Wednesday, July 31, 2019

K6QLF Field Day - Part 4 - One last look

It boggles my mind that 2019 Field Day (which not long ago seemed so far away) is now a month behind us. This last weekend, amidst the IOTA (Islands On The Air) Contest, the monthly meeting of the Amateur Radio Club of Alameda took place at the Alameda hospital. [CLICK HERE] to view the ARCA website.

Not only were there a bunch of pictures taken ([CLICK HERE] to view), the highlights were put together making the video at the top of this Blog Page.  This Blog is Part 4 in the series of write-ups
I wrote up about my involvement with the K6QLF Field Day from the Aeolian Yacht Harbor in Alameda.  Here is what has been written thus far:
  1. [x] - WQ6X Floats a 24-hour Field Day w/K6QLF - Part 1
  2. [x] - WQ6X Floats a 24-hour Field Day w/K6QLF - Part 2
  3. [x] - WQ6X Floats a 24-hour Field Day w/K6QLF - Part 3
While I have run Field Day from many different venues, running as a maritime mobile was
something new for me.  We may not have been out on the "high seas" (a GooD thing), however
the boat experienced its moments of rocking back and forth in the harbor adding to the enjoyment
of the operation.

In the above picture, it looks as tho this were a permanent installation, not one that was gone 48 hours later.  Anticipating a lot of Cw contacts, the external Cw filters were brought aboard the boat
to demonstrate the Stereo Cw concept.  To make Ssb operation more enjoyable, a classic (50 yr-old) Radio Shaft SP-150 speaker was used.  Running the ICOM 7000 again for Field Day was a joy, having the external 5" video screen to the operator's left.  The logging computer was put at eye-level using the audio filters as a short pedestal.

Lest anyone think that Field Day is nothing more than a "beer fest" and not an emergency preparedness exercise, our operation included a fully functional Alameda CERT van at the
yacht harbor.  This van also made its debut at the Alameda street faire this last weekend.

Anytime non-hams suggest that amateur radio is obsolete because we have cellphones and internet, I remind them that power failures and governments can arbitrarily choose to disrupt those services - whereas to shut down our radios, they have to find us first.

Do YOU play in Radio Amateur's Field Day every year?

Did YOU participate in the 2019 Field Day event?


WQ6X Runs best IOTA Contest EVER

The RSGB IOTA (Islands On The Air) is a fun GiG.  Running a mere 2 weeks after the IARU Championship, it is another variation on a DX contest.  Officially, I've only played around in the IOTA contest twice: a miserably horrible 15 meter attempt in 2012 and a more organized event in 2017 ([CLICK HERE] to read about that one).  The MAIN Goal for my operation this year was simply
to achieve Personal Best - I.e. do significantly better than the 2017 event.
Being a European-based contest event, they always seem to start at 12:00z; which is 5am on the Pacific West Coast.  This year, I couldn't roll out of bed until 14:00z, with the 1st QSO making it to the log at 14:27; luckily, 40 meters was still open to Asia.  11 QSOs made it to the log before it was time to head over to the Alameda Hospital for the monthly meeting of the Amateur Radio Club of Alameda (ARCA) where I shared in giving a presentation to the group on last month's Field Day exercise from the Aeolian Yacht harbor in Alameda.  ([CLICK HERE] to read the 1st of the 4 part Blog series about this event.)

The IOTA Contest is unique in that we can work any station anywhere; however, if they happen to
be on an island, the QSO is worth 15-points, instead of the usual 2-points for non-Island stations. 
The East Coast and West Coast have unique advantages. 

Because countries like England and Northern Ireland are considered islands, E. Coast stations
have easier access to 15-point QSOs from that area of the world.  They also have considerably easier access to the N. Africa islands and the many islands in the Mediterranean.  Because Japan is majorly 3 islands (along with a bunch of little ones, like Okinawa) West Coasters have easier access to them; and of course Australia (VK) and New Zealand (ZL) are considered islands - both just a "skip across the pond".

N X 6 T  @ M i d n i t e
As you can see, Asia was WQ6X's 2nd-most worked continent, with Oceania coming in a distant 4th (there are more EU stations than there are stations in OC).  As often happens in this event, there are island stations calling CQ during the weekend that are not in the contest; in 2017, as I recall, V73NS was in that category - frustrating.

For 2019, I was amazed at the relative
increase in EU stations making it to NX6T,
which is geographically located in the DEEP southwest portion of USA.  Then again, having access to a C-31 Yagi for 20 and even 2-elements on 40, made all the difference.  Somehow I missed the 15-meter opening and 10-meters seemed sound asleep up on the hill in Fallbrook. 

