Wednesday, December 13, 2017

WQ6X Survives 2017 ARRL 10-Meter Contest

WQ6X after dark
What can I say about the
2017 ARRL 10-Meter Contest?
Considering that we are currently
 at the bottom of solar cycle 24,
I wasn't expecting a lot, however
I CERTAINLY didn't see THIS coming. While the A & K indexes were low,
so was the solar flux (SFI) - around
70 - Bummer Dewd.
(In retrospect, we should have conducted an emergency run of the
10-Meter contest during that false-hope 150+ spike in the SFI back in Sept.)

Operating portable from W7AYT's QTH, I gave the newly installed (October) Hy-Gain 3-element 10-meter yagi a good workout. The antenna had such a "narrow beam-width" that when I happened onto the "Colorado corridor) (around 06:10z) 4 Colorado stations hit the log almost immediately; however without the peak capabilities of
the outboard QF-1A filters, they would have been lost
to the noise.

This year's 10-meter event was largely a CW affair; my condolences to the SSB only operations. Throughout
the weekend I put out lengthy CQ calls on 28484.84 & 28434.34, with only a handful of takers. It seems to
me that people gave up too quickly.

Normally I would not work 10-meters past about 03:30z. Continuing another 4 hours made a big difference as that
is when several northeast multipliers made it into the log.

Altho I technically ran as an SO2-V (2 Vfo's) operation, there was so little SSB activity that SO2-V for cross-mode work was virtually unnecessary". However for CW, I could run a frequency using RX-A while S&P'ing bandmap spots with RX-B.

FT-1000mp with dual outboard QF-1A filters
Running SO2-V was much easier with an Autek QF-1A audio filter for each ear, which allowed me to simulate what is known as stereo-CW. Properly wired, with stereo-CW a signal will shift from one ear to the other while tuning "THRU" the signal (either up OR down).

While the actual QSO count in this weekend's GiG was noticeably lacking, the FT-1000mp's outboard wiring was given a a through shake-down. Simplifying audio cable clusters made the audio filter trial/error proceed more smoothly.

Because of the strange noise characteristics during the contest, the FT-1000mp's eDSP Contour/NR knobs we constantly being juggled, looking for that EXACT combination with the QF-1A filters to bring a marginal signal through. Despite all that, no states east of Colorado & Arizona made it to the log; they were simply not even HEARD.

While WQ6X CW QSOs were occasionally spotted, I think most stations either heard my call randomly, or by slowly and patiently tuning the bands. While I ran assisted, spots often disappeared as quickly as they appeared. Typing in manual spots for those frequencies kept them around longer. Unfortunately, because of weak signals there were numerous partial callsigns positioned luckily next to a callsign correction; but not always - hence the frustration.

As disappointed as I was with the QSO totals in this GiG, reading score submission reports from all call areas it is clear that my experience was hardly unique. While the 10-meter contest seemed more like the California QSO Party, in the midst of it all, CW5W and PT3T made it into the log Saturday afternoon. Spots were seen for KH6 and several VE6's & VE-4's stations, but you can't work'em if you can't hear'em.

Typical of most 48 hour contests, on Sunday, paint was drying faster than I could make QSOs. The real accomplishment was to hear my good friend N6GEO calling me on SSB. A QSX to 14.032 picked him up on CW as well. He was 1 of only 2 other stations that worked WQ6X multi-mode. Pointing the yagi towards Twain Harte made the CW QSO possible. Were we communicating via skip, or (more likely) ground wave?

That evening I worked W7AYT as he ran his FT-450D into the CHA-250 vertical, also at the QTH. This was technically his FIRST contest QSO - how cool is that?!

RF susceptible cable equipment

During a recent contest, I received
a visit by the local cable guy to check their pole-based equipment.  For the ARRL 10-meter contest he was back again.

A few questions and answers between us pinpointed that their equipment is susceptible to 2nd harmonic interference from 28mhz
(i.e.. 10 meters). 

What Dingle Dork came up with the brilliance to park a system critical component on a frequency which is the 2nd harmonic of a potentially signal-riddled amateur band; amateurs can run up to
1.5kw, which can envelope cable equipment. Pointing the antenna towards the Southeast and
South America positioned the yagi; in an end-fire null-position of the cable unit.

However point the antenna to the Southwest (Oceana) or Northeast USA,
the antenna
is then BROADSIDE to the cable equipment; over-powering it and disrupting it.
While the yagi's F/B is 24db, that close, -24dbm means nothing.
My next operation @W7AYT is not for a few weeks; there's time for
them to get their act together. Can you say "Faraday" shielding?
We shall soon know the answer.


When I think back on it, the poor 10-meter propagation kept me CQ'ing more which kept the cable equipment offline longer; until nearly 07:00z (10pm) on Friday AND Saturday evening; primetime cable viewing time.

You have heard me say "When in Doubt CHEAT, but within the rules".  I even wrote a BLOG entry about this.  [CLICK] here to read that BLOG Entry.  Along this line, I saw fit to employ an EASY button bringing humor into this deplorably dismal 10-meter contest.

