2012 CQP Weekend

This weekend is the California QSO Party, sponsored by the Northern California Contest Club. It’s a contest where everyone participating works as many stations from California as possible. This is the rare time that operators want to work a W6 station. It’s a 30 hour contest, of which I will be able to work 24 hours. The contest begins at 16z (9am) Saturday, October 6 and ends at 22z (3pm) on October 7. Last year I put only put in 8 hours before running into Mr. Murphy, which ended my contest

I had planned to work most of the contest but suffered radio issues with my Yaesu FT-1000MP and lost 15M. The other bands were nowhere near as hot, so I shut things down and hoped to return when 40/80M open. Unfortunately as I got set to start I could not hear anything on the low bands. Not even N6O, just 3 miles down could not hear me. This was my final effort for 2011 CQP. Going back to the 2010 CQP I had power issues with the rig, which cut my contest to just under 4 hours, in my inaugural year participating in the contest.

Last year I was assigned K6B by the FCC to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the NCCC. I got the permission to extend using this call sign for the 2011 CQP. Each of the prior years I have operated as a single op, high power. This year I will be a single operator, but looking at running low power (200 w) for the contest. That could change and probably should since it is one of those rare times where people want to talk to me! Might make it more enjoyable as well.

Currently I am negotiating to get Sunday off from work in order to extend my operating period from 10-12 hours to 20-22 hours. I really have no plan as to where I will start or how I will operate. I will look to improve my 2011 totals, which were 382 total QSOs, of which 41 were CW. I am going to make more of an effort to secure CW QSOs. My goal this year will be to work all 58 counties. I ended up 7 counties short last year. With any luck doubling my operating time should award me with those missing 7 QSOs.

If I can’t secure time off on Sunday, then I will log about 10 hours during CQP. I will give the station a once over today and repair one radial for the SteppIR. I will run some power through the Alpha 76PA to make sure all if as it should be and be ready to go when I get home early from work tomorrow. I will miss the start of the contest by about 90 minutes.

Regardless of what happens, it will be a great operating time during CQP that kicks off the new contest season. Looking ahead (and time permitting) I will participate in ARRL Sweepstakes and CQWW DX CW in November.

WPX on the Horizon

While May 26 is still a way out, it’s not too early to start planning for the CQ WPX CW contest. It’s one of those contests that I have really come to enjoy, next to the ARRL Sweepstakes. I find it interesting, now 3 years into contesting these two contests would top my list of “most enjoyable.” CW or Morse code wasn’t a mode I really thought of using when I upgraded without submitting to Element 1 testing, since it was dropped by the FCC. Sweepstakes, before participating, I could not understand the draw to the contest, but now 3 years later, these “messages” we exchange during the contest show the importance of traffic handling and being precise.

There is more to entering a contest than winning, especially for an operator like myself with a very modest shack and equipment compared to other stations. Unfortunately due to our remodel in 2011, I was unable to participate in the CQ WPX CW. Go back just 2 years and I posted one of my best overall performances in ANY contest to date. Again, I didn’t win the contest in my category (Single Operator, High Power, All Bands), while placing 19th out of 71 operators in that category.

The best part of this contest is that you get to work EVERYBODY! It’s also a contest where the other station’s prefix (like W6 or WD6, etc) are multipliers. If you work stations on the low bands (40/80M) they are worth double the points. If you work stations on other continents, they are worth more than if I work many domestic stations. So this is my best opportunity to score 1 million points in a contest.

John, K6MM and Dean, N6BV made a presentation back in 2010 at our May meeting of the Northern California Contest Club. After seeing the numbers as presented by K6MM and the outlook for propagation, even an operator like my could put up 1 million points. I had grand visions of that goal back in 2010, but sleep got the better of me when the sun went down. From that point on I was behind the goals I had set, unable to recover.

This year hopes to be a different story, especially if the solar weather picks up in the next month with an increase in sunspots. Regardless I will attempt to put a full weekend into contesting in order to achieve my 1 million point goal. Getting back to the band information, as long as I can stay awake, the low bands (40/80M) should be worth their points in gold. Even 6-8 hours when the sun goes does should provide me with the push I need to make 1 million points. The great think about this contest is I only need to make 27 contacts per hour and I will achieve my goal.

Currently I have working up the details on a spreadsheet I use for where my antenna will be pointing, possible contacts per band, broken down into different categories based on points. I also have to figure out a sleep schedule, which could be during the day, as opposed to night time when points are at a premium. Still some work to do before the contest arrives, but planning is always a key when it comes to contesting.

2012 CQ WW WPX RTTY Goals

Hopefully the stars align and Murphy decides to bypass the shack for the next 24 hours or so. We are within 3 hours of the start of the CQ World Wide RTTY and it’s a different game for me this season than in years past. In 2011 I missed out due to the home remodel and insurance claims we had to file. But if I look back to the 2010 contest I won my first award. This time around I am without by vertical antenna and have decided to do a single band operation.

