Saturday, July 26, 2014

WQ6X takes 11th place worldwide in the 2014 IARU HF Championship

For the IARU 2014 event this year I teamed up with George (N6GEO) to operate from his QTH in Brentwood (near Antioch) California.
WQ6X @ 3am
N6GEO also @ 3am
This year also marked the next installment of the WRTC championship where the best operators from around the world converge on a single location (this year in New England) and compete against each other.  Each of the 59 teams used a randomly chosen 1x1 callsign from the 1st call area.  The results ( of the WRTC championship are now known.
One of the U.S. teams took the Gold, by quite a margin.

For this year's IARU we elected to use my callsign as it is becoming more well-known in contest operations; especially since our 1st place RTTY RU win from St. Croix as WP2/WQ6X in January.

Because George's QTH is in an antenna restricted area, as we always do, we setup the  antennas (a ground mounted 8-BTV vertical and a TH-3 jr yagi 7mh) Friday evening just before dusk and took them down Sunday moring after the IARU GiG ended at 5am.  Antennas?  Whut antennas?
For transcieve operations we used George's recently acquired SDR-3000 which performed flawlessly; a way better setup than his earlier SDR-1000 and even the SDR-1500 we used for WQ6X/WP2.

Due to various family commitments George was not able to to spend much time in the operator's chair so I made about 80% of the Cw contacts and nearly 2 dozen  QSOs on SSB.  At 3am Sunday morning as I was debating how to keep my eyes open, George suddenly appeared and took over, finishing the operation for WQ6X in the IARU.

As he did for our RTTY RU operation, George printed out propagation charts for all bands using the K6TU propagation chart service.  Overall the charts were very useful, except that they predicted 10-meters would be dead; surprising since the solar flux (SFI) altho on the decline was sitting at 160.
 However, instead of relying solely on the propagation charts (which are only a prediction) I chose to actively listen on other bands while operating.  Saturday afternoon blessed us with a 10-meter opening to South America, which was good for a BUNCH of ITU-zone and HQ station multipliers; proof that actual listening is SENIOR to any gimmicks one may use to find stations.

Because we were a multi-0p station we were allowed to use internet assistance in our operation.  That helped us to find rare ones and also alerted me to having been spotted on 20 & 15 meters when I ran a frequency.  It was also fun to watch the WRTC scoreboard LIVE as the 1x1 stations competed against each other.

Having submitted our score to the 3830 Scores website, it would seem that we took 11th place worldwide - not bad for a hastily thrown together operation.
The SDR-3000 (software defined radio) certainly did the job.   Here is a picture of the 3830 website submission.

 As you can see, 20-meters gave us most of our action, followed by 40, 15, 10 & 80-meters.  With an 8-BTV vertical 160 was not possible.  (We burned out an 80-meter resonator early this year attempting to make 160 meters work with the 8-BTV.)  Unfortunately the solar noise was horrendous on 40 & 80 limiting what could be heard until the noise subsided about 3am, when George took over operations.

While there was plenty of SSB operation in this year's competition, for us it made sense to focus mainly on CW.  Altho when the QSO rate dropped I would check the SSB portion of the band I was on; hence the 22 SSB QSOs.  Per the rules, switching modes required that I remain on that mode for at least 10 minutes, making a band/mode switch a tricky calculation.

So, did YOU play in the IARU HF Championship?
If so, how did you do?

WQ6X joins team W6SW for 19th Field Day on Mt. Abel

It was the best of time, it was the worst of times - for me, that is how I would categorize Field Day 2014 with the San Andreas Fault-line Survivors (W6SW). This year's Field Day on Mt. Abel brought together a number of interesting people in a number of interesting ways.
Field Day 2014 marked the 19th year that W6SW has set up on Mt. Abel in S/W Kern County - San Joaquin Valley (SJV) ARRL section.  Since last years Field Day the "back way" to the mountain from highway 101/166 had been renamed to Hudson Ranch Road and the sign indicating the turnoff to Mt. Abel has disappeared.

As a result, I drove past the turnoff, ending up in Maricopa.  Thanks to 2-meter radio contact I was able to figure things out, arriving at Campo Alto just before sundown.  At the final turn for the 7.5 mile ride up the mountain, the road name was back to what I had expected.  The winds on Abel were so horrific I could not pitch a tent, even with assistance.  So I opened up the 2-minute setup operator tent for the 1st night there.

A number of last minute operator cancellations relegated our operation to a "3A" battery powered event.  Because the Pine Mountain Radio Club (N6P ) claimed our usual setup locations we ended up operating in a 4 station cluster near the mid-south area of Campo Alto.

Station #1 (manned by W6KC) operated from a campsite I have used for many Field Day and All Asian contest operations in the past.  Station #2 (manned by W6SW himself) setup in the area where I operated Field Day and All Asian last year.  Fortunately, the bear who visited my site last year did not return to that area.  I manned Station #3 across the road from Station #1, and the GOTA station was setup across the road from Station #2.  The stations were in close enough proximity that we were able to link Stations 1, 2 & 3 via an ad HOC wireless LAN network, allowing us via N1MM to keep tabs on each others progress, which is always good for morale.