The 2017 ARRL 10-meter contest is now "ancient history". It would seem that my complaints (other than the cable problem) were shared by most amateurs around North America; altho to varying degrees. From the East Bay (EB) section, evening propagation to the North Northeast direction
was a noticeable reality Friday evening; whereas as Saturday evening, no such path was evident.

Based on score submissions to the 3830 Scores website, it would seem that WQ6X took a 1st place for East Bay section and a 2nd place for W6 (California). That is based on the assumption that
the Log Checking Robot (LCR) doesn't ding my submitted score too much.

Do YOU work the ARRL 10-meter contest.

Did YOU survive the horrible condx?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

P.S. The wildfires which threatened NX6T died out just a mile from the hilltop. 
N6KI operated from home until Sunday when Dennis and K6AM (John) put NX6T
on the air for a few hours.

Monday, December 11, 2017

WQ6X joins N6KI for ARRL 160 Contest

WQ6X running remotely
The 2017 ARRL 160 contest was a mixture of different significances. While the contest begins @ 22:00z (14:00PT, 17:00ET), on the left coast that is a bit early (altho on Saturday the first signals wafted through the ether into the headphones at 22:36z).

Similar to last year, I dual-OP'd remotely with N6KI (Dennis) while he manned the OP chair live @ NX6T in Fallbrook (aka "NashVille"). Because Dennis was the lone operator atop the mountain, motor-raising tower #2 to 70' (23mh) was a one-man CHORE - Thanks Dennis.

Using WinTest to run the K3 into an ACOM 2000a,
NX6T started running a frequency @ 01:30z, immediately
hitting the 100/hr QSO rate for the first couple of hours.
At 04:00z when I took over (remotely) for the dinner shift there were already 247 QSOs in the log. S&P'ing and then running frequencies, I managed another 133 QSOs in the log by the time N6KI took over @06:30z.

N6KI running Station #2
With barely 2.5 hours sleep
I "stumbled" out of bed (08:45z), chugged a mug of Kona coffee
and picked up where Dennis left off,
adding another 133 QSOs to the log.
By 13:30z with no one new to work, I went back to bed. By 22:00z I fired-up STN-1 remotely tuning the band.

While an SFI of 70 is good for 160 meter contests, a K-Index of 3 resulted in S5 - S7 noise levels, which is not so fun.

What stood out in this 160 meter contest (to put it bluntly) were the numerous ASSHOLE operators.

While I don't normally name callsigns, for this GiG, the RUDENESS of N6ZFO, W1SRT and XE2S notably stood out and were completely uncalled for.

JUMPing on a frequency (already in use for over an hour) with 3KW and BELLERing "CQ CONTEST", without listening FIRST and sending "QRL?" second is completely LID behavior, prompting me to send "QRL QSY"; and when he didn't get it, I sent "QRL QSY LID" - eventually slinking away down 1.2kc to "remind" me he was still around. Turns out I was louder than XE2S;
it took him 18+ minutes of no QSOs to get the message and move on.

MFJ 752-C for laptop audio
During this fiasco, diverting the laptop audio thru an MFJ-752C notch filter I was able to reduce his barrage enough to copy stations who were smart enough to call me PRECISELY on frequency. (In the end. being ON Frequency reaps BiG dividends - ME).
Making only 12 QSOs in 18 minutes is not great, however it certainly is > 0.

Saturday afternoon, by 23:00z 160 meters began
to flutter open. After haphazard S&P'ing at 00:55z I parked NX6T on 1.820 and literally heard the signal levels emerge further and further eastward.
N6KI took the helm at 02:00z.

Because we had worked so many stations, Dennis went on a multiplier feeding frenzy, which was good
for the log. Thanks to his section skeet-shooting we managed 81 out of the 83 ARRL sections; missing
only NL & PR - Go Figure.

Stations #1 (remote) & #2 (live)
When I came back at 09:15z I continued the S&P and then settled in for 2 hours of intermittent frequency running. It was around this time some internet latency crept in. When that occurs, I make sure the auto-repeat CQ option of N1MM+ is turned OFF; I don't want to be knocked out (yes it HAS happened) while the remote station CQ's endlessly. Luckily, I can usually reconnect within a minute
or two to press the [Esc] key - Errrrk!

For NX6T, there were not a lot of DX stations in our ARRL-160 log, however
I was tipped off by N6GEO that V31 was on 160 (he saw the spot but couldn't hear him).

Evidently our slouchy inverted VEE managed to skip a signal across the east-coast "pond" - how nice is that?!

DX-wise, only the usual bevy of regulars made it to the log; such as: NP2J, PJ2T,JE1CKA ,JA3YBK, JH2FXK & RW0CR

10-meter RTTY - all 4 QSOs!!
After the 160 contest was over I had hoped to find some time for the 10-meter RTTY contest
(a sort of pre-cursor to the ARRL 10-meter contest the following weekend (altho the 10-meter contest
doesn't support RTTY). Nevertheless, I found JUST enough time to call CQ, eventually putting
4 QSOs into the log.  In case you're wondering, yes, I DiD send in a WQ6X log and added the
score to my WQ6X submissions list on 3830Scores website.

NX6T ARRL-160 Ending Score

Based on the 3830 Scores website, it would seem that NX6T's 154k point score has taken a 1st place for San Diego section and 2nd place for the Southwest Division. Not bad for a couple of Old Pharts.

