Sunday, November 19, 2017

JIDX SSB - the contest with even MORE QRM

WQ6X operating JIDX remotely at W7AYT's QTH
Back in April I was part of a 3 man team (N6KI - WQ6X - K4RB)
for the JIDX CW contest. ([CLICK HERE] to read about that GiG).
While we took 1st-place worldwide (even beating the Japanese in
their own contest), the intentional QRM headaches were monumental.
Because I am a perennial optimist, I couldn't imagine anything
worse (QRM-wise) - enter JIDX SSB 2017.

For this contest weekend there were 4 HF contests happening:

  1. Japanese International DX (JIDX) SSB contest
  2. Worked All Europe (WAE) RTTY Contest
  3. The OK/OM DX contest
  4. The Kentucky QSO party (KYQP)
For JIDX SSB, I chose to run NX6T's station #1 remotely, but from W7AYT's QTH (affording me the use of a 32 inch computer screen
for the Toshiba laptop). Being an SSB contest, JIDX in November requires much wider filter settings than for CW GiGs.


Fortunately, I recently discovered it is possible to route the IP-Sound remote laptop audio through a pair of refurbished Autek QF-1a filters (one for each ear).

Each QF-1a unit allows simultaneous PEAKing
and band-shaping of the receive audio, along with
a DEEP (65+ db) notch
filter for each ear.

Some adjacent channel SSB splatter and most heterodynes can
be easily notched into oblivion. Or, the desired signal in the audio passband can be significantly PEAKed (bringing it ABOVE the rest
of the passband), with relatively sharp filter skirts attenuating anything in the passband on either side of the desired voice signal.


Running the OK/OM contest made sense only from NX6T remotely (running high power into 22m high yagi's); attempting to work Europe using the CHA-250 vertical and 8JK sloper at W7AYT's QTH would have been frustratingly unproductive. As it turned out, myopic attention on the JIDX and WAE contests pushed the OK/OM GiG to the "back of the bus", to be forgotten - maybe next year.

KYQP was not much better. Many times I tuned the bands with my Yaesu FT-1000mp (portable setup @W7AYT) looking for Kentucky stations; mainly on CW.

Unfortunately this weekend's QSO party was like most other QSO parties (except CQP) wherein not enough stations participate in their own QSO parties.


Running WAE RTTY remotely

Like the OK/OM contest, KYQP never made it to the log.
That left the WAE RTTY event (starting at 00:00z for 48 hours) and
the JIDX contest (beginning at 07:00z for 30 hours). My goal was to run JIDX during the 2-8 am shift on Saturday, the dinner shift in the evening and the 2 - 5 am shift on Sunday, ending the contest.

During the JIDX off periods (Saturday morning and after the
JIDX finish on Sunday) I found time to work the WAE RTTY GiG.
Because I thoroughly enjoyed the WAE CW contest (where I learned to send QTC messages), I figured running WAE on RTTY would be even more enjoyable - which it was - altho ironically, not one European station ever made it to the log. I could not make QTC traffic handling work properly with N1MM+ and didn't want to spend inordinate amounts of time troubleshooting the problem (that should have done BE-4 the contest). I quietly dropped the QTC sending part for this year.
For 2018 I will be more prepared for WAE.

For several years running NX6T has won the JIDX 1st-place world plaque on CW as well as SSB altho we lost a couple of those bids to the Hungarian HG7T station (who have a more direct shot at Japan on 80-40 & 20 meters than we do on the
west coast).

Sometimes the certificates list
us as the ToP MoP. In April 2017,
our 3-man score significantly surpassed the Hungarian multi-OP run. The only time we ever hear HG7T is in the DX contests,
never in JIDX. 


For this year's JIDX SSB contest, space WX conditions were quite marginal. Most of the action was on 40 & 15 meters. Unfortunately, while JA signals could almost be heard on 75 meters, the signals
were not strong enough to actually work anyone. 10 meters never materialized at all, although the mid-day crew managed a significant run on 15 meters. Between N6KI and myself, the two of us made 40 meters happen despite all the intentional QRM, as I explain below.

JIDX SSB 2012 - JIDX CW 2014

I said in the opening of this BLOG, the JIDX CW contest earlier this year found us plagued by intentional QRM.  Back in April I couldn't imagine intentional QRM any worse than that.

For this JIDX SSB 07:00z contest start I had station #1 setup for remote access and decided to get 3 hours sleep while Dennis (N6KI) opened the contest on 40. When I awoke at 09:45z I received a text from Dennis urging me to call him before I fire up on 40 meters.

It turns out that NX6T was being heckle-jammed by some idiot (confirmed to be in California) repeat-playing a recording shouting "F*** You", over and over again. (I recognized that recording as
being one of the L-I-D OPs from the 3.840 "garbage dump"
ragchew frequency, occupied nightly by west coast hams.

