2009 ARRL Sweepstakes- SSB

Contest: ARRL Sweepstakes
Date: November 21-23, 2009
Mode: SSB
Period: Starts 2100 UTC Saturday, ends 0259 UTC Monday

80 / 14 / 5
40 / 30 / 6
20 / 181 / 45
15 / 42 / 15
TOTAL: 267 QSO / 71 SECT
SCORE: 37,914 (TIME ON: 13 H 38 Mn)

SOAPBOX: With 9 hours of contesting in the bag, it was time to prepare for the SSB version of Sweepstakes. It was up in the air where to start, 15M or 20M. I decided on 20M but after only an hour I jumped to 15M. It was 8 QSOs in on 15M when the neighbor came over and he said he could hear me through the TV and computer speakers. He also said his wireless phones were acting weird. So I vacated 15M, where I was running about 1000w and went back to 20M

I logged my best rate only an hour in at 2100z, 31/hr rate. SSB was going a bit quicker, but I was still taking more time than needed to make a contact. I was unsing Win-Test and had the prefills selected, so I had some idea of what to expect, but did not rely solely on it.

My first sit yielded about 5 hours, at which time moving to 40M and then to 80M caused nothing but pain and heartache, as my XYL was in the garage every QSO wanting to know why she was disconnected from the Internet. So with one QSO on 80M at 0208z I stopped. Well short of my first planned break, but what could do I? How could I operate if I keyed up, even at 100w and disconnected the Internet?

I got up real early, 3am (1100z) and jumped on 40M and 80M to see what I could salvage before the sun came up and 15 and 20M were back on the air. There were no great rates and I did not run any frequencies again. It was all search and pounce,which ended up hurting my final score.

Things only went from bad to worse when my XYL got up. I was using the Alpha 76PA and it was delivering a nice, solid 1000w out, but it was also causing more RF issues in the house. I finally decided to turn the amp off and run with 100w. This seemed to be worthwhile, as I still made many contacts and would only turn the amp on if I had to bust a pileup or make sure a section I had could hear me with the first call.

Unfortunately even barefoot at 100w my wife still complained of latency issues from my operating. No way I can rally verify this was actually the case. I had the Internet up and running and from what I saw, I did not disconnect while running 100w.

Much like CW I had to cut the SSB effort very short…way shorter than I had anticipated because I had taken time off from work on Sunday in order to give it a solid 20-24 hour attempt.

In the end I had a better SSB performance than I did on CW. I operated for 13.5 hours and made 267 QSOs, logging 71 sections for a total of 534 points and a final score of 37,914. All these numbers were an improvement over CW. For that I guess I can pat myself on the back. But even these numbers were a far cry from my intended goals of 400 QSOs and maintaining a 40/hr rate.

For SSB I also spotted EVERYTHING I worked and other stations as I spun the dial, This in hopes of giving my fellow club members a shot at picking up another QSO. This gave me a satisfaction that I was helping our cause to take back the gavel from PVRC.

So with Sweepstakes now over, all but submitting the logs and tallying the points remains. I will look forward to next year and the changes I will have in place in order to achieve a better score and clean sweeps on both CW and phone. This was one of the first contests where I truly learn a lot of valuable information that I can use, not only for SS but other contests that I will participate in this season.

Fix’er Up

I spent some more time over at N6RO with Ken, N6WM and N6ML, replacing the 20M rotor. As we got to talking, I decided to voice some of my problems, since I am still a bit lost when it comes to troubleshooting some of the ongoing problems I have in the shack. The first and most important was the RFI that bit me a few weeks back at about 500w. While I have added some ferrite toroids to the NID that AT&T has their equipment in, this has not solved the problem of about 500w of power reflected when I have the Alpha 76PA on.

One of the first adjustments I made was to move the hex beam (again!). Thanks to N6WM, I now have it mounted close to 20′ when I am operating, but it is closer to the shack. Actually it is mounted on the exterior wall off the shack. I need to upgrade the stock RG-8 coax and solder on some good silver PL-259 connectors, as K3LR does at his station. I also need to added some tinned copper braids as grounds from the amp, rig and power supply to the copper grounding bar.

I finally measured the SWR of the hex beam and the measurements were relatively flat across each band, only starting to climb above 1.5 near the edges on a few bands. I know I am loosing quite a bit with the bad cable, but I am not able to use the LMR400 I have on the SteppIR, since it is buried in conduit. I figure 35-40′ should work.

All this work and adding more 33′ long radials to the BigIR are on the list of things to accomplish before SS SSB in about 2 weeks. I am hoping to get the coax on Saturday and add the PL-259 connectors to it and test it. The ground straps won’t arrive until next week from DXE. If I am still having reflected power issues, then I will have to call in “the experts” to stop over and see what else is incorrect in my shack set up.

If there is anytime I need the amp to perform it is in a SSB contest. Sure I could go < 150w, but I want to push legal limit. I am still reviewing my performance during the CW portion of SS and wanting to implement some changes. While I am still going to set my personal goal high, there are a few things I want to accomplish. One of those things on the list knocking off the states I need for 20 and maybe 40M WAS. I would like to really push for the “clean sweep” since I missed out on it for CW. I was 10 sections short and outside of 2 of them, I probably could have worked the other 8.

Speaking of fix’er up, I have finally updated the Contesting page. While my claimed scores are nothing worth of recognition, I have listed all the contests (outside of a few) I have participated in. I am hoping to use these as a baseline and work on improving these scores. Some of the scores…well many of them are not worth even mentioning, but a contesters has to start somewhere. Since I don’t have weekends off and time to dedicate to 24-30 hours of straight contesting, I will take whatever I can get, whenever.