At one point the QRN-level on 40 reared-up, forcing me to take refuge on 80-meters.  After only 9 QSOs for a lot of time spent, it became clear that a noisy-40 was more better than a quiet-80 - GO Figure.

Another difference that made quite a difference
was the use of Stereo-Cw to separate different offset signals at different "locations" inside my listening experience. 

The K3's NR-Dsp (when it works) sets things apart.  However, in all honesty, often times the external analog audio filters are WAY MORE effective than Dsp-circuits; no matter who designs them.

Comparing the QSOs/hr versus the MULTs/hr stats demonstrates that multipliers seem to happen more during the "quieter" periods of operation; possibly because out of "desperation" I go S&P'ing looking for them.  Every successful single-OP operation has at it's base successful S&P'ing to complement running frequencies.
My original goal for the 2019 IOTA contest was to significantly outdo the run in 2017.  It would seem that a 3x score increase was made; the fact that this was an HP operation and not LP one probably was a significant factor, followed by the friendly (albeit sleepy) Space-WX forecast.
What about YOU?
Did YOU play in the Islands on the Air Contest?
Is WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

WQ6X Blast from the PAST: NAQP RTTY

In addition to running the RTTY RU and WPX RTTY GiGs, over the years,
I have discovered the NAQP RTTY to be an excellent 12-hour diversion from
the insanity of the world I live in.

LooKing back in the archive and past WQ6X Contest Blog entries, it would seem
that I have participated in the following NAQP RTTY events:
  1. [x] - FEB 2013 - NAQP RTTY from the Phoenix Lodge
  2. [x] - JUL 2013 - Multi-2 w/N6GEO from his Brentwood QTH
  3. [x] - FEB 2014 - Multi-2 w/N6GEO from his Brentwood QTH
  4. [x] - FEB 2016 - Remote operation from Harrah's Laughlin
  5. [x] - JUL 2016 - Remote operation from the Clarion Hotel
  6. [x] - FEB 2017 - Remote operation from Alameda
  7. [x] - JUL 2017 - Remote operation of NAQP & DMC RTTY Events
  8. [x] - JUL 2018 - Remote operation of NAQP & DMC RTTY Events
  9. [x] - JUL 2019 - Remote operation from Alameda
 NAQP contests are unique in that the SAME contest is run during the winter months and then repeated in the mid-summer months.  The NAQP RTTY GiG is run first in February and
again in July.  If I completely screw it up in February I get another shot at it in July.

For WQ6X, NAQP RTTY began with a completely ad-HOC portable operation in Feb. 2013 using
a pair of vertical ham-sticks lashed to a pole shoved up a tree.  Thanks to the MFJ 949-E antenna tuner, I was able to put 90 QSOs in the log from all over North and Central America.

For the July (2013) GiG, I teamed up with N6GEO as we made our first test-run of the FLEX-1500
(5 w.) SDR rig into an HL-45b amplifier; the same configuration we used to drive the Alpha 87 amp
to 149.49 watts, enabling us to win the 2014 RTTY RU contest as WP2/WQ6X from St. Croix. 
([CLICK HERE] to read about that.)

NAQP RTTY-wise, I took 2015 off to play in various Cw/Ssb NAQP GiGs.  In 2016 a vacation at Harrah's in Laughlin allowed me to cash-in on a free room comp (with a speedy internet connection) and win some $$$'s at the Blackjack tables (one of my hobbies).  On Saturday morning I settled in for 10 hours to run NAQP RTTY remotely from Fallbrook; after which, it was back to the Blackjack tables - at The Golden Nugget, not Harrah's.

For the July 2016 GiG my vacation week found me lounging at the Clarion hotel.  Attempting to run the NAQP RTTY from the hotel was virtually impossible due to electrical noise from the construction site across the parking lot.  Because I was too lazy to go fetch the MFJ-626 noise canceller and a different antenna configuration to hang out the 25th floor window,  on that basis, the choice of remoting in to Fallbrook was a no-Brainer.

For 2017 I was back running remote again.  Different this time was that the DMC RTTY contest
was "wrapped around" the 12 hours of the NAQP GiG, allowing me to essentially run both contests;
at different times, of course.

For 2018 somehow I missed out on the February NAQP RTTY, choosing instead to write a Blog entitled WQ6X reminisces about RTTY.  Similar to 2017, the NAQP RTTY contest was again wrapped by the DMC RTTY GiG.  This time, a respectable 293 QSOs made it to the log and I had a splendid time doing it.