I no sooner started up when the recording began playing out over and over again. I guess some people are so bored they have to QRM other stations to bring excitement into their miserable lives.

The idiot finally gave it up around 12:15z giving me about 2 QRM-free hours of operation before the band faded into oblivion (as far as Japan is concerned).

WQ6X Spots in WAE RTTY contest
After a few hours sleep I logged back in to station #1, brought down Wintest (for JIDX) and configured N1MM+ to run the WAE RTTY contest. Running the ACOM 2000a amp at about 600 watts (to keep the shack cool), I made several 50+ QSOs/hr runs on 20 meters accounting for 2/3's of the paltry 19.8k score.
WQ6X was CLEARLY being heard.

After the JIDX contest was over I managed nearly 2 hours in the
WAE GiG, running 40 meters until the D-Layer took over and long-skip disappeared. Then, with 4+ hours sleep behind me, I fired up WAE RTTY @ 20:00z, adding 106 20-meter QSOs into the log, ending
the WAE contest at 23:59z.

WAE RTTY QSO Breakdown

Because the QTC send facility in N1MM+ is slightly different than the CW version, I couldn't synchronize my brain to it.

Instead, I created a RTTY Macro to send "NO QTC - SRY". A final irony of this year's WAE RTTY contest is that NO European stations were ever heard at the Fallbrook QTH so
I missed out on all those juicy multi-point European QSOs and QTCs. Next year I will have this worked out.


Around 22:00z on Saturday Japan floated in on 15 meters so I turned the station over to N6KI and the afternoon crew. From that run alone 124 QSOs & 34 prefectures made into the log - for nearly half of the ending score. Surprisingly, the JA turnout on 20 meters was VERY poor, even tho the signal levels of the participating stations were
Quite STRONG.

NX6T on the other end of the remote connection.
This BLOG entry was sub-titled "the contest with even MORE QRM" for a reason. If the Friday-Saturday QRM was all we had to contend with, it would've been just another Saturday morning on 40 meters. Unfortunately it got worse. When N6KI started on 40-meters Sunday morning he was relieved to discover that the "F-U" guy didn't return - that ham's parents probably told him to put on his jammies and go
to bed early.

Unfortunately, at 10:00z within 2 minutes of my calling CQ JIDX on 7135.35 a "data cranker" started cranking away. Unfortunately I am used to this idiot during most Asian contests. This is where the notch filter in the left-channel QF-1A filter made all the difference.

Starting at 10:15z, some idiot would send "T-E-S-T" on CW after every CQ call. 5 minutes later I moved to 7137.37. When I made another call on 7135.35 a few minutes later the "T-E-S-T" guy was back at it so I retreated to 7137.37. At 10:37z he found me and started up again - I moved back to 7135.35 and he eventually finds me. For the next half hour it became a game of leapfrog between 7135.35 and 7137.37.


WINTEST running JIDX SSB

At 10:48z suddenly there was a LOUD HOWLing noise on 7137.37 so it
was back to 7135.35.

At 11:00z I moved to 7143.43 to enjoy 20 minutes of QRM-free
JIDX operation.

7143 must be the National Tune-up frequency.

All of a sudden several stations decided to tune up on top of me. Japanese stations often do this before calling a CQ'ing station.
Unfortunately, this time no QSOs occurred - the signals sounded
like they were stateside based, not from Japan.

Next up was a series of stateside stations calling me for a QSO - I
had to send "Japan only - point your antenna to Japan and make
some QSOs". While I had the 2-el yagi pointed right at Japan, the
F/B ratio of a 2 element is not all that great; probably half of the
1350 watts out of the amplifier were being heard off the back.

At 11:42 I moved to 7142.42 and enjoyed some quiet QSO making
until a RTTY jammer appeared at 11:47.  While the QF-1a notch filters helped, because the station purposely shifted frequency by approx. 50hz (back and forth), I had to keep readjusting the notch filters.

From time to time I would take a
listen on 75 meters for an opening. Unfortunately, signals were extremely weak - something better than the NX6T coaxial inverted Vee was needed.


The screwy 75-meter JA SSB band allocation didn't help matters.
That band plan was obviously design by a bureaucrat, not the JARL.

At 11:59z a bunch of east coast ragchewers showed up on 7143 (probably their daily meetup frequency) oblivious to the fact that their sideband splatter was wiping me out barely 1KC away. As a test, I tuned them in and said "Break", receiving an IMMEDIATE reply; meaning they easily heard me and didn't care that I was there first.

At 12:00z I retreated to 7141.41, called CQ and the "T-E-S-T" guy showed up immediately. Then several stateside stations called me prompting another "Japan ONLY" reply.

Then the Test guy changed it to "H-I" after every CQ.

