Monday, May 9, 2016

WQ6X runs 5 contests simultaneously

For radiosport contest aficionados, the 1st weekend in May brings us 4 state QSO parties (7QP, INQP, DEQP & NEQP) along with the Italian ARI DX contest.

My first exposure to this weekend was 5 years ago with N6KI operating NX6T in Fallbrook, attempting to log all the contests by way of one logging program.
Since then NX6T has managed to win a couple of plaques for the NEQP and a 2nd place in the 7QP.

For 2016 I was not up to a long drive to Fallbrook and running remote would not have worked in a multi-mode Multi-single operation with 5 operators.  Instead, I chose to setup my FT-1000mp at W7AYT's QTH in Concord (California), giving his recently installed Comet CH-250 vertical a thorough test.

All the contests allowed multi-mode operation and a couple of the QSO parties plus the ARI contest also allow the use of RTTY which I considered for extra fun until I realized that my West Mountain Plug-N-Play interface was cabled for the ICOM 7000, not the (more recently acquired) FT-1000mp.
Until I work out the 1000mp cabling for RTTY, the Plug-N-Play is simply relegated to CW keying;
which it does extremely well.  As it turns out there was virtually no contest RTTY activity.
Then again, if I had been calling CQ on RTTY, I might well have paved the way for legitimate activity.

Comet CH-250 Vertical
 Each contest this weekend had a different length and a unique starting time:

12:00z (5am PDT) --- ARI Dx Contest
13:00z (6am PDT) --- 7QP QSO party
15:00z (8am PDT) --- INQP QSO party
17:00z (10am PDT) --- DEQP QSO party
20:00z (1pm PDT) --- NEQP QSO party

Rather than use a single N1MM log, I made logs for each contest switching to the proper log for each group of contacts.

After 4 hours sleep I fired up the coffee pot and the FT-1000mp for a 12:30z start.  Because in years past (operating from NX6T) I experienced LoTs of ARI contest activity, I was expecting the same for 2016 - WRONG!  NX6T's ACOM 2000 amps into 70' high yagi's and the Fallbrook location make all the difference;
literally in the world.

Evidently, 100 watts into a vertical from the SF east bay is not enough to play like the big boys and girls in the ARI contest.  Fortunately, this fate did not apply to the state QSO parties.  By the end of the ARI contest Sunday morning I had amassed a whopping 4 QSOs.  Other than the 2 European stations worked, I heard no one else calling CQ.

Throughout Saturday day and evening I would periodically put out a CQ ARI Test call on CW, with no callers other than a couple of frustrated 7QP stations who didn't understand why I was sending a serial # and not my state.  If they had ACTUALLY LISTENED to my CQ call they would have KNOWN  I wasn't playing 7QP at THAT moment in time.  They SHOULD have been calling CQ 7QP for me to work them in their own contest! - Oh WELL!

Within minutes after 13:00z, 40 & 20 meters came alive with 7QP calls.  For 7QP-2016 I was pleasantly surprised at how many stations were operating on county lines and in one operation a county from each of two states - how cool is that?!

7QP Summary Statistics
Multi-contest weekends often have interesting quirks.Notable this year was WJ9B calling CQ IDQP (not INQP).  When I called him I got no reply.  His contest exchange said he was in IDAHO, so he should have been calling CQ 7QP.  Eventually he figured it out - when I finally worked him he was calling CQ for 7QP.

Of all the contests, I made more QSOs in the 7QP (185) than any other, followed by NEQP (28), ARI (4), INQP (2) & DEQP (1).  INQP was over at 04:00z and 7QP ended at 07:00z (midnight PDT).
As it turns out, for 7QP my score took 1st place for low power mixed mode.

NEQP Summary Statistics

With DEQP & NEQP on hold until Sunday morning, all that was left was the ARI contest.  Calling CQ for over an hour on 80 & 40 meters produced no results so I called it quits at 09:00z for 7 hours sleep.

By Sunday morning the K-Index had risen to 5 (and eventually 6) which all but nullified any upper band activity.
I managed one more NEQP QSO before calling it quits at 21:00z and taking down the radio.

Poor space weather probably had a lot to do with sparse contest activity;
such is the unknown variable in every contest weekend.

DiD YOU play in this last weekend's contests?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

This certificate was received on June 10th 2016 - these guys are QUICK!

1st place outside of the 7th call area is QUITE an honor when you consider what I had to work with.

The last weekend of July brought this plaque to my mailbox.  Who woulda thunk?

WQ6X RTTYily dabbles in SP-DX RTTY Contest

The end of April found me in Westminster (Orange county, S. California) on business.  For the first Saturday I drove in from the Bakersfield area.  My thinking was to get situated at the Super 8 and initiate multi-band activity in the SP-DX RTTY contest, operating remotely using STN#1 @ NX6T in Fallbrook (aka "NashVille").  As it turns out I accomplished about 1/2 that.

At NX6T, renovations to STN#2 limited multi-band opportunities for me, requiring that I pick one band and stick with it.  Because the contest period was 12:00z Saturday to 12:00z Sunday, I realized that nearly half of the contest period was behind me.  Based on propagation predictions I decided that 40 meters would be the best all around band, allowing me to work stations right up to the contest end. 

Most DX contests allow single-band submissions; all but this one.  By contest end my log was lumped in with all the SOAB LP stations, so the only thing I won was a self-pat on the back.  Instead, I used operation in the SP-DX contest to learn new operating techniques with N1MM (for me the preferred RTTY contest logging program).

While N1MM was auto-CQ'ing I spent the listening time writing the JIDX blog entry and at one point even playing in a poker tournament online.  Result?  I just missed the final table in the tournament and managed a whopping 2 QSOs in 2.5 hours. 

Then I got a brilliant idea: I turned the 2 element 40 meter yagi towards Japan calling CQ contest
to enjoy the usually expected dozens of JA QSOs.  The result?  0 QSOs. 
I guess JA's don't play in SP-DX RTTY contests. 
Bummer Dewd!

There was virtually none of the usual 40-meter intentional contest QRM even tho RTTY stations ran as low as 7.035.  Amazingly, a number of CW stations were able to co-exist; many intermingled between a dozen RTTY stations.  I was amused to hear a CW station calling CQ on a nearby frequency while I called CQ SP-DX on RTTY. 

Over the period of an hour the CW station enjoyed several ragchews, seemingly oblivious to my RTTY operations next door to him.  Because this area of 40 meters is also used for SSB operations in regions 1 & 3, it is proof that we CAN share areas of the RF spectrum effectively.

2-el 40 Yagi w/Stepp-IR

Equipment-wise I ran an Elecraft K3 barefoot at 62 watts as I was unable to turn on the KPA-500 remotely.  I worked every station I could hear, so running low power was not an issue. 

In fact, I was surprised when I received a call from ZS6WB (South Africa).  At first the ZS6 prefix looked so much like just a jumble of characters that I ignored it. 

When the same "jumble of characters" showed up again I took a chance by pasting the ZS6 callsign into the callsign window and pressing the INS key to initiate a QSO.  Receiving a correct reply I logged the QSO for my only non North American QSO during this contest.

While I was severely limited in what I could do remotely, it WAS a lot of fun working the SP-DX RTTY contest to the degree that I did.  After all, amateur radio contesting is about being prepared for
just about anything which comes our way during the contest period. 
For the SP-DX contest I certainly got to make that happen.

What about you?  Did You play in the SP-DX RTTY contest?
How manny RTTY exchanges ended up in YOUR Log?