All the above brings us up to the year 2019.  In February, client commitments kept me off the radio leaving me to double-vow that I would not miss the July GiG; I didn't.  While it began as a disaster,
the exhilarating "Just DOIT!" attitude prevailed, putting 290 QSOs in the log; almost as much as 2017's 293 - GO Figure.

The NAQP GiG this year succeeded in shaking down both sides of the Alameda - Fallbrook connection, ensuring I will be ready for the CQ W.W. RTTY contest in September.

What about YOU?

Do YOU ever play in the NAQP RTTY Contests?

Is, WQ6X, N6GEO or NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Monday, July 22, 2019

Why you should ALWAYS OP-On

Virtually every contest logging program I am aware of has some variation of a software facility that more-or-less goes by the name of OP-ON.  One of the first things I do when I sit down to operate
live @ NX6T, N6GEO, K6QLF or even WQ6X (@W7AYT) is to type-in OPON to bring up one of
the above screens.  In a way, when I remote-in to NX6T, OP'ing On is even MORE important,
which I shall detail later in this Blog.

As WQ6X I use the N1MM+ and WINTEST logging programs; at NX6T we've recently added DX-Log (a derivative of WINTEST) into our contest operations from Fallbrook.  Because both programs were [allegedly] designed by the same designer, the operational similarities make things easier for OPs new to Fallbrook who are familiar with one or the other program.

While it is customary to type in one's callsign, virtually ANY name or moniker can be used.  Sometimes we mentor not-yet-licensed but budding contest operators; using a unique name like "Joe+WQ6X" allows us to track how we did during those periods and if necessary, scrutinize those QSOs more closely for any data-entry mistakes.

Now, when it comes to "tracking" while some people resent the idea of "being tracked" (BiG Brother watching and all), there are a number of legitimate reasons to utilize (and capitalize) on the use of OPON:

  • To get credit for QSOs made.  This is not only good for an ego-stroke, it allows us to make a determination as to what operating shift a given operator seems to be best suited for.  For example, it didn't take long to realize that I make a good 2am to 6-8am operator, but not so good for the 8am to NooN+ shift.  On the other hand K4RB (often my relief operator in the morning) is best suited for the 8am - 2pm shift, but isn't much of an evening OP.
    Other operators are more suited for the 2pm to 8pm shift, and I often run the "dinner hour" (8 to 10:30 pm) before getting some sleep for the 2am shift.
    (Notice the small block of QSOs made under the NX6T callsign.  This was an operator error which was quickly corrected.  When Rick brought to my attention that he had initially forgotten to OPON, that "mystery" was no longer a mystery.)
  • As a contest is being after-documented, knowing who was running which radio, when, allows me to e-mail those OPs for their input on how the contest was running, as well as their take on unique events (such as the "F - U" guy during a recent JIDX Ssb GiG) while they were OP'd in.
  • I often take web-cam pictures during onsite NX6T operations for use in this WQ6X Contest Blog.  Because we sometimes train newer operators I may not immediately recognize someone; being able to correlate them against the actual log makes it easier to write informational "bits" for whatever Blogs I am working on or anticipating.
  • With programs like N1MM+, identifying myself allows me to setup the window positions
    to my liking and then SAVE those window positions.  The next time I sit down to operate,
    no matter what position changes have been made by other operators, when I OPON,
    the software rearranges the screen layout to the way it was when I left.

    This trick can also be exploited when I run WQ6X from W7AYT.  Because the screen layout is considerably different for RTTY (versus Cw, for example), using an OPON of WQ6X-RTTY allows unique operational setups on a per-mode basis.
  • For running Ssb contests with N1MM+, using OPON offers another useful possibility: different .WAV files can be made for EACH operator - when that operator uses OPON, and presses the function keys to (to call CQ, ID, or send an exchange), his/her set of
    voice files are used automatically.  Yes, it takes advance preparation to make all this
    work, and, once working, this technique is a HUGE time-saver.
  • Thanks to the drop-down lists in WINTEST and DX-Log, when I OPON, I receive an overview of who has been operating recently.  This information makes it easier to determine who should be e-mail solicited for upcoming radiosport events.
There are probably other uses for utilizing the useful OPON facility in a unique & useful way. 
When those ideas become obvious to me, look for a Part-2 in this Blog-series.

What about YOU?

Do YOU use OPON?

If NoT, WHY NoT?

If you do, what benefits have you found in doing so?