As annoying as the CW jammer was, he never once QRM'd me during a JA QSO; only after every CQ call. When he stayed on the same frequency, the notch filter could almost take him out. Then suddenly, he stopped, being replaced by a reprise of the National Tune-up frequency.

At 12:37z I moved to 7137.37 enjoying two minutes of quiet before
the data cranker returned. 5 minutes later a VFO swisher showed
up swooshing back and forth around my center frequency. Moving
to 7139.39 there were more calls by stateside callers and then the
"T-E-S-T" guy came back just in time for the 13:00z contest end.

Leaving the receiver on 7139.39 after the contest, the data cranker came back at 13:10z followed by a person whistling tunes. It is very clear that the whistler and CW guy were members of the 3.840 IDIOT gang.  After all these years, the genus of the data cranker has always eluded me.

I had considered running the JIDX contest as WQ6X from W7AYT's QTH during my off periods at NX6T, but got sidetracked with other matters. Had I done that I probably could have won a certificate for single-band operation. When the contest raw scores are published
I'll know if I missed out.








POSTSCRIPT:
After the JIDX contest was over, N6KI posted our score to the
[3830 Scores website]. As it turns out, the paltry NX6T score not only trounced our rival HG7T, we ended with a nice 1st place (worldwide) finish - not bad when you consider that propagation and QRM were certainly NoT in our favor. Evidently signal levels in Hungary were even worse that in W6; surprising since they have a more direct
shot at Japan than we do.

Remember my motto: ALWAYS submit a log (even with a paltry score) as you never know when it will result in a win.
This year is yet another example of that fact.

Did YOU play in the JIDX SSB contest?
How many Japanese prefectures did you work?
Did YOU play in the WAE RTTY contest?
Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?
 


Thursday, November 16, 2017

WQ6X wings and wins another Sweepstakes Contest


It was 45 years ago that I was first exposed to the November Sweepstakes.  Being an active traffic handler at that time (on the NCN & RN6 traffic nets), the Sweepstakes exchange format being similar to the msg header sent along w/every radiogram message passed, was (and still is) an excellent traffic handling exercise.  (This similarity is explained in more detail at: WQ6X.Info/Sweepstakes.)

Recently, I also took a retrospective look back at Sweepstakes for

the last 10+ years.  [CLICK HERE] to read that BLOG.


While radiogram traffic is not as prolific as it once was, the November Sweepstakes is still the best non-traffic handling traffic handling exercise
I know of.

Next in training-value is the QTC message passing found in the WAE (Worked All Europe) contest.


In recent years, co-oping w/N6GEO, we have earned many 1st-place wins from the East Bay (EB) section, along with a plaque for winning the Pacific (PAC) Division in 2014 on CW.

For WQ6X that was followed by a handful of EB section wins and an SSB PAC Division plaque in 2015 on SSB; all as SOULP portable
from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.

"Antenna farm" @W7AYT
With all this behind me, what is possible for 2017?  For this Sweepstakes I made a number of equipment adaptations available. 

Other than last month's CQP, this Sweepstakes CW contest was the first real use of the 3-element 10-meter yagi at W7AYT.

For the lower bands the WQ6X Lazy 8JK sloper was given a number of tweaks.

Unfortunately, the cable phasing switch box developed a problem so the sloper and the CHA-250 vertical were run separately.

While the 10-meter yagi was flawlessly in tune, band conditions were not; all of the 10-meter CQ SS calls went unanswered.  Even though spotting receivers all over the U.S. and Canada heard me, no one
else seemed to be on the band during the dozen or so CQ call
periods throughout the day on Saturday AND Sunday.

I did however discover quite by accident that the 3-element 10-meter yagi can present a 1.2:1 SWR match on 15 meters and under 1.5 on 20 meters. The yagi produced 20 QSOs on 15 meters and 9 QSOs
on 20 meters. Rotating the antenna DiD peak signal-levels in the forward direction, whichever direction it was turned. 
I surely dunno what to make of all that.

The N1MM+ software doesn't care which antenna I am using
when I enter the QSOs (and mults) into the log.

WQ6X runs SO2-V using N1MM+

For CW Sweepstakes space WX was marginal resulting in very Lonnnnnngggg Slowwwwww signal fading - in and out.
With N7IV, I copied his exchange as the signal faded in; just
in time for the fade-out. At times like this timing is EVERYTHING.

Timing is also crucial when looking for "rare" multipliers - some stations are on for only a short period during the contest.

In some cases the callsign obscures the actual location of the station. N7IV in North Dakota (ND) was a complete surprise. When I operate out side of the call area reflected by my callsign, I ALWAYS sign portable, such as WQ6X/KH6 and WP2/WQ6X, or WQ6X/7 when operating from the 35th floor of the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas.

