Thursday, February 21, 2019

NX6T Nixes ARRL Dx Left Coast competition

W Q 6 X  @ W 7 A Y T
I more-or-less fell into the Cw ARRL Dx Contest operation @ NX6T in Fallbrook (SDG Section).  Dennis (N6KI) was at the Yuma Hamfest relegating me to cobble together inspiration from a handful of operators from around the Fallbrook/Oceanside area.  Seemingly out of nowhere a Multi-2 (M/2) operating schedule came together.

This year's NX6T Cw entry was a nice mixture of remote and B-I-C operators. 
My goal was for the group to find an operating "groove" Friday evening, Saturday morning
and early-afternoon, allowing me to make another trip to W7AYT's QTH and put WQ6X on the air.
All of this more-or-less happened.

A n t e n n a s  @  W 7 A Y T
Being a 48-hour radiosport event, the ARRL
Dx contest is loaded with operating opportunities, allowing each of the 6 operators (K4RB, N6CY, N6KI, N6NC, WM6Y & WQ6X) to operate during their peak periods.

As in recent Fallbrook events, I am no longer the lone operator during the after-midnight operating periods.  That allows me to slip an extra 90-minute sleep into my schedule, making it easier to get up
at 8am for the morning shift (and then go back to
bed for 2 hours).

Actual OP time began for WQ6X @ 05:50z, spending a couple of hours running frequencies on 160 & 80 meters.  Later an S&P journey picked up the stations who were themselves running a frequency.  Eventually it was time to migrate to 40-meters and point the 2-el shorty-40 to Asia putting 180+ QSOs into the log.

Around 08:30z while running Asia (antenna pointed to 315-degrees), a number of European calls came in from QTH's like DL3, PA5, RA1, OH1 & SM3.  HuH?  At 12:30z my DNS internet connection to Fallbrook stopped working.  Because the remote K3/0 radio is IP-based, the radio itself continued working flawlessly;  however w/o the ability to log, it does no good.  Fortunately, N6CY took over on STN-1 and I came back later.

W Q 6 X  (Remote) & W M 6 Y (B-I-C)
After a couple of more hours sleep, I awoke to a 15 meter opening, putting 38 QSOs into the log.  Unfortunately for me, 10 did not deliver.  However on Sunday the crew managed to put 11 QSOs
in the 10-meter log; all with SA.

Running Multi-2 allowed a mixture of remote and B-I-C (Butt-in-Chair) operations.  I was too lazy to drag the Elecraft K3/0 to W7AYT so from there I took a chance and ran STN-1 remotely using the antiquated (but marginally workable) RCForb software.  N6KI, back from Yuma ran STN-2 remotely while I ran STN-1.
K 4 R B  &  W M 6 Y
Sunday morning K4RB (Bob) and WM6Y (Phil) accomplished B-I-C taking the NX6T log to exciting new heights.  Due to a weird cabling glitch with the 8JK Sloper, WQ6X managed only
4 QSOs on 40 meters Saturday nite.  Sunday @ noon, switching to the CHA-250 vertical allowed 4
15-meter QSOs and 9 QSOs on 20 into the log before it was time to make the drive back to Alameda to work with clients.
N X 6 T  &  W Q 6 X  S t a t s

N6KI joined the day shift to wrap the 48 hour contest.   The day crew not only put NX6T ON 10 meters, they managed to amass nearly 100 more 15 meter QSOs in the log; not to mention taking
the 20-meter QSO total to over 600.

After it was all over, N6KI provided us with comparison stats to our most immediate rivals - the Arizona Outlaws.  Assuming we survive the Log Checking Robot (LCR), NX6T will not only submit
a high score for San Diego section, but for the entire Southwest Division.

Did YOU play in the ARRL DX Cw contest?
Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Monday, February 11, 2019

N6CY and WQ6X Roar remotely in WPX RTTY

W Q 6 X  R e m o t e
This was another near-last minute contest setup at NX6T.  This is also one contest that almost didn't make it. As of Friday afternoon, our uWave microwave link (a major component in our remote internet access) was down and it didn't look GooD.  Thanks to behind-the-scenes troubleshooting from K6AM, W6JBR and N6KI, NX6T was ready to roll by 02:00z; WQ6X put the 1st QSO in the log at 02:38z.

Operating hours were split up between N6CY (Rick) and WQ6X (Ron). Both Rick and Ron operated remotely; Ron on STN-2 and Rick on STN-1. Saturday morning, N6CY made an onsite visit to NX6T, for 6 hours of actual B-I-C.  Our biggest problem was turning the amplifier powers up and down, blending max. power out while remaining under 70-degs(c) room temperature.

N 6 C Y  @  N X 6 T - S T N - 1
We ran a pair of Elecraft K3/0 controlled K3's onsite in Fallbrook. STN-1 dumped its RF into a classic ACOM 2000a amp while STN-2 dumped ITS RF into an Expert 1.5k amplifier. STN2 used the C-31 yagi for the high bands, allowing WQ6X to jump around on 10 & 15 while N6CY kept 20-meters
alive for HOURS by way of a Stepp-IR which can be switched between NORM, BI-DIRECTIONAL and 180 degrees for QUICK direction shift. 

The Shorty-Fourty 2-el. yagi and 80-meter inverted bazooka-Vee were shared between stations.
No coax switch "collisions" occurred the entire contest.  The lockouts and interlocks were in perfectly-timed operation; most desirable during dual-OP remote access.

N 6 C Y  &  W Q 6 X  R u n n i n g  R e m o t e l y
While the K3/0 radio connections ran flawlessly, because we used Hamachi & VNC Viewer to run the N1MM+ software, occasiuonally, the entry screen would freeze even though signasls could be heard thru the K3/0 - very FRUSTRATING.  If we "just disappeared" on you; that's probably why.

