Sudhir Shah - VU2SVS manning the Wireless Control Station at Half Marathon By Indian Navy in Mumbai

Mumbai Hams had a great experience on 18th Nov 2018 at Half Marathon organised by the Indian Navy at Bandra Kurla Complex. Working on the Amateur Radio NET and Field trips is the best way to test your radio, antenna and other apparatus. However, working in a live event is a great experience.

The race director, Mr Venkatraman Pichumani also a Ham, had approached Mr Sudhir Shah (VU2SVS) to tap in Mumbai Hams to provide communications support for this half marathon race. We all were introduced to Indian Naval Officer Commodore Swaminathan B. at our orientation meeting held at Navy School (Colaba) in Mumbai on 11th Nov 2018.

He explained the cause of this marathon, which was interesting. He said, the civilians can feel the presence of the Army easily, but the navy, which has only 3 Naval commands in the East (Vizag), West (Mumbai) and South (Kochi) that too in a confined area (Coastal Region) is restricted to the civilians.

So by organising this Half Marathon Race, we (Navy) he says, can connect with civilians, make feel our presence in the society. He says, in all the wars that India fought with our good neighbours were on ground and air, except one, in which the Navy played a significant role. We entered the Karachi Port, resulting in Pakistan had to surrender.

Then after our Neighbour always ventured into the Proxy war. They know it’s impossible for them to defeat us in water. Some hams dropped out some got added at the last moment, and in that way, 17 Mumbai Hams reported @ 4 am on the race day (18th Nov 2018).

A day before the event, Mumbai Hams had met and were allocated their place of duty, to provide communication support to the control room which was handled by Mr Sudhir Shah (VU2SVS). With the intention of writing an article on the services offered by Mumbai hams to the society, I requested my sir to place me in the control room with him, which he accepted.

The control station antenna which was 5/8 had been erected 15 ft away with RG58 coaxial cable. By 04.20 am the setup was ready and hams started dispersing to their allocated places to set up their stations. Check-ins from all 17 hams were done by 04.50 am, with a couple of glitches here and there. After all, we were in the Concrete valley of BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex).

The race was divided into three categories:

21K (2 Loops) Flag Off Time: 06:15 am

10K (Flag Off Time: 05:45 am)

5K (Flag Off Time: 08:00 am)

Though the first wave was going to be flagged off at 05.45 am, but the hams started operating from 05.00 am itself. The Navy had received 15,000+ registrations for this race. You can imagine the crowd that was walking towards the starting point (near the control room) from the ‘drop off’ point.

Hams started reporting the closure of the roads for the vehicles, the arrival of the runners, also reporting the area which was getting dense, requesting further points to manage the incoming crowd and also reported about barricades placed and so on. Finally, the race started, wave after wave, category wise.

The biggest challenge Hams faced after the race started, was to manage the vehicles that came on the road (race track), out of nowhere. Keeping them off the road was a big task.

Hams reported about:

1) The passing of the first runner from point to point — for example, first 21K, first 10K and first 5K runners in both men and women category.

2) The casualties (few injured) which were handled by the medics located at the ham stations.

3) The water stations and other requirements.

4) The Parking area, sending reports of vehicular traffic.

At the control room, we received a few lost and found requests, which was immediately passed on to all the station by Mr Sudhir Shah. After operating the control station for 2 hours, Mr Sudhir Shah handed over the microphone to me, and he went for a break.

This was the time, I realised how tough it is to work in a live event, manning the control. Especially when you are receiving continuous calls one after the other from old-timers like Mr Girish Shukla (VU2LNZ), Mr Mayur Bhatia (VU3BMW), Mr Amit Bhatia (VU3AAB), Mr Jaiprakash Pullakudy (VU2JPN) and a few more.

I managed for the first couple of minutes, but was thrown off the track and recovered again. At 2nd time, I took the help of another ham nearby. Thanks to Mr Jatin Shah (VU2KWJ), coming to my rescue and took over the control and helped me out. I rate myself just 5 out of 10 in manning the control. I still need a lot of field experience I felt that day. That was my take away from the event.

Mr Sudhir Shah (VU2SVS) at this age, was able to handle the control for more than 4 hours perfectly, without a single glitch. Sitting near him listening to his strict protocols, was a real live classroom lesson for me. That is something I will always remember.

Working in a live event not only helps you, but it is an audit report for your apparatus, your handy, batteries, microphone, earpiece and all such gadgets used in our hobby. Which otherwise are eating dust in our shack, if left unused for months. It’s a good way for maintenance, which increases its lifespan. Especially if you are living in a coastal city like Mumbai with a lot of humidity, which can damage your apparatus.

You also get to know what is faulty and what requires a service or a complete replacement. It keeps your setup in perfect condition and ready to attend any emergency calls like any disaster for example flood, earthquake-tsunami and all. Yes, Mumbai hams have taken part as first responders in Gujarat & Latur earthquake to name a few. Also, provide 2nd Line of Communication service during Ganesh Visarjan in Mumbai.

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