Lights out after the 160 contest

Who would have guessed just 3-4 days later the raging Fallbrook fires would come within
1 mile of the "NashVille" operation. Is this a LAST BREATH for NX6T on the mountain?
Stay tuned for the upcoming ARRL 10-meter contest BLOG entry to find out.

Did YOU work the 2017 ARRL 160 meter contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WQ6X Synchronizes with 2017 CQ W.W. CW contest

Fan-cooled NX6T shack
Radiosport contest-wise,
I have a habit of getting involved at the last minute; kinda in line with a plaque
I had on the WA6LKB garage shack wall when
I was a teenager that said:
"Don't put off tomorrow what you can put off today".

The CQ W.W. CW contest always happens on the weekend following the Thanksgiving holiday.

I often don't get the family agenda of T-day until the last minute.
After this year's last-minute notice I received another last-minute
invite to join a multi-2 remote VE operation from Palm Springs.  Unfortunately, with client commitments on Friday in Alameda,
the 14 hour trip to Palm Springs would have put me there around
noon on Saturday (with 40+% of the contest already gone).

Instead, a call to N6KI certified that the NX6T station in Fallbrook would be dark that weekend (Dennis chose to operate from his home QTH).  Once an IP-sound audio problem was fixed and some internet latency problems were resolved, STN-1 was available for SOA operation all weekend.

Unfortunately, a shack air conditioning problem relegated operation to running barefoot until Saturday morning when a BiG fan was put into operation, allowing the ACOM 2000a to be run at approx. 777 watts the rest of the weekend. (Occasionally running frequencies would
heat up the shack, so I would put in a lengthy pause between each
CQ call.)

While I made a surprising number of QSOs (and busted numerous pileups) running barefoot Friday evening, running 700+ watts made things considerably easier. Sunday morning even found me running a frequency to Europe with some surprisingly cool callsigns checking in.

Part of this weekend's success was timing.  WQ6X busted dozens
of HUGE pileups by slipping the callsign during a momentary lull, snagging the QSO.

Antenna-wise I ran a C-31 yagi for the high bands, switching to
a 3-el Stepp-IR when I wanted to run BI-directional to ASIA/SA or Europe/Oceania. The 2-element 40-meter yagi was quite effective
for this contest. For 80 meters an inverted vee gave WQ6X presence on the band yielding 2-dozen QSOs.

This weekend's challenge was internet latency; when the connection was good it was incredibly good. When the microwave link in Fallbrook would take a dive, things got real funky real fast. A number of times the Fallbrook end would be out for 1/2 hour or so. I almost went to bed early Saturday morning because of it; then, just as quickly it came back, so it's a good thing I didn't call it at that time. If I seemed out
of synch at times, it was either funky internet, or, I was nodding off (around 12:00z) from lack of sleep.

The 1st QSO made it into the log at 05:50z .
From the start there were openings to Europe, N/A and Central/South America and even Oceania By 09:30z I was running 7.012 to Asia
for the next 2 hours. With 5 hours sleep I started up on 15 meters
at 18:30z. Throughout the day I found pockets of OP time in
between working with clients.

Running remotely using the MFJ-752c
Because I was running remote, having internet assistance made tuning the bands much easier altho I was frustrated by a noticeable number of incorrect spots. In particular, the several CT9/OM3 stations were spotted w/o the CT9, showing up as a needed country.
I've never encountered THIS problem before.

For recent remote operations I have been using an Autek QF-1a
audio filter to process the laptop receive audio. Unfortunately, BOTH QF-1A's were parked at W7AYT, leaving me only an MFJ-752c for this contest. While the 752c did a reasonable job, there is no comparison to the QF-1A; although at least I had SOME audio processing on the receive end.

Usually running 40-meters presents me was TONs of intentional QRM after 07:00z (see my BLOG entry on the recent JIDX SSB contest). During this last weekend the only intentional QRM was from calling
CQ on (what turned out to be) the National Tune-UP frequency and certain N/W stations (do I need to name callsigns?) who always seemed to popup in the bandmap about 400hz below my run frequency shortly after I called CQ. They can copy CW, but not

Looking over the country stats, it would seem that WQ6X ALMOST made DXCC in one weekend with 92 separate countries in the log. While countries are important, because this is a CQ magazine
contest, it is Zones that are MOST important; all 40 of them.

It is quite conceivable that one could work 100 countries from a combined area of Europe and Africa, never once working a station
in Oceana or South America. 

Working all 40 Zones means that you have made contact with virtually ALL areas of the globe, which is quite an accomplishment.

This year, one of the more RARE Zones - Zone 40 - was an easy skip across the "Atlantic pond"; almost no challenge at all.

In this operation, all Zones were worked except 34 - 39 (all in Africa) and 21 - 22 (mid-Asia).  Remember: you can't work 'em if you can't hear'em.  Even running assisted, I don't recall seeing any spots for those missing Zones; although I DiD hear Zone 22 - briefly - and
then it disappeared into the noise.

