Tuesday, January 23, 2018

WQ6X Radiosport for 2017: What I've Learned

It was just over a year ago when I made up my mind to participate
in more radiosport events than ever before; not an easy target considering the 40 events I participated in during 2016. I wrote up
the 2016 contest season around this time last year. ([CLICK] Here
to read that write up)

For the most part, in 2017 WQ6X participated in the "bigger" events such as the major DX contests, WPX, Field Day and Sweepstakes. However what propelled WQ6X over the 40+ mark were the numerous state QSO parties and oddball DX contests and unique RTTY events. 

Additionally, since my Honda automobile was stolen a year ago, only
2 physical trips to NX6T in Fallbrook were actually made in 2017.
Most WQ6X operations from NX6T were accomplished remotely (via the internet) using VNC Viewer and the RCForb rig control software. Having access to the fabulous ACOM 2000-a amplifier feeding into Stepp-IR, C-31 and 2-el 40-meter yagis make it easier for my signals to be heard.

While NX6T is equipped only with a pair of inverted VEE's for 80
& 160, they gave incredible performance. Having a station location (Fallbrook) over 900' above sea-level certainly helps bounce
strong signals off the F-Layer.

Numerous times in 2017 I was informed that my signal was heard
in EU or OC (often off the back of the antenna) yet there was no reciprocal return path; frustrating for me because I hear no one calling back; frustrating for them because I'm not responding to their calls. This problem is a reminder that no matter how well we do, there are always additional ways to improve a contest score.

In recent years WQ6X has set high score records for various California counties during the California QSO party (CQP) and several ARRL sections in contests like Sweepstakes, the 10 meter contest and the RTTY Roundup (RU) contest. In upcoming radiosport events, I look forward to beating my original records.

As I write this on You Near's eve day, it would seem that the ending contest event count stands at 82. A fitting end to the 2017 contest season is the Canadian RAC contest the last weekend of December. Because I ran remotely, running CW only made the most sense and probably earned a 1st place finish for W6 (California).

While each of the 82 radiosport events are unique amongst themselves, they often share a number of frustrating situations:

  1. In every CW contest there are always idiots who muscle their way thru a pileup on my run frequency and then IMMEDIATELY move down 200 hz to call CQ - HuH? WTF is THAT all about?
    In a recent contest, XE2S didn't even bother to move;
    he made the QSO with me and then w/o changing frequency IMMEDIATELY called CQ on my run frequency (I had been there for nearly an hour).
    For 18 minutes I alternated between function key F-1 ("CQ Test") and F-11 ("QRL QSY"). He SO didn't get it that I modified F-11 to "QRL QSY LID".  Finally, after making only 2 QSOs while I made 15, XE2S found an actual clear frequency 1.5kc below me - the band was hardly crowded - and finally moved.
    HuH? Am I MISSING something?
  2. Intentional QRM has become an increasingly frustrating problem. While I don't like it, I am used to illegal SSB operations in the lower segment of 40 meters (below 7.025) and the "data cranker" RTTY stations.
    However, during the JIDX SSB contest in November we encountered one of the 3.840 (garbage dump frequency) idiots playing a recording shouting "F - U!", over and over again, along with another 3.840 IDIOT sending "T-E-S-T" (on CW) after every CQ call.
    Amazingly, the station never jammed us while actually making the QSOs, only after each CQ call. I guess some people get REALLY BORED @ 3:30 am - ever heard of SLEEP? (Can you say "time to go to sleep"? - I KNEW ya' could.)
  3. SO2-R stations who (in violation of radiosport ethics) call CQ on
    2 frequencies or get so caught up with S&P'ing they end up ABANDONING callers on their run frequency. Remember this:
    if I answer your CQ 3 times and you don't come back to me or anyone else, then I will send "QRL?" 3 times. If there is STILL
    no response, then the frequency is NOW MINE and I start calling CQ. If you now start calling CQ (w/o 1st asking "QRL?") then you are NOW QRM'ing me.
    Bottom-line: if you can't keep two frequencies going FLAWLESSLY, then you have no business running SO2-R".
  4. I don't mind if you RUDELY tune up for 5 minutes on my run frequency as long as you have the courtesy to give me a QSO before moving on afterwards. I am used to JA stations tuning up on me and then immediately calling me - at LEAST they end up
    in my log. Luckily. the FT-1000mp and K3 radios are equipped with a DSP auto notch which immediately obliterates their tune-up carrier. Then after I log the QSO I can choose to turnoff the DSP auto-notch if I so desire,
While the above issues are indeed frustrating, overall in 2017
I learned a number of useful things that I would like to pass on:

