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Redtail found and CEO, Dr Colin Smithers, won the latest BERU contest

Redtail’s founder, Colin Smithers, has had interest in wireless technology since childhood. It started with a bewildered fascination into the invisible radio waves that surround and pass through us. By age 12, Colin was transmitting on home modified equipment to his friends in the locality, albeit underage and so without a licence (hence illegal). Colin took his radio amateurs’ exam at the earliest legal age of 14 and shortly after started participating in amateur radio contests. Eventually, a younger school chum, named Gary Hinson, joined him in the hobby and in the sport of radio contesting.

A bit about these contests:

  • Organised nationally or internationally
  • Take place over a fixed period of time
  • Across one or more short wave bands
  • Points gained for contacting as many stations as possible in the allocated time
  • Some are speech but this one is morse code
  • The normal radio propagation mode used is by reflecting waves off the ionosphere but some more esoteric contests involve bouncing waves off meteor trails or even the moon


British Empire Radio Union (BERU)

One of the first, named BERU (standing for British Empire Radio Union) started in 1931. The BERU contest involves contacts across the entire geography and using five short wave bands. Contestants use the different propagation of each and as it changes from day to night and back. Originally, it lasted a week(!). Luckily, this was shortened to just 24-hours and has changed its name to the more PC ‘Commonwealth Contest’. A recent patron was Prince Philip and who wrote to it as recently as 2017 lauding its success and longevity.

Some years ago and now living in New Zealand, ‘young’ Gary jibed “I thought you’d be winning these by now, Col?”. Incentivised by this poke in the ribs, Colin has finally gained top spot and winning the Senior Rose Bowl, the first time by a Brit in a decade (well done Colin!). The trophy, donated in 1931 and  fabricated from solid Sterling Silver, is engraved with many famous names in the ham world. Being competitive in this event involved much practice and travelling to Grand Cayman for the better propagation round the Commonwealth that is enjoyed there, plus having to master the extensive club station. Young Gary still takes part and was contacted on several of the bands.

The power of positive thought!


If you are interested in learning more about the BERU contest, you can read more about it in Reflections in a rosebowl on the BERU website.