The US championships of Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) return to the Lone Star State this April. Sponsored by Texas ARDF and the Austin Orienteering Club (AOC) the events will take place April 7-10 near Killeen, Texas. On-foot foxhunting fans of all skill levels will gather for 4 days of intense competition. The primary site will be the Parrie Haynes C5 Youth Ranch and Equestrian Center.
National ARDF championships typically take place in the late summer or early fall, but because the ARDF World Championships in Bulgaria take place in early September this year, the national event is being held in April to provide plenty of time for the selection of Team USA members and to make travel arrangements.
An optional training day just prior to the championships on Wednesday, April 6, will feature an 80 meter short course. Thursday, April 7, will be devoted to foxoring, a combination of radio direction finding and classic orienteering on 80 meters. Friday morning will be the formal 80 meter sprint event, followed by a catered lunch, competitor meeting, and model event for equipment testing.
Classic 2 meter and 80 meter competitions will take place on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. An awards banquet on Saturday evening will feature the presentation of medals for the foxoring, sprint, and 2 meter classic events. Awards for the 80 meter classic event will be given Sunday afternoon, immediately following the competition.
Lead organizers, event hosts, and course planners are Jennifer and Kenneth Harker, W5JEN and WM5R. They have competed at the USA Championships almost every year since 2003 and have won numerous medals. They represented USA at the ARDF World Championships in 2008, 2010, and 2014. Assisting them will be members of the Austin Orienteering Club.
ARDF championship rules are set by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). For scoring and awards, participants are divided into 11 age/gender categories. In the classic ARDF events, competitors start in small groups made up of different categories. As they seek hidden transmitters, they navigate through the forest from the starting corridor to the finish line — a distance of anywhere from 4 to 10 kilometers. They plot their direction-finding bearings on orienteering maps that show terrain features, elevation contours, and vegetation type.
The USA ARDF Championships are open to anyone who can safely navigate the woods by themselves. A ham radio license is not required. Each participant competes as an individual; any teamwork or GPS use is forbidden. Competitors bring their own direction-finding gear to the events, although extra gear is sometimes available for loan from other attendees. Competitors may not transmit on the course, except in emergencies.
The US ARDF Championships are an ideal opportunity to watch and learn from the best radio-orienteers in the US and from around the world. Stateside winners of the US championships will be considered for membership in ARDF Team USA, which will travel to Albena, Bulgaria for the 18th ARDF World Championships. A maximum of three competitors in each age/gender category may be on a nation’s team.
The Texas ARDF website includes the schedule, technical details, and sites, plus details about transportation, lodging, site embargoes, tourism, weather, and much more. An e-mail reflector is available for Q&A with the organizers as well as to coordinate transportation and arrange equipment loans.
Basic information on international-style transmitter hunting is on the “Homing In” Web site, including rules and signal parameters. This site includes equipment ideas for 2 meters and 80 meters, plus photos from previous championships. Information about the Amateur Radio Direction Finding Fund is on the ARRL website. — Thanks to ARRL ARDF Coordinator Joe Moell, K0OV