the wringer to dry him off. His HT was wet but it survived. A good hot shower and a nice fire in the fireplace took care of making Frank human again. Then we heard from Ron who had not arrived in Jay the night before. Ron had arrived, but he got stuck on the edge of a ditch in the parking lot of the Jay Peak Resort where we were staying, and the rain was so bad that he decided to get some sleep in his car and deal with the situation in the morning. Ron did not know about the time change on the start time nor did he know we were listening for him on the Jay repeater. When Ron woke up, he contacted the auto club and had his car towed out of the ditch. With great relief he found no damage to his car. He finally contacted us but by then the event for the day was almost over. So we met back at the Condo and got some rest.
The next day, Saturday the 24th was the 26-mile off-road "Jay Marathon." This event takes the runners up Jay Peak and around the Jay area. Our job was to transmit information and emergency traffic between checkpoints. Carole, VA2MOO was put in charge of the checkpoint on the top of Jay. The ride up to Jay was not what she expected. The tram that took the crew up to the top left on time but nobody advised us what time that was and there was only one trip up and one trip down that day. So Carole was treated to a ride up Jay Peak on an ATV. Not the smoothest ride in the world. The runners were blessed with a wonderful sunny day and lots of mud left over from the rain of the day before. It was quite a laugh to see the runner's faces when they got to the last checkpoint before the end, and saw that the last trail was knee-high mud. At the finish line we noticed a large garbage bin full of discarded dirty and muddy running shoes.
That evening Carole and I met with Daniel, the organizer, to plan for the next day. After looking at the map and seeing all the mountains that could interfere with the access to the repeater, we decided to go and see first hand if we could access it from all the checkpoints. We left at 10 pm and got back to the condo at 12:30 am. HT's were not going to cut it on this part of the event.
On Sunday the 25th was the 67-mile Mountain Bike Race with over 10, 500 feet of climbing to do. Can you spell gruelling? I must say that I was impressed by the exceptional coverage of the Jay repeater. We needed to be inventive but we were able to access the repeater from all the checkpoints including the one furthest from Jay, a checkpoint 8.5km south of Montgomery Center in the woods. I have never seen so many happy and filthy people in my life. Of 76 participants that started, 70 made it to the finish line. One of these participants, on arriving at the finish line, rolled off his bike and lay down for a moment to catch his breath. When Daniel came to congratulate him, the participant looked at him and said "Daniel, you are crazy." He continued, with a big smile: "great race, man." I would like to express my appreciation to the Hams that participated in this event:
Also many thanks to the owners and operators of the Jay repeater for the use of their repeater, and to Bob W1WAW for his support. Amateur Radio operators came from the the Montreal Amateur Radio Club, Covey Hill Amateur Radio Club and West Island Amateur Radio Club.
Raymond Faguy - VE2SJA
Edited by Steven Faguy VA2SMF
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