Many operators probably discounted N7IV because of the 7 in the callsign. In most RTTY contests, if your QTH is in a call area different from your callsign then you MUST sign portable; in this case N7IV/0.

On the other hand, some calls are cool and obvious, such as WY7SS in Wyoming. One of the secrets to higher is to leverage your callsign and/or your particular ARRL section. 10+ years ago I made several Sweepstakes operations from Ojai Valley because in those days SB section was amongst the Top-5 rarist ARRL sections. In recent years SB section has been well represented, encouraging me to activate the East Bay (EB) section; which is where I live anyway.

JPS NIR-12, MFJ-1026 & Autek QF-1a
In order to properly run SO2-V effectively, the Main RX audio was routed thru an NIR-12 DSP filter to the left ear while the Sub RX was run thru an Autek QF-1a filter to the right ear.

The NIR-12 is quite effective at reducing noise peaks, allowing signals to pop just above the noise.

The Autek QF-1 sports an audio notch that rivals the FT-1000mp's I-F notch. Remember: dual-recive radios like the 1000mp are equipped with filtering ONLY for the Main RX. While the Yaesu is equipped
with IF-shift/width, notch filtering and an eDSP, again, they apply ONLY to the Main RX. This is what makes splitting the audio lines through external filters so important. The QF-1a's PEAK filter can
peak a specific signal in the audio passband while at the same
time deemphasizing the blasting signals surrounding it.

WQ6X Sweepstakes ending statistics

Because of the recent hurricane activity, there was virtually NO KP2/KP4 activity, although I DiD see a spot for an NP4 station.
It is safe to say that the number of 83 section sweeps was considerably less than years past. Then again, Nebraska
(NE) finally made it into the WQ6X log; making up for its
absence for the last several Sweepstakes events.

While my score wasn't great, evidently it was enough to take
1st place for East Bay (EB) section. As I have said many times, "sometimes just showing up makes all the difference".

Did YOU work Sweepstakes CW in 2017?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

 


Friday, November 3, 2017

BLAST's from the PAST: November Sweepstakes

Why November Sweepstakes is my FAVorite Radiosport Contest

This BLOG is the first in a series called: Blasts from the Past.
Each BLOG in this series will focus on some major contest activity from WQ6X years past. To begin this series let's begin with my
favorite radiosport contest: the November Sweepstakes.

In preparation for the 2017 November Sweepstakes CW contest this coming weekend, I took a journey down memory lane beginning with WQ6X's first portable Sweepstakes operation in the Ojai Valley
(Santa Barbara (SB) section) to more recent operations from the
East Bay (EB) section.

To quote the Grateful Dead: ".....What a long, strange trip it's been".
Sometime ago I put up a web section on the WQ6X.Info website dedicated to the November Sweepstakes.  [CLICK HERE] to read
that write up.

Sweepstakes is a traffic handling exercise dating back to 1930.
Unlike many contests which send 59 or 599 as part of the exchange, Sweepstakes stations exchange pertinent information based on the radiogram format. Considering all the hurricane & fire disasters, Sweepstakes contributes to emergency preparedness.

While I first participated in Sweepstakes back in 1972 and have played around in it at various Ohio locations (which includes operating as WA6LKB in Cincinnati and guest op-ing @ W8CX), it wasn't until 2007 that I began serious Sweepstakes operations, beginning with portable operations as W6K from a large under construction house in Ojai California - Santa Barbara section.
This was also the 1st use of the W6K callsign for Sweepstakes operations.

Like CQP, Sweepstakes has given me the opportunity to engage in all manner of portable operations and guest operations. While each event is different they all have the same goal: emergency preparedness.

Here are the highlights from those events.



2007 Sweepstakes - Ojai Valley - Santa Barbara Section (SB) - W6K


CW Sweepstakes as W6K
Sweepstakes Phone as W6K











Both events were run out of the garage of an multi-story house under-construction. I used the Mercury Cougar's battery as a power source. 
The garage door was opened every hour to start the engine and charge the battery.


2008 Sweepstakes - Ojai Valley - Santa Barbara Section (SB) - W6K

2008 Sweepstakes Phone as W6K
For 2008 I brought-in a 20-amp power supply and operated from an upstairs bedroom.  Having a beautiful autumn view made it all the more aesthetically enjoyable.


2009 Sweepstakes - Guest operator @ NX6T in Fallbrook - NX6T

Guest operating my 1st time @ NX6T
In the Fall of 2009 I was doing neurotherapy research work in the Los Angeles area and had completely forgotten about Sweepstakes.
My last minute chance e-mail to a fellow ham somehow found it's
way to N6KI, who invited me to join the NX6T crew in Fallbrook. 
It was my first trip up the mountain followed by several dozen
trips since; not to mention all the remote access to NX6T.


