February 2012 North American QSO Party – RTTY

Contest:North American QSO Party
Date: February 25-26, 2012
Mode: RTTY
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 0600 UTC Sunday

BAND/QSO/MULTS
20 / 29 / 23
15 / 3 / 2
TOTAL: 32 QSO / 25 MULTS
SCORE: 800 (TIME ON: 42 Mn)

SOAPBOX: I didn’t plan any sort of real operation for NAQP RTTY. Not sure I have completely figured out the loaner rig I am on when it comes to diddles. I have all sorts of adjacent signal noise. Might be lacking a narrow filter to fit the bill for RTTY. Regardless of that challenge, I only spent 42 minutes with my BIC.

I had no intention of even turning on the rig when I got home from work, but I hate not participating in a contest, especially if I had nothing going on, like I did for NAQP. So I figured I would play radio until my XYL and son got back. I was hoping for a bit of activity on 10M, but a few spins through the band yielded nothing.

It was then a quick spin through 15M, but there were not many signals at 2330z, so I moved to 20M. I made one partial trip through the band before I found a quiet frequency, so I called ‘QRL’ and with no response I started running. I was having some good luck on 20M, but nothing I had not worked using RTTY before, so I was just hoping to hand out a few points and make some QSOs before I shut the shack down. Maybe when NAQP rolls around in the summer I will have more time to put in a stronger effort.

2012 ARRL DX – CW

Contest: ARRL DX
Date: February 18-19, 2012
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 0000 UTC Saturday; ends 2359 UTC Sunday

BAND/QSO/DXC
20 / 82 / 39
15 / 210 / 61
10 / 48 / 19
TOTAL: 340 QSO / 119 DXC
SCORE: 120,666 (TIME ON: 12 H 00 Mn)

SOAPBOX: Some questions going into the contest since I am without an antenna for the low band, do I run SOSB or SOAB? I decided on a SOAB, low power operation this weekend and was shooting for 450 QSOs with 150 MULTS. I figured those were appropriate given the time I would have for operating, none of which would be on Sunday when I shut the shack down (0144z). I decided against a SOSB based on what I experienced in CQ WPX RTTY last weekend. It was a long and arduous contest and at the least I would increase my DXCC counts on 10M and 20M.

Overall I had a GREAT time, probably one of the most enjoyable contesting experiences I have had in the past 12 months. Why I have not been able to work a full contest in about 18 months, I do the best I can and also aim high, looking to pull something positive from all contests I enter. These 12 hours I operated don’t compare to my SOSB effort last week on 15M. While 15M was the “money band” this week I was still able to make some good headway on 10M, especial over the poles, while 20M was somewhat of a let down. That based on my limited experience and the fact that 20M since I got into contesting has usually been my best producing band with my hex beam at 40 feet.

I had some early questions as to where to start the contest, since rate is not my driving factor, I figured I would search & pounce to start on 10M, but it was short lived. It was no more than 7 minutes later and I moved to 15M, where I spent a majority. While rate for contesters is an important factor, being at the level of experience I am at with Morse code, I aim for a 30 QSOs/hour when in search and & pounce. For all CW contests that is all the time, so my rate suffers when compared to that of a more competent CW operator. A 30 rate will usually help me attain my goals, obviously duration plays a factor. Realistically I should have decreased the number of hours I was going to operate from 16 down to 12, or even 14 hours. I still stuck with a 30 rate and was hoping I would have a few hours over 30 and close to 40 or 50, but those gains were offset by a few very down hours as well, including one 60 minute break.

I operated just over 2 hours at the start of the contest, all but 7 minutes were on 15M and dominated by JAs. I usually rely heavily on QSOs with Asia in most of the contests I participate in. The numbers tell a different story, where 37.9% of my contacts were from Europe, while Asia accounted for 35.6 with Japan at a 29.4% of my total contacts dominating all other DXCC entities. I was disappointed with the number of JAs on 20M, I had hoped that more would move to 20M by 00z or 01z on Sunday but in that never appeared to happen while I was operating.

What was even more surprising were the 10M openings to EU via the poles. I made a number of 10M QSOs with Europe including ES5RR, OH0Z and SK3GM. On Saturday 15M still dominated the log by a big margin mainly from Europe. My best 60 minute rate was 49/hour from 1606-1706 and it was not JAs I was logging. I found that somewhat surprising. Search & pounce was rather slow and from 1900-2200z things got very slow. I couldn’t find a suitable band to be on bouncing from 10m to 15M to 20M in a vicious cycle that didn’t see activity pick up again until 2300z.

Thankfully when the sun came in Asia/Oceania 15M was great! Many loud stations, some of which I had not worked at the start of the contest, but I had hoped more JAs would move to 20M but only 13 QSOs with JA were made on 20M (out of 121 total). I was also pleased with the activity I found on 10M running 100 watts.

