2012 CQ World Wide WPX CW

Contest: CQ World Wide WPX
Date: May 26-27, 2010
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 0000 UTC Saturday; ends 2359 UTC Sunday

BAND/QSO/PFX
80 / 14 / 3
40 / 123 / 43
20 / 233 / 135
15 / 316 / 177
10 / 14 / 8
TOTAL: 700 QSO / 366 PFX
SCORE: 556,686 (TIME ON: 32 H 03 Mn)

SOAPBOX: Wow, what fun! Third time in the past 4 years I have had a chance to participate in this contest and it’s one of my favorites. Unfortunately I missed out last year but looked to make up for it this year and I feel as I gave it a very strong effort. Yet at the end of the contest there are positives to take away and negatives that need to be addressed. This was also the first time I was given the opportunity (by the XYL) to give it a full 36 hour effort.

I had some good success to build off from 2010. I put in nearly 25 hours and just eclipsed 500 QSOs. My goal that year, much like this year was to score 1 million points. K6MM made it look easy in his slideshow presentation! As I am finding out, it’s a bit more difficult than what numbers on a spreadsheet say. The goals I set for 2012 were 800 QSOs, 1700 QSO pts, 368 PFXs, which would give me a chance at scoring 1 million points. Now that I am looking over my spreadsheet the math doesn’t quite add up. My point being, the numbers were juggled by band and QSO location to give me a baseline on which to start. I also used the .OBF file from my 2010 contest to give me my target projections per hour.

One of the negatives was I planned too high for contacts on 40/80M. I had a goal of 450 contacts on those bands, 125 of them being 6 point contacts on 80M. In the end I scored on a total on 14 contacts on that band. For me, 40M wasn’t much better. While I did make 123 contacts it was nowhere near enough points to give me a realistic shot at 1 million points and I knew this early in the contest, which caused me to rethink my goals during my first break.

In fact, things were looking good as I took a 60 minute break for dinner about 01z. I already had 510 logged in just over 13 hours. My hopes were still alive as the sunset waiting for the low bands to open. Even when they did open, I found myself on 20M up until 08z working EU. That was a surprise. 40M was okay in some regards, although I did expect a much better showing, as this was the first time I had put the refurbished SteppIR BigIR to the test. As for 80M, it was miserable, so instead of working straight through the first 12 hours I knocked off at 09z, but overslept by 1 hour and didn’t get back in the shack until 13z.

I started Saturday morning with some QSOs on 40M, but moved to 20M because 15M took over and became my money band for the next 10 hours. In that time I did work a few contacts on 10M, at the top of each hour for about 10 minutes and went to 20M at the bottom of the hour. Some good morning numbers gave me false hope that I could still challenge for 1 million points, but after breaking at 02z I was met with frustration.

The second night was not what the first night was. I sat in the shack struggling for nearly 4 hours before it I decided to call it a night just after 06z. Looking back, I might have taken a break earlier in order to rise on Sunday to start on 40/80M at 10z or earlier. I put together my best run on 40M at 12z, which did help to recover some of those lost points, but it was not nearly enough. My last shot was to see a repeat performance of the activity on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. All I needed was a 25 rate to help me hit my goal of 800 QSOs.

Unfortunately conditions deteriorated as the SSN decreased to 71 (from 86 the day before) and there was a minor disruption on the sun. There also seemed to be a lack of stations on the bands. Now I could account for this by saying all my QSOs were S&P and none were made running a frequency (more on that shortly). I would spin through the CW portion of a band and find I had already had a QSO with a majority of the stations, so even making a run for 800 was going to be difficult.

As Sunday worn on I had kissed 1 million goodbye for the second year and made a push for 500,000 points and a bit later in the day challenged myself to make 700 QSOs. I was able to accomplish both of these goals about with less that 50 minutes remaining in WPX. At that point I powered off the shack, grabbed an 801 and relaxed.

The final tally is my best attempt in any contest to date. Given I sat around for 32 hours, it stands to reason this is the largest QSO count I have put together. My XYL made the comment, “gosh honey 700 contacts doesn’t seem like a lot in 32 hours.” *sigh* She has a very valid point. As previously mentioned I made all my QSOs in S&P mode. I still hesitate to attempt to run a frequency as my CW is still a bit weak. I can copy fairly well, but don’t want to struggle sending ‘?’ or ‘AGN’ with every operator that calls me. I figure that would only put more pressure on me to get it right the first time. Guess it calls for more practice as well. Instead I sit back and listen to the call and exchange once and then make my call. This drastically decreases my rate.

I participated in this contest as a single operator, unassisted, low power, all bands. Looking at the past 2 years of results, I feel this would give me the best chance at challenging myself and the field for some wallpaper. While I came up short on my goals I do feel the final score will be one of the best in the 6th call district in that category. Even though I didn’t meet my original goals I am still very pleased with how I finished. I’ll look forward to the 2013 event and hopefully furthered my CW and make changes to get my 1 million points.

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2012 CQ World Wide WPX – SSB

Contest: CQ World Wide WPX
Date: March 24-25, 2010
Mode: SSB
Period: Starts 0000 UTC Saturday; ends 2359 UTC Sunday

BAND/ QSO / PFX
20 / 50 / 43
TOTAL: 50 QSO / 43 PFX
SCORE: 2,924 (TIME ON: 3 H 37 Mn)

SOAPBOX: I knew better than go into this contest running low power, still I took the chance and did it anyway. Part of the reason was because the rig is a loaner from George, K6GT and I have been “babying it” so nothing happens while it is in my possession. The last thing I need is to damage his rig, so the past few months I have used it, its been all low power. Now low power could have been sufficient IF my backyard were full of towers with big antennas, but that isn’t the case. A single 5-band hex beam at about 40′ was what I had to work with and conditions were okay when the contest started.