2010 Sweepstakes - Ojai Valley - Santa Barbara Section (SB) - W6K



In 2010 I made one more Sweepstakes trip to Ojai. 
In those days the Santa Barbara (SB) section was hard to find. 
For those who worked W6K, it was a welcome relief; my motivation
for returning to this location, even though it was not a great operating
location (however it was FREE).

Two downsides to the Ojai Valley operation included the fact that being in a valley swallowed 1/2 the signals to and from the unfiltered Kenwood TS-50 radio.  The other difficulty came from N6VR's MONSTER signal up the hill (1/2 mile - line of sight) with his dual
FT-1000mp's into BEEFY amplifiers, feeding 60-ft high antennas. 
Any time I pointed the antennas N-E, even off the back of his beams, N6VR's signals swamped the poor little TS-50.

Who would have guessed that 5 years later I would OWN one of those two FT-1000mp's (KB7V bought the other one) - it's my most favorite transceiver EVER.  Like so many hams, Ray sold his (originally $3,000) Yaesu radio radios replacing them with Elecraft K3's. 

From my perspective, while K3's may offer a better dynamic range
and the like, for me, the ergonomics SUCK - give me an FT-1000mp ANY DAY.


2011 Sweepstakes - Carpinteria Beach - Santa Barbara Section (SB) - N6K

My proposed N6K operation was sidelined literally 5 minutes before
I got started. (I paid $100 to set up there.)

I was told I had permission to setup an HF2-V vertical next to the condo.

The building manager at the last minute decided that I did not have permission and booted me out.

At a mom and pop sporting good store near Carpinteria State beach I got a deal on a Coleman Insta-Tent ($100 for a $250 tent).  Setting up a camp site near the beach I was finally in operation by 00:30z - JUST in time for a MAJOR rain storm.  Unfortunately, I was required to vacate that camp spot Sunday morning and move to (what turned out to be a better location) across the park.

Operating as N6K, things finally settled down; except that I learned an even MORE serious lesson. 

Using the N6K call found half the callers thinking I was N6KI, requiring me to correct that information.
Later, Dennis (N6KI) said "you'll never do THAT again" - he was right.


The only REAL good thing I can say about this operation is the 1st place certificate from SB section.


2012 Sweepstakes CW - Multi-OP w/N6GEO - Brentwood Ca. (EB) - W6K
After having survived a DISASTEROUS CQP operation to Modoc county as K6M ([CLICK HERE] to read about that) George and I decided to run Sweepstakes from his CC&R controlled home.  Every Friday afternoon we put up a 25-ft military-style crank-up mast with a TH-3jr and a 6BTV vertical across the lawn. 

By 7:30pm on Sunday - Antennas? WHUT antennas? 
In the CW GiG we managed a 1st place for East Bay (EB) section.


2012 Sweepstakes Phone - Hayward Ca. (EB) - W6K


For Sweepstakes phone in 2012 I setup from the 3rd story of a hotel in Hayward, running the HF2-V vertical as a multi-band radiator. 

While I won no awards
for that event it was an interesting challenge I
am glad I committed to,



2013 Sweepstakes - Multi-OP w/N6GEO - Brentwood Ca. (EB) - W6K


Hot off a successful return to Modoc county as W6C for CQP
([CLICK HERE] to read about that), 2013 brought WQ6X back to N6GEO's QTH to take a 1st place for East Bay (EB) section in the CW GiG and even accomplish a clean sweep (working all ARRL sections).


For the 2013 Sweepstakes phone contest, the multi-OP with N6GEO found us test-driving a FLEX-3000 SDR radio.

While we did not accomplish a sweep,
we DiD take 1st place
for EB section.





2014 Sweepstakes - Multi-OP w/N6GEO - Brentwood Ca. (EB) - W6K


WQ6X enjoying a Mimosa @3:05z after SS)
For 2014, N6GEO
and WQ6X ran their best Sweepstakes operation to date, taking a CW plaque for the entire Pacific Division (PAC)

As a team we have yet to duplicate it, except for the RTTY RU plaque we earned for our WP2/WQ6X operation
on St. Croix in January
of 2014.




2014 Sweepstakes - Single-OP - Brentwood Ca. (EB) - W6K

For the 2014 Sweepstakes phone, N6GEO family commitments kept him out of the ham shack so I ran as a single-OP.
While I DiD take a 1st place for East Bay (EB) section, the unfortunate highlight of that weekend was the NIGHTLY RFI NOISE from (what turned out to be) a poorly designed power supply in the neighbor's hot tub.  Oh the suffering we endure to win a certificate.


2015 Sweepstakes - WQ6X @ W7AYT - Concord, Ca.

For 2015 I setup another portable operation from W7AYT's QTH in Concord. 

This was my FIRST use
of the newly acquired FT-1000mp (from N6VR) on CW - I was still learning all the knobs and settings.

