Tuesday, March 1, 2016

WQ6X runs NAQP RTTY Remotely from Laughlin

For the third weekend in a row I have run remote contest operations from NX6T in Fallbrook (aka "Nashville").  This last weekend found me going all out in the NAQP RTTY contest; a 12 hour event
(10am to 10pm PST) during which the rules allowed me to operate only 10 hours of the contest period.
Because the contest exchange is Name and QTH, the event has more of a personal feel to it.
Contact w/NE6I put me on one of the Southern California Contest Club (SCCC) contest teams (Team #1).

In the past (the 2016 RTTY RU contest) to run full low power we set up STN#1 to run into a KPA500 amplifier allowing 100 or 150 watts full duty for RTTY.  Recently the KPA500 has been tripping out under marginal SWR issues.

After a call to Elecraft, N6KI and W6JBR devised a solution to this problem by running the K3 at near-full power (92 watts) with a huge cooling fan pointing head-on at the transceiver.

Operating from Harrah's hotel in Laughlin, I encountered virtually no latency problems during this contest.  Nevertheless, because tuning  RTTY signals remotely is tricky at best I chose to run frequencies 95% of the time.

The use of macros in N1MM make operations run smoothly.  Using Ctrl-K from time to time is the equivalent of sending manually with a key paddle in CW contests.

As I experience consistently in RTTY contests stations call me way off frequency.
While I can hear them, FLDIGI cannot decode their data.  If I was sitting in front of my FT-1000mp,
I would simply turn on the RIT and tune the signal in; something virtually impossible (in a timely fashion) when running RTTY remotely.  Instead, I would press Ctrl-K and type "You're off frequency - please tune me in", then send "QRZ?".  Most of the time they would shift frequency and we would establish contact.

My question is: how can you tune me in well enough to copy my "CQ NAQP" call and yet be OFF frequency when it comes time to transmit?  Most likely these stations found me through a spotting network with an incorrect frequency cited in the spot entry.  Rather than blindly call a station found in a spot, LISTEN FIRST to make sure you have an ACTUAL copy on their data transmission.

In all NAQP contests single operators are allowed to operate 10 hours max out of the 12 hour contest period.  The gamble is, which 2 hours do I sacrifice?  If I run the 1st 10 hours consecutively then end of contest is 04:00z (8pm local time) missing out on 80/40 meter opportunities ending the contest.  If I wait until noon to start, I miss out on any 10/15 meter exclusive morning openings.  Then, if I get called away from the radio at any time during the remaining 10 hours I will have wasted part of that obligatory off time.

For this event my  choice was to begin on time, take an hour off mid day and end the contest at the start of the last hour.  Because off times must be 30+ minutes I took 40 minutes for lunch, requiring that I cease operations at 04:40z (8:40 local time); more or less in line with my original strategy.

My only regret for this NAQP GiG was that I did not give 10 meters any attention Saturday morning; instead I ran frequencies on 15 meters for 2+ hours.  By the time I took a look 10 meters was already gone.  I ended the contest moving from 40 down to 80 to wrap things up.  I was amazed to find a nice 80 meter opening across the U.S. to the Eastern seaboard.

True to infamous 40 meter contest fame, this year's NAQP RTTY experienced the typical 40 meter intentional QRM I have come to expect during contests.  Only this time while running a frequency (7.070.70) at 02:10z I was barraged with howling and rumbling noises, followed by what sounded like the whine of a dropping bomb, again and again.  Go Figure.  At least the bomb drop noises showed some originality.
As with ALL intentional QRMers they soon get bored and either give up entirely or find someone else to bother.  An hour later I am STILL on that same frequency with another 40 QSOs in the log.

As it is, because 7.070 is in the middle of the international phone band (for Regions 1 & 3), QRM from ssb stations allowed to share the spectrum is to be expected.  Then again, at 02:30z 7.070 became the National Tuneup Frequency as many stations began testing (saying "helllllllooooo  helllllllooooo").   If they ended up near my frequency I could understand that.  However when they are EXACTLY zero beat with me, that is NO accident.

Now, to voice one of my main RTTY contest beefs: NCDXF beacon QRM on 14.100.
What?  You didn't know there is a propagation beacon on 14.100 24/7?  They been there for over 20 years.  (Co-relatively, are you aware of the beacon segment occupying the ENTIRE 28.200 to 28.300 segment of 10 meters?)  NCDXF beacons provide 24 hour propagation assistance for free; the least we can do is give them "room" to operate.  It's one thing to be on a nearby frequency and splatter onto 14.100; it's another thing entirely to have your center frequency EXACTLY at 14.100.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the NCDXF beacons and the service they provide.
There is no reason why we can't operate a RTTY contest and avoid the 14.097 to 14.103 corridor.
In fact, I did just that running a frequency for over an hour on 14.107 and later on 14.092.

Because I have been on the road for business the last 10 days, playing in the NAQP this last weekend was relaxing and fun, even tho I was inside all day on a sunny Saturday.
I had a nice view of the desert hills from my window while typing away.  In common with CW contests, running RTTY saves my voice (I had been teaching advanced therapy techniques all week).

Like last week's DX contest, I had no rotor control on the yagi's at NX6T, so essentially, the C-31 and 40-meter yagis were pointed 45-degrees (N-W), limiting who could hear me.
This becomes evident as I did not work a single KH6 station and virtually none in S. America; altho I was called by an AH2/W6 station - go figure.
As a result I was only able to work 47 out of the 58 multipliers, missing many of the Northwest states and most of the crucial VE/VY sections.

Overall, I worked the high bands moving to the lower bands as the contest progressed.
Mid afternoon, jumping between 15 & 20 meters allowed me fresh QSOs when I had worked all a run frequency could provide.

Then, coming back to a band on a different frequency allowed other stations to encounter me "newly".

Did you play in the NAQP RTTY contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

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