By the time it was all over, 727 QSOs made it into the WQ6X log with 260 multipliers.  Because 40-meters was the strongest band, it made complete sense to submit this log as a Single-OP, 40-meter, high power, assisted operation.  Doing so resulted in an entry claiming
425 QSOs x 31-Zones and 73-Countries for a score of: 121,472
points (before the Log Checking Robot) whittles it down.

You can view the CW WW CW Claimed scores on the 3830 Scores Website.  You can also view the WQ6X 3830 Scores website submission.

Based on log submissions it would seem that WQ6X took 35st place worldwide, 6th place for North America, 4th place for USA and 1st place for W6 (California).

Did you work the CQ W.W. Cw contest?

Is WQ6X in your log?

May 30th 18: This JUST in - WQ6X's 40-meter score did the trick.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

JIDX SSB - the contest with even MORE QRM

WQ6X operating JIDX remotely at W7AYT's QTH
Back in April I was part of a 3 man team (N6KI - WQ6X - K4RB)
for the JIDX CW contest. ([CLICK HERE] to read about that GiG).
While we took 1st-place worldwide (even beating the Japanese in
their own contest), the intentional QRM headaches were monumental.
Because I am a perennial optimist, I couldn't imagine anything
worse (QRM-wise) - enter JIDX SSB 2017.

For this contest weekend there were 4 HF contests happening:

  1. Japanese International DX (JIDX) SSB contest
  2. Worked All Europe (WAE) RTTY Contest
  3. The OK/OM DX contest
  4. The Kentucky QSO party (KYQP)
For JIDX SSB, I chose to run NX6T's station #1 remotely, but from W7AYT's QTH (affording me the use of a 32 inch computer screen
for the Toshiba laptop). Being an SSB contest, JIDX in November requires much wider filter settings than for CW GiGs.

Fortunately, I recently discovered it is possible to route the IP-Sound remote laptop audio through a pair of refurbished Autek QF-1a filters (one for each ear).

Each QF-1a unit allows simultaneous PEAKing
and band-shaping of the receive audio, along with
a DEEP (65+ db) notch
filter for each ear.

Some adjacent channel SSB splatter and most heterodynes can
be easily notched into oblivion. Or, the desired signal in the audio passband can be significantly PEAKed (bringing it ABOVE the rest
of the passband), with relatively sharp filter skirts attenuating anything in the passband on either side of the desired voice signal.

Running the OK/OM contest made sense only from NX6T remotely (running high power into 22m high yagi's); attempting to work Europe using the CHA-250 vertical and 8JK sloper at W7AYT's QTH would have been frustratingly unproductive. As it turned out, myopic attention on the JIDX and WAE contests pushed the OK/OM GiG to the "back of the bus", to be forgotten - maybe next year.

KYQP was not much better. Many times I tuned the bands with my Yaesu FT-1000mp (portable setup @W7AYT) looking for Kentucky stations; mainly on CW.

Unfortunately this weekend's QSO party was like most other QSO parties (except CQP) wherein not enough stations participate in their own QSO parties.

Running WAE RTTY remotely

Like the OK/OM contest, KYQP never made it to the log.
That left the WAE RTTY event (starting at 00:00z for 48 hours) and
the JIDX contest (beginning at 07:00z for 30 hours). My goal was to run JIDX during the 2-8 am shift on Saturday, the dinner shift in the evening and the 2 - 5 am shift on Sunday, ending the contest.

During the JIDX off periods (Saturday morning and after the
JIDX finish on Sunday) I found time to work the WAE RTTY GiG.
Because I thoroughly enjoyed the WAE CW contest (where I learned to send QTC messages), I figured running WAE on RTTY would be even more enjoyable - which it was - altho ironically, not one European station ever made it to the log. I could not make QTC traffic handling work properly with N1MM+ and didn't want to spend inordinate amounts of time troubleshooting the problem (that should have done BE-4 the contest). I quietly dropped the QTC sending part for this year.
For 2018 I will be more prepared for WAE.

For several years running NX6T has won the JIDX 1st-place world plaque on CW as well as SSB altho we lost a couple of those bids to the Hungarian HG7T station (who have a more direct shot at Japan on 80-40 & 20 meters than we do on the
west coast).

Sometimes the certificates list
us as the ToP MoP. In April 2017,
our 3-man score significantly surpassed the Hungarian multi-OP run. The only time we ever hear HG7T is in the DX contests,
never in JIDX. 

For this year's JIDX SSB contest, space WX conditions were quite marginal. Most of the action was on 40 & 15 meters. Unfortunately, while JA signals could almost be heard on 75 meters, the signals
were not strong enough to actually work anyone. 10 meters never materialized at all, although the mid-day crew managed a significant run on 15 meters. Between N6KI and myself, the two of us made 40 meters happen despite all the intentional QRM, as I explain below.

JIDX SSB 2012 - JIDX CW 2014

I said in the opening of this BLOG, the JIDX CW contest earlier this year found us plagued by intentional QRM.  Back in April I couldn't imagine intentional QRM any worse than that.

For this JIDX SSB 07:00z contest start I had station #1 setup for remote access and decided to get 3 hours sleep while Dennis (N6KI) opened the contest on 40. When I awoke at 09:45z I received a text from Dennis urging me to call him before I fire up on 40 meters.

