Wednesday, November 25, 2015

WQ6X returns to East Bay for Sweepstakes 2015

For the 2015 CW November Sweepstakes I combined old with the new to create a unique operating experience.  For location I chose to again operate from the QTH of KK6YRL in Concord - East Bay (EBAY) section.

 Unlike previous years, for SS-2015 I brought a new radio into play; namely a Yaesu FT-1000MP.  The MP did an outstanding job.  It coupled nicely with a 4 year old Toshiba laptop running N1MM+.  For CW keying I used the RigBlaster Plug-n-Play unit; in the past it worked beautifully with the ICOM 7000, and now also with the 1000 MP.

I erected the HF2-V vertical using an umbrella stand as I have done in years past.  However this year I hoisted one of my Cobra dipoles up about 25 feet into a  tree making a shallow inverted Vee fashion to work on the high bands and offer an additional access to 80 & 40.
Considering the limited resources I had to work with these antennas worked amazingly well.

The coils on the HF2-V were not designed with the kind of portable operations I do on a fairly routine basis.  Over the years they have been "squished" out of perfect circular shape.  The MFJ 259 antenna analyzer allows me to "squeeze" the coils into proper shape for both 80 & 40.
The 1000MP supports 2 antenna inputs and an excellent auto-tuner allowing use of both antennas on any band; altho HF2-V performance was rather horrible on 15 & 10 meters.  While the HF2-V lowered the radiation angle & increased receiver gain, being a vertical the noise level went up also.  Using the IPO button helps somewhat.  Next in line, the eDSP contour control made all the difference.

Space weather wise the atmospheric noise was only a problem on the high bands.  Because Sweepstakes is a domestic contest, signal fading is not nearly the problem as experienced the weekend before when I single-OP'd the CQ WW contest from Fallbrook.
Then again, as the weekend progressed, the noise levels quietly crept up, looking theoretically rather horrible by contest end.

For this year's Sweepstakes I was elated over how "easy" it was to work sections like NH, VT, SC & MAR, and perplexed by the virtual lack of Nebraska (NE) as well as the NL and NT Canadian sections.  WV was back on the endangered list.
While 80 sections is rather good, in my opinion, it don't
count unless I make a clean sweep with all 83 sections.
Oh well, maybe next year for that one.

QRM-wise, on 40-meters the usual intentional belches
VFO sweeps and RTTY stations were not present . 
Because we don't normally run much below 7.025 the
South American SSB stations were not a problem this year.

WQ6X's Operating Hours by Band

My biggest complaint this year were high power stations that moved within 1 kc of my running a frequency to call CQ (after snagging a QSO from me first of course).  The entire weekend I heard less than a handful of stations ask QRZ? before jumping in on a frequency.

I have the F1 Search-Pounce key in N1MM+ programmed to automatically make that query.
I believe the REAL reason stations don't ask QRZ? is because operators like me
will reply QRL - QSY.

The bottom line is, if the area of the band you are looking
to run a frequency from is already crowded out, adding your kilowatt signal to that mess is actually a violation
of contest ethics.

Evidently, nobody seems to care about proper operating ethics and as a result just muscle their way through.
This brash attitude is one
of the reasons non-contest operators hate us so much.

Let us remember that sweepstakes is above all a traffic handling exercise - getting the message through w/o QRMing others in the process.  In the overall scheme of everyone getting the message through, it accomplishes little if I get the message through while QRMing you so that your message either can't be gotten through, or is erroneous.

Remember - QSOs don't count if the wrong information is put into the log.
Luckily for me, the 1000MP's roofing filters and eDSP reduced the QRM effects considerably;
however, never enough.

WQ6X in action w/assistance of Negra Modelo

While I didn't get the message through to all ARRL sections I did incredibly well for the ad hoc station I lashed together.  In years past using the TS-450, ICOM 7000 or an FT-920, I would pile on a bunch of filters in the audio line to process the sound towards being more QRM free; altho sometimes those DSPs would make the signals sound "weird" - relatively noise free, but weird.

Although I brought along the NIR-12 outboard DSP unit, thanks to the 1000MP's eDSP I never needed it.  I have a hunch that will be true for the Sweepstakes Phone GiG as well.

During my Sweepstakes preparation, my friend Dennis was in Oakland taking
(and passing) his Technician license exam.
He is now KK6YRL. 
Congratulations OM. 
Dennis is also the cameraman behind these blog photos.

Did YOU play in the 2015 CW SS contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?


  1. A follow-up note of interest:
    KK6YRL has subsequently passed the General license exam and is well on his way to passing the EXTRA in February. He also applied for and received his father's pre-SK callsign - W7AYT. Well done OM!

  2. In looking at the contest results I see that I incorrectly submitted my log as a high power entry. Had I submitted it properly I would have taken 1st place fo East Bay. Instead I get a pat on the back and a BiG OOOOOPPPSSS.