Thursday, November 16, 2017

WQ6X wings and wins another Sweepstakes Contest

It was 45 years ago that I was first exposed to the November Sweepstakes.  Being an active traffic handler at that time (on the NCN & RN6 traffic nets), the Sweepstakes exchange format being similar to the msg header sent along w/every radiogram message passed, was (and still is) an excellent traffic handling exercise.  (This similarity is explained in more detail at: WQ6X.Info/Sweepstakes.)

Recently, I also took a retrospective look back at Sweepstakes for

the last 10+ years.  [CLICK HERE] to read that BLOG.

While radiogram traffic is not as prolific as it once was, the November Sweepstakes is still the best non-traffic handling traffic handling exercise
I know of.

Next in training-value is the QTC message passing found in the WAE (Worked All Europe) contest.

In recent years, co-oping w/N6GEO, we have earned many 1st-place wins from the East Bay (EB) section, along with a plaque for winning the Pacific (PAC) Division in 2014 on CW.

For WQ6X that was followed by a handful of EB section wins and an SSB PAC Division plaque in 2015 on SSB; all as SOULP portable
from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.

"Antenna farm" @W7AYT
With all this behind me, what is possible for 2017?  For this Sweepstakes I made a number of equipment adaptations available. 

Other than last month's CQP, this Sweepstakes CW contest was the first real use of the 3-element 10-meter yagi at W7AYT.

For the lower bands the WQ6X Lazy 8JK sloper was given a number of tweaks.

Unfortunately, the cable phasing switch box developed a problem so the sloper and the CHA-250 vertical were run separately.

While the 10-meter yagi was flawlessly in tune, band conditions were not; all of the 10-meter CQ SS calls went unanswered.  Even though spotting receivers all over the U.S. and Canada heard me, no one
else seemed to be on the band during the dozen or so CQ call
periods throughout the day on Saturday AND Sunday.

I did however discover quite by accident that the 3-element 10-meter yagi can present a 1.2:1 SWR match on 15 meters and under 1.5 on 20 meters. The yagi produced 20 QSOs on 15 meters and 9 QSOs
on 20 meters. Rotating the antenna DiD peak signal-levels in the forward direction, whichever direction it was turned. 
I surely dunno what to make of all that.

The N1MM+ software doesn't care which antenna I am using
when I enter the QSOs (and mults) into the log.

WQ6X runs SO2-V using N1MM+

For CW Sweepstakes space WX was marginal resulting in very Lonnnnnngggg Slowwwwww signal fading - in and out.
With N7IV, I copied his exchange as the signal faded in; just
in time for the fade-out. At times like this timing is EVERYTHING.

Timing is also crucial when looking for "rare" multipliers - some stations are on for only a short period during the contest.

In some cases the callsign obscures the actual location of the station. N7IV in North Dakota (ND) was a complete surprise. When I operate out side of the call area reflected by my callsign, I ALWAYS sign portable, such as WQ6X/KH6 and WP2/WQ6X, or WQ6X/7 when operating from the 35th floor of the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas.

Many operators probably discounted N7IV because of the 7 in the callsign. In most RTTY contests, if your QTH is in a call area different from your callsign then you MUST sign portable; in this case N7IV/0.

On the other hand, some calls are cool and obvious, such as WY7SS in Wyoming. One of the secrets to higher is to leverage your callsign and/or your particular ARRL section. 10+ years ago I made several Sweepstakes operations from Ojai Valley because in those days SB section was amongst the Top-5 rarist ARRL sections. In recent years SB section has been well represented, encouraging me to activate the East Bay (EB) section; which is where I live anyway.

JPS NIR-12, MFJ-1026 & Autek QF-1a
In order to properly run SO2-V effectively, the Main RX audio was routed thru an NIR-12 DSP filter to the left ear while the Sub RX was run thru an Autek QF-1a filter to the right ear.

The NIR-12 is quite effective at reducing noise peaks, allowing signals to pop just above the noise.

The Autek QF-1 sports an audio notch that rivals the FT-1000mp's I-F notch. Remember: dual-recive radios like the 1000mp are equipped with filtering ONLY for the Main RX. While the Yaesu is equipped
with IF-shift/width, notch filtering and an eDSP, again, they apply ONLY to the Main RX. This is what makes splitting the audio lines through external filters so important. The QF-1a's PEAK filter can
peak a specific signal in the audio passband while at the same
time deemphasizing the blasting signals surrounding it.

WQ6X Sweepstakes ending statistics

Because of the recent hurricane activity, there was virtually NO KP2/KP4 activity, although I DiD see a spot for an NP4 station.
It is safe to say that the number of 83 section sweeps was considerably less than years past. Then again, Nebraska
(NE) finally made it into the WQ6X log; making up for its
absence for the last several Sweepstakes events.

While my score wasn't great, evidently it was enough to take
1st place for East Bay (EB) section. As I have said many times, "sometimes just showing up makes all the difference".

Did YOU work Sweepstakes CW in 2017?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?


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