It turns out that NX6T was being heckle-jammed by some idiot (confirmed to be in California) repeat-playing a recording shouting "F*** You", over and over again. (I recognized that recording as
being one of the L-I-D OPs from the 3.840 "garbage dump"
ragchew frequency, occupied nightly by west coast hams.

I no sooner started up when the recording began playing out over and over again. I guess some people are so bored they have to QRM other stations to bring excitement into their miserable lives.

The idiot finally gave it up around 12:15z giving me about 2 QRM-free hours of operation before the band faded into oblivion (as far as Japan is concerned).

WQ6X Spots in WAE RTTY contest
After a few hours sleep I logged back in to station #1, brought down Wintest (for JIDX) and configured N1MM+ to run the WAE RTTY contest. Running the ACOM 2000a amp at about 600 watts (to keep the shack cool), I made several 50+ QSOs/hr runs on 20 meters accounting for 2/3's of the paltry 19.8k score.
WQ6X was CLEARLY being heard.

After the JIDX contest was over I managed nearly 2 hours in the
WAE GiG, running 40 meters until the D-Layer took over and long-skip disappeared. Then, with 4+ hours sleep behind me, I fired up WAE RTTY @ 20:00z, adding 106 20-meter QSOs into the log, ending
the WAE contest at 23:59z.

WAE RTTY QSO Breakdown

Because the QTC send facility in N1MM+ is slightly different than the CW version, I couldn't synchronize my brain to it.

Instead, I created a RTTY Macro to send "NO QTC - SRY". A final irony of this year's WAE RTTY contest is that NO European stations were ever heard at the Fallbrook QTH so
I missed out on all those juicy multi-point European QSOs and QTCs. Next year I will have this worked out.

Around 22:00z on Saturday Japan floated in on 15 meters so I turned the station over to N6KI and the afternoon crew. From that run alone 124 QSOs & 34 prefectures made into the log - for nearly half of the ending score. Surprisingly, the JA turnout on 20 meters was VERY poor, even tho the signal levels of the participating stations were

NX6T on the other end of the remote connection.
This BLOG entry was sub-titled "the contest with even MORE QRM" for a reason. If the Friday-Saturday QRM was all we had to contend with, it would've been just another Saturday morning on 40 meters. Unfortunately it got worse. When N6KI started on 40-meters Sunday morning he was relieved to discover that the "F-U" guy didn't return - that ham's parents probably told him to put on his jammies and go
to bed early.

Unfortunately, at 10:00z within 2 minutes of my calling CQ JIDX on 7135.35 a "data cranker" started cranking away. Unfortunately I am used to this idiot during most Asian contests. This is where the notch filter in the left-channel QF-1A filter made all the difference.

Starting at 10:15z, some idiot would send "T-E-S-T" on CW after every CQ call. 5 minutes later I moved to 7137.37. When I made another call on 7135.35 a few minutes later the "T-E-S-T" guy was back at it so I retreated to 7137.37. At 10:37z he found me and started up again - I moved back to 7135.35 and he eventually finds me. For the next half hour it became a game of leapfrog between 7135.35 and 7137.37.


At 10:48z suddenly there was a LOUD HOWLing noise on 7137.37 so it
was back to 7135.35.

At 11:00z I moved to 7143.43 to enjoy 20 minutes of QRM-free
JIDX operation.

7143 must be the National Tune-up frequency.

All of a sudden several stations decided to tune up on top of me. Japanese stations often do this before calling a CQ'ing station.
Unfortunately, this time no QSOs occurred - the signals sounded
like they were stateside based, not from Japan.

Next up was a series of stateside stations calling me for a QSO - I
had to send "Japan only - point your antenna to Japan and make
some QSOs". While I had the 2-el yagi pointed right at Japan, the
F/B ratio of a 2 element yagi is not all that great; probably half of the
1350 watts out of the amplifier were being heard off the back.

At 11:42 I moved to 7142.42 and enjoyed some quiet QSO making
until a RTTY jammer appeared at 11:47.  While the QF-1a notch filters helped, because the station purposely shifted frequency by approx. 50hz (back and forth), I had to keep readjusting the notch filters.

From time to time I would take a
listen on 75 meters for an opening. Unfortunately, signals were extremely weak - something better than the NX6T coaxial inverted Vee was needed.

The screwy 75-meter JA SSB band allocation didn't help matters.
That band plan was obviously designed by a bureaucrat, not the JARL.

At 11:59z a bunch of east coast ragchewers showed up on 7143 (probably their daily meetup frequency) oblivious to the fact that their sideband splatter was wiping me out barely 1KC away. As a test, I tuned them in and said "Break", receiving an IMMEDIATE reply; meaning they easily heard me and didn't care that I was there first.

At 12:00z I retreated to 7141.41, called CQ and the "T-E-S-T" guy showed up immediately. Then several stateside stations called me prompting another "Japan ONLY" reply.

Then the Test guy changed it to "H-I" after every CQ.

As annoying as the CW jammer was, he never once QRM'd me during a JA QSO; only after every CQ call. When he stayed on the same frequency, the notch filter could almost take him out. Then suddenly, he stopped, being replaced by a reprise of the National Tune-up frequency.