I SHOULD have taken 1st place for EB section except that I filed my log as
Unlimited HIGH power (instead of Unlimited Low), giving the 1st place slot for East Bay to another lucky operator. 
(He should THANK ME - HI! HI!)

Two weekends later I redeemed my self with another Sweepstakes operation from W7AYT taking a 1st place for the Pacific Division (PAC), receiving my 2nd division win plaque. 

Similar to our 2014 WP2/WQ6X worldwide win plaque, THIS one I did not see coming.



2016 Sweepstakes - WQ6X @ W7AYT - Concord, Ca.

For 2016 WQ6X made the 1st run of SO2-V (Single-OP 2 VFO's).

For this particular weekend I had access to a HUGE table and an even BIGGER monitor, allowing me to run split screen. 

All of this came together for another 1st place from East Bay (EB) section.

For the 2016 Sweepstakes phone contest I made another operation similar to the CW GiG two weekends prior. 

While I only managed a 2nd place (no certificate)
I DiD manage to perfect the art of SO2-V on SSB. 
For that reason alone,
this GiG was a success.


As you can see, the November Sweepstakes can take on many
forms, even tho the message format has never changed.

How often do YOU play in the November Sweepstakes?

Is WQ6X and N6K or W6K in one YOUR logs?

Look for WQ6X in the 2017 November Sweepstakes,

 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

WQ6X runs 8 Radiosport contests in October


WPX-CW @ NX6T (2013) before the station revamp
It's no secret that I love to engage in all manner of radiosport activities: CW, RTTY, SSB; domestic as well as DX contests. Domestic contests include the numerous state QSO parties throughout the year.
My FAVorite domestic contest is of course the November Sweepstakes; the CW version in particular as it saves
wear/tear on my vocal chords.

Every October there are numerous QSO parties beginning with
my FAVorite: The California QSO party (CQP). CQP is so important
to me that I maintain a complete web section on the WQ6X.Info website for CQP: http://WQ6X.Info/CQP.

For 2017 it would seem that operating as K6T (Kilowatt Six Tango) achieved a new county record for Contra Costa county. (Last year running solo as W6K a county record was secured for Tuolumne county). For me, one of the more enjoyable aspects of CQP is being sought after. Hard to believe, for many county hunters, Contra Costa county is more difficult to work than Tuolumne or even Stanislaus.

RCForb software screen
Although CQP was operated [if you will]
"live", the rest of October's radiosport events have been run remotely from NX6T.

Using the VNC Viewer VPN software to run Station #1's computer the Elecraft K3 itself is run via the RCForb rig interface software.


I have yet to figure out how to invoke the actual Receiver Incremental Tuning (R.I.T) facility when accessing the K3 remotely. Instead, the solution is to synchronize the 2 VFO's and then run SPLIT. While this allows me to tune in stations who are GROSSLY off frequency, when the contact is logged, the log's frequency reference is to the "RIT" frequency, not the transmitted frequency (which never changes).
At LEAST I have a way to bring stations thru.

This year, once CQP became a distant memory it was time to support others in their QSO parties, as well as play around in a couple of RTTY events. All this was done remotely from NX6T. Outside of CQP, for WQ6X other QSO parties included:
  • PAQP - Pennsylvania QSO Party
  • AZQP - Arizona QSO Party
  • ILQP - Illinois QSO Party
  • NYQP - New York QSO Party
  • I saw the SDQP (South Dakota) on the calendar yet heard NO SD stations during the alleged 24 hour contest period. This just furthers my complaint that other than CQP not enough stations participate in their OWN QSO parties.

    Operating the NX6T station remotely gave me a bunch of different antennas to choose from. On 80, 40 & 20 I heard ALL MANNER
    of stations surrounding South Dakota, most with nice signals.
    You mean to tell me that the radiosport Gods caused a South
    Dakotan BLACKOUT? I don't thingk so. 

    The JARTS RTTY Screen remotely
    RTTY-wise, October found me playing around in the Makrothen RTTY contest on October 14th and the Japanese JARTS RTTY contest on the 21st. These two gigs are similar except that the contest exchange includes our GRID Square ID for the Makrothen contest and (similar to All Asian) our AGE for the JARTS event.

    In the Makrothen GiG, QSO points are awarded for each contact based on the DISTANCE between the GRID ID for both stations. Working primarily DX stations can result in ridiculously high scores, which makes things completely different than most other contests;
    and, definitely more fun.

    Tower #2 @ NX6T

    Because tower #1 was trailered to a "secret" CQP location, I did not have access to the C-31 yagi for October.


    Instead, all I had access to was a 3-element Stepp-IR, 2 elements on 40 and a sloppy inverted VEE on
    80 - all 13mh.



    For the RTTY contests, I would often run the Stepp-IR Bi-directional when running a frequency to enjoy QSOs from Asia and South America or N.E. USA/Canada and KH6/VK/ZL.

