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.

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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.

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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.

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2012 RTTY RU Goals

It has been a hope of mine that I would be able to put in a 24 hour effort in the upcoming ARRL RTTY Roundup. As luck and my work schedule would have it, I will be lucky to get 12 hours of “BIC” during the contest. More realistically it will probably fall to about 10 hours when all is said and done.

I was able to get Saturday off from work, which allows me time to work the start of the contest through a time of my choosing. Looking over my 2010 RTTY Roundup statistics, I should be able to make 300 QSOs, if not more. Recently 15M has started to be the hot band in contests, but being without a radio that had that made things tough. In 2010 15M was not good (15 QSOs) and 10M was non-existent for me, while 20M was the hot band with 422 QSOs.

Unless I am fortunate enough to get Sunday off I will plan on 350 QSOs with 48 states and 12 Canadian provinces. With the solar cycle really heating up in the last few months, we should have some nice propagation into Europe. At least that is what I am hoping for so I can improve on my 21 DXCC worked in 2010. Taking these numbers into consideration I will figure a final score of 25,200. Not great by any stretch, but given the conditions I have to work within, it’s better than not participating at all.

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