Monday, September 7, 2015

NX6T Survives horrible Space WX during 2015 A.A. Dx Contest

For this year's All Asian phone contest I arrived a day early allowing me to catch up on sleep
as we had a severe shortage of operators. Between N6KI, myself and our newest op KK6NON,
we managed to put over 1,040 QSOs in the log.  While we slightly beat last year's 1,010 QSO total, we were lacking in multipliers, resulting in nearly 60K points less than the 2014 event at NX6T.
(For the record, amazingly, I did not operate last year's 2014 AA phone contest.)

Altho I keep having doubts, it seems clear that solar cycle 24 is clearly on its way out. 
Unfortunately, low solar activity does not mean low incidences of Geo-magnetic storms;
case in point being this weekend's All Asian contest.  During the previous 2 weeks, dirtball
earth has been inundated by solar storms of varying degrees.  The A/K indexes have been
quite high, with many high band blackouts and significantly increased low band noise levels.

My hopes for a reduction in space weather severity this weekend never happened. 
While the bands were not as noisy as expected, 80 & 10 meters never materialized for us. 
Lack of 80 meter activity amazed me because Thursday nite I was able to copy WWVH (Hawaii)
on 2.5 mhz with an S-7 signal level using a Tecsun PL-600 shortwave radio with a whip antenna.

Additionally, because 15 meters never opened on Friday afternoon/evening we turned to 20 meters making up for the lack, producing a WHOPPING 27 QSOs in the first three hours (last year we worked over 100).

WQ6X running 40-meters

My bitches aside, we experienced a short but WONderful opening to the middle east.  In a sense I over-focused on that opening, not realizing I was missing out on a run of JA's (the C-31 antenna sports a relatively narrow beam width).

Then again, Japan is so plentiful we take the attitude that most of them will be worked before the contest is over.  Therefore, we don't normally obsess over them.   Saturday evening didn't bring us a middle east
opening so I guess my decision was vindicated.

In one respect, with the weird layout of Japan's 75 meter phone band allocations it is no wonder that amateurs there spend little time working non-JA stations. 
This same problem will be with us during
November's JIDX SSB contest.

The NX6T radio shack.

Typical with 40 meter contest activities we ran into
our share of weird QRM; from "helllllloooo" testing of microphones and belching, along with one of the "yeah, yeah" boys, vfo swishes, and, for nearly 2 hours, bursts
of RTTY-type data every 6 minutes.  I must confess a curiosity over what purpose data-bursts on 7.178.78
mhz could be; especially during an Asian contest.

While we encountered a lot of pulse-type noise,
I was disappointed in the K3's handling of it.
The NB circuits, while effective, gave rise to IF distortion anytime a relatively strong station was nearby - a major beef I have with the DSP-style NB circuits - so I ended
up mostly working without it.

Here is where an NIR-4 or MFJ 626 noise canceller
unit could be real useful.

80 meters never happened for us so noise-reduction was not a problem and the Loop antenna was not needed.  Asians contests don't do SSB on 160 giving us no reason to check things there.

Running as a multi-single operation, we used a pair
of Elecraft K3 radios on one band (one for running frequencies and one for S&P'ing on the same band) into
an ACOM 2000 amplifier.  We used a 3rd K3 radio for finding multipliers on another band; however, with the
poor turnout this was largely unnecessary.

C-31 Yagi @45'
Antenna-wise we put C-31 and 3-el. Stepp-IR yagis on the high bands and a 2-el beam on 40 meters.

While we had an 80-meter inverted V at 70', with the poor band condx it was useless.

For Sunday we lowered the Stepp-IR to about 45',
which for Asia is a much better height to create a LOUDER presence.  Unfortunately, on Sunday it
didn't help to bring 15 & 10 meters alive.

As it turns out, in Asian contests by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, most of the Asian
stations are either sleeping or on the trains headed to work - confirming my beef that not enough Asian stations participate in their own contests.  The average operator age on Sunday is well over
60 - I.E. RETIRED!.

Locally, the 8am to 2pm time period has no Asian activity, allowing me to spend time working
stations as WQ6X in the Colorado QSO party (COQP) on Saturday and the Tennessee QSO
party (TNQP) on Sunday.

Because it is so easy to submit logs by e-mail and post scores on the 3830 Scores website,
the QSO party log submissions were finished before leaving Fallbrook on Sunday evening.

As Sunday afternoon was so slow, N6KI spent time mentoring KK6NON on the fine art of understanding
Asian voice communication attempts.
We operators who natively speak English should realize that for many Asian operators understanding much beyond callsigns, "QRZ?" "QRX" and "stand-by IDIOT!"
is about all they can manage to figure out.

I quickly learned that many stations do not understand
the phrase "we've worked before".
If I knew they were already in the log, I would allow them to give me their exchange and then (without logging the dupe) move on to the next contact.

One of our biggest problems was the number of U.S. stations calling us, evidently not aware that this was an Asia only contest.  I would remind them that they should point their antennas northwest and work REAL Dx.

For Asian stations, did you put NX6T in your log?
For you non-Asian stations, how many Asian prefixes did YOU work?