Pepperell, Devens to host world ham radio competition


Pepperell, Devens and Leominster are among the 16 New England communities chosen to host the World Radiosport Team Championship this summer.

The competition, which will attract 59 two-person amateur radio teams from 38 countries, tasks amateur radio operators with making as many contacts as possible in a simulation of emergency conditions.

“It’s kind of like the Olympics of radio contesting,” said Roland Guilmet, a spokesperson for the Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club. “To be selected and host these radio contesters from around the world is kind of a big deal.”

Radio competitions help operators prepare for real-world emergency scenarios, such as hurricanes or situations like the 2013 Boston Marathon, in which radio is often one of the most efficient means of contact, Guilmet said.

“Radio contesting is really all about being able to make contacts with other individuals from around the world in some terrible radio conditions, and doing that in a very efficient way and very quick way to handle the communication traffic. In an emergency or disaster situation it means you’re able to get a signal through to another radio station that is requesting aid,” Guilmet said.

Members of the NVARC will be assisting with setting up antennas, radio towers, tents and generators for the competition, which will be held July 8 to July 14.

The competition will be held in state parks, town owned land and private properties across the state.

Chairman of WRTC 2014 Doug Grant said that once New England was chosen as the host region, the Heald Street Orchard in Pepperell was one of the first sites chosen. The NVARC uses the orchard for its Field Day every summer.

“Once we had that site in Pepperell, we started looking around for if there were other properties in Pepperell and discovered a number of orchards and farms,” Grant said. “We were looking for places with large open spaces of land, and from Pepperell we just moved down the 495 corridor.”

Bruce Blain, also of the NVARC, said 59 the sites were chosen in order to ensure a level playing field for all competitors.

“What they don’t want to do is give any of the teams an unfair advantage or an unfair disadvantage. If one site is on a hill and another is in a valley, the hill would have an advantage,” Blain said.

In addition to being a competition, the event will allow local operators the chance to meet with people they had previously spoken with over their radios.

“We get to see the best of the best, see them locally, meet and interact with them and show them some New England hospitality,” Blain said.

In addition to the 118 contestants, the competition will attract dozens of judges, officials and sponsors to the area, Blain said.

This competition, held every four years, is the first in the United States since 1996, when it was based in San Francisco.
Competing teams were chosen over the last three years based on a series of 55 qualifying events. The competition extends over a 24-hour period during which contestants do not sleep, but aim to make contact with as many stations and countries as possible. One judge will be assigned to each site to score the teams.

Other communities selected were Mansfield, Wrentham, Assonet, Berkley, Dighton, East Taunton, Plymouth, Carver, Medfield, Cohasset, Hingham, Norwell and Hollis, N.H.

Follow Chelsea Feinstein on Twitter and Tout @CEFeinstein.