CQWW WPX Today!

Final preparations are being made as we are just about 4 hours away from the start of the CQWW WPX CW Contest. The transceiver, just back from being repaired is in top condition, ready to put in a 36 hour effort. Last night, thanks in part to Hank, W6SX located in Mammoth Lakes, I was able to get a signal check using the SteppIR BigIR on 40M and 80M. Hank was able to hear me on both bands, so my low band antenna is ready.

I didn’t really put much of an effort into low band antenna, my hex beam. It has performed excellent since I last upgraded it a few years back. I did get on the roof and check the connection and realign the hex beam with north. Due to some strong winds the past week, the antenna was about 15-20 degrees off north. I double checked the rotator was working, as well as my digital interface.

One minor problem I encountered last night while testing, was the fact my antenna tuner on my rig was not work. I overlooked a menu function, which might have caused some of my problems on 80M with Hank, but after I turned the tuner on, 80M seemed to work very well. As it stands now, I just have to set up my macro keys on Win-Test and decide what category I will enter. Right now I am leaning towards single operator, all band, low power, unassisted. That might change depending on how conditions are once we get into the contest.

I have spent the last 90 minutes reviewing propagation charts and my spreadsheet that breaks down this contest by the numbers, for each band, each hour. By the numbers 1 million points is within my reach. Hopefully the low bands come through. More importantly, hopefully I am able to stay awake until 4 or 5 am tomorrow morning. That will be the biggest challenge. Wish me luck!

2012 CQWW WPX CW Goals

Starting this Friday at 5pm (0000 z) is the beginning of the CQWW WPX CQW Contest. It’s become a favorite of mine, based off my 2010 and 2009 efforts. While I had set lofty expectations in 2010, I came up well short of my goals. Compared to 2009, I doubled my contracts and tripled my final score. Still out of 36 hours I only worked 24 hours and 50 minutes, which put any idea of 1 million points behind me.

I gotta give props to many of these contesters who can go all night without sleep, many of them older than I. This was something I was unable to do last year and at 01z I called it quits. Hopefully that won’t be the case this year, as I am planning on operating through Friday night into the daylight hours of Saturday.

The SteppIR BigIR is back, erected and in good working condition. I need to make one minor repair on an 80M radial, but am looking to get the antenna tested on Wednesday afternoon. The hex beam has been unused for nearly a month and a half since my Yaesu FT-1000MP has been in the shop under repair. I did receive confirmation that the rig will arrive on Wednesday providing me 2 days to get the shack reconnected and in working order for the start of the contest on Friday.

At the beginning of April I wrote a piece called WPX on the Horizon, discussing my failure to achieve my goals in 2010 and how to be successful 2 years later. It will be the low bands (40M & 80M) that will be the deciding factor. If I can have a productive first night, then I should have a legitimate shot at making my goal of 1 million points.

This year I have set 1 million points as my goal, how I get there is of little consequence. Based on my 2012 CQWW CW spreadsheet I would need 890 QSOs, 418 PFX, which would equate to 2400 QSO points for a final score just over 1 million points. This is predicated on a prefix variable of 0.47. Based on my 2010 score, my prefix rate ended up at 0.46 but as the contest wears on new prefixes are difficult to find, but worth quite a few points.

As mentioned, it will be 40M and 80M that will be the deciding factor (4 or 6 points per QSO). I need to total 475 contacts between the two bands. If not, the shortfall will need to be made up on the low bands and will end up requiring more contacts at a lower point per contact. Not sure this would be a possibility for me since my effort will be search and pounce, without running any frequency.

Looking at the numbers, over a 36 hour period I would need to average a 24.72 contacts per hour (known as rate) in order to achieve my goal. In any contest a 24 rate is very low, especially when compared to those who will be running a frequency or using a SO2R (single operator, 2 radios) operation. My Morse code is adequate and my skill is improving, as well as my speed, but running a frequency only to have to QRZ for a call sign does nothing but waste time. If the first 7 hours of the 2010 effort is any indication (was at a 32 rate), I should be able to achieve my goal.

The factor that remains a question mark, the solar conditions. I am using N6BV’s propagation software and hoping for high conditions (SFI  100+ and SSN 100+) and planning my contest out for each hour. I don’t plan on spending much time on 10M (only planning 40 QSOs), but will check at the top of each hour. Currently I am planning my sleep schedule. Initially I had it set up for one block of 10 hours during the daylight hours on Saturday. After some consideration I am breaking it up into a few smaller breaks, hoping to be at my 36 hour limit about 3-4 hours before the contest ends. Whatever I finally decide on the sleep schedule, I am going to make it a point to stay up when the sun is down to maximize my score.

I will enter this contest as a single operator, low power, unassisted. This too could change before the contest, but I don’t see much reason to fire the amplifier up and run high power, especially for CW. With any luck I will be reporting back the fruits of my labor and grinning from ear to ear that I have achieved my goal.

Radio Returning?

Got some good news yesterday, as it looks like I will be back on the radio as early as next week. I e-mailed Byron, WA4GEG, who has been working on my Yaesu FT-1000MP. It has been at his shop for just over a month, since encountering issues on the 15 meter band. Byron writes, “I have your transceiver repaired, and have been running it for a week now to make sure everything holds. The VCO the affects 15 meters needed repair. Everything else looks good.”

It’s now a race against the clock, as the CQWW WPX CQ Contest begins next Friday at 0000z (5pm PDT). With any luck it will get there as late as Friday and I should be set to operate up to 36 hours of the contest. Not that I will be able to stay awake, which has been a problem in the past. I spoke about this contest on April 4th in WPX on the Horizon.

Not having a radio has put some of my planned worked on hold. I was able to fix my vertical antenna, thanks to SteppIR and remount it in the backyard. Unfortunately with my knee surgery and no transceiver, I have not been up on the rooftop to see what work needs to be accomplished on the hex beam. With any luck, it will plug and play and I will be able to get on the air quickly, if needed. Again, this is dependent on the arrival of the radio back to my house.

As for the contest, I will provide one further update later next week to summarize my goals. If I can put in a full effort and solar conditions are better than what I have seen the past month or so, I should be able to pull off my goal from 2010 of 1 million points. This would be far and away my best showing in any contest I have entered since 2009.

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.

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.