    When non hams ask why I play in so many radiosport GiGs (72 so far this year), I remind them that not only is it FUN, it keeps my operating skills at their highest level should further disasters (like hurricanes, fires and earthquakes) suddenly occur.

    I have setup so many different portable stations in the last 8 years that I am prepared for just about anything. Operating from Mt. Able, Ojai Valley, Carpinteria State Beach, Mt. Diablo, as well as 3rd, 5th and even 30th story hotel rooms has taught me a lot about operating
    under adversity, making operations like WP2/WQ6X, or multi-opping
    from NX6T or N6GEO a pleasant relief.

    
    NX6T after dark
    For me, Radio sport has an important purpose. Until something/someone else comes along with a "higher" purpose, this is one hobby I am going to keep playing around in.

    As a teenager, amateur radio kept me out of jail, I was too busy on the air to find time for drinking drugs or stealing cars;

    all that came MUCH later, and instead of ME stealing cars, it was my Honda Accord which was stolen - TWICE this year (the 1st time for its license plates and the
    2nd time probably for parts).

    Radiosport has enabled/encouraged me to play around with numerous radio equipment configurations in addition to trying out add-on devices like the QF-1A, NIR-12 and the MFJ 1026 noise canceller, in addition to a number of wireless headset configurations.
    (I hate being "wired" to a wireless radio.)

    FT-1000mp + outboard filters
    October is not yet over.

    Next month brings us the November Sweepstakes, the JIDX SSB and WAE RTTY contests, as well as a number of QSO parties and small DX contests.

    I thoroughly enjoy sitting at a real radio in Fallbrook or my Yaesu FT-1000mp with its "billions and billions of knobs" (to paraphrase Carl Sagan).



    Additionally, because I often see Biofeedback clients on weekends,
    I am fortunate to have access to NX6T remotely. Often my remote operations help the techs in Fallbrook to debug an equipment or latency problem - I get to play and they get "stress analysis" on
    the equipment and internet configuration.

    Have you been playing in the dozen or so Radiosport GiGs
    during the month of October?

    Is WQ6X or K6T in your log?

     

     

    Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    WQ6X sets CQP county record for Contra Costa


     Operating as K6T (Kilowatt Six Tango), 2017 marked my 17th California QSO Party (CQP) radiosport contest (in this lifetime anyway). In 2014, operating as K6U with N6GEO, our original
    trip to Tuolumne county was postponed until CQP-50 in 2015;
    instead, we engaged in a makeshift operation from his QTH in Brentwood and inadvertently set a county record for
    Contra Costa county.
    ([CLICK HERE] to read about that event.)

    Last year, operating solo from N6GEO's Twain Harte cabin (George was on vacation with the XYL) again, W6K inadvertently set a county record for Tuolumne county.
    ([CLICK HERE] to read about that event.)



    For 2017 I was presented with a quandary: cart the FT-1000mp
    and its myriad of external accoutrements to Twain Harte to run
    multi-OP with George N6GEO, or take the easy route and run
    another portable operation from W7AYT's Concord QTH - this
    time as K6T - "hoping" I could surpass the current 34K point
    record for Contra county.

    If you want to skip ahead to the results, you can look at the 3830Scores website or CQP section of the WQ6X-Info website

    Pursuing a multi-OP county record for Tuolumne is tricky at best.
    While George & I make a great 2-operator team, unfortunately there
    is no Multi-2 classification in the CQP contest; maybe its about time there is. So we either compete as a multi-single (no fun for operators who like to operate) or as a multi-multi (no fair).

    I believe my operating choice for 2017 was the correct one. K6T's 59k score should set a new county record, while N6GEO & WQ6X ended up as competitors in the in-state single-OP operation classification.


    In addition to pursuing county records, I set out to make a number of minor equipment configuration changes.

    For openers, I discovered a way to jumper the switch lugs inside the WQ6X coaxial switch box,
    allowing the selection of W7AYT's CHA-250 vertical, the WQ6X
    8JK Cobra Sloper-V, or the two antennas "in parallel"; which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.

    On Thursday & Friday before CQP, a not-insignificant amount of
    time was spent running the FT-1000mp in a CW CQ-Loop (particularly
    on 10 & 15 meters) checking in with DXMaps.Com and the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) to see where the K6T callsign was being spotted. In particular, this allowed rotating the 10-meter yagi, noting the changes (if any) in where the K6T signal was being heard.

    On the audio end of things I have been experimenting with cascading a number of external audio filters, taking advantage
    of the Yaesu FT-1000mp split audio features. For CQP, this experimentation included: a 20 year old JPS NIR-12, to process RCVR-A's audio (for the left ear) and a classic Autek QF-1A filter to process audio for RCVR-B (to the right ear). Because the FT-1000mp uses a clever separation algorithm for split audio, it turns out that the NIR-12 can be set/forget (until I switch modes) while using the QF-1a to effectively "shift" the audio around between the ears.



