Thursday, October 29, 2015

WQ6X Runs CQ WW Contest Solo from NX6T

Consistent with the month of October, the 2015 CQ WW SSB contest was full of surprises. 
I combined a work trip and several other activities with a driving trip to Fallbrook to join NX6T
in a multi-op contest entry.

Thursday evening after checking into a hotel enroute to So. California I received a call from N6KI that no other operators were available for the weekend and the multi-OP GiG was being cancelled.

I didn't drive nearly 475 miles to not operate so I made a request to run Single-OP as WQ6X.  Friday, with a lot of assistance over the phone I was able to quickly re-cable the setup to run STN#2 into an ACOM-2000 amplifier.

There are two antenna towers at NX6T.  I was able to crank up the C-31 yagi to 13mh.  The tower trailer in the driveway was run at its cranked down height oif about 15mh.

It is arrayed with a compliment of antennas including a 3-el Stepp-IR and 2-el 40-meter yagis, along with inverted V's for 80 & 160 meters. To get on the air more quickly I never raised the tower to it's 25mh position.

Before arriving in Fallbrook I made a detour to pick up an FT-1000mp radio which has been awaiting my receipt.  I set the 1000mp up in the operator apartment next door to the ham shack as a receiver tied into the antenna system as STN#1.

Because I operated as unassisted (meaning no internet or spotting assistance), during operating breaks I would tune around on the bands with the 1000mp and make a list of stations to work.  What is ironic here is that numerous amateurs have replaced their FT-1000mp radios with the Elecraft K3 while I prefer the reverse.

While NX6T runs K3's exclusively, I found that the receive capabilities of this newly acquired
1000mp equaled the K3's in the shack.  I like larger radios with lots of knobs and therefore prefer the ergonomics of the MP over the K3.  If I'd had an extra day to setup the 1000mp and test it for contest conditions, I would have set it up for STN#2.

Unlike most contest operations I run solo, for 2015 CQ WW I
was ready an hour in advance of the 00:00z (5pm) starting time. 
I decided my operating strategy would be to start on 10 meters and work my way down.  Amazingly (considering recent prior weekends) 10 meters was wide open and later I found 15
meters to be in excellent form as well.

In the first 3 hours I managed 158 Q's on 10 meters followed by 121 on 15 meters, starting with S&P activity to verify the band openings followed by running a frequency on each band; resulting in a rate of nearly 90 QSOs per hour - an
awesome start.

My original QSO goal estimate was 600 's for the entire contest, considering what I had to work with.  Within the 1st 3 hours I  accomplished nearly 1/2 of that number.  While i didn't make 90 Q's every hour I did manage a QSO total of 1,142 in 37 zones and 103 countries, qualifying for DXCC that weekend.  15 meters resulted in 78 countries, alone.  At 23:14z on Sunday QSO #1129 with 3D2KM in Fiji took the score past the 1,000,000 point mark. CLICK HERE to see my 3830 Score submission.

On 15 and 10 meters I utilized the two yagi's to unique advantage.  Setting the Stepp-IR to
Bi-directional allowed me to work Asia and South America.  Concurrently I pointed the C-31
to around 270-degrees giving access to southeast asia and Oceania while running frequencies.

I would call CQ several times on one antenna and then switch to the other.  Between that and liberal use of the RIT control (JA stations are notoriously off frequency) I managed to clean up both bands on Sunday afternoon.

For me, the big disappointment was
40 meters.  Making 40-meters work in an SSB Dx contest requires working
split frequency and listening below
7.100 - after midnight, something
I was too sleepy to do.

The intentional QRM on 40 meters was quite rampant, including high speed RTTY on 7.178 - WTF
is THAT all about?  On the other hand, considering that the inverted V's were only 40 feet up, I was quite surprised at the number of countries worked on 80 & 160.

Considering the low SFI number, I was over joyed by the vast number (and variety) of Oceania stations in this contest.  Usually I can only hear a handful.  Having the dual antenna arrangement is what made the difference.  There were a plethora of Asian stations this year, even late on Sunday.
Now if we can get that kind of activity from Asian stations in their own contests I will be ecstatic.