WQ6X Solo-OP's NAQP RTTY - It Ain't Over 'Til it's Over

RCForb rig control + MMTTY RTTY control
As radiosport events often do, the 2019 summer NAQP RTTY contest seemed to come at me out of "nowhere".  An e-mail from NE6I encouraging me to join up on one of the SCCC NAQP RTTY teams reminded me of the 12-hour event for this weekend.  I sent an e-mail to NX6T operators in the San Diego Contest club about running a multi-OP event on Saturday (multi-OPs get to run all 12 hours
of the contest).  It would seem that everyone was either out of town or only up for sipping brewskies
on Saturday; they all encouraged me to gopherit.

The [Friday] evening before, attending the Toastmaster's SF bay area District 57 awards dinner, one of the oft-chanted motivational-bylines for the evening was four simple words: 


It was out of that CAN DO spirit that I troasted out-going District-57 executive director Diane Pleuss with a tongue twister representing my Toastmaster club - The Alameda Tongue Twisters.

I figured, if I can do it Friday evening then I can also do it on Saturday afternoon.  If I had known what I was up for radiosport-wise, I might have just said screw the can-do attitude, pulled the covers over my head and slept through it all.

Taking my own advice from the previous Blog entry, after the awards dinner I came back and
settled in on checking things out in order to be ready for the NAQP RTTY event some 12 hours later. 
Lessee... N1MM LoG file ready?  CHECK.  Internet connection solid on both ends?  CHECK.  Wireless headsets charged?  CHECK.  Stereo contest audio properly functional?  CHECK. 
Plenty of food and rest?  CHECK.  RCForb and VNC Viewer Software fully functional?  CHECK.

Station  N X 6 T  Friday evening after a successful equipment checkout
Dennis (N6KI) went to a lot of trouble properly configuring the Expert 2KL amplifier, increasing the
3 - 5 watts output from STN-1's Elecraft K-3 radio up to a respectable full-duty 99 watt RTTY signal. 
Because most 100-watt radios can only run only about 50-watts full-duty on RTTY, I figured running
a near-full 100 watts would sound like the equivalent of running a Kilowatt amplifier in other contests. 
As it turns out, doing that was one of the things that went flawlessly right.

Saturday morning, thinking that everything was ready to go, I moved on to other things with the intention of starting the NAQP GiG at 19:00z (12pm).  Because single-OP operations may operate only 10 out of the 12 hours, I figured giving up the 1st and the last hour of the contest would leave
the middle 10 hours to be used most effectively.

At 10:00 am, a 2-hour emergency client call ran me right up to my anticipated starting time.  Bringing up all the software required to run STN-1 on RTTY, I discovered that the software and hardware were horribly out of synch.  Dennis verified only that the radio could transmit 99 watts via the amplifier and that the A/C and antennas were working properly; verifying proper RTTY operation was MY JOB on Friday nite, not Saturday afternoon - OOOPS.

I sent out a frantic "HELP!" message to NX6T's private operator information list and received a quick call from John, W6JBR.  Within an hour, we had the radio transmitting proper AFSK RTTY except that my transmit offset frequency was OFF.  Another hour later the problem was resolved and I was now on the air, presumably to run the remaining 10 hours of the contest.

My official start time was 22:00z.  I chose to begin with 15 meters and work my way down.  Unfortunately, wasting those initial 2 hours found the band to be on its way out, yielding only 5 QSOs.
Within minutes of switching to 20-meters, I was focused and in the groove, running a RUN frequency (14092.92).  About every 10 minutes I would shift the C-31 antenna another 30 degrees (clockwise or counter-clockwise) to give other stations an opportunity to work the MIGHTY WQ6X RTTY Signal.

90 minutes into the operation I decided to shift my RTTY receive offset from 1170 hz back to a more pleasing-sounding 1275 hz.  Shortly afterwards, W6JBR texted me asking why I was not responding to his calls.  It would seem that I triggered another offset problem.  With 20 minutes of futzing we solved the problem and THIS time we instructed MMTTY to SAVE the PROFILE for NEXT time. 
I so like the settings I used my SNAP-Shot program to capture the screens so I can duplicate
the proper settings for RTTY operations @ W7AYT.

What amazed me was how many stations violated BEEF #4 from my Role of Respect in radio sport list - they work me and then attempt to solicit QSOs on MY run frequency.  Some stations were so weak (slow fade-in then fade-out) I could not work them; to "punish" me they then attempted to work stations on my run frequency.  While they may have been weak at my QTH, they were often disruptive to those stations trying to work ME.

Shortly after I moved down to 40 meters, a CM8 station (who shall remain nameless) trying to work stations on my run frequency was so persistently annoying that I made a frequency shift to 7103.03, giving him his own run frequency; IF he knew how to run a frequency.  Eventually, he found me, gave me a legitimate QSO and skulked off into the QRM.

