Support for Radiosport – NCCC

By no means do I consider myself an accomplished contester if I base my success on wallpaper, one would think I have failed in the contests I have entered. But that is not the case. By far the best decision I have made since becoming licensed as an amateur (only 1995) was joining a very accomplished contest club when I moved to Northern California. Not only have I become involved in week contesting being around accomplished operators and a very active club has increased my enjoyment in amateur radio.

Depending on your interest in amateur radio some believe there is a negative connotation surrounding radio contests that take to the bands nearly every weekend. For me, this is the best aspect of the hobby thanks in part to the Northern California Contest Club.

Prior to finding the NCCC I was somewhat without direction in amateur radio. I knew I wanted to be licensed, but without an HF radio or antenna I did not know what direction I wanted to take. Thankfully I received sage advice from Glenn, K6NA about a local “big gun” in Oakley, CA where my wife and I moved. After some e-mails back and I had an eyeball with Ken, N6RO or Radio Oakley, as his station is known.

It was by far the most impressive display of radios I had seen in my short career and I was really excited about meeting him and having the (future) opportunity to operate from RO. It gets better, the group of amateurs that come together for the major contests are some of the best; K3EST, WA6O, K6AW, N6BV, N6ML and N6WM. Many of these amateurs are a wealth of knowledge of the many aspects of the hobby.

It was upon my return from this first meeting that I knew I wanted to get involved in contesting. While I grandiose plans, the reality would limit my ability to put a station on he air. Fortunately with a little bit of legwork and luck I was able to get W6ONV on the HF bands in 2008.

Since that time I have tapped Ken and some of the group for assistance, hardware, including the purchase of my Yaesu FT-1000MP, which is my primary rig and acceptance to the Northern California Contest Club in December, 2008.

While I am still not a major play nor have I really taken advantage of N6RO being so close during a contest I have been able to involve myself in numerous contests through out the year. I accepted the fact I would not always win a contest I entered, but that was not the point of getting on the air during a contest weekend.

After establishing a base line of the contests I entered I made it a point to set personal goals I wanted to achieve in a given contest. Above all I wanted to have fun because if any time this hobby is not fun, then maybe I should rethinking about being part of it.

Fortuantely the NCCC has many different calibers of contesters, from the part time operator to the hardcore, spend every minute with “BIC”. Sometimes it’s actually the participation of the little guns, like myself who could potentially make or break a club competition. So I make it a point to give the best effort possibly when a contest like ARRL Sweepstakes rolls around or the NCCC sponsored California QSO Party (CQP) takes to the air in October.

After nearly 2 years of contesting I do believe I have become a more experienced (and hopefully better) operator. One achievement has been learning Morse code and participating in many CW contests. I also added a rig interface to participate in RTTY contests, which strangely enough has taken a backseat to CW.

If I look at my accomplishments, I was the high score in the 2010 WPX RTTY running low power in California. It was somewhat unexpected to see my call sign in bold type in CQ Magazine. Then again my score of 350,000+ points was well off the pace of the top 10 score. But as I said for me it was not about winning, but participating, having fun and achieving my personal goals I set. Any personal gain (wallpaper) is secondary.

I look forward to a long relationship with the NCCC as 2011 rolls along. If I am ever in doubt, need assistance or even hardware, the first place I will turn for help is the NCCC. By far joining this club has been the best move I made. While I don’t get to attend many meetings or participate as part of a multi effort, but I relish the time I have spent as a member of the club.

Big Gun and the RAC

Getting involved in something new is always an experience. Sometimes those first experiences are memorable and sometimes, you want to just forget it even happened. Today was one of those days, as I went back over to N6RO (that’s Radio Oakley), the local big gun station. They were continuing to call, “CQ RAC TEST”, which I found out was the Radio Amateurs of Canada Winter Contest. I did not know this before last night.

Prior to arriving I turned on the rig and tuned to 20m to see what I could hear. Being up at 1230 UTC, I was not really surprised to hear noise on 20M (and 40m). It wasn’t until the sun came up that 20m came to life and I was able to find a bit of activity working SSB.

This was really my first experience working SSB and it took a bit of concentration in order to pull out weaker signals, but I was able to make four QSOs before I headed out the door for N6RO (operating as N6ML for the RAC Winter Contest). Little did I realize how weak some signals would be that I would find myself calling “QRZ?”

After observing for some 40 minutes N6ML asked if I wanted to operate. So I took a seat began calling CQ. It did not take long at all before there were call signs coming at me left and right. I probably had 10 QSOs, but regardless of the number is the experience. I do feel like I could be a contributing contester to a multi/multi station.

Although my short time was not without a few slips of the tongue. I did confuse a few call signs, but who doesn’t, right? Also, N6ML was removed from QRZ for some unknown reason, so we had many stations asking for our QTH. N6ML then sat down next to me with pencil and paper and assisted in some of the harder signals we had to dig out of the noise.

All in all it was a very good introduction to contesting. Sure, I can say I have played radio during a contest, but this is the first time my 10 QSOs will hopefully help N6ML place in the RAC. As I left, they had totaled some 342,000 points on 850 QSOs. All that and there was still 7 hours of contesting left.

ARRL DX Contest: Part 1

This weekend was a special weekend for me. I took a day off from work on Sunday in order to participate in the ARRL International DX Contest (SSB). Instead of “play radio” as I call it from the QTH after getting home from work on Friday through Sunday I was one of the operators at N6RO operating as N6BV. This was the first time I would be at the controls of a “big gun” station for a very big contest.