In the end, I decided that an ALL BAND log would not be competitive so I submitted this log as Single band 15-meters high power.  From what I can determine, doing so will result in a 2nd place finish for the U.S and maybe a 1st place for Zone 3.

As to how it really all turns out, we shall know in a few months.

Did YOU work the CQ W.W. SSB contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

N6GEO & WQ6X Activate W6E from Tuolumne for CQP-50

This year marked the 50th running of the California QSO Party (CQP).   Because CQP-50 was a milestone event, the contest organizers added a special G-O-L-D-R-U-S-H bonus.

1x1 callsigns ending in the Goldrush letters were reserved for the event.  Stations working the 1x1 callsigns spelling G-O-L-D-R-U-S-H will receive a special medallion coin commemorating the CQP-50 event.

In preparation for CQP-50 I put together a Gold Rush callsign tracking page.  CLICK HERE to see that page.  Of the 24 active GoldRush stations, our operation at W6E managed to work all but K6D and K6S; both limited-activity operations.

Last year as K6U, George and I had intended to operate from his cabin in Twain Harte (Tuolumne County).  Last minute events beyond our control relegated our operation to his home QTH in Brentwood out of which we not only took 1st place for Contra Costa county, we set a county record for our low power operation.
I wrote about this in last years CQP blog entry.  CLICK HERE to read that.

Vowing to reprise the Tuolumne plans, CQP-50 seemed like our best opportunity.  Because so many 1x1 callsigns were reserved way in advance of the CQP-50 announcement I had to do some serious looking to find an available 1x1 callsign, settling on W6E- Whiskey Six Echo.
CLICK HERE to view the W6E webpage.  CLICK HERE to view the CQP-50 homepage.

For the Twain Harte site we put up an OCF dipole, an HF6-V vertical and a TA-33jr yagi atop a 30-foot numatic mast in the "front yard" of the cabin location.   2 hours after the contest ended the front yard was once again clear.

George ran a computer controlled Elecraft K2 into an SB-200 on a desk in the living room while I ran a Russian SunSDR radio (George recently acquired) into his trusty KPA-500 amplifier from the kitchen table.

While we are both CW & SSB operators, as it turns out George ran mostly SSB spending 25% of the time on CW, while I ran exclusively CW.  Because of RFI from the KPA-500, the SunSDR software would lock up every 10-20 minutes.

Eventually I was able to reduce the restart time to about 10 - 15 seconds, but losing the radio in the middle of a QSO was real frustrating.

Band Openings on 10 meters in Tuolumne were almost non-existent and 15 meters wasn't much better.  For CW, 80, 40 & 20 were the bands; for SSB  75 meters was the band.  Because of QTH restrictions we were unable to quickly find a way to erect an inverted-L for 160 meters - hopefully next year, wherever we operate from.

Thanks to bandpass filters both radios largely stayed out of each others IF circuits, except when we were directly a 2nd harmonic apart.  Power-wise, both amps were running around 550 watts.  Because of the hills to our northeast we decided to run high power instead of the usual low power operations we are known for.

Throughout the CQP weekend the A-Index and K-Index numbers were certainly not insignificant.  Quick-fading made 15 meters difficult; another reason to only send the necessary information in your exchange to me.  When I ask for your NUMBER, that is what I want, not the whole exchange.

Additionally, not only is sending 599 as part of your exchange not part of the contest, more importantly, with quick fading, sending unnecessary information means that the end of your exchange will disappear during the fade, making a repeat necessary.

According to the 3830Scores.Com website we took 5th place in the multi-multi category.  For years I have been asking for a Multi-2 category in CQP so that Dual-OP stations don't have to compete with stations running 6 transmitters.  As a Multi-2 we probably would have taken 1st place.

Like so many things in my life this year, CQP was one surprise after another.  While we may not have taken a 1st place in any category for CQP-50, we DID earn the CQP medallions, many times over.
Since 2000, I have thoroughly enjoyed operating CQP; first @ W6ML, then solo for several years, and now for my 6th year as a dual-OP with N6GEO.

Did YOU operate in CQP-50?
Is W6E in YOUR log?