My operating goal for the rest of the evening was to periodically shift operations from 40 meters, down to 80 and then back to 40 again.  I have a policy against running RTTY on 160 meters (FT-8 is ok tho) so I stayed away from "Top Band".  Because there is a 10-minute minimum per band-change requirement, I had to be careful; making a QSO on a new band locks me in for 10 minutes. 
If no one else is hearing me then I need to find ways to use the rest of that time, like making
a pit-stop or stopping in the kitchen to top off the coffee mug.

As things started off so poorly, I was afraid my operation would end up being a no-show for my SCCC #1 team. 

However, when it was all over with, WQ6X managed just over 7 hours of actual op time, putting 290 QSOs into the log.  Had I not lost so much OP time, that number probably would've been well over 400+ (look for me in February).

During NAQP, I managed to work K6JO and WN6K on TEAM #1 and only NC6K from TEAM #2 (altho I did see K6MUG on the decoder screen at one point).

While I wanted to call it quits several times during this frustrating event, with the frequency running (and occasional S&P) flowing so well (when it WAS flowing), I transformed Friday nite's "I can do it" chant into a mere two words - "JUST DOIT!".  So remember - when in doubt, JUST DOIT!

Posting colored-stats always makes me feel a little better and gives me something to look back at
a year from now when I am contemplating doing this all over again.

What about YOU?

Did YOU play in the NAQP RTTY contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

7 Things I Do BE-4 Every Radiosport Weekend

Recently, I wrote a BloG entitled "7 Things
I do after EVERY Radiosport Weekend

You may be wondering if there are 7 things I do BE-4 every contest weekend; and of course, there is.  Preminicising this Blog Entry, a couple of weeks ago I scribbled
a page of notes, which I eventually went
on to prioritize.

Sometimes after enjoying a Peanut Butter Stout after a contest, as I am preparing Blog material for a write up on that GiG
I am also looking ahead to the next radiosport weekend; either the next contest, or, the 2nd part (Ssb, Cw or RTTY) of this particular style of contest (Ex: DX, WPX and SS contests are all mode specific on different weekends.)

In an overall sense, the seven things to be considered before a radiosport contest event include:

  1. To begin with, how do we find out about the different contest events each weekend? 
    While there are dozens of ways to find contest activity, my top-3 favorites include:
        1. The WA7BNM Contest Calendar
        2. CQ Magazine's Contest Calendar
        1. QST Magazine's Contest Corral
  2. R T F R --- READ the RULES FIRST.
    It amazes me how virtually EVERY radiosport contest, it is clear that most casual entrants have not read the rules.  For example, if you read the rules for the JIDX contest it CLEARLY STATES that it is a JA only contest.  At 4am on 40 meters, the Southeast stations who respond to my CQ JA calls are afflicted with one of the following:
    A) They can't understand CW and therefore don't know what Dit-Dah-Dah-Dah  Dit-Dah
          means - in which case, they should not call me.
    B) They haven't read the rules so they don't know it is a JA-only contest - in which case,
          they should not call me.
    C) They are bored and want something to do  - in which case, they should not call me.
    D) Their 6AM coffee hasn't kicked in yet so they dunno what's going on - in which case,
          they should not call me.
    E) They just DON'T CARE whether or not they disrupt an activity that was running smoothly
         until they showed up  - in which case, they should not call me.
    F) They are actually sound asleep - Sleep-Operating - in which case, they should not call me.

    When the rules say it is a JA-ONLY CONTEST, what part about that do you NoT understand?

  3. Determine WHERE you will operate the contest event from.
    The operating location (QTH) you choose can have a profound impact on the quality
    of the radiosport operation you run during that weekend. 
    For example, over the years I have run radiosport events from different venues:
    A) NX6T remotely from Concord, Alameda and even a hotel room at Harrah's Laughlin.
    B) Portable from N6GEO's and W7AYT's QTH's, or while house-sitting in various locations.
    C) As /MM from a sailboat in the Oakland harbor or a cabin cruiser on the Sacramento river.
    D) Running off of batteries on Mt. Diablo, Mt. Abel, Modoc county or Carpinteria state beach.
    E) Running /P (portable) next to several different lighthouses in one weekend.
    F) Running as WP2/WQ6X from a villa on the island of St. Croix
    G) Running from 3rd-floor lodge hotel rooms using hamstick dipoles.
    H) From cabanas on Kona and Kauai and 33rd floor condos on Maui.
         A tuned-wire shot over the tip of a palm tree or a folded dipole taped
         under the condo eaves is all one needs in order to enjoy world-wide communication.

