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.

Support for Radiosport – NCCC

By no means do I consider myself an accomplished contester if I base my success on wallpaper, one would think I have failed in the contests I have entered. But that is not the case. By far the best decision I have made since becoming licensed as an amateur (only 1995) was joining a very accomplished contest club when I moved to Northern California. Not only have I become involved in week contesting being around accomplished operators and a very active club has increased my enjoyment in amateur radio.

Depending on your interest in amateur radio some believe there is a negative connotation surrounding radio contests that take to the bands nearly every weekend. For me, this is the best aspect of the hobby thanks in part to the Northern California Contest Club.

Prior to finding the NCCC I was somewhat without direction in amateur radio. I knew I wanted to be licensed, but without an HF radio or antenna I did not know what direction I wanted to take. Thankfully I received sage advice from Glenn, K6NA about a local “big gun” in Oakley, CA where my wife and I moved. After some e-mails back and I had an eyeball with Ken, N6RO or Radio Oakley, as his station is known.

It was by far the most impressive display of radios I had seen in my short career and I was really excited about meeting him and having the (future) opportunity to operate from RO. It gets better, the group of amateurs that come together for the major contests are some of the best; K3EST, WA6O, K6AW, N6BV, N6ML and N6WM. Many of these amateurs are a wealth of knowledge of the many aspects of the hobby.

It was upon my return from this first meeting that I knew I wanted to get involved in contesting. While I grandiose plans, the reality would limit my ability to put a station on he air. Fortunately with a little bit of legwork and luck I was able to get W6ONV on the HF bands in 2008.

Since that time I have tapped Ken and some of the group for assistance, hardware, including the purchase of my Yaesu FT-1000MP, which is my primary rig and acceptance to the Northern California Contest Club in December, 2008.

While I am still not a major play nor have I really taken advantage of N6RO being so close during a contest I have been able to involve myself in numerous contests through out the year. I accepted the fact I would not always win a contest I entered, but that was not the point of getting on the air during a contest weekend.

After establishing a base line of the contests I entered I made it a point to set personal goals I wanted to achieve in a given contest. Above all I wanted to have fun because if any time this hobby is not fun, then maybe I should rethinking about being part of it.

Fortuantely the NCCC has many different calibers of contesters, from the part time operator to the hardcore, spend every minute with “BIC”. Sometimes it’s actually the participation of the little guns, like myself who could potentially make or break a club competition. So I make it a point to give the best effort possibly when a contest like ARRL Sweepstakes rolls around or the NCCC sponsored California QSO Party (CQP) takes to the air in October.

After nearly 2 years of contesting I do believe I have become a more experienced (and hopefully better) operator. One achievement has been learning Morse code and participating in many CW contests. I also added a rig interface to participate in RTTY contests, which strangely enough has taken a backseat to CW.

If I look at my accomplishments, I was the high score in the 2010 WPX RTTY running low power in California. It was somewhat unexpected to see my call sign in bold type in CQ Magazine. Then again my score of 350,000+ points was well off the pace of the top 10 score. But as I said for me it was not about winning, but participating, having fun and achieving my personal goals I set. Any personal gain (wallpaper) is secondary.

I look forward to a long relationship with the NCCC as 2011 rolls along. If I am ever in doubt, need assistance or even hardware, the first place I will turn for help is the NCCC. By far joining this club has been the best move I made. While I don’t get to attend many meetings or participate as part of a multi effort, but I relish the time I have spent as a member of the club.

Ground Support at N6RO

Spent some time over at Radio Oakley yesterday as N6RO, N6ML, K6AW and N6WM had planned to do some work on the 20M beam. The rotator was shot and it needed to be replaced, which had Iain (N6ML) and Steve (K6AW) at about 45′ in order to remove the rotator and install an angle iron so the beam would not swing from approximately 70 degrees for the upcoming SS CW.

I am still new to contesting and working on antennas, towers, etc, so I acted as ground support and also tried to gain more experience from just being around these guys. It was good to talk to these guys, as I had not see them since I made my way to my first NCCC meeting some months ago.

I asked Chris, N6WM if he knew a local place to find a push up mast, similar to a Rohn H50. He made mention he had one he would give me. I think my eyes lit up. So later today I will be calling Chris and going to his QTH in order to pick up this mast. Right now, I replaced the hex beam up on the shed in anticipation for SS.

With any luck this mast will get me the height I need when I want to extend the mast to approximately 20-25′. Hopefully it will also help to suppress the RFI issues I have recently been having in the entire shack. More information on it later today…