My availability schedule was still somewhat limited by my duties as “daddy” and I did not roll over to ‘RO’ until about 0330z. When I got there I met Iain, N6ML, Chris, N6WM, Mike, WA6O, Dean, N6BV and the host himself, Ken, N6RO. Some of these guys had been operating for a bit and I was given 80M when I walked in. Probably a good place for me to start out for numerous reasons. First, as this being my firs true club competition, the band was rather noisy and not a whole lot of action, but I did add 25-30 contacts on 80M last night. Second, I am still learning the ropes. That being contesting in general and the station. Having an understanding of which 80M antenna to use, when to ‘Run’ and When to ‘Search & Pounce’ are just a few items I am learning.

Last night was not good propagation, as has been the case for a few years now. There was a lot of noise that prevented any contacts with Europe and Africa on 80M. I was able to get into the Caribbean and South American before running on 3778MHz and taking in the JAs and VKs that called.

Sunday I was torn, as there was about 4 hours left in the contest. Should I play from home or go to N6RO? I decided to make the 5 minute drive across town and participate. I am thankful I did, as I relieved N6WM on 10M waiting for those spot opening into Central and South America. Much like 80M last night it was slow going, but hey for the first time out I was excited to be participating with a club in this sort of format.

Again, like 80M I worked Central and South America mainly, what few contacts I did log. About 2 hours in, the Pacific came alive and I made a quick run on the KH6 stations. There was even a KH9 (Wake Island), unfortunately (and maybe I should have been), I was not running on a frequency, so when 20M sent him to 15M, we were not able to log him on 10M. My mistake? Probably.

So all in all it was a great contesting weekend as part of the team that made up N6BV, operating from N6RO in Oakley, CA. Look for the second part of my experience on Monday. 73 & good DX!

ARRL International DX at N6RO

Another weekend is upon us and another contest is looming on the horizon. For some hams that is not good news as bands will be crowded and some will piss and moan on a particular ham forum. Then again, regardless of the operating mode they will bitch regardless. For me, I am looking very forward to the contest.

With the FT-1000MP up and running and a new Heil Proset 4 to go use I am excited. Unfortunately, most of my contest time will not be sent at my home QTH, but over at N6RO, Radio Oakley. I have convinced my wife to let me “play radio” this weekend with the stipulation I go after I get my son to bed on Saturday night. I took Sunday off, so it looks like I will be doing an overnight shift on 80M and 160M with N6WM (Chris).

Honestly, not working those bands previously I am not sure what to expect. Contesting is still a new aspect of the hobby and I am open to all new experiences. In the end I hope it will make me a better operator in the long run and provide me with knowledge I have not yet gained. Sure, playing from home in a non competitive environment is enjoyable, but operating from a “big gun” where much of the time is spent running, as opposed to search and pouncing. Not sure that statement holds true over night, but I will find out.

I am looking forward to getting over to ‘RO’ and participating. I will be able to put some time in at the home QTH and hopefully make attain my personal goals of QSOs as I continue to work towards my WAS and Triple Play Awards from the ARRL. Regardless of how things go down at N6RO I will be thrilled to be part of the team and learn from the experience that the other operators bring.

RTTY Review: After the Contest

What a great weekend! Not because I was off, lounging around the house, watching football and guzzling beer, but because I participated in my first amateur radio contest. I made mention of this fact leading up to this weekend, as there was “practice” scheduled last week and this week. The bands were full….just full of contacts waiting to be made and I was glad I was able to partake in some of the “fun of the chase.”

I felt rewarded, so to speak that I was able to operate as N6ML from N6RO or “Radio Oakley” here in tower. Ken has a wonderful setup for 5 or 6 operators depending on the contest. For the ARRL RTTY Roundup, there were two operators working at a time, N6ML and N6WM were the station call signs. I was not able to get any time off from work this weekend, so I was not able to start the contest at 18UTC on Saturday. But I was able to put in about 90 minutes of operating from N6RO.

For the entire 90 minutes, all I did was run (call CQ) and spent no time in “search and pounce.” I operated 20m (14.091 MHz) as the sun setting to the west and JA’s were waking up. Many had great signals into California and dominated the radio time. I was able to fill in a few states we were missing, as well as some new countries, like Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea, just to name a few.

At home, it was quite a different situation, but 40m was actually not too bad for me and in about an hour I knocked out about 39 QSOs before heading to bed. I was up early on Sunday morning at 11UTC (3am) and got back on 40m and work another 10 contacts before heading to work, where it would get even more interesting. Remote operations!

I suffer from a less than average wireless connection through Verizon. My office is a windowless room and a signal struggles to get out. I usually end up with 2 bars on average when I using an 8′ USB cable to the wireless modem up near the ceiling. It works. It’s not idle, but under the circumstances anything is better than nothing.

There was a considerable amount of activity on 20m, the first time I had been on 20m using my call sign. The lag from the Internet connection made QSOing a real challenge, as if I was not already handicapped by my station, the lag was a whammy. With that said, I was able to make about 20 contacts in the span of two, ninety minute sits. Not good by any mean, but still better than nothing.

When I got home I had about 75 minutes remaining in the contest and I attempted to make the most of it on 20m again. There was still a flurry of activity up and down 14 MHz and many contacts came in spurts. I also had many stations sending, “AGN? AGN?” In that span I collected many US stations, as well as a few JA’s, Canada, Alaska and Hawaii.

In all I totaled 104 QSOs using my call sign. Looking quickly through the log, I had 8 DXCC, 2 Canadian Provinces and 30 states, for a multiplier of 40, which puts my final score at 4,160. Nothing to write home about, but I was pleased to increase my total QSOs from the RAC Winter Contest, which was an increase over the 2008 CQWW CW Contest. Overall, I had a great time, both at N6RO working N6ML and at home. Hopefully I will be able to work more contests at Radio Oakley.