July 2010 North American QSO Party – RTTY

Contest:North American QSO Party
Date: July 17-18, 2010
Mode: RTTY
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 0600 UTC Sunday

40 / 40 / 21
20 / 143 / 50
15 / 5 / 3
SCORE: 13,912 (TIME ON: 7 H 54 Mn)

SOAPBOX: How’s the saying go, “the worst day of contesting is still better than the best day at work.” Okay, so maybe there is no truth to that, but yesterday had to be the longest 8 hours I have put into a contest. NAQP is traditionally a non-pressure event working the U.S. states and Canadian provinces, each act as a multiplier on the bands.

Anticipation was high, coming off a good score back in February, which if submitted to NCJ would have had me in the top ten in California. For seasoned contesters that is of little consequence, but for a rookie it’s a step in the right direction. Unfortunately this time around it was much more challenging to make a contact. I am sure I can point fingers in different directions. Maybe it was the hex beam, since I had just upgraded some of the components. Maybe the lack of another 5-10′ on the mast played into the equation. Maybe it was the poor to fair propagation. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

One thing is for sure my goals were not achievable, at least working from my shack. Maybe if I were at N6RO or K6LRG results would have been closer to my February score. As it was a combination of factors led to a very poor performance, in which I was frustrated for 10 hours.

Add to that the fact I left the contest 2 hours early and missed out completely on 80M and maybe an additional 20-25 QSOs on 40M. I think a poorly planned break did factor in as well. I took one 2-hour break from 23-01z. Don’t think that helped my cause as 20M was still hot and 40 had not yet come alive on the west coast. I didn’t want to push it back too much as I would lose time on the low bands. Although pushing it back 1 hour probably would have weighed in my favor.

As for the bands, 10M was non-existent. I would put a CQ out at the top of each hour, usually with no response. I did get W6YX to answer, but we could not make the contact. I knew 10M would not factor in to any substantial points.

15M was solid back in February, but I must have missed any substantial opening yesterday. After 60 QSOs in February, I could only muster 5 QSOs and 3 MULTs. That hurt my overall score since I had hoped to equal my February total.

I knew going in 20M was be my best bad, again! Although I had hoped to start the contest on 15M, it was dead, so I attempted some early runs on 20M. Much to my surprise I could not establish any successful run in my 8 hours of contesting. The best was 10 QSOs in 10 minutes. This was no better than spinning the dial in S&P IT was odd as many other stations seemed to have multiple stations calling them regularly as I was tuning through 20M. Why I couldn’t be successful yesterday is anyone’s guess. Maybe…here we go again with the maybes, I point towards the overall height of the hex beam at only 20?.

I had planned fewer QSOs on 20M than I had back in February, when in reality it should have been just the opposite with more daylight the band was still strong nearly 03z. I had set a goal of 150 QSOs and 54 MULTs. I came close on both with 143 QSOs and 50 MULTs. This was the best thing I could call a success.

When it was time to move to the low bands I had to change to the SteppIR BigIR. I think I need to recheck the SWR figures on the vertical because my power output looked good, but damned if anyone could hear me. The noise was strong on 40M with constant static crashes and assorted noise that it was difficult.Even the western states seemed to have problems.

I know 100 watts is a challenge especially on 40M during the summer. I had planned to best my February numbers (59 QSOs) but my 40 contacts were a far cry from my goal of 70 I had set. With 40 contacts, 21 of them were a multi, which is good and if I would have hung around after 03z I am sure that number could have approached 60 QSOs/30 MULTs, but we will never know now.

I never made it 80M but based on what I had seen on the 3830 reflector my numbers would have suffered a similar fate as those on all the other bands. I had laid down a few more 60? radials, but even those would not have helped much.

My final tally is ugly. I worked 8 hours, 188 QSOs, 74 MULTs for 188 points and a final score of 13,912. I was off some 33,000 points from February and 25,000 from the goal I set for the summer edition of the NAQP RTTY.

With only 8 hours recorded I powered down the shack 2 hours short of my 10 hours that I could have possibly worked. Now it is back to the drawing board to see how to improve my signal at 100w on the hex beam. Not much I can do in my situation. I think the best fix will be the purchase of a Rohn H50, which I could raise to 30-35′ (if needed). I have not done any EZNEC numbers when changing the height, maybe they wouldn’t be substantial.

My last niggle about this contest, the fact quite a few stations were LOUD. I am not talking 100w loud, I am talking linear loud. The lone exception in my case, N6WM working out of N6RO. He should be loud. Now I am not pointing any fingers but some of these stations had to have linear amplifiers running. I know, the antenna makes all the difference. It does but power also increases your signal strength and some of the signals were BIG. I guess I only need care about myself and the 100w I was running.

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