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,


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