Sunday, June 1, 2014

WQ6X Sets new WPX all-time high W6 Multi-2 record

The last weekend in May once again found me in Fallbrook lending my WQ6X callsign to the 2014 WPX CW contest.  Just days before, seasonal fires raged through another corner of Fallbrook , somehow missing the turn up Olive Mill road.

We competed as a Multi-2 operation using three Elecraft K-3 radios into two ACOM 2000 amplifiers terminating into one of two 2-el 40-m + 3-el STEP-IR pairs @ 40' and 70' respectively.  For 80 & 160 meters we resorted to semi-Vee dipoles at about 64'.   We were the only WQ6 in the contest (altho there was a close call with WQ5L).

A total of 10 CW operators (N6KI, WQ6X, N6CY, KB7V, WA2OOB, WB6NBU, NN6X, N6EEG, K4RB & N0DY) converged on the NX6T QTH to amass 3,670 QSOs with 1,094 unique prefixes for a score of over 9.5 million points giving us a reported 5th place for the U.S. and 19th place worldwide.

So while we don't get no wood (plaque) for this contest, we got a stroke for our NOT-Insignificant EGOs thanks to an e-mail notice from N6KI:  

"BTW, I just learned from the great contest score statistician John, K6AM, that we have set the W6 all time record for M/2 HP Category for ALL TIME. World Class OPs, John K6AM and Danny N6MJ with the help of Jim W6YI had previously held the W6 record in 2010 with 6 Million+ points and we blew that record out of the water with our 9.6 Million Points"

On WPX Sunday afternoon I managed to put together a cheesy YouTube video of the WQ6X WPX operation.

Overall, we were not plagued with any major problems EXCEPT for the solar noise.  We no longer bomb the internet router on 160-meters, we've determined the correct tower height for both pairs of antennas, the ACOM 2000's no longer take transmitting faults, the logging software no longer crashes and we've worked out the kinks in the between-radio interlock system.  Unfortunately, the most important variable (the sun) we CAN'T control; all we can do is attempt to predict what its activities will do to world-wide radio propagation.  For contest weekend the Solar Flux was a dismal 111 and the K-Index jumped all over from 2 to 5 - Yuckkkkkk.

Dennis (N6KI) by pure accident discovered a number of keyboard/mouse key combinations evidently built-in to the Wintest software that don't seem to be documented - makes me wonder what ELSE the software can do that even we registered users don't know anything about.

One of the fun features built into the WPX contest is the emergence of some AMAZING callsign prefixes.  Amongst the approx. 82 countries we worked there were hundreds of prefix goodies. For WPX 2014 here are some of the prefixes that really stood out:  WW0WWW & W5OOO, TG9, KH2 & KH0, P29, YT2, DS5, E51, ZP9, IK0, 9A15, DM50, 4Z5, GA3, VP9, JW, 9A8, T42, IT9, OG30, 3Z5, DR800, HB14, P4, PX4, 4F2, 5B4, JJ0, HS0, LY50, LZ73, E750, DM200, V31, XP3, A65, 3W1, 4X2, SV5 & SV9, FY5, MW0, UX8 & UX0, RZ10, YL2014 and LZ2014 plus YP10NATO.

Now, allow me to address the issue of intentional JAMMING.  While it is true that this year's WPX contest FLOODED the CW bands with a cacophony of signals sending "nothing but serial #'s", that does not make it right to intentionally JAM specific stations; even if we ARE loud.   40-meters is always a target for illegal operations.  We have been putting up with illegal South American SSB stations below 7.025 for many years.  In addition to those idiots, this weekend included weird forms of non-U.S. RTTY (between 7.025 - 7.038) and of course the VERY LOUD Russian "K" beacon.

Although not officially designated as such, I believe that 7.030 was this weekend's "National Tune-UP Frequency"; at least while I was doing a WPX run there.  Around 09:30z the incessant tuning-up began.  Then, I was barraged with "CQ CQ CQ" and  "CQ DX  CQ DX" with no identifying callsign.  I moved to 7032.5 and within a minute the CQ'er moved up to join me.    After struggling to copy weak stations under this idiot, I realized that we had under-utilized 80 meters and made a switch to 3516 picking up 30 Q's and then one more from 160.  When I came back to 40-meters, the jammer (but not the "K" beacon) had gone to bed, probably PROUD that he chased off one more of them  "pesky contesters".

Speaking of 160, although there isn't a lot of action there, we shouldn't ignore the band either. While we only made 5 QSOs on 160, two of them I made were new prefixes, which in the end were worth 16k points.  Without the 160 operation we would have MISSED those prefixes.  I would like to believe that WQ6 was a new prefix for those stations as well.

This weekend because I ran a LoT of frequencies, it was nice so get "WQ6X Spotted" messages, including a pair from the new N6GEO Skimmer - thanks George.

A few operating tips are in order:
  • To being with, keep your CQ contest calls SHORT. 
    Once I tune you in I don't want to wait around to initiate contact.
    Often I am listening to two frequencies simultaneously.  If you take too long to call CQ, I may switch to the other station and then forget to come back to you; or when I come back you are making ANOTHER long call - BYE BYE!
  • While sending "599" is required in the exchange, it is only required ONCE.  If I can't copy your Serial # (often because of QSB), when I send "NR ?", don't send the "599" a second time; first off it's a WASTE of time and second, by the time you get around to sending your serial #, the QSB will have taken you out again, requiring me to ask for yet another repeat.  This weekend with several stations this required a half-dozen repeats, most of which could have been avoided by JUST sending the Serial #, ONLY.
    With WinTest, we dedicated one function key (F3) to JUST sending the Serial #.
  • When several stations are calling me and I reply "WQ6?", if your call is something like IB4XXX, DON'T call me - wait your turn.  You may be louder than the station I am attempting to copy, forcing me to ask for yet another repeat.  All that does is LENGTHEN the amount of time you have to wait before working me.
    Because we are in it "for the long haul", if I ask for a repeat (even again and again), keep sending me what I need until I get it.  I will not put you in the log if I am not sure.  Then later, the log checking robots (LCR's) will not only "ding" you for the Not-In-Log (N-I-L) QSO but will also subtract the penalty QSOs for that mistake.  WPX exchanges are about ACCURACY FIRST, with speed being a distant second in importance.
  • As for CW sending speed, while I like to operate at a healthy clip (of 26 - 28 wpm), anything beyond 30 wpm is UNNECESSARY!  With most logging programs all you need to do is speed up sending during parts of the exchange and slow it down for the rest. 
    A typical exchange would be "++599-- [$Serial #]".  Sent at a base speed of 26-wpm, the "599" will be sent at 28-29 wpm and then slowed back to 26-wpm to send the Serial #.  At first it might sound weird, but most operators get used to it and even like it. 

    On bands such as 160 & 80, or when there is a LoT of atmospheric noise, I have been known to slow down to around 22 - 24 wpm.  And, if a station calls me at around 20-wpm or less, I dial back my speed to match the caller when sending the exchange.  Slower operators should be accommodated as well as marginal band conditions.
    What matters is that we "get the message through".
So, did you play in the WPX contest?
Did YOU get the message through?