Thursday, December 13, 2018

ARRL 10-Meter GiG Fascinates & Frustrates

The final month of every contest year brings us the ARRL160 meter contest (last weekend) followed by the 10-Meter contest (at the opposite end of the HF spectrum).  For the 160 GiG I joined up with
the NX6T crew remotely.  For this weekend's 10-meter GiG the goal was to run from W7AYT's QTH, taking advantage of the onsite Hy-Gain "Long John" 3-element 10-meter yagi, waiting patiently to be put back into radio service.

The continuously low Solar Flux Index (SFI) will of course be a challenge, however it is amazing how band openings can be "created" just by showing up and calling CQ. Similar to FD and state QSO parties, the 10-meter contest is a multi-mode affair (Ssb & Cw); digital QSOs don't count in this contest.

Recently on the SCCC contest reflector several OPs have said they will use FT8 contacts to determine band opening details.  The 10-meter beacon signals between 28.200 and 28.300is another way to monitor band openings, beginning with the NCDXF beacons on 28.200.  Another approach is to call CQ, paying attention to the signal level reports on the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) website.

On Friday, I arrived in Concord shortly after the 00:00z starting time. enabling the sorting out of 8-X coax cable intertwined with Yaesu rotor cable to the 3-element yagi.  A quick check with the MFJ-259b antenna analyzer demonstrated the yagi capable of tuning the lower 500khz of the 28 Mhz spectrum.

Beginning @02:00z, tuning the band (while swinging the antenna) put a whopping 14 contacts in
the log over 3.5 hours.  At 05:30z, calling CQ with the antenna pointed S-E, a QSO with N7EPD (in Washington state) made it to the log. Huh?  Am I missing something?  A probable contributing factor in this weekend's weird 10-meter contest is the K-Index of 3 which contributed to the quiet but quick fading of signals throughout the weekend.

Saturday morning while waiting for the 10-meter band to open up, a retrofit was made to the latest incarnation of the WQ6X Lazy 8JK sloper, replacing the EXPLODED 1.5 watt 100-ohm terminating resistors with custom-made 6-watt units.  This seemingly "minor" change turned the 8JK sloper configuration into a super sloper that easily tuned all HF bands; even 160 meters.

At 11am (19:00z) 10-meters seemed to spring to life across the country.  Over the next 90 minutes 33 QSOs made it to the log, including LW7, PY5 & P4.  Reading the 3830 Scores comments from other W6 stations confirms that the 18:00z opening was not a fluke, but a nation-wide phenomenon . The rest of the afternoon produced only 6 more contacts; all of them "local" to California. The last contact for the day was at 03:34z; another local.

Like Saturday, Sunday didn't begin until 19:00z.  Operating all day produced only 12 more QSOs; 3 locals on 28.400 Ssb, resulted in a mixed-mode assisted log submission.

This contest weekend was full of weird anomalies, culminating in a visit from the local cable technician who visited last year.  In the 2017 event it seemed that every time I pointed the yagi southwest it would overload a cable patch unit suspended from the 20-ft high cable pole. In all their wisdom, they chose an operating frequency of ~ 55.8 mhz; essentially a 2nd harmonic of 10-meters (28.0mhz).

This year the cable-tech said my signal was tearing up cable installations up and down the block.
Last I checked, "Electronics 101" dictates that when risk of harmonic-interference is a problem a simple $5 BANDPASS filter will solve that problem.  Also last I checked, the tech guy makes well over $20/hr.  He spent hours on Saturday and Sunday tracking down a problem that could have been fixed last year with a $5 filter.  Will they learn their lesson for 2019?   In all honesty, I really doubt it.

Did YOU work the 2018 ARRL 10-meter contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?


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