Who knew there was the equivalent of the Olympics in amateur ("ham") radio? Not me.
One of Danville's own, Tom Georgens, is a three-time participant in the World Radiosport Team Championships, held every four years since 1990. Much like the Olympics, just earning a spot in the competition is a prestigious accomplishment. Two-person teams from around the world compete in a test of operating skill under similar conditions, eliminating all variables except operating ability. They are selected based on results from a series of 55 qualifying events over a three-year period.
I spoke with Tom, whose amateur radio call-sign is W2SC, about his experience in this year's event, held across 16 New England communities from July 9-14. Tom said he was situated in a state forest outside of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
"Each regional representative (59 this year, representing 38 countries) gets to choose a teammate. The idea is that everyone competes with identical antennas and terrain in a tent out in the clear," he said. "My partner and I have been doing ham radio since we were teenagers; he's in the Coast Guard and lives in Hawaii now."
Referees from a country other than the competitors' are assigned to each tent to observe. Tom's referee was from South Africa. The competition was for 24 continuous hours; I asked Tom whether he or his partner took turns taking naps during that time. I heard him kind of laugh (albeit politely) over the phone.
"No, we were both full-bore all 24 hours," he said. "We'd picked up some drinks and snacks before it started. The goal is to speak with as many different people in as many different countries as possible. We made over 4,000 contacts in either Morse code or voice in the 24 hours."
Tom and his partner placed 12th this year. "We could have done better if we'd made some different choices," he said. He added that probably 57 other teams felt the same way (all but the winners, another team from the U.S.).
Tom competed in 2010 in Russia, where radiosport championships are on a par with chess championships and the Olympics, he said, and in 2006 in Brazil (with a different partner). He placed fifth and 10th, respectively, in those championships. He remembers that during the Russian competition, held south of Moscow on big open plains that were the perfect terrain, there was a bad electrical storm.
He said he enjoys meeting people from around the world with whom he's exchanged information hundreds of times.
Tom received his first amateur radio license when he was 14 (his father was a ham radio operator). He began entering radio competitions in his later teens and obtained an engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer of NetApp, a network data storage and management solutions company. Tom, his wife Kathleen and their son moved to Danville in 2000. Their two daughters live on the East Coast.
In other news, Blackhawk Museum Guild members are collecting, cleaning and pricing donated items for their annual Bargain Basement Sale, slated to begin at 10 a.m. on Sept. 10 at the Blackhawk Museum in Blackhawk Plaza. All donations of gently used items (not including furniture or electronics) are tax-deductible. To donate and/or arrange a pickup, call Joyce Tucker at 925-736-9393.
Contact Georgia Lambert at around- firstname.lastname@example.org.