    The challenge is to leverage those different locations into successful/winning operations.

  4. Make sure that any contest logging and/or contest support software has been properly updated.  Programs like DX-Log and N1MM+ are updated frequently (often weekly). 
    If you install an update, test it thoroughly BE-4 the contest event.

  5. Verify the workability of all radios/antennas (if you are onsite) or have someone do that for you (if you are running remotely).  Remote operation requires that the internet connection on BOTH ENDS of the operation be as fast and spiffy as possible.  Intermittent bouts of internet dropout can quickly RUIN the operating experience.

  6. Check recent Space-WX forecasts, as well as propagation charts for the contest time of year.  If the A/K indexes are OFF the CHART, the kind of radiosport event you experience will
    be dramatically different from a no-storm period, such as my experience during this last weekend's 12-hour NAQP RTTY contest.

  7. Eat healthy and well; Sleep DEEP; Exercise regularly; Meditate if you are so inclined.
    Attempting to run a contest while hungry simply puts your attention on your stomach,
    not on what you're hearing in the speaker or headphones.
    Running a contest shift while sleepy runs the risk of falling asleep at the operating position while an auto-CQ calls on-and-on - forever.  (In all honesty, this HAS happened to me.)
    Proper exercise keeps my limbs limber throughout the contest. 
    I recall many visits to NX6T in Fallbrook where before an operating shift I would run
    down the steep hill and then trudge-Jog my way back UP that hill.  Taking 4 minutes all
    by itself can significantly open up the bloodflow (which is good for the brain).  If you have walking/running limitations you can still exercise your upper body, gaining nearly equivalent benefits - your mileage may vary.  Don't take MY word for it, check with your physician first.
If you are just a casual radiosport operator (like I used to be) then these 7 items are probably not all that crucial.  However, if (like me today) you strive to be the BEST you can Be and do the BEST you can Do, the above 7 items can make a HUGE difference.

What separates a novice operator, a good operator, a VERY good operator and a radiosport "SPECIALIST" is paying attention to the above 7 points before EVERY competition event. 
There are probably more than these seven items, however these 7 are MWR (Minimum
Weekend Requirements).

What about YOU?
How do YOU prepare for a radiosport event?

Friday, July 19, 2019

WQ6X Dual-OP's [another] IARU HF GiG

This last weekend was INTENDED to be a dual-OP operation during the 2019 IARU HF Championship.  Dual-OP'ing allows me to give a thorough test to BOTH sides of things;
in Concord, as well as Fallbrook.  A major goal was to reprise a pair of dual-Wins, as was done
in the 2018 IARU GiG as I shared my "IARU Blast from the Past" blog ([CLICK HERE] to read that.)

Being the "night guy" at NX6T, I fired things up shortly after the 12:00z radiosport start (5am). 
For purposes of the IARU GiG, 40 was WIDE OPEN to the USA and Canada; within an hour Hawaii and Japan were in the log.  Unfortunately, a Saturday morning business meeting required that I head out to Pleasant Hill at 7:30.  Fortunately, the morning man, K4RB was B-I-C at Fallbrook shortly after that.  Because the station setup @ W7AYT was ready to go, I put a half-dozen QSOs in the WQ6X Log before heading out the door.

N 6 K I  +  N N 6 X  +  N 6 E E G
By 22:30 (3:30pm) while NX6T's day crew was running pileups, I was back in Concord, B-I-C
as WQ6X, firing up on 20-meters.  Band condx. made this part of the IARU GiG basically a USA and Canada affair, with KH7/WH7 thrown in as a "Bonus"; reading the after-contest soapbox comments pretty much confirmed that experience.

At 01:12z it was time to brave 40, which turned out to be the same as 20, just on a lower frequency.  Eventually CE2LR, LU0HQ made it to the log, along with PX2A and CT9ABO  an hour later, followed by EF8R and then RK3A, ES5R, VK2GR, VK5ARG and SN0HQ; all with the Lazy 8JK Sloper pointing more-or-less N-E. 

The FT-1000mp running in Stereo-CW mode
At W7AYT, I have settled in on a consistent equipment configuration as well as the outdoor antenna configuration; for better or worse.  While WQ6X will probably not take a 1st-place (other than for EB section) from this QTH, I am always amazed at being able to add "deep" European callsigns to the contest log from W7AYT's DX-Vortex QTH.

