Xenia Berger participating in the World Radio Sport Team Championship. Photo / Supplied
To know and understand Hastings’ teenager Xenia Berger and her group of people, others need to tap into her wavelength, so to speak.
Oh, and Berger impresses, it pays to have a license to do that.
The grade 12 student at Havelock North High School should know this because engaging in the art of radio sports put her in touch with King Juan Carlos I of Spain in April.
Berger, whose call sign is ZL4YL, suspects she hit a frequency in California with the 80-year-old monarch who identifies with EA0JC’s powers. He ruled from 1975 until his abdication in 2014, when his son, Felipe, ascended to the throne.
“I don’t think at the time I realized it was him, but my dad told me afterwards, so it was pretty cool,” she says of the contact with the competition.
Royalty aside, the teenager greatly appreciates the excitement that comes with making a lucky dip-type contact with an unsuspecting person in a random part of the world without using the internet.
“We do picture radio, that is to say when we contact other people on a radio group, either through Morse code or through the usual group”, explains the young man from 17-year-old Waimarama who returned from the World Radio Team Championship (WRTC) in Germany last month.
Berger and his father, Holger Hannemann (ZL3IO), sales manager for electronics company ABB based next to the Hawke’s Bay regional airport in Napier, had formed a team to compete in the championship in Wittenberg from July 11-16. .
The father-daughter team gathered 3,600 contacts from 80 different countries within the 24 hour time frame. They suspect their most distant relationship was from Japan or Indonesia.
“The more countries you get, the more points you get,” she explains, adding that the further a contact nation is, the more bonus points a combination accumulates.
Not New Zealand?
“We have not made any contact with New Zealand.”
Berger, who was one of three competitors and the second youngest, was mentally and physically exhausted after the champions.
“But it was a great experience for me. We were accepted among the best radio applicants in the world and made many new friends.”
Although they did not reach the podium with the European-dominated teams, the Kiwis gained media attention in an event that drew rivals from 63 nations.
“So I had to give a number of interviews and join live podcasts during those days.”
What are the competitors talking about when they come into contact with another party?
Berger clarifies that this does not happen in a competition where they are simply trading control numbers because time is of the essence in the numbers game.
However, outside the parameters of competition, enthusiasts often find a chord.
“You make a lot of friends,” she says where Morse code becomes an ideal bridge if the language becomes a barrier.
Mother Birgit (ZL2YL), who also works at ABB, was at the world championship but helped as a volunteer.
Berger’s sister, Saskia (ZL2GQ), 22, attends Victoria University, Wellington, where she pursues a degree in public policy and political science, and engages in radio sport.
The family emigrated from an area not far from Berlin, Germany, to the Bay nine years ago, when she was 8 years old.
“Our family wanted adventure, a new place.”
It was Hannemann, who has been doing it for 34 years as a hobby, who introduced Berger and his sister to the delights of amateur radio which enabled him to obtain an imaging license three years ago. .
He won competitions but never a title in a world championship or their “Olympics” which take place every four years with a qualifying phase over two years, via a series of 28 events, which leads to it.
The Berger family attended a convention in April where radio sports enthusiasts mingle and find they are putting a face to others they have made contact with but have never met.
“We meet a lot of people we’ve contacted so it’s really interesting to put a face to a name,” she says.
Very often these are people who have a weakness for electronics and engineering.
And, yes, they do not hesitate to accept that they are in the domain of the nerds, in the technical sense of the term.
Berger does not believe that radio sport will lead her to a career.
“It definitely taught me electronics and all that,” says the teenager, who isn’t quite sure what she wants to do after she leaves school.
Her classmates had no idea she was into radio sports until the school newsletter published her world championship feat.
“I’m still a nerd,” says Berger, laughing when asked if enlightenment has made a difference in the way people view his hobby.
New Zealand belongs to the Oceania 2 region, which covers Australia to Tahiti.
“There are 4000 radio amateurs in New Zealand,” she reveals.
A member of the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters (NZART), she is affiliated with Hawke’s Bay Radio Club and the East Cost Contest Club, which is New Zealand’s most successful amateur radio competition club based here in the province.
The Bay has two centers in Hastings and Napier. The Shepherds go to the first one, which has nearly 50 members.