Wednesday, May 10, 2017

WQ6X Survives another 5-contest Weekend

Cinco de Mayo set the stage for Seis de Mayo; another contest weekend, this time offering up 4 state QSO parties (7QP, NEQP, INQP & DEQP) all front-ended by the Italian ARI Dx contest.

Several weekends ago running multiple QSO parties (MIQP, NDQP, ONQP) required separate record entries in the N1MM contest log database using a coordinated manual switching
between them.

For this weekend's events, the designers of N1MM/+ offered us a special designator: IN7QPNE.
This entry allows logging INQP, 7QP & NEQP contests using one log. Because all county entries
include the state code, it is relatively easy to sort out each contest's QSOs.

The QSO party organizers for these three GiGs have taken it one step further, allowing entrants
to send in the combined contest log and having their Log Checking Robot (LCR) software select
out the QSOs appropriate to their particular QSO Party.

In addition to running 5 contest GiGs,
I took the opportunity to test-drive
a number of unique hardware configurations, beginning with a customized antenna switch box.

This enabled the 2nd antenna (Antenna B) to be switched in as a receiving antenna (RX-Ant), as antenna B on
the FT-1000mp, or in parallel with
Antenna A. 

Antenna A was a Comet CH-250 generic Vertical on a flagpole mast. Evidently the mast has slipped
a few feet in height since its original installation, with a side-effect that (according to the MFJ-259 analyzer) it is longer properly/natively resonant on 7.0 Mhz.

While the FT-1000mp can tune just about anything,
that doesn't necessarily alter the resonant characteristics
of the antenna itself. Antenna B was a Sloppy-Sloper Cobra dipole. It neither qualifies as a dipole or an inverted Vee, being nearer to a sloper than anything else;
hence a "Sloppy Sloper".

Because the 1000mp's auto-tuner is a top performing design, most of the time it was able to tune either antenna separately or in combination; sometimes by tuning a single antenna first, bringing the tuner memories more in range
for then tuning both together.

Having the switch box easily accessible at the
operating position allowed rapid operator switching between Antenna A / B / BOTH, keeping an eye on the S-meter and my ears on the audio level. Because signal levels were often horrible, the eDSP played a big role in copying the weak ones; altho a few got away nonetheless.

Despite the favorable Space-WX predictions, remember that predictions are just THAT; the real world is usually much WORSE.

For this weekend, poor signal levels plagued the operation throughout, making SSB copy quite difficult at
best in many cases.

Keeping an active hand on the coax switch allowed quick-switching the antennas looking for the correct
position for each individual signal.

With the front-end in good order, throughout the weekend I spent time working with the audio signals for both receivers (VFO-A & VFO-B).

While the FT-1000mp is equipped with an AWEsome eDSP facility, it works ONLY with the MAIN-Rx (VFO-A).

With only a 2.4khz filter in the SUB-Rx (VFO-B), it is literally wide-open (by comparison to VFO-A).

In one sense, for S & P operations it is a good idea to run somewhat more wide-open.
However being able to "shape" the audio when needed can make all the difference.
By way of an integrated set of audio splitter cables I was able to "insert" an old MFJ
752-C "Signal Enhancer" in the SUB-Rx audio path destined for the right ear. 

After the contest I inserted a JPS NIR-12 DSP unit between the 752-C and the right ear, giving two kinds of signal processing on the SUB-Rx. Because I love to knob-twiddle during contests (relieving boredom during the slow periods), with these units sitting atop the transceiver, I am once again
a happy twiddler.

For SO2-V (Single-OP 2 VFO's) operation the audio mix settings are such that both RX's appear in both ears, with the MAIN-Rx more pronounced in the left ear and the SUB-Rx more pronounced in the right.

Additionally the Heil PRO headset
sports a phasing toggle switch as well.
As a result, the 752-C's controls often caused the SUB-Rx's signal to "shift" more toward the left ear; or should
I say, away from the right ear.

Operating-wise this was a typical cinco-de-contest: 2 events with win possibilities (7QP & NEQP)
and 3 ho-hummers (INQP, DEQP & the Italian ARI Dx Contest).