    While running a frequency , a clever trick I discovered is to use the
    QF-1A to PEAK the sidetone while calling CQ. (If it's too loud I turn down the Moni gain.) Then, using the R.I.T. knob I can tune each individual signal looking for that pitch; at which time it JUMPS into the audio passband - way better than any $1,000 DSP circuit could ever accomplish.

    With all the equipment under control I was ready for the CQP practice event at 02:15z (7:15pm) on 20 meters. At 02:30z the practice event was moved down to 40 meters. At 2:45z we moved down one more time to 80/75 meters. As it turns out, I made ONE Cw contact on each band during the practice GiG; SSB signals were not heard. Shortly after 03:00z I slipped down to 160 meters looking for indications the CHA-250 vertical might add a couple of 160 Q's to the log; the following evening, 3 160-CW QSOs DiD make it to the log.


    With the equipment intact, I got some preciously deserved sleep. At precisely 1600z I fired up CQP with a brief run on 40 CW to snag some local California and Northwest stations before alternating time between 20 & 15 meters for several hours until the one and only 10 meter opening occurred for K6T at 20:45. Installation of the 10-meter yagi two weekends before paid off with 27 CW and 4 SSB QSOs; including HI8 & PY2.

    An interesting aside is that I accidently discovered that the FT-1000mp can tune the 10-meter yagi on 15 meters (with a 1.25 SWR) and actually make QSOs.


    Overall, I believe the signal was MUCH stronger to those areas using the WQ6X sloper. It wasn't long before 10 & 15 were gone; from which I took refuge on 40-meter SSB to work as many California stations as possible. While California stations derive no multiplier benefit from working other California stations, QSO points accrue for all communications; California or otherwise.

    After a brief stint on 20 meters, I was back on 40 at 00:15z; now on CW. Because we are in a sunspot cycle low period, the move to 80/75 meters occurred early in the evening (02:00z). With some begging and pleading K6T even managed 3 CW QSOs on 160 (at 03:30z, 05:30z and 06:59z with N6GEO).

    For every CQP contest, I devise an evolving webpage for that year. ([CLICK HERE] to see the CQP 2017 page.) One of the reasons I do this in advance is so that out-of-staters can get an idea of what bands to look for K6T on at any given time of day. Because I am a consistent contest creature, this plan rarely varies; nevertheless, I publish it anyway - each year begins anew.

    QRM-wise, this CQP event was mostly QRM-free; shocking when I compare this operation to other contests and other years. Ending the contest on 40 SSB I was annoyed by a VFO-swisher - I guess some people just get bored and can't wait for the 3pm ending of CQP.
    As soon as CQP was over, so was the VFO-swishing.

    The evening before CQP I was solicited to join the MLDXCC (Mother Lode DX Contest Club) in order that they can include my score as part of their CQP Club submission. One of these days I will send them $15 to enjoy all the perks and benefits of being a PAID member.


    Overall, for CQP 2017 I accomplished everything I set out to do. The before-CQP antenna farm revamp @ W7AYT turned out to be time well spent.

    While K6T was HARDLY the loudest low power California signal, stations throughout the U.S. and Canada reported the signal levels from Contra Costa county to be quite good.


    Being able to switch between the Vertical & Sloper array on the low bands made all the difference. Additionally, despite poor band condx on 10-meters, the 3-el yagi (with its alleged 8.5 db gain) made the time spent on 10 meters fun and worthwhile. LooK for WQ6X in December's ARRL 10-meter contest.

    Now that CQP 2017 is behind us and the logs submitted, it would seem to be a good idea that George (N6GEO) and I operated solo separately. K6T's 59K score has clearly set a record for Contra Costa county - just as I had planned - and N6GEO most likely took 1st place for Tuolumne. Then, depending on what the Log Checking Robots whittles our scores down to, N6GEO may eventually slip ahead of
    K6T - this is why accurate logging is so important.



    As you can see from the ending screen, the K6T GiG was indeed
    an SO2-V operation. Throughout 2017 I have posted contest BLOG entries describing my use of SO2-V with the Yaesu FT-1000mp. Overall I am getting the hang of it; however as I have said before,
    if I get too confused running split audio, I immediately shutdown VFO-B and focus only on the run frequency.

    I missed a sweep due to lack of hearing: ND, NE, RI, MS, AK,
    AB & MR. County-wise, 42 counties ended up in the K6T log.
    Numerous stations made the log on multiple band-modes - CooL!
    Where were the ladies on the air this weekend?
    I only worked 2 of them.

    Did YOU play in the California QSO Party?

    Is K6T (or N6GEO) in YOUR Log?