WPX Canceled!

Yesterday I had started composing a post discussing the downturn in the solar conditions from those 28 days ago. I learned just a few hours ago I won’t be able to put much of an effort into CQWW WPX this weekend. Call it an oversight on my part, but also a lack of communication on the part of “other” individuals.

Instead of having “BIC” time for WPX and working towards my 1 million point goal, I will be “BIC” at work, moving trains instead of moving a key, sending CW. Depending on my desire level, I will possibly have 10-15 hours to participate. Not sure I will take advantage of it or not. There is a good chance I will put in 2 hours at the start of WPX tomorrow, but don’t believe it will extend much into the night time and the low bands.

So much for 3 months of planning. What actually happened centers around my accrued “off time” at work, which is vacation time. For the past 2 years I have been working on rebuilding my bank, but with contesting and family responsibilities I have not been able to get more than 15-20 hours in the bank before using 8 hours a pop to take a day off from work.

Unfortunately I took a day off in April and another in May (for 7QP) but I forgot to subtract those 16 hours from my total off time. So while I thought I had enough in the bank to cover 16 hours (2 days off) for WPX, the truth was I only had a bit over 10 hours. This means I need to surrender one or both of the days. I decided to work both days and not put in sort of effort.

That’s life! I am suffering from a bit of a let down right now, especially with all the preparation I have put in to achieve my goals. Nonetheless, this means I start refurbishing my station this week, as opposed to next week. It should give me enough time to add some cabinets and extended the raised platform I currently sit at.

CQWW WPX Planning

It’s never too early to start looking ahead to an upcoming contest. Much like the CQWW WPX CW Contest last year I am looking forward to the 2011 contest at the end of May. In 2010 I initially I set a goal, but later revised it after the May, 2010 NCCC Meeting which mathematically made one million points possible, even from my small station.

This year, I am considering nothing less than 1 million points. Achievable? I believe it is, but unlike last year I need to spend much more time working 40/80M than working QSOs on 15/20M. I knew this going in last year, but decided not to operate the contest in this manner. Needless to say, I missed my goal by a considerable amount, butI had have fun and still took a positive experience away from WPX.

We are still 30 days out, but I have started breaking down the contest by the numbers and looking at how I will attack this 5 band contest in order to achieve my 1 million points. Until the uptick in solar numbers, 20M had been my “money band” regardless of contest. But recently I have seen 10M and 15M producing better numbers than 20M did. Unfortunately for WPX the big points are on the low bands and 40/80M are not my best bands.

While that does shed favorable light on my SteppIR BigIR, I feel the problem is more radial related than anything else. Thankfully, CW [and RTTY] is the best mode for my station to operate, so while 40/80M is challenge, I could fair okay on those bands. I will look at adding some more 60′ radials and pray the sunspot Gods shine on us.

Looking at last year’s results I was somewhat surprised with what I achieved on 40M and considering how bad solar conditions were, I would think numbers in 2011 can only improve. I would also expect my rate to increase this year. Last year I planned a 25 rate for much of the contest, but was above a 32 rate for the first 7 hours of the contest.

This year my plan will look much like 2010, the difference is making sure I have the “BIC” time this year. Hopefully I can spend the maximum amount of time on the low bands and fill in the gaps during the daylight hours. Looking at the CQWW scores from last year 1 million might be difficult considering, running either low or high power given no single operator in 6-land scored 1 million. The best was Kc6X with 870,048 as a single operator (high power).

Part of my calculations include a 0.6 value for prefixes worked. This number is quite high early on, but dramatically falls off over the course of the contest the more QSOs you make. Last year at the end of the contest my prefix value was 0.48, well off the 0.6 value I used to calculate my goals.

WPX: A Look Back

Up to now I cannot recall another contest I have prepared so diligently for, somewhat odd that it would be a CW contest and not RTTY. Regardless of the contest I felt I was ready for a challenge as the zero hour approached. Thanks to the May meeting of the NCCC, I was loaded with numbers and propagation predictions that would allow me to formulate my plan for the CQ World-Wide CW WPX Contest.

The plan was simple, operate for 36 hours on all bands (excluding 160M, since I don’t have an antenna) in search and pounce and average a 26 rate over that period of time. I had toyed with the idea of a second radio, but decided against attempting it in a CW contest (this is an item to investigate this summer). That left me with a Yaesu FT-1000MP, a Alpha 76PA amplifier and three antennas. For this contest I decided to raise the Alpha DX-EE to go along with the DXE 5-band Hexx Beam and SteppIR BigIR. While it probably made no difference I did add a 10′ section of mast to the hex, so I was close to 30′ at the start of the contest.

For 10/15/20M I used the Hexx Beam (from DXE) as my primary antenna. Now and then I would switch to the vertical or wire depending on what high band I was on. For 40/80M, the BigIR was the primary antenna. I was not able to added another 10 radials, each 60′ to the current ground radial configuration. Much like the mast, I don’t feel I would have noticed much of a difference given the solar conditions.