My 1st encounter with the ARI contest was back in 2011 running dual-OP with N6KI.
We misread the rules from which it seemed that we were turning away more
stations than we were working - OOOPS! That year we heard HUNDREDs of ARI contest
signals.  Since then, from the bay area I only hear a dozen or so stations and manage to
barely work HALF of them.  Regardless of the QSO count, I ALWAYS submit a log.

For the 2017 ARI contest I heard but a few callers and ended up working only 2.
While I saw 20-meter RTTY spots for the ARI GiG, I heard virtually none of them.
I copied II3W briefly but was unable to maintain consistent copy long enough to
effect a 2-way QSO - Bummer Dewd!

WQ6X made numerous "CQ ARI Test" calls on CW but with no response.
Because of marginal antenna height @ W7AYT, it is almost a miracle hearing (much less
working) European stations from Contra Costa county; even by way of the N-E polar path.

From time to time I put out a call for
7QP and was even spotted many
times throughout the weekend.

This year DEQP put a WHOPPing 2 QSOs in the WQ6X DEQP contest log.

It would seem to me that when there is
a propagation path to New England,
it should also include Delaware.

Therefore, my not hearing Delaware stations was more a LACK OF PARTICIPATION than
an indictment of my equipment layout, antenna configuration, propagation or operating skill.
It's not easy to enjoy a competitive activity when the other side of the competition fails to join in.

For INQP I have the same complaint; a whole 8 QSOs made it into the WQ6X INQP log.
Plenty of W9 stations (with decent signals) were heard, yet virtually NONE were operating from Indiana; much less participating in the INQP. We WANT to play in YOUR QSO party, but cannot
do so if there are no target (in this case Indiana) stations available to work.

For me, the main focus for this contest weekend was the 7QP Gig (in an attempt to reprise last year's 1st-place win) followed by the NEQP QSO party.

Because I am used to running the NEQP Gig with the NX6T crew (making use of K3 radios, ACOM 2000 amplifiers and yagi's @ 70'),
NEQP from the East Bay is quite a "culture shock"; this year producing only 34 QSOs on CW & SSB; the DEQP only delivered up 2.

What surprised me the MOST about NEQP was the not-insignificant number of stations engaged in self-spotting. While technically not a violation of the NEQP rules, virtually ALL other radiosport contests FORBID spotting oneself; even having "a friend" spot you is considered tacky.

Another beef I have with NEQP is the number on non-1 callsigns not indicating /1 or a signing
with a county designator (Ex: WQ6X/1 -or- WQ6X/MERNH). On SSB, one BOZO (N1CC) led
us to believe he was a legitimate W1 station when in fact he was in Texas.
While he only operated 7QP this year, his callsign confused a LoT of stations.
To reduce confusion he should have signed N1CC/5 or N1CC/TX
(when calling CQ for 7QP I signed as WQ6X/Ca).

Instead he berated many stations (myself included) for needing what he called "elmer assistance" because he did not sign indicating Texas (he even wrote up his berating us in the N1CC 3830Scores.Com submission). Eventually he called for the 7th area only.

A proper call would have ALWAYS included "CQ 7QP - this is N1CC in Texas QRZ"
or "CQ 7th call area - this is N1CC in Texas QRZ"; something like that.

The 7QP QSO party was again overall a top-notch operation.
With only 18 hours to make it all happen, everything needs to go right, @ 6AM as well as
the ending at midnight. While there were several county-line operations (and even a couple of
state-line operations), I completely missed out on the tri-county operations (if there were any).

Based on the 3830Scores.Com filings for the 7QP contest, it would seem that WQ6X took a 2nd place, to none other than N1CC - AmaZing! At least thanks to Pandora there was continuous electronic music in the background; altho occasionally the music and CW got confused together.

Did YOU work any of the state QSO parties or the ARI DX contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Addendum for June 7th
Thanks to more sophisticated log checking, thus far WQ6X has
received two operating award certificates; for 7QP and INQP.
The INQP award is proof that it pays to ALWAYS submit a log.

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