Unfortunately, during radio testing on Friday, an inadvertent reverse battery hookup to the ICOM 7000 resulted in an unfortunate smoke test, sidelining the radio and requiring a spare Kenwood TS-450 radio to be brought to the mountain at the last minute after lunch on Saturday afternoon.
While waiting for the replacement radio, I spent about 90 minutes at station #2 on 20-meter SSB, eventually running a frequency (which was video-captured and posted on YouTube).  Afterwards, Randy (W6SW) took over station #2 and operated 20-meters like a maestro.
Antenna-wise, we put up a pair of wire beams for 20-meters (one for Station #3 on CW and one for Station  #2 on SSB) and of course a wire beam for 15 meters, each about 60' up into the trees.  Amazingly there was virtually no interaction between stations 2 & 3 on 20-meters.   For non 20-meter work, I ran my usual ground mounted HF2-V vertical and 8JK Cobra Sloper.  Because of the intense winds I double-guyed the HF2-V - it never moved from its location. The other stations used a variety of dipoles for the lower bands.

Due to our limited number of operators, almost everyone operated past midnight.  I managed to keep Station #3 going until 3am when I finally called it and got 3 hours sleep.  By 6am, thanks to some strong Kona coffee I was back in the operator chair until the event ended at 11am PDT.  However, during the last hour I made the rounds between our stations and the N6P setup to snap Necktie QSO party photos for their Facebook page.

This year we accumulated a number of bonus points.  Saturday morning with the aid of a tape recorder I copied the annual Field Day message (worth 100 points).  Later in the day, Dennis (KJ6UVQ) managed to pass an official QTC message for another 100 points.  Saturday evening (about 03:30z) we received a visit from the  ARRL Southwest Division vice-director N6VI.  My picture with Marty gave us another 100 point "PR" bonus.  The 300 bonus points is the equivalent of 150 Cw or 300 Ssb QSOs.

In the end, according to the 3830 Scores website it would seem that we have taken 4th place for the "3A" category and possibly 1st place for the SJV section - not bad for an operation that was "different" from the start.  Additional pictures of our operation can be found on my Facebook page.

Did you participate in 2014 Field Day?  How did it go?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

WQ6X again operates as W6A for the 2014 All Asian DX Contest

Between work commitments and HORRIBLE solar noise, this weekend's All Asian was  somewhat of a disappointment. Using the W6A got some attention but was not enough to overcome the near S-9 geomagnetic storm noise both evenings.

I setup a portable operation using the ICOM-7000 into a bevy of audio filters (a MFJ 752-C & NIR-12 into a Radio Shaft 15-bands/channel equalizer) in an attempt to resolve the noise problem.
Ironically, the ground mounted HF2-V was often noise-quieter vs. the 7mh 8JK Cobra Sloper; altho the HF2-V had close proximity to a BPL cable trunk - Arrrrgh.

Similar to last year, I was disappointed by the "small turnout" from Asia; then again, maybe they were there - just under the noise on this end.  In the end, JA/UA0 was all I could work.
The oldest OPs I worked were 75 & 77 contrasted by two 15 year old ops.  As usual, the final contest hours were manned largely by retired operators 65+.
We need more YOUNG operators participating in the All Asian contests.

The guys at NX6T did considerably well for a mere four operators.   It is altogether possible that if I had "borrowed" their EASY Button for use during All Asian I MIGHT have been able to double my score.

While I worked all bands (80 - 10 meters) in the end I submitted the log as a 40-meter low power entry, which may well net me another 1st place (similar to last year's 20-m SSB win).

This year, problematic conditions on 40 meters were more than JUST a noise problem.  In addition to the usual barrage of illegal S. American SSB stations on the bottom end of 40-m, the lower 35-khz was also home to a number of data transmissions and 2 slow-speed Cw stations (with No-ID) transmitting code groups; not to mention the Russian "L" beacon.  WTF?

Another problem I encountered in this A-A operation was RUDE operators.  One particularly BRASH operator stands out in the ID of K6MMM.  During the last half hour of the contest I finally encountered an opening on 10 meters.  The only stations I heard there were JA3YBK (who I worked) and JK1YMM who I worked on all the other bands.  I gave him a call and was INSTANTLY barraged by K6MMM calling CQ on the frequency.  He was 20 over S9 so when I sent him a QRL/QSY message, his response was to call JK1YMM.  When YMM didn't respond, he resorted to calling CQ, despite several requests to QSY.  I was OBVIOUSLY copyable at his QTH, so his ignoring QSY requests was OBVIOUSLY intentional.
In the end, NONE of us made any further QSOs; neither of us worked YMM who then disappeared into the noise.
This kind of behavior is what gets contest operators viewed in a negative light by non contest operators.

Oh well. All Asian SSB is in September.
Maybe the bands will be quieter and I can take  another 1st place, like last year.