Thanks to the club I was fired up for WPX! Two presentations, one by K6MM, John detailing the contest purely based on numbers. I obtained a copy of his presentation and created a plan tailored to fit my operating skills. In the end I might have set an unrealistic goal, more on that in a moment. The other presentation, which I was not able to see, but did get was from N6BV on propagation for WPX. Dean was kind enough to send me a copy. While I was not able to get Dean’s words of wisdom when it was shown at the May meeting, I was able to interpolate.

Prior to all contests I participate in I set my personal goals. Rarely will I win any wallpaper, but achieving my goals give me a feeling of accomplishment. Originally I had planned on scoring 250,000 points, but the more I played with the numbers I was beginning to get a sense that 1 million points could be possible. Along with N6BV’s data and K6MM’s presentation I put together my own spreadsheet that broke down all the numbers based on band and points. I revised my plan on a daily basis, until I put together a plan that I thought was a challenge, but also achievable.

The goals for the contest were 1000 QSOs, 2000 QSO points and 500 prefixes. Over the 36 hour period this worked out to 25.75 rate, less than 2 QSOs per minute. Other factors that contributed to the final score was the 0.6 prefix figure I took from K6MM’s presentation.

Now to the contest! KB! If the first 7 hours were any indication on how the contest was going to go then I was well on my way to my 1 million points. I had not planned on running a frequency because my skills as a CW operate are not strong, so it may take a few calls in order to get the call sign or when getting my number. So my plan was a purely search and pounce operation.

After 7 hours I was ahead of my goal, with a 32 rate at 04z, my best during the contest. I also surpassed my 25 rate each of those hours. Unfortunately the wheels quickly came off as 08z approached. Let me preface this my saying, I don’t know how some of these OM’s do it through the night. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open, spinning the dial looking for QSOs. I had to call it quits at 08z and that decision probably did my in for my 1 million point goal.

This is a contest in which the low bands play an important roll because of the points. Part of my problem, not having good low band antennas, being on a small plot of land and controlled by CC&R’s the SteppIR BigIR is the best I can do for 40/80M and I don’t even own a 160M antenna. Conditions were less than favorable as well for this contest. More on that later.

I climbed back into the chair just after 12z and things were looking up, but I was already 120 QSOs down from where I should have been if I were able to work though the night. That number would only trend the wrong way as the contest rolled on. I was hoping to make some of it up during my original off time from 18-23z. I put a small dent into that number and got about 40 QSOs back, but it continued to trend the wrong way. 13z was my the last hour I worked more than a 25 rate, after that point it was evident I would not get to 1 million.

Not only were the low bands rough, but 15M and 20M were difficult because of the conditions. This is the second contest where I was hoping the JAs would come out in droves, since I could not hear Europe (1% of total). Japan only accounted for 7% of my contacts, while North America accounted for 85%!

Saturday afternoon I made the decision to spend time with my wife and son. The high bands were terrible for me and the number of contacts was trending down as the time neared 00z. I could hear nothing with the hex beam pointed towards Japan. When I put the shack to bed at 03z on Saturday I had only worked 23 JAs.

I gave the low bands another shot on Sunday morning. The shack came to life at 05z, but noise and lack of contacts did nothing for me. I could still not hear Europe and spinning the dial on 80/40M in the morning I worked everything I could hear. I moved to 20M probably an hour early trying to added prefixes to my total but finally decided to make something with my day after 16z.

I still feel the goal was possible to achieve, even with my antenna set up. Along with the lack of sleep, solar conditions were terrible for those of us on the West Coast. Even the super stations were noting a lack of contacts with Europe. I had a good plan, based on good statistics. I don’t believe there is much I can change when it comes to my antennas. Being controlled by an HOA I don’t think they would be so kind if I raised my Force 12 C4XL.

So we will look back, reflect and making alterations for next year’s WPX. I will take a deeper look at the actual numbers next time and where I made mistakes in my calculations.

WPX Goals: Part 3

I have spent more time moving numbers, changing bands and modifying off times for the upcoming CQ World-Wide WPX next weekend. After reading the PDF files from K6MM and N6BV I have reworked my figures, but the goals remain constant; final score of 1,000,000 points, 1000 QSOs, 2000 QSO points and 500 prefixes.

The biggest change the past few days has been changing my off times, based on a comment from N6BV in response to my e-mail with my WPX plan. From the start of the contest (0000z) until 1800z I won’t take a break. This should get me a good start on 20/40/80M, with a chance to pick up some contacts on 15M. Current plans call for two, six hour breaks from 1800z-0000z. If the bands are hot on Saturday, then I will continue working 20M with occasional checks on 15M.

With any luck I can achieve my goal before the end of WPX on Sunday at 2359z. Based on my off times, my contest would end at 1800z because I am still in need of 6 hours off. With any luck I won’t have any interruptions from my XYL or son, but I know that is unrealistic. Thankfully working the low bands when everyone is sleeping will allow me to maximize my score and give me some time in the morning on Saturday and Sunday before taking my time off.

N6WM, who will be manning K6LRG e-mailed me about coming to work a multi operation with them. Unfortunately, I don’t feel my CW skills are strong enough to work in this sort of environment. Maybe when my skills improve (as they would in a multi setting) I would consider lending my time to a “team” effort in a contest like there, where a multi operator station can work the entire 48 hours.