Looking at the 2011 results NK6A had 124 contacts and 96 prefixes for 23,616. I am sure I beat that effort. There was no one who even entered the low power, single operator category in area ‘6’ in 2010.  It’s not all about winning, for some that seems to be commonplace. For guys like me, with small stations and not much time, you chose your battles wisely.

I have consulted a few on the NCCC Reflector and the majority says use 15M over 20M. Propagation will probably favor 20M staying open longer to somewhere in the world, but like many contests it will be a loud and crowded band. 15M on the other hand won’t be as bad and won’t be open as long. If I can get out 60-70 QSOs in 3 hours I will be thrilled, which will most likely end my first day.

Saturday will start at 15z (0600 PST), possibly an hour later as I will beam towards South America as the sun comes up. By 18z I might be able to get into Europe, although solar conditions are not that great this weekend there should still be a fair amount of activity on 15M.

As for my goal, depending on how much of an effort goes in on Saturday I would like to make 300 QSO and 150 prefixes (90,000 points). That will require a bit of work on my part and unfortunately having a ‘W6’ call sign is just too common in these contests where prefixes are your multiplier. Nonetheless it’s better than a day at work.

On Saturday

Preliminary Win: 2011 SSCW

On the NCCC Reflector this week there was a message sent about the initial results being posted by the ARRL for the 2011 Sweepstakes CW. After reading through a series of comments from other KB’ers I decided to check the initial results. I was happily surprised when I saw I had retained my title from last year (last year’s win) winning the 2011 SSCW in the single operator, low power, unassisted category.

For me, it’s about picking and choosing a category I can be competitive in. Winning is nice, but not necessarily the priority for me when it comes to “BIC” and participating in any contest. It’s nice to achieve a winning effort and while they haven’t been all that often, it is nice to know I can compete. Granted, I was only competing against 8 other stations, but this effort was a daytime operation only since I had all sorts of complications on the low bands (40/80M) with my SteppIR BigIR. Unlike 2010, when I had 88 low band contacts, 2011 yielded only 2, the bigger difference was 10/15M.

With any luck I can put aside all the station issues, find a full effort and really see what I can do. Based on my numbers from the last 2 years a goal of 600 QSO (all S & P) is possible. Then again taking a chance and running a frequency should allow me to easily achieve this goal, but I am still not as comfortable running as I am in S & P. So there is a big tradeoff in my rate. We still have 10 months before 2012 Sweeps, but I am already looking forward to what is the most enjoyable contest for me.

Radio Repairs: Part 2

Today I took my son and we headed south down towards San Jose to meet up with George, K6GT. After about a 90 minute drive from Oakley we arrived somewhat early in his neighborhood, so we kill a few minutes. Got to see where Apple is headquartered, that was neat. I called George about 11:45am and he said he was home, so we headed over.

I have seen George at some of the NCCC meetings I attend, but I had never spoken to him. Great guy, he is. He showed Zack and I his shack, completely with Elecraft K3 and Panadapter. No one he could loan me his Yaesu FT-1000 MkV, it goes unused in the closet. LOL.

He had the radio packed up in its original boxes with all the paperwork included. I think this is what they call a “selling point” as he made mention, “it’s for sale, name your price.” Wow, a MkV, the radio above mine, which has 200w output, although he said I would not get it. Still it would be great, since it is loaded with filters.

George even gave my son his QSL card for visiting his shack. Unfortunately Zack got very quick and shied away. At least he did say hello when we arrived. So I packed him up, and tied down the radio in the back the truck and we were off towards Pleasant Hill to get the wife.

Once home I took down the SteppIR BigIR and carried out to the front of the house to work on it. The copper tape was a complete mess. Thankfully I was able to straighten it out and get it on the spindle. I even got the spindle back on correctly (or so I thought) before connecting the 80M coil and balun and moving back to the mount to raise.

I spent a few minutes connecting all the cables up to the vertical and then made my way to the shack to fire it up. I turned on the controller and then attempted to calibrate the antenna. No sooner did I start that process and I got a very ugly sound coming from the housing. I let it run about 15 seconds and then powered it down. I was loosing light and decided I would take a second look at it tomorrow. No idea what it causing it to hang up now, hopefully the few seconds I had it on didn’t ruin the tape.

As for the radio, I held off setting it up tonight. With any luck it should be a seamless transition to the loaner rig. I will have to spend about 60 minutes configuring it the software I use. At the least I will have the low bands for the RTTY RU, but might be out of luck on 40/80M unless I can figure out WHY the Copper-Beryllium tape does not want to retract or extend.