RTTY WPX Award using MMTTYA small pat on the back for myself as I achieved another award from a radio contest back in February. During the weekend of February 11-12, the CQ World Wide RTTY WPX took place. This is a 48 hour contest, in which you make contact with as many different operators as possible that have unique prefixes. This was also the first time I decided to work a contest on a single band, I chose 15 meters (21 MHz) for the RTTY contest based on propagation data and recommendations from members in the NCCC.

While my score wasn’t all that impressive and I was a bit discouraged with how my final numbers came out. I was hoping for 300 QSO (contacts) but ended up with only 203. When the log checking was complete after the contest that number had decreased to 197 valid contacts and 157 prefixes for a final score of 59,817 total points. I did provide a complete write up at the conclusion of WPX.

While the award was for most contacts on 15 meters in the 6th district. It’s actually a minor achievement, which I will chalk up to a learning experience. There are some contests that I cannot afford to work the entire time, limiting my operation to a single band decreases the time I need to be in front of the radio. Then again, I don’t enter contests to win, but to improve my operating and have some fun. If I happen to win paperwork, great!

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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

20 / 29 / 23
15 / 3 / 2
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 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

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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2010 Sweepstakes Award

It’s not all too common I win any sort of award from the sponsor when it comes to contesting. If I pick and chose my class and power, I might have a slim chance at winning some “wallpaper” for the shack. Wallpaper is the ham radio term for awards and after 3 years of contesting my walls are still somewhat bare, but it’s not necessarily about winning for me. It’s about participating and achieving the goals I set prior to any contest.

Today I received an envelope in the mail from the ARRL. I thought it might be an award for an achievement like WAS or Triple Play, but I could not recall submitting any paperwork recently for an achievement award. I opened the envelope and was surprised to read I was ‘First Place Single Operator Low Power CW East Bay Section.’

As for as I know this is my second award, the first coming in 2010 participating in the CQWW WPX RTTY Contest I have won participating in a contest. Still it’s exciting to win awards like this and now has me rethinking my strategy for the 2011 Sweepstakes which takes place next month. Hopefully I can improve on my 2010 score and duplicate my effort on CW.

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March 2011 NA Sprint RTTY

Contest:North American Sprint
Date: March 12, 2011
Mode: RTTY
Period: Starts 0000 UTC Saturday; ends 0400 UTC Saturday

80 / 24 / 21
40 / 34 / 50
20 / 25 / 3
SCORE: 2,324 (TIME ON: 3 H 45 Mn)

SOAPBOX: This was my first NA Sprint of any sort I participated in. While I enjoy RTTY, I was not fond of the format of the 4-hour contest. This time around, I had the time (so I thought) and figured I would give the RTTY sprint a shot and see how things went. I had no previous  involvement, so I really had nothing to measure my performance on. I could gauge how I was doing by what other contesters were reporting (their number) when we exchanged information.

I need to thanks Dean, N6DE for providing macros (for Write Log), but those were easily reformatted for Win-Test. His details and explanation cleared up some of the confusion I had. I am sure all I needed to do was ask any RTTY sprinter and they would have helped as well. With macros set I read and reread the rules of the exchange. Unfortunately some confusion set in when I answered a CQ and exchanged information, receiving a ‘TU’ or ‘QSL’ I would immediately see a station calling without me calling CQ. I came to think this was the “norm” in the sprint format, but it caused me some confusion early on.

Speaking of early on, I was about 15 minutes late to the party as I got my UTC mixed and was thinking the sprint began at 1700 PST. So I started on 20M, albeit a bit late and I had a challenge trying to make contacts. I checked the hex beam and I was pointed in the correct direction, but I guess I figured there to be more stations calling or answering CQ. I did read participation was down in a recent sprint. Someone in their soapbox commented it was like being invited to a party, but many people did not show up.So I slugged my way through what was left on 20M, but I could tell see momentary rhythm when things went well. I would call answer a CQ, make the exchange and then call CQ to be answered by a new station. Unfortunately those moments were few and far between on all bands during the sprint.

40M was the stronger of the bands when compared to 80M.  I probably should have remained on that band for a longer period, but was still having quite a bit of noise and difficulty making QSOs. It was not really a surprise that 40M was my best bands based solely on the number of QSOs, while 20M was the main band for the multipliers. Unfortunately starting the sprint late, I did miss out on some early QSOs and had to pick up those calls starting on 40M.

Every time I contest on 80M I become quite frustrated. The SteppIR BigIR does not have the best radial system, but I found myself yelling at the PC, which did absolutely nothing. I also found I was calling CQ quite a bit up and down the band but rarely got answered. That did nothing to increase my already fleeting confidence that I knew what I was doing. As was said that last hour was LONG and I had to work for most of the QSOs I made on that band.

In the end, it was an interesting experience. I now have a baseline from which to build in the next NA Sprint. Not sure I am ready for the CW sprints, but I have a better understanding of how the format goes and what I should expect. While my numbers are not all that impressive when compared to other NCCC #1 team members or other amateurs in the sprint, I did make the (nearly) full 4 hours and most of all had fun, even if I was frustrated and yelling at the computer.

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