April 2017 was blessed with 5 contest weekends. This gave WQ6X one more opportunity at remote contesting before the 5 contest weekend operation @ W7AYT opening the month of May.
On the agenda for this last weekend were two contests I've never made time for: the Swiss Helvetia contest and
the FQP Florida QSO party.
Equipment-wise, I ran the K3 BAREFOOT at 100 watts so as not
to have the ACOM 2000a amplifier
on and overheating the room.
The antennas were a C-31 multi-band yagi on tower #1 and a 2-element 40-meter yagi on
tower #2 - both about 13mh. The RCForb software ran the K3 radio and the VNC Viewer
gave me access to Station #1's Toshiba Windoze Vista laptop.
Unfortunately, on 15 meters the power had been turned down to 34 watts (from the previous
weekend when that 34 watts was driving the amp to over 700). All 15-meter QSOs were made
at the 34 watt power level. By the time I upped it to 100w to call CQ, 15 meters had DIED.
Space WX-wise, we are at the bottom of one of the CRUMMIEST extended solar periods I have witnessed in many years.
For me, conventional wisdom was always that at the bottom (or near-bottom) of the solar cycle it should be considerably quiet, solar storm wise; then again I am also an eternal-optimist.
For this weekend it was a mixed experience. A K-Index = 2 was just enough to put "popping" noises in the audio on 20 & 15 meters. Amazingly,
the DSP-NB in the Elecraft K3 did a superb job - literally "extracting" it.
Most NB's (including the K3's) are often a useless waste of time because the artifact (distortion) introduced by the DSP process itself, is often worse than the original noise the DSP was to eliminate.
However for this weekend, praises BE to the K3 DSP!
Now if ONLY I could give praise to 10 & 15 meters.
10 meters never happened and 15 only produced
18 QSOs, from a handful of ROVER stations who
kept 15 alive. 40 meters was no better, but that was
due to the 02:00z contest ending for Saturday nite.
Evidently the Japanese were holding their own regional contest this last weekend (similar to the Russian's
domestic GiG the weekend before).
This populated the bandmap with 100's of unworkable JA stations (many of the signals being S9+
on 40 meters and S3 - S5 on 80). To solve this problem I changed the TELNET settings to take
the unworkable JA calls out of the band map. It also made things easier as a broken rotor cable
left the 40 meter yagi fix-pointed towards 30-degrees to Europe and North East USA.
|Helvetia Contest Screen|
The Helvetia contest officially began
at 13:00z on Saturday. The goal was to work as many stations as possible for
3 hours then switch logs at 16:00z to look for Florida stations; of which
there were plenty.
For the Helvetia GiG, by 14:30z there were many European stations (many
of them making it to the log).
While I heard a couple of "HB" Swiss stations, none of them ever made it to the log; odd, considering what this contest was all about. My issue with the Helvetia GiG is that not enough target (in this case Swiss) stations play
in their own contest. I make this complaint all the time
in regard to Asian contests. I wasn't aware the "virus"
had migrated to Europe.
By 16:30z, activity in the Florida QSO party (FQP)
quickly eclipsed the Helvetia GiG so I moved into QSO party mode with the aid of the VE7CC spotting net populating the N1MM band map with predominantly stateside stations. The FQP was a pleasant surprise.
In most "other" (non-CQP) single-state (as opposed to multi-state) QSO parties I am usually dismayed by the small number of stations from that state I can actually
hear; much less work.
|RCForb + IP-Sound|
With the FQP, any dearth of stations had more to do with propagation than lack of participation by the participants. What was MORE of a problem were stations w/o a "4" in their call calling "CQ FQP", leaving
it unclear whether they were INSIDE Florida or not. K3KO solved that problem by signing as K3KO/DAV - indicating he was in a Florida County.
Near the end of the contest I made a CQ call indicating I am in California: "CQ FQP de WQ6X WQ6X/CA". I snagged a handful of Florida stations,
2 of which were new counties. I also received calls from non-Florida
stations to whom I would send an automatic "5NN CA".
They go away happy and now we're ALL happy.
Because QSO parties are about maximization of QSOs per hour, allow
me to make a few OBVIOUS comments about operating habits which operators should be more aware of. For example, when you are running
a frequency, after logging a contact, BE-4 blindly calling CQ, first,
LISTEN to your own run frequency - you might just hear me ID my callsign, eliminating the need for you to call CQ.