While I did not achieve my goal I had a very enjoyable 12 hours participating. In total I worked 275 unique call signs and 70 DXCC entities. Now, if I only had more confidence to run a frequency that 30 QSO/hour rate would increase. This was only the second time I had participated in the ARRL DX CW contest, the last time was 2010 with only 99 QSOs made.

2012 CQ World Wide WPX RTTY

Contest: CQ World Wide WPX
Date: February 11-12 2012
Mode: RTTY
Period: Starts 0000 UTC Saturday; ends 2359 UTC Sunday

BAND/QSO/PFX
15 / 203 / 161
TOTAL: 203 QSO / 161 PFX
SCORE: 64,883 (TIME ON: 11 H 31 Mn)

SOAPBOX: This was the first time I had entered a contest in a single band category. I had great success back in 2010 in WPX RTTY and looked to achieve the same sort of success this time around. I had set my goal at 300 QSO and 150 PFX, if I were able to participate on Sunday I would have met that goal. Unfortunately I shut things down 0016 on Saturday afternoon, when I probably could have hung around the band for at least 2 more hours, but looking back to the start of the contest those first 2 hours only yielded 42 contacts.

It was a contest filled with frustration this time around. Much like my 2010 effort I decided on low power, instead of firing up the amp. 15M was chosen over 20M, after some comments and input from NCCC members on the reflector. In hindsight, I probably would of had a better showing on 20M, since it is my strongest band, but always congested with signals. 15M allowed for a bit more room to spread out and possibly even run a frequency, which I will touch on in a bit.

I was hoping for 60-70 QSOs in the first few hours before the band closed, unfortunately I only logged half of that (43 QSOs). With propagation charts supplied by N6BV and K6TU I had a good idea where signals would be the best. Thankfully JA did not disappoint, which is where a majority of my contacts were made at the start of the contest. I had a sneaking suspicion that it would not be as good on Sunday at 00z. I was right, unfortunately, as I had somewhat planned for another stong run of JAs to fill my log and quest for 300.

I wasn’t discouraged…yet. I did find 15M very noisy through out the entire contest. Since it is a loaner rig (Thanks George, K6GT) and I am not as familiar with the FT-1000MP MkV as I was with my own FT-1000MP. I also believe I have better filters, which helps reduce adjacent signals, which is where my biggest problems were during WPX. I could not isolate many calls because of a stronger signal up or down the band. Still overall the radio performed admirably!

I got up bright an early the next morning (Saturday) and went to the shack by 1345z (0545). I didn’t expect 15M to be open yet, but it would give me some time to look over the propagation charts and see where the signals would be the best. All indications were on a southeast heading, beaming the Carribean/South America, but as luck would have it I spent very little time with the hex pointed that direction. When the band started to open I did not hesitate to join the fray and beam Europe.

It was slow going from my first contact with PZ5RA. While I had hoped to put together a few good runs, which never materialized, I was left with search & pounce to make contacts. What few short runs I had were only a handful of contacts and I was making more contacts when I was searching out others. This was frustrating, as I saw my rate never go above 24 QSOs in an hour. Only 4 hours produced a number of 20 or greater.

It started to wear on the morning wore on, I could not be heard and there were many signals, but most of them I could not pull out of the noise or adjacent signals. Still I did the best I could with the hex beam. While I didn’t achieve my total QSO goal, I did surpass my PFX count (161 actual vs 150 planned). Still the only comparison I had to look at was NK6A, Don who made 124 QSOs last year in ‘W6’, so at least I know my score was not terrible, but it was a quite a bit of work given my conditions.

I will chalk this up to a learning experience and an enjoyable way to contest, especially for someone like me, who can’t get the entire 48 hour period off to participate. It’s nice to work 2-3 hours and shut it down and spend time with the family, returning the next morning when the sun comes up. I might have to inquire about the propagation charts, because based on what I was reading from my QTH I should not of had a big signal into EU, which had me doubting I would make many contacts. In the end I had 33 DXCC (countries)  and 35 states when I tallied up my log sheets. As frustrating as it was, I still enjoyed my time operating.

January 2012 North American QSO Party

Contest:North American QSO Party
Date: January 14-16, 2012
Mode: SSB
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 0600 UTC Sunday

BAND/QSO/MULTS
20 / 2 / 2
15 / 9 / 9
10 / 11 / 9
TOTAL: 22 QSO / 20 MULTS
SCORE: 440 (TIME ON: 43 Mn)

SOAPBOX:
How I wish I could guest operate at a station that has a set up that is conducive to SSB. I enjoy working the mode, but know at 100 watts with a hex beam at 40′ I am going to be very limited in what I can do. Sure, this is a North American contest and 100 watts should be enough power. Yet I struggled for all 43 minutes I logged in the NAQP.