At 12:37z I moved to 7137.37 enjoying two minutes of quiet before
the data cranker returned. 5 minutes later a VFO swisher showed
up swooshing back and forth around my center frequency. Moving
to 7139.39 there were more calls by stateside callers and then the
"T-E-S-T" guy came back just in time for the 13:00z contest end.

Leaving the receiver on 7139.39 after the contest, the data cranker came back at 13:10z followed by a person whistling tunes. It is very clear that the whistler and CW guy were members of the 3.840 IDIOT gang.  After all these years, the genus of the data cranker has always eluded me.

I had considered running the JIDX contest as WQ6X from W7AYT's QTH during my off periods at NX6T, but got sidetracked with other matters. Had I done that I probably could have won a certificate for single-band operation. When the contest raw scores are published
I'll know if I missed out.

After the JIDX contest was over, N6KI posted our score to the
[3830 Scores website]. As it turns out, the paltry NX6T score not only trounced our rival HG7T, we ended with a nice 1st place (worldwide) finish - not bad when you consider that propagation and QRM were certainly NoT in our favor. Evidently signal levels in Hungary were even worse that in W6; surprising since they have a more direct
shot at Japan than we do.

Remember my motto: ALWAYS submit a log (even with a paltry score) as you never know when it will result in a win.
This year is yet another example of that fact.

Did YOU play in the JIDX SSB contest?
How many Japanese prefectures did you work?
Did YOU play in the WAE RTTY contest?
Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?
P.S.  It would seem that the QTC problem was an N1MM+ software flaw which was fixed on Saturday (the 11th).  Because N1MM+ never releases software updates on Saturday (usually on Tuesday or Wednesday) it never occurred to me to check for updates midway to WAE.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

WQ6X wings and wins another Sweepstakes Contest

It was 45 years ago that I was first exposed to the November Sweepstakes.  Being an active traffic handler at that time (on the NCN & RN6 traffic nets), the Sweepstakes exchange format being similar to the msg header sent along w/every radiogram message passed, was (and still is) an excellent traffic handling exercise.  (This similarity is explained in more detail at: WQ6X.Info/Sweepstakes.)

Recently, I also took a retrospective look back at Sweepstakes for

the last 10+ years.  [CLICK HERE] to read that BLOG.

While radiogram traffic is not as prolific as it once was, the November Sweepstakes is still the best non-traffic handling traffic handling exercise
I know of.

Next in training-value is the QTC message passing found in the WAE (Worked All Europe) contest.

In recent years, co-oping w/N6GEO, we have earned many 1st-place wins from the East Bay (EB) section, along with a plaque for winning the Pacific (PAC) Division in 2014 on CW.

For WQ6X that was followed by a handful of EB section wins and an SSB PAC Division plaque in 2015 on SSB; all as SOULP portable
from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.

"Antenna farm" @W7AYT
With all this behind me, what is possible for 2017?  For this Sweepstakes I made a number of equipment adaptations available. 

Other than last month's CQP, this Sweepstakes CW contest was the first real use of the 3-element 10-meter yagi at W7AYT.

For the lower bands the WQ6X Lazy 8JK sloper was given a number of tweaks.

Unfortunately, the cable phasing switch box developed a problem so the sloper and the CHA-250 vertical were run separately.

While the 10-meter yagi was flawlessly in tune, band conditions were not; all of the 10-meter CQ SS calls went unanswered.  Even though spotting receivers all over the U.S. and Canada heard me, no one
else seemed to be on the band during the dozen or so CQ call
periods throughout the day on Saturday AND Sunday.

I did however discover quite by accident that the 3-element 10-meter yagi can present a 1.2:1 SWR match on 15 meters and under 1.5 on 20 meters. The yagi produced 20 QSOs on 15 meters and 9 QSOs
on 20 meters. Rotating the antenna DiD peak signal-levels in the forward direction, whichever direction it was turned. 
I surely dunno what to make of all that.

The N1MM+ software doesn't care which antenna I am using
when I enter the QSOs (and mults) into the log.

WQ6X runs SO2-V using N1MM+

For CW Sweepstakes space WX was marginal resulting in very Lonnnnnngggg Slowwwwww signal fading - in and out.
With N7IV, I copied his exchange as the signal faded in; just
in time for the fade-out. At times like this timing is EVERYTHING.

Timing is also crucial when looking for "rare" multipliers - some stations are on for only a short period during the contest.

In some cases the callsign obscures the actual location of the station. N7IV in North Dakota (ND) was a complete surprise. When I operate out side of the call area reflected by my callsign, I ALWAYS sign portable, such as WQ6X/KH6 and WP2/WQ6X, or WQ6X/7 when operating from the 35th floor of the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas.

Many operators probably discounted N7IV because of the 7 in the callsign. In most RTTY contests, if your QTH is in a call area different from your callsign then you MUST sign portable; in this case N7IV/0.

On the other hand, some calls are cool and obvious, such as WY7SS in Wyoming. One of the secrets to higher is to leverage your callsign and/or your particular ARRL section. 10+ years ago I made several Sweepstakes operations from Ojai Valley because in those days SB section was amongst the Top-5 rarist ARRL sections. In recent years SB section has been well represented, encouraging me to activate the East Bay (EB) section; which is where I live anyway.