  1. Find an excuse to "play" in every contest event you can. Experience gained in one contest event can improve operations
    in other contests. Experiment with different station configurations to improve operating efficiency. During the latter portion of 2017
    I used a number of different external audio filters. While the MFJ-752 Autek QF-1a and JPS NIR-12 filter work well with my Yaesu FT-1000mp, they ALSO do a reasonable job of cleaning up the laptop receive audio when I run remotely using RCForb and IP-Sound PC software.
  2. Always submit a  LOG. Sometimes log entries get disqualified for
    all number of reasons, or, sometimes people forget to submit a log for that contest. Case in point: a 24-point log submission
    score earned WQ6X a 1st place for North America in the
    Russian [CQ-M] Contest.

  3. ALWAYS Fill-in Soapbox Comments. Doing this gives you
    "free" public exposure when your comments are quoted in
    the magazine(s) by the contest sponsors.
  4. BTW, when you post your score to the 3830Scores website,
    ALWAYS fill-in the comments section on the reporting form.
    I often use the 3830 comments in the SOAPBOX section of
    the log I am submitting - saving a LoT of time.
  5. Don't Give Up! In radio sport contests operators give up way
    too easily. For example:

    -A- Often when I run a frequency I will have 5 stations calling
    me.  I pick one of the callsigns and make the 10-second QSO.
    Then when I send QRZ? no other stations come back to me. HuH? Where did all you GO? You mean you can't wait 10-SECONDS to be my 2nd contact and 20-seconds to be my
    3rd contact, etc.?  I promise you will spend WAY MORE than
    10 - 30 seconds tuning the band looking for someone else.
    The most effective thing to do is to invest up to 30 seconds
    to make the contact with me first before spending upwards
    of a minute or more to find someone else.

    -B- Sometimes for whatever reason, when I work a station I am not able to get the information so I keep asking for a repeat until
    I am confident I can press the [ENTER] key to log the contact. Frequently after 2 or 3 requests for a repeat, the other station
    just DISSAPPEARS. Understand that when you do that I DO
    NOT log the contact.  I am either confident the information is correct and LOG the contact or use CTRL-W (WIPE QSO)
    and continue calling CQ. Therefore, if I ask for a repeat

    -C- Often one of the reasons I am unable to copy a station's exchange is that they send me unnecessary information (such
    as 59/599 in the NAQP contests). If QRN/QRM/QSB is present, by the time they finally get around to sending the required information (Name and QTH in the NAQP contests) their
    signal either fades out or gets tromped by the QRM/QRN.
    When I ask you to repeat ONLY your name, I do NOT want
    you to send me a signal report and I do NOT want to know
    your QTH; I ONLY want your name.
    For CW & RTTY contests, I have function keys pre-programmed to send ONLY a specific piece of information. When I use N1MM+ in NAQP, I define the F7-key to send ONLY my name and the
    F9-key to send ONLY my state. When asked to repeat a specific piece of information I use one of those keys. 
    If asked for the ENTIRE exchange then I just press the F2-key.
  6. Before EVERY contest I take a look at what entry classifications are available to me; such as: Single-OP, Single-OP Assisted, Single-OP CW/SSB/Mixed, or even Single-OP Single-Band. Additionally, whenever possible, I view the contest result statistics for the last 3 years to determine which operating category I stand a chance at winning. Case in point: For the 2017 CQP contest I noticed that the county high score for Contra Costa county was easily within my reach, so I setup a special operation from W7AYT's QTH in Concord. I was not disappointed.

Virtually every weekend of the year there are radio sport contests
to be had; from CW & SSB to RTTY, 10 & 160 meter contests, VHF contests, State QSO parties and all manner of DX contests, to special GiGs like last year's SEQP event during the 2017 solar eclipse.

While Radiosport is LoTs of fun, it is not JUST for "kicks". Contest operation makes it possible to learn and improve my operating skills, paving the way for emergency preparedness should earthquakes and hurricanes appear out of nowhere; as happened in the Carribbean during the latter part of 2017. In Puerto Rico and the Virgin islands, local ham radio operators (in conjunction wit a LoT of amateur radio assistance from the mainland) made the difference in bringing those islands "back online". Many of those mainland operators were seasoned contesters, such as Valerie NV9L.

Do YOU engage in radiosport events?

If not, WHY NOT?

If so, is WQ6X in one of YOUR contest logs?

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