On top of the low power I decided to work a single band. Ignoring the suggestion from Stu, K6TU to work 15M I decided on 20M, as I hoped it would stay open later to Asia/Oceania. Not sure if it did or not, as I got tired and went to bed before I had a real chance to check the band conditions to that part of the world.

My score and effort were terrible to say the least. I could hear many stations, but at 100w, which was probably more like 60-70w they couldn’t hear me. I did with SJ2W in Sweden, but that was my sole EU contact. There were a few Caribbean contacts, but 92% of my contacts were from NA. One of those was NR6O, or N6RO, Radio Oakley, which is but a few miles down the road.

Instead of working frustrated through Saturday, I had coordinated with Ken, the station owner and Dean, N6BV to sit and listen with Dean. Thankfully Dean wanted to take a break, so I took over the controls on 15M, attempting to work EU. It was interesting to see how Dean made it look so easy, pulling weak signals and their exchange out of the noise. Maybe it’s something I am not great at, as well as knowing many call signs, due to a lack of experience. Still with the tools on Win-Test, even having a partial call sign will allow you to guess that the suffix of the call you are trying to work.

I gave up 15M after about 2 hours and Dean took control. While I was listening in, Michael, WA6O asked if I wanted to listen to 40M. Now during the day 40M isn’t much, except for local area contacts. I spent about 90 minutes listening to noise, with a contact here and there, even moved a few to 10M. Still it was the experience of working as a team, with many more experienced than myself.One of my other disadvantages, not knowing the Elecraft K3. Still I feel it was good experience and thank N6BV for allowing me to watch, work, listen and learn.

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WPX @ RO

For those not involved in amateur radio, many of the terms I use many seen foreign. I have received a few comments from puzzled readers of The 6th Floor. Sometimes I forget this “language” we speak in the world of ham radio is not widely known. Starting Friday afternoon at 5pm PDT the World Wide WPX Contest sponsored by CQ Magazine kicked off. Each contest is a different mode, this week it was the SSB (single side band or voice) contest. If you read my news on Thursday, WPX SSB Goals I was hoping to put in a 10 hour effort and possibly see 200-300 QSOs.

In every contest you must decide if you operate low (100 watts or less) or high power (greater than 100 watts) and if you want to work all the available bands or one band. The three previous years I had operated high power, all bands. This year I decided to change that up (which I shouldn’t have done in hindsight) and working low power on 20 Meter band (14 MHz). I spent the better part of 2.5 hours and only worked 50 stations and pulled the plug on my operation. I knew better than and consulted my father, N6SV before making the decision.

Instead of spending the better part of Saturday, sitting frustrated in front of my radio I decided to head to N6RO about 2 miles down the road. I had e-mailed Dean Straw, N6BV and asked if I could sit, listen and learn. When I arrived I met Juan, W6NOW, Masa, K1GI, Dean, N6BV, Steve, K6AW and I believe Bob, K3EST. Our host, Ken, N6RO came out to the shack a few hours later. I plugged in with Juan on 40M, but the band was very slow, as it was daylight. I decided to plug in with Dean a about 60 minutes later, who was working 15 Meters (21 MHz) and working Europe at a good rate.

Dean asked if I wanted to operate 15 Meters and I hopped in the chair and started calling CQ NR6O, which was the unique club call sign we were using. The WPX contest is a great contest to work, since each new prefix you work is a multiplier, which adds to your score. So in this contest you can work everyone on all 6 bands potentially. When I took over, I was nervous, since this was only the second time I had worked at N6RO. I settled into a modest rhythm, but after listening in with Dean and some of the call signs he was pulling out of the noise I was somewhat frustrated I was not able to accomplish the same.

It was still a great experience knowing I had some big antennas putting out a very clean and strong signal across the world. Some of the new countries I worked were Dodecanse (J45), Namibia (V5A) and Kenya (5YA). Unfortunately none of these were using my personal call sign of W6ONV, so I cannot claim any of them in my log book. I had a few short runs where I made multiple contacts in a short period of time. I probably put in 2 hours on 15 Meters and Dean took control of the station before the JA’s (Japan) came on the air at which time Masa sat down.

I then took a short break and spent another 90 minutes, maybe 2 hours working 40 Meters. Again, it was very quiet and maybe had 10 contacts in that 2 hour time period, but it’s something that needs to be done in order to maximize points for the station. There were times Bob, who was working 10 Meters would move or send a station to 40 Meters if that operator had not contacted us on that band.

All in all it was a great contest weekend. I was thankfully to be part of the NR6O operation. I might have to start spending more time with that group and learning the ins and outs of operating from their shack. Unfortunately time isn’t something I usually have much of, so being able to commit 48 hours (as is the duration of this contest) or even 12 hours is not always possible. Still being able to relieve an operator even for a few hours is a blessing, especially if you plan on operating all 48 hours. Not sure what the rest of the year will bring. I do have N6RO to visit, as well as W6ZJH in Pittsburg for some of the shorter duration contests.

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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.

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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.

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