Wednesday, March 8, 2017

OPs at NX6T come together for 2017 DX SSB Contest

 
STNs #1 & #2 (remote)
During 2017, the San Diego Contest Club has put almost NO ACTUAL BODIES in the contest chairs (except for NAQP SSB). Instead, many of the contest operations have been run remotely by NX6T operators who could not (for whatever reason) make it up the mountain to "NashVille" in Fallbrook, 900' above sea level, looking towards San Diego.

This year alone I have remotely run the RTTY RU, NAQP RTTY, WPX RTTY, ARRL Dx CW contest and NCQP (N. Carolina QSO party). This contest marked the FIRST time I actually operated an SSB contest in which I used the headset mic over the internet, in addition to playing .WAV files by way of the WINTEST function keys.

For the 2017 ARRL Dx contest that all changed when N6KI assembled a group of classic NX6T operators along with N6NC & WQ6X running remotely. Normally in SSB contests when I am on the mountain I tend to run things during the dinner hour (8:00 to 10:30 pm local time) as well as 1:30 to 8:00 am in the night hours.


Then as needed I fill in on day shifts with a shortage of operators. For this event there was no shortage of daytime operators so I worked with clients at my office in Alameda and caught up on sleep during this period.



This ARRL Dx contest was littered with space weather caused outnesses throughout the weekend. 40-meters was our best band and it opened quite early. Along with an 03:00z opening to EA5 & CT1 on 80 meters, it is clear to me that we are nearing the bottom of sunspot cycle 24.

Both evenings gave us IMMENSE JA pileups. Around 04:30z Saturday evening, with a LoT of careful listening I managed to put a dozen EU multipliers in the log even though most of the signals were about S-2 in Fallbrook. Evidently they had no trouble hearing me; most calls resulted in an immediate response.



Equipment-wise, we ran 3 Elecraft K-3 radios into a pair of ACOM 2000a amplifiers. 

Antenna-wise, for the high bands we made use of a C-31 yagi and a 3 element Stepp-IR. 2 elements on 40 and an inverted Vee (broadside NE/SW) for 75 meters was all we needed.

I think the 75-meter vee was more omni-directional than not, which gave us the near-360-ness of a vertical but with more-or-less horizontal polarization; which may explain having very little noise to contend with on 75 during this contest.


At other times, 80/75 can be one NOISY NIGHTMARE; which is why we have a LooP antenna available to us.  It is also during times like this that the MFJ-1026 and ANC-4 phasing noise cancellers
can make all the difference. 

While they require a lot of careful tweaking during the heat of competition, when they work, they are amazing. 
Of course radios like the K3 have DSP noise reduction circuits,  however with weak SSB signals, they often cause signal distortion, which is worse than the noise itself - GO figure

I did not work 40-SSB during the 10:00z - 13:00z period so I can't vouch for the intentional QRM level there. However on 75 meters I was constantly plagued by carriers and tuner-uppers. Around 13:10z while looking for JA's on 75 meters I again encountered the Chinese military station M8JF calling for Russian RIS9 on 3772.84 - wassup with that? The shortwave spectrum is HUGE! Why MUST they use our limited amount of spectrum, when the cold easily operate BELOW 3.500 or ABOVE 4.000 - BOTH areas RARELY USED anymore.


After-contest Space WX report
During every contest operation each operator runs into one or more difficulties; some of them based on the time of day or the space weather A/K indexes at that moment in time.

For N6NC and myself, the biggest problem was internet latency. 

During our operation, over time, the router signal quality would degrade, requiring a reset.


Router resets take ALL remote connections offline for 3 - 5 minutes; in the heat of competition,
a time that FEELS like Eternity. If you were waiting to work me on my run frequency and I suddenly disappeared, it was NoT because I was running SO2-R irresponsibly, it's because the internet connection flaked out. Rumors have it that a NEW router is on its way to Fallbrook - I can't wait.

Score-wise, NX6T took 15th place worldwide, 9th place for USA and 2nd place for W6/Left Coast. Sunday brought a resurgence of 10 & 15 meters; 15 eventually surpassing 20. 
Like working the S-2 Europeans on 40, making 75 meters happen required a lot of FOCUS and Patience; with QSOs being made in batches and then long periods of "silence". 

JA Band Plan
To work JA's on 75 meters you need to understand the band plan they are subject to. What politicians or bureaucrats came up with THIS idiotic idea?!! 
What do they do with the GAPs in between
band segments?  Who gets to use them? 
If NO one, wassup with THAT?!

Just like in the CW Dx contest (a couple of weekends back), numerous stateside stations absolutely HAD

to work NX6T. 

On SSB its easy to let them know that we are working DX only, and they should be too. On CW it's too complicated to explain that so I would simply send
them a contest exchange (to satisfy their need for one) and then use Ctrl-W to wipe their callsign from the
entry window.


Did YOU play in the ARRL Dx SSB contest?

For Dx stations, is NX6T in YOUR Log?



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