I rewired the 7-element ZL-Special on Monday night, and adjusted it to get an excellent VSWR of nearly 1:1 and mounted to the pole.
Setting up last night I raised up the pole around 19:30 and a quick check showed the VSWR was over 1:2!
Yesterday it rained and sleeted very heavily, as suspected the culprit was where I joined two pieces of coax. I had used plugs and a coupler but had run out of self-amalgamating tape to waterproof it, so had resorted to wrapping it in insulating tape... bad idea! Removing the tape it soon became evident that everything was very damp, I quickly dried all the connectors down and gave it a quick blast with a hot air gun. All sorted, the VSWR was back to just over 1:1 (must visit Screwfix for some more tape)
I was much more relaxed for this contest, it was an enjoyable but difficult evening and made just 8 contacts, claiming 762 points. I heard quite a few calls but just couldn't make myself heard. I kept popping out the shack to turn the antenna, listening to other QSOs I was able to use the locator to determine the optimum bearing.
One observation I made was the apparent poor front to back ratio, some calls coming in loudly despite the antenna being in the opposite direction which suggests the phasing isn't quite right.
The map below shows my results.
A night off next Tuesday as it's the 23cm contest, but hoping to be better set up for the following weeks 50MHz contest, hopefully getting better results than I did last time.
View UKAC 432MHz 11-Feb-2014 in a larger map