Because N1MM+ is equipped with some graphical stat displays it is easy to devise a hybrid display from 4 separate screens.  Having a visual on the number of QSOs and the point-value of those individual QSOs provides another look at our overall contest performance.

Because we are still in the PIT of the sunspot cycle the SFI never went
above 70.  Unfortunately, a K=3 solar disturbance put a lot of noise into the RX, while creating some weird fading effects.

It seemed quite common to turn the yagi AWAY from the direction of a signal only to receive an S-9 call from that very direction.

Having shared log access between the two station setups (whether Rick was onsite or remote) allowed us to see QSOs added from the other station running a frequency.  When BOTH OPs
were "pounding it out", the hour stats showed some nice "spikes".  Several times, I would see
a station work Rick on 20 meters and 5 minutes later find me running on 15.

Overall, N6CY & WQ6X gave it one keckuva of a GO in the WPX RTTY contest.

Based on the scores submitted to the 3830Scores.Com website, it would seem that NX6T took
12th place worldwide, 8th place for USA and 1st-place for W6 and CQ Zone 3.  How we end up
in the final results may be considerably different than the predictions.

DiD YOU work NX6T? We worked many stations on multiple-bands. Thank You for that.
What was the WPX RTTY Contest like for You?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

WQ6X Works XE-RTTY + 3 QSO Parties - TWICE

A relatively new idea I played around with throughout 2018 was the concept of dual-OP'ing
various weekends.  Dual-OP'ing manifests in many similar-but-different forms:
  1. Joining up with the crew at NX6T remotely (using either the Elecraft K3/0 or the RCForb software to control the radio on the other end) interspersed with running remotely as WQ6X
    for a state QSO party and/or "mini" DX contest.
  2. Joining up w/NX6T remotely but from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.  During off-shift periods
    (from NX6T) I can run the SAME contest as WQ6X using my FT-1000mp.
  3. Running the K3/0 as NX6T from my office internet router, followed by a trip to W7AYT's
    QTH to run the SAME contest entities as WQ6X.
For this weekend I chose method #3.  In order to test receiving with the K3/0 remote configuration,
I tuned around 40 meters listening to FOC contest members work themselves in the FOC members only Cw contest.  (Non FOC members are worth 0 points to them, so they largely ignore us..)

The main focus for this weekend
was mostly RTTY & Cw activities so
the audio lines were configured to mix electronic music (by way of Pandora)
at a low-level "behind" the radio's receive audio.

When running a frequency during a RTTY contest, Rx audio is not so important; easy access to the
computer screen is what matters.

The 1st contest weekend in February brings the following events:

  • The VT QSO Party beginning at 00:00z (4pm Friday in W6-Land).
  • The Mexican RTTY (XE-RTTY) contest beginning at 12:00z (4am in W6-Land).
  • The MN QSO Party at 14:00z (6am in W6-Land).
  • The BC QSO Party at 16:00z (8am in W6-Land).
  • The 4 hour North American (NA) Sprint contest.
In preparation for these 4 events, the latest N1MM+ updates were made and contest logs created
for each event on BOTH computers; in Fallbrook and the laptop used @ W7AYT.  Friday evening tuning the bands (during amp and antenna testing) put two VT stations in the log before finding 4 hours sleep.

Virtually @ 12:00z my eyes snapped open, enough to find my way to the kitchen and fire-UP a pot
of STRONG Kona & Juan Valdez Columbian coffee.  Last-minute equipment complications delayed the 1st RTTY QSO to 13:18z on a relatively WIDE-Open 40 meters.

N X 6 T's  T o w e r  # 1 -- C 3 1  Y a g i
While 18 QSOs in the 1st hour isn't great, it DiD bring important multipliers and multi-point QSOs, including: VE2, XE2, JO7, 7N2, E21, JH3, JH0/0 & YB2.  Working all there was to work on 40 and
20 not yet happening I caught a 30 minute nap, awakening to a 20-meter opening and the sound of MNQP and VTQP stations on BOTH Cw & Ssb. 

By 16:00z all the contest GiGs were happening, altho the first BCQP QSOs did not hit the log until 20:30z.  Switching between logs, while not easy, allowed multi-tasking the 4 events.  Later in the day, the SUB-Rx in the FT-1000mp allowed me to work one contest and check activity on the band from the other GiGs.

T h e  l a t e s t  F T - 1 0 0 0 mp  setup

Arriving @ W7AYT around 00:45z I quickly setup the FT-1000mp with immediate hopes of jumping right into the Cw Sprint contest only to encounter an S9+ noise level that turned out to be caused by the laptop's generic switching power supply.  Not having a replacement pack, the decision was made to hijack the NIR-12 power cable to run the Toshiba DynaDock, relegating its power pack to run the laptop.

Now device noise-free, the effects a K-Index = 3 geomagnetic storm kept signals weak. 

At W7AYT, 20 meters was already gone and no
Sprint signals were heard on 40.  Moving down
to 80 meters, I heard many stations, all who could
not hear me.  Switching back to 40, 7 contacts made
it into the log before the 04:00z contest end.

The MN QSO Party ended at 00:00z; 2 down, 3 to go.  Unfortunately, the BCQP also ended at 04:00z, but only for the day; part 2 resumed at 16:00z on Sunday, altho no BC stations were heard until 20:20z.

Overall, not a lot of QSOs were made as WQ6X on Sunday.  Nevertheless, the goal of operating multiple events as WQ6X at W7AYT was fulfilled.  The 8JK Sloper and CH-250 vertical enabled nation-wide coverage and even QSOs with KP4, CX7 & YV5.

Did YOU work the Mexican RTTY, BCQP, MNQP, VTQP & Sprint contents.

Is WQ6X and/or NX6T in YOUR Log?