JPS NIR-12, MFJ-1026 & Autek QF-1a
In order to properly run SO2-V effectively, the Main RX audio was routed thru an NIR-12 DSP filter to the left ear while the Sub RX was run thru an Autek QF-1a filter to the right ear.

The NIR-12 is quite effective at reducing noise peaks, allowing signals to pop just above the noise.

The Autek QF-1 sports an audio notch that rivals the FT-1000mp's I-F notch. Remember: dual-recive radios like the 1000mp are equipped with filtering ONLY for the Main RX. While the Yaesu is equipped
with IF-shift/width, notch filtering and an eDSP, again, they apply ONLY to the Main RX. This is what makes splitting the audio lines through external filters so important. The QF-1a's PEAK filter can
peak a specific signal in the audio passband while at the same
time deemphasizing the blasting signals surrounding it.

WQ6X Sweepstakes ending statistics

Because of the recent hurricane activity, there was virtually NO KP2/KP4 activity, although I DiD see a spot for an NP4 station.
It is safe to say that the number of 83 section sweeps was considerably less than years past. Then again, Nebraska
(NE) finally made it into the WQ6X log; making up for its
absence for the last several Sweepstakes events.

While my score wasn't great, evidently it was enough to take
1st place for East Bay (EB) section. As I have said many times, "sometimes just showing up makes all the difference".

Did YOU work Sweepstakes CW in 2017?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?


Friday, November 3, 2017

BLAST's from the PAST: November Sweepstakes

Why November Sweepstakes is my FAVorite Radiosport Contest

This BLOG is the first in a series called: Blasts from the Past.
Each BLOG in this series will focus on some major contest activity from WQ6X years past. To begin this series let's begin with my
favorite radiosport contest: the November Sweepstakes.

In preparation for the 2017 November Sweepstakes CW contest this coming weekend, I took a journey down memory lane beginning with WQ6X's first portable Sweepstakes operation in the Ojai Valley
(Santa Barbara (SB) section) to more recent operations from the
East Bay (EB) section.

To quote the Grateful Dead: ".....What a long, strange trip it's been".
Sometime ago I put up a web section on the WQ6X.Info website dedicated to the November Sweepstakes.  [CLICK HERE] to read
that write up.

Sweepstakes is a traffic handling exercise dating back to 1930.
Unlike many contests which send 59 or 599 as part of the exchange, Sweepstakes stations exchange pertinent information based on the radiogram format. Considering all the hurricane & fire disasters, Sweepstakes contributes to emergency preparedness.

While I first participated in Sweepstakes back in 1972 and have played around in it at various Ohio locations (which includes operating as WA6LKB in Cincinnati and guest op-ing @ W8CX), it wasn't until 2007 that I began serious Sweepstakes operations, beginning with portable operations as W6K from a large under construction house in Ojai California - Santa Barbara section.
This was also the 1st use of the W6K callsign for Sweepstakes operations.

Like CQP, Sweepstakes has given me the opportunity to engage in all manner of portable operations and guest operations. While each event is different they all have the same goal: emergency preparedness.

Here are the highlights from those events.

2007 Sweepstakes - Ojai Valley - Santa Barbara Section (SB) - W6K

CW Sweepstakes as W6K
Sweepstakes Phone as W6K

Both events were run out of the garage of an multi-story house under-construction. I used the Mercury Cougar's battery as a power source. 
The garage door was opened every hour to start the engine and charge the battery.

2008 Sweepstakes - Ojai Valley - Santa Barbara Section (SB) - W6K

2008 Sweepstakes Phone as W6K
For 2008 I brought-in a 20-amp power supply and operated from an upstairs bedroom.  Having a beautiful autumn view made it all the more aesthetically enjoyable.

2009 Sweepstakes - Guest operator @ NX6T in Fallbrook - NX6T

Guest operating my 1st time @ NX6T
In the Fall of 2009 I was doing neurotherapy research work in the Los Angeles area and had completely forgotten about Sweepstakes.
My last minute chance e-mail to a fellow ham somehow found it's
way to N6KI, who invited me to join the NX6T crew in Fallbrook. 
It was my first trip up the mountain followed by several dozen
trips since; not to mention all the remote access to NX6T.

2010 Sweepstakes - Ojai Valley - Santa Barbara Section (SB) - W6K

In 2010 I made one more Sweepstakes trip to Ojai. 
In those days the Santa Barbara (SB) section was hard to find. 
For those who worked W6K, it was a welcome relief; my motivation
for returning to this location, even though it was not a great operating
location (however it was FREE).

Two downsides to the Ojai Valley operation included the fact that being in a valley swallowed 1/2 the signals to and from the unfiltered Kenwood TS-50 radio.  The other difficulty came from N6VR's MONSTER signal up the hill (1/2 mile - line of sight) with his dual
FT-1000mp's into BEEFY amplifiers, feeding 60-ft high antennas. 
Any time I pointed the antennas N-E, even off the back of his beams, N6VR's signals swamped the poor little TS-50.

Who would have guessed that 5 years later I would OWN one of those two FT-1000mp's (KB7V bought the other one) - it's my most favorite transceiver EVER.  Like so many hams, Ray sold his (originally $3,000) Yaesu radio radios replacing them with Elecraft K3's. 

