Tuesday, June 13, 2017

WQ6X stumbles to safety in 1st GACW Contest

Until a week ago, I had never heard of the GACW South American contest. Thanks to PY1AX on Facebook I decided to run this 24 hour Dx contest.

Unfortunately, the 1st QSO in the log did not occur until EXACTLY 00:00z on Sunday - I was 9 hours behind from the start.  I didn't let that stop me from running frequencies and noting where the WQ6X signal was being heard; thanks to the incredibly elaborate network of CW skimmer stations that report up during contest operations.

Receiving Spot messages from the various skimmer stations became important once I discovered the rotor unit on tower #2 (which hosted both yagis I was using) was unable to turn due to a failed ancient control cable).

The 2-element 40-m yagi was position-frozen at 33-degrees (pointing to Europe) and the 3-element Stepp-IR yagi was frozen pointing more-or-less at 123-degrees more-or-less in the desired direction of South America.

As the contest progressed I set the Stepp-IR to BI-directional, giving me access to a few JA QSOs along with the occasional South American station; which after all is what this contest was all about.  Unfortunately my beef of not enough stations playing in their own contest was certainly evident this weekend.

The next challenge occurred at 03:00z. N1MM+ was on auto-repeat calling CQ when the local internet died. That meant the CQ calls kept on going.  I couldn't respond to calling stations, let alone "press" the [ESC] key to stop the CQ.

This is of course the risk in running auto-repeat; a broken internet connection can leave that on uncontrollable auto-pilot. OOOOppppssss...

 I found an Xfinity router in the vicinity and invested $7.95 for 24 hours access.
Once internet access was regained, I clicked on the [ESC] key and took a deep breath.

As I mentioned earlier, I used the GACW contest as an experiment in noticing where my CQ calls were being heard.

While WQ6X was not reported as being spotted outside of North America, the spots from USA and Canada helped me to pinpoint WHERE in the world the STUCK yagis were actually reaching. 

Although the Stepp-IR yagi was pointing between Japan and South America on 20-meters, I received more calls from Russia (RZ3, RZ6 & several R7 stations) as well as Spain (EW6) than anywhere else. In fact, the FIRST South American station I worked did not occur until I found LU6UO on 20-meters at 13:29z - virtually 90 minutes before the end of contest. Just after 14:00z propagation opened to South America on 15 meters putting a series of 5-point QSOs in the log. Unfortunately, in less than an hour the contest was over.

Every CW contest I report the various kinds of "intentional" QRM - this event was no exception.
On top of the heavy QRN on 40 & 80 meters, I was bombarded my RTTY signals on 40-meters
and the usual bunch of stations not listening before transmitting on the WQ6X run frequency.
Using VFO-B I would switch from 14036.36 to 14037.37 to avoid a careless CQ'er, coming back
to 14.036 approx. 5 minutes later when he made no QSOs, got BORED and split.  Because of the stuck yagi position, no Russian military beacons were heard on 7.039.

The weekend's band Condx. were perplexingly confusing. Space WX reports showed the A & K indices very low, yet the upperband forecasts
were listed as POOR.

The truth is that there were many upper band openings on 15 & 20, yet I couldn't FORCE 10-meters to open up. Running assisted I was able to work some obvious spots.

Then again, as I was running frequencies most of the time, seemingly dead bands would suddenly produce S-7 to S-9 calling signals from Europe. The FEW JA stations I worked were on 20-meters; amazingly NOT on 40 meters, as usually happens. 

My CQ calls at 08:00 produced NOTHING in response, except stations tuning up their amplifiers;
I guess 7017.17 was the National Tuneup Frequency (NTF) for this contest. After a few hours sleep
I finished the GACW contest on 20 meters, moving to 15 meters in the last hour.  Possibly I should have checked 15 sooner; it often opens up earlier in the morning during the summertime blues; despite the depths of Solar Cycle 24.

While running a frequency, I was continuously surprised to have stations call me (why they didn't know) and start to ragchew. I guess they didn't understand what "CQ WWSA WQ6X WQ6X Test" means. A common reply was to send me their state code - like in a QSO party.
When I asked for their Zone, they either went "HuH?" or sent me a serial #.

Because events like the GACW/WWSA contest are not well known, most operators have never heard of the event and don't realize they could look it up in the WA7BNM Contest Calendar; Calendar? What calendar? I allocated function key F6 to send "Zone?" and F7 to send "o3".

On the other side of things, when I worked N8OO on 20-meters, he all but PLEADED with me to work him on 80-meters that evening; which eventually happened.  As it turned out, N8OO was the ONLY 80-meter WQ6X contact; despite being spotted by numerous skimmers.

According to the 80-m CW skimmers, WQ6X was being heard as far N/E as Ohio and VE3 - not bad for a CRUMMY Inverted floppy Vee. Throughout the weekend I made LENGTHY CQ calls, being spotted IMMEDIATELY, and yet often times no QSOs came for several minutes. HuH?

At 15:00z it was all over with a WHOPPing 44 QSOs in the log; on 4 amateur bands in 17 Zones and 11 Countries.

After the contest event, according to the 3830Scores .Com website, WQ6X took 2nd place to PS8HF(appropriately in South America) and 1st place for North America; not bad for a contest I didn't even know existed before a week ago. Again, thank you PY1AX for tipping me off about this.

Did YOU work the GACW WWSA contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

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