I am beginning to think I have more problems in the shack again. In fact I know I have an RFI issue on 20M, since I was disconnecting all my USB connections when I transmitted. Also I continued face frustrated when I would look at the ALC meter and I am past the limit. This tells me my signal was problem over driven or distorted, but I don’t know. I need to work this out with a NCCC club member. Thankfully I wasn’t using the Alpha 76PA for this contest.

The last issue I could have is a feed line problem. I  need to break out my testing equipment and see if I might need to make repairs or add a new feed line to the hex beam from the shack.

As for the contest itself, I had hoped for 2-3 hours, which is what I committed to when I was placed on NCCC #3 Team. Unfortunately after 43 minutes of spinning the dial I could no longer deal the frustration I was facing and turn off the shack to spend time with my family.

In the limited time I was on, 10M was my best band though out the US. Unfortunately when I came back to the band about 35 minutes later it seemed to have died down and did not result in much. By contrast, 20M for me was terrible. A total of 2 contacts, lots of noise and signals in the muck that try as I might I could not dig out. I did hear a few minor pile ups, but with my limited operating time I was not going to waste it continually calling in hopes I would be heard.

I will continue to participate in this contest and if I get organized, get the time off and the blessing from my wife, I would like to give this a full effort from W6JZH, just down the road. John has a wonderful set up for a single operate (possible SO2R) to use.

January 2012 North American QSO Party

Contest: North American QSO Party
Date: January 14-15, 2010
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 0600 UTC Sunday

BAND/QSO/MULTS
80 / 1 / 1
40 / 37 / 17
20 / 135 / 43
15 / 91 / 39
10 / 17 / 13
TOTAL: 281 QSO / 113 MULTS
SCORE: 31,753 (TIME ON: 7 H 32 Mn)

SOAPBOX: Thankfully I had the day off from work and committed to a full effort in the NAQP. While I didn’t draw up any goals, I did use the 2010 NAQP results as a benchmark of what I wanted to achieve. Early on I figure 400 QSOs would be possible, but as the day wore on I realized I was going to fall short. Unlike 2010, I was able to start the contest, which made the difference this year.

When the clock struck 1800z I started off on 20M. Unfortunately CW is not my strongest mode, but one I thoroughly enjoy so my full effort was all S & P. While 20M was productive, it would be 15M that accounted for the bulk of my QSOs the first 2 hours. I also experienced a first for me and my station, as I was able to achieve 3 straight hours of a rate over 40/min, topping at at 50/min at 20z! I know this is small potatoes for those experienced CW operators who run a frequency.

10M seemed to be short lived as I made just 17 contacts during 19z and 21z, 13 of which were multipliers. At 21z, 15M seemed to slow down, but 20M picked up, which is where I remained until the sun set. I also took a few 30 minute breaks at 22z and 00z. In hindsight, I should have stuck around at 22z as another 40 rate might have been possible. 20M was also my “money band” with 135 QSO and 43 multipliers.

During my second 30 minute break I had to get the manuals to the SteppIR BigIR out and make sure everything was connected correctly as I could not hear anything on the vertical. While I didn’t open the antenna, I did home the element in hopes of making sure the element was the correct length for the band selected. What I did realize was the PL-259 connector on the coax  running to the SteppIR is bad. I had to wiggle the connector until I could get it to a point that allowed me to hear the band.

Unfortunately that was only have the problem. While the propagation had improved slightly leading up to the weekend I had a solid S7-S8 noise on 40M when I made the move (probably too early) at 00z. After wiggling my connector, I decided to connect it directly to the transceiver, which made no difference. Frustrated I decided to take another break. After 30 minutes to collect myself I returned, but was frustrated at the pace of the S & P, which yielded approximately 35 QSOs over the next 90 minutes. I could see my goal of even 300 slipping away.

Being more frustrated that enjoying my radio I made the decision to shut the shack down at 02z. Before I did, I was able to make only a single contact on 80m with Jack, KF6T. I thought 40M was bad, but I was either real early on 80M or had further antenna issues, as I could not hear anyone. Instead of riding out the struggling for the next 2.5 hours I thought it would be better for my sanity if I accepted my 281 QSOs and went to build Legos with my son.

My final tally was 281 QSOs, 113 MULTS for 281 points and a final score of 31,753. This would be a 33% increase in contacts and multipliers from my 2010 effort and a scoring increase of 17,803 points or 56%. Anyway I look at it the contest was a success for me and my station. I still call into question my low band antenna, which is really beginning to cause frustration when the sun goes down. I might need to inquire with the brain trust of the NCCC. Being confined to a small backyard, even the 1500 feet of copper radials I have might not be enough to get the signal I desire. The inability to get wires in the air due to no trees also could be an issue. Single band efforts during daylight hours might be more worthwhile if the low bands continue to be an issue, it will depend on the contest.