The 8JK-sloper was the mainstay antenna; then again, occasionally the onsite CH-250 vertical would present a lower S/N ratio on receive, although I would still transmit on the sloper.  If they can hear
me better on the sloper, I Xmit on the sloper; if the CH-250 is better for receive then I use that - it
may make no logical sense that a vertical should have a lower S/N ratio; however what IS, IS.

WQ6X - STN1 (Listening) + N6ERD - STN2 (40-m Ssb)
As the evening wore on VK4CT, P44W, TI7W, JH3FUK and 8N3HQ made it to the log before
I finally had to call it quits for some sleep before my 2am shift @ NX6T.  As it turns out, N6ERD
was busy filling the Ssb log, so I got another 90 minutes sleep before it was time to take over on
Cw, finishing the contest.

At 10:30z, I spent the final 90 minutes of
the IARU GiG alternating between 80 and 160 meters, as the e-coast stations were enjoying their morning coffee.  In the midst
of the 80-m run, JE6RPM slipped through
the noise followed by CE2LR, VE7DZO
and RU0HQ.

During the last hour of the IARU contest a switch to 160 brought a bunch of West Coast stations followed by KH6CJJ. 

After the obligatory 10 minutes on 160, a shift
was made back to 80-meters where NX6T was rewarded with LU8DPM, JA1CJP, VK2BJ & KH6CJJ

Then, switching to 40-meters, Asia stations were everywhere, beginning with RM0M, BH1NGG, BG7OAJ & E2HQ; not to mention the dozens of JA stations - most with BiG signals - and then, VK6LWK7RVX was
the final QSO @ 11:59:42z.

For me, the IARU GiG is always frustrating as being a mere 24 hour event, I am just getting
warmed up  when its time to shut it down.  This year, NX6T made a few changes BE-4 IARU
start; most specifically, replacing WINTEST with the nearly-identical looking DX-Log software. 
Looking at the stat screens and the data entry layout, I could hardly discern the difference.

Another change for the 2019 IARU GiG @ NX6T was the re-introduction
of a 25+ yr-old classic Kenwood TS-950SDX
at STN-3, the Mult-station (in place of the usual Elecraft K3 at that OP position).  When the IARU GiG was over N6ERD took the TS-950 out of service, presumably to save-the-day, another day.

Many contest operators thought this weekend was more like an NAQP contest, rather than
a Dx-oriented contest.  As WQ6X, I put a whopping 19 IARU zones in the log.  Nevertheless,
it would seem that WQ6X may have been the top CW-only station in the East Bay (EB) section,
and amazingly, possibly for the Pacific Division as well - it has happened before.

Based on the 3830 Scores listing, it would seem that NX6T was top HP multi-OP multi-mode station in the San Diego (SDG) section and possibly for the Southwest Division as well; how well we did for
IARU Zone-6 is a different question altogether.

Did YOU work the 2019 IARU HF Championship?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Friday, July 12, 2019

WQ6X Blast from the PAST: IARU Hf Championship

As time for the 2019 IARU HF Championship nears, I am taken back down the timetrack of past HF operations.  It was interesting to note that 2015 & 2016 were strangely absent, while 2010 --> 2014 and 2017 & 2018 were so robust.  The IARU GiGs during 2010, 2011 & 2012 found me driving to Fallbrook for those events; Randy's Donuts being a necessary stop along the way.

My first IARU contest was July 2010.  In those days, we were JUST getting started as an effective multi-OP setup.  In the above picture is one of only 2 contest uses of a Kenwood TS-950DX (dual-RX) transceiver.  In those days, SO2-V was somewhat over my head so I didn't appreciate what the Kenwood could really do.  Despite that, we managed a 2nd-place multi-OP win from San Diego section and 3rd-place for the Southwest Division.

While 2011 wasn't my first IARU GiG, it was my 1st time using a loaded ICOM-7800.  Running as a mixed-mode Multi-Single operation, the complex 7800 sure fit the bill, IF you could figure out how to make the multitude of filters work; being in the PEAK of Solar Cycle 24, we needed all the help we could get.  That assistance took us to a 1st-place win for San Diego and a 2nd-place win for the Southwest Division - I guess we learned something from 2010.

2012 brought with it an increasing sunspot cycle, making it worth the trip to NX6T in Fallbrook. 
It was my 1st use of the newly acquired Elecraft K3, which was just beginning to really takeover
the contest world.  2012 took not only 1st-place for San Diego Section and Southwestern Division,
but for IARU Zone-6 as well.

For 2013 I did things differently operating SOLO from a portable setup in Alameda.  The HF2-V Vertical was LOADED with radials for 80, 40, 20 & 15.  The ad-HOC operation took 2nd-place for
East Bay and 7th-place for the Pacific Division.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about that event.)