From my perspective, while K3's may offer a better dynamic range
and the like, for me, the ergonomics SUCK - give me an FT-1000mp ANY DAY.

2011 Sweepstakes - Carpinteria Beach - Santa Barbara Section (SB) - N6K

My proposed N6K operation was sidelined literally 5 minutes before
I got started. (I paid $100 to set up there.)

I was told I had permission to setup an HF2-V vertical next to the condo.

The building manager at the last minute decided that I did not have permission and booted me out.

At a mom and pop sporting good store near Carpinteria State beach I got a deal on a Coleman Insta-Tent ($100 for a $250 tent).  Setting up a camp site near the beach I was finally in operation by 00:30z - JUST in time for a MAJOR rain storm.  Unfortunately, I was required to vacate that camp spot Sunday morning and move to (what turned out to be a better location) across the park.

Operating as N6K, things finally settled down; except that I learned an even MORE serious lesson. 

Using the N6K call found half the callers thinking I was N6KI, requiring me to correct that information.
Later, Dennis (N6KI) said "you'll never do THAT again" - he was right.

The only REAL good thing I can say about this operation is the 1st place certificate from SB section.

2012 Sweepstakes CW - Multi-OP w/N6GEO - Brentwood Ca. (EB) - W6K
After having survived a DISASTEROUS CQP operation to Modoc county as K6M ([CLICK HERE] to read about that) George and I decided to run Sweepstakes from his CC&R controlled home.  Every Friday afternoon we put up a 25-ft military-style crank-up mast with a TH-3jr and a 6BTV vertical across the lawn. 

By 7:30pm on Sunday - Antennas? WHUT antennas? 
In the CW GiG we managed a 1st place for East Bay (EB) section.

2012 Sweepstakes Phone - Hayward Ca. (EB) - W6K

For Sweepstakes phone in 2012 I setup from the 3rd story of a hotel in Hayward, running the HF2-V vertical as a multi-band radiator. 

While I won no awards
for that event it was an interesting challenge I
am glad I committed to,

2013 Sweepstakes - Multi-OP w/N6GEO - Brentwood Ca. (EB) - W6K

Hot off a successful return to Modoc county as W6C for CQP
([CLICK HERE] to read about that), 2013 brought WQ6X back to N6GEO's QTH to take a 1st place for East Bay (EB) section in the CW GiG and even accomplish a clean sweep (working all ARRL sections).

For the 2013 Sweepstakes phone contest, the multi-OP with N6GEO found us test-driving a FLEX-3000 SDR radio.

While we did not accomplish a sweep,
we DiD take 1st place
for EB section.

2014 Sweepstakes - Multi-OP w/N6GEO - Brentwood Ca. (EB) - W6K

WQ6X enjoying a Mimosa @3:05z after SS)
For 2014, N6GEO
and WQ6X ran their best Sweepstakes operation to date, taking a CW plaque for the entire Pacific Division (PAC)

As a team we have yet to duplicate it, except for the RTTY RU plaque we earned for our WP2/WQ6X operation
on St. Croix in January
of 2014.

2014 Sweepstakes - Single-OP - Brentwood Ca. (EB) - W6K

For the 2014 Sweepstakes phone, N6GEO family commitments kept him out of the ham shack so I ran as a single-OP.
While I DiD take a 1st place for East Bay (EB) section, the unfortunate highlight of that weekend was the NIGHTLY RFI NOISE from (what turned out to be) a poorly designed power supply in the neighbor's hot tub.  Oh the suffering we endure to win a certificate.

2015 Sweepstakes - WQ6X @ W7AYT - Concord, Ca.

For 2015 I setup another portable operation from W7AYT's QTH in Concord. 

This was my FIRST use
of the newly acquired FT-1000mp (from N6VR) on CW - I was still learning all the knobs and settings.

I SHOULD have taken 1st place for EB section except that I filed my log as
Unlimited HIGH power (instead of Unlimited Low), giving the 1st place slot for East Bay to another lucky operator. 
(He should THANK ME - HI! HI!)

Two weekends later I redeemed my self with another Sweepstakes operation from W7AYT taking a 1st place for the Pacific Division (PAC), receiving my 2nd division win plaque. 

Similar to our 2014 WP2/WQ6X worldwide win plaque, THIS one I did not see coming.

2016 Sweepstakes - WQ6X @ W7AYT - Concord, Ca.

For 2016 WQ6X made the 1st run of SO2-V (Single-OP 2 VFO's).

For this particular weekend I had access to a HUGE table and an even BIGGER monitor, allowing me to run split screen. 

All of this came together for another 1st place from East Bay (EB) section.

For the 2016 Sweepstakes phone contest I made another operation similar to the CW GiG two weekends prior. 

While I only managed a 2nd place (no certificate)
I DiD manage to perfect the art of SO2-V on SSB. 
For that reason alone,
this GiG was a success.

As you can see, the November Sweepstakes can take on many
forms, even tho the message format has never changed.

How often do YOU play in the November Sweepstakes?

Is WQ6X and N6K or W6K in one YOUR logs?

Look for WQ6X in the 2017 November Sweepstakes,