Unfortunately, what USUALLY happens is that run stations automatically call CQ at the SAME TIME I am sending MY Callsign; so we have in effect "doubled". Now I have to WAIT for him to finish calling CQ to attract a caller. He already attracted a caller: ME! Approx. 20 seconds of precious time is wasted from this.
|Tower #1 - C-31 Yagi|
When there is atmospheric noise,
a noise pulse can easily be the EXACT time-length as a dit inside of a character, creating bad copy.
So please, SLOW DOWN, SLOW DOWN, SLOW DOWN - you impress NOBODY at 35wpm.
|Tower #2 - 2-el Stepp-IR + 2-el on 40|
During radio contests I NEVER exceed 25wpm and often slow down to the speed of my sender when calling
him or when he calls me.
Stations should ID after EVERY QSO; not only is it required by the FCC regulations, it just makes
We often happen onto stations, either by tuning onto them or clicking onto them from a bandmap spot. If I don't know who you are, I have to wait around until you ID or just blindly call you and hope you are not a DUPE.
It is NoT uncommon for bandmap spots to be accidently/purposefully incorrect. You might be a dupe, but I won't necessarily know it because of an incorrectly spotted callsign. If you ID every QSO, I will immediately get that you are a DUPE and move on. Otherwise I will throw my callsign into the mix, only to have you respond "DUP QSO", wasting EVERYONE's time: Yours AND Mine; not to
mention all of the other stations waiting to work you.
A third point: When you are running a frequency and ask for a partial call, don't then work somebody whose call is nothing like that. I had a guy send "W6X?" so I resent my call. His next response was "N5ABC 5NN MAO" - HuH? Don't bait me, tease me, and then Not PLEASE me - that is NoT the
way to win friends and make QSOs.
|NX6T "After Hours"|
I sent a complaint to the FQP contest committee regarding what I call SO2-M (Single OP TWO modes); not all that different from SO2-R and SO2-V.
Several time throughout the contest, K4KG, with a number of stations waiting to work him would be soliciting stations to also work him on "152" (14.152) SSB.
I thought that meant he had another operator who was running the SSB-side of things. Nope. What it meant
was, he STRANDED us CW ops to make an SSB QSO (worth 1/2 as many points) on another frequency.
Not knowing that he was no longer listening on his run frequency, I would send my callsign 3+ times. When I receive no response, I can rightly assume that he has either vacated the frequency or his radio has failed.
I would send "QRL" 2 times and hearing nothing would rightfully assume the frequency is now mine and call "CQ FQP". Of course he would eventually come back and BLINDLY call CQ, not listening before he transmits (another FCC regulation). He would then be annoyed because I was using "HIS" frequency. One of the waiting stations called ME a jerk. No, HE is the jerk for expecting he can abandon a frequency and not have someone else take it over. I am still awaiting a reply from
the contest committee on this matter.
|FQP Ending Statistics|
Having TWO Run frequencies easily falls under this classification. At the VERY least, STRANDING us is RUDE; more importantly, it is a violation of the spirit of contest ethics. I am not against SO2-R & SO2-V, as long as it is done in such a way as it is "unnoticeable" on BOTH frequencies.
The minute someone has to WAIT for YOU, you have violated the spirit of contest ethics - defeating the whole point of Radiosport in the first place.
Remember: SO2-V & SO2-R were conceived with the idea of running a frequency on one radio (or VFO) while using the other radio/VFO to search and pounce (S&P), NoT to run another frequency.
For this year's FQP the ROVER stations were out in MASS! I think there were more FQP rovers than in ANY QSO party I've ever encountered. IN CQP I am usually a run frequency operator, so I don't wander around much on the other frequencies to encounter rover stations.
Thanks to the FQP rovers, I heard nearly every Florida county. Florida (like California), has a reasonable number of counties, so it is reasonable to expect that they will all be activated at
some point throughout the QSO party.
A beef I have with FQP is that operations end Saturday evening (02:00z) just as 40 meters is becoming optimum for California and KH6 stations. They don't allow 80 meter activity at all
(bummer dewd), I guess because of the 02:00z day-end. While it is true that FQP resumes at
12:00z (to 22:00z), we on the Left Coast don't get another 40-meter shot at Florida - Bummer
|FQP Ending Screen|
Overall, FQP was a LoT of fun and put 154 Florida QSOs in the WQ6X Log.
The Helvetia GiG while a disappointment this year has possibilities next time around.
Did y'all work the FQP or Helvetia GiGs?
Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?