For 2014, I was spared a drive to Fallbrook by joining up with N6GEO in Brentwood, putting up the not-so-stealthy military mast (having it out of the picture by noontime Sunday).  We had come off of our world-winning WP2/WQ6X RTTY RU GiG on St. Croix 6 mos. earlier, and were feeling confident.
The 2014 event also coincided with the WRTC championship with competitor stations operating from Massachusetts.  Running the Flex-1000 and Power-SDR software gave us a 1st-place for East Bay section and a 3rd-place for the Pacific Division.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about that event.)

For some unexplained reason, WQ6X made no contest operations during the 2015 & 2016 IARU GiG; I must've been Rip Van-WQ6X, allowing me to recharge for the IARU excitement of 2017.

In 2017 I joined up with the NX6T crew remotely from Alameda to cover my usual "dinner hour" and after midnight shifts.  We took 1st-place for San Diego Section and Southwestern Division, but only 3rd for IARU Zone-6 - I guess the competition is getting more intense.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about that event.)

In 2018 I began dual-OP'ing contest events from W7AYT's QTH in Concord, allowing me to run
the FT-1000mp as WQ6X and contribute to the NX6T operation remotely.  The 2018 IARU event
also coincided with the WRTC championship, with competitor stations operating from Germany.

NX6T took 1st-place for San Diego section and 2nd-place for Southwest Division and IARU Zone-6.  WQ6X from Concord took 1st-place for East Bay Section, 2nd-place for Pacific Division and 4th-place in IARU Zone-6; not bad for an ad-HOC operation.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about that event.)

 Looking back at all these GiGs offers me hope for a successful dual-OP GiG from W7AYT's QTH again this year.

Are YOU going to play in the 2019 IARU HF Championship?

Have you played in IARU championship GiGs before?
How did things turn out?
Is NX6T or WQ6X in any of those LoGs?

Monday, July 8, 2019

WQ6X Runs another DL-Dx RTTY & Marconi Memorial Contest Weekend

With the exception of a few well-defined, well-laid out contests, most of my operations from NX6T in Fallbrook are last minute, ad-HOC affairs.  From an emergency preparedness standpoint, so-called "emergencies" happen at the-last-minute, out of the blue.  We could say that last-minute radiosport operations are therefore in the spirit of "emergency preparedness".

As both contest events are of European origin, that means for us Left Coasters, we have to get up before sunrise to begin these events from the beginning; DL-Dx RTTY @ 11:00z (4am Pdt) and the Marconi MMC GiG @ 12:00z (5am Pdt).  Because they are both 24 hour events, they end at the same time they started, except tomorrow.

I woke up a 1/2 hour late Saturday morning, putting the first DL-DX RTTY QSO in the log @ 14:47z, running 20-meters until 20:30z.  Then client commitments kept me off the air until 01:30z when I fired-up on 40 meter RTTY for 2 hours until the "maintenance crew" (N6KI & K6AM) preempted my STN-#1 use allowing them to configure a new installation of DX-Log (replacing
the antiquated WINTEST previously running major DX contests, like the upcoming IARU HF GiG).

Stereo CW - (with speakers no less)
While stereo Cw doesn't make much of a difference to remote running RTTY, for the last hour of
the Marconi MMC contest it made a big difference as I chose to run frequencies rather than S & P. 
A CooL thing was when CT1ELZ called in for my 1st-QSO (#001) in the log while running 7014.14.  During the last hour of the MMC GiG peaking weak Cw signals in my left ear (while deemphasizing unwanted signals in the right ear) made all the difference. 

Because of heat considerations and RTTY being a full-duty mode, I kept the power levels down to around ~800 watts.  N6KI turned on the A/C when he left the NX6T site after midnight allowing running the last couple operation hours with the power at nearly 1300 watts.  The "3 db difference"
was probably hardly noticeable.

While poor Space-WX was not a problem,
in general signals were weak and needed
all the Stereo Cw  boosting they could get.

While only 18 QSOs made it to the MMC
log, it seems that for all my effort a 1st-place 40-meter finish for USA was accomplished. 
This is proof once again that even a log
with < 20 QSOs should be submitted - ya' never know how things will turn out.

The DL-Dx RTTY contest (like most RTTY contest GiGs) brought me a lot of frustration from violations of my Top 5 "Rules of Respect in Radiosport.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that 5-part series).  XE1MAL violated Beef #4 when he called me, I gave him my exchange, he ignored my exchange
and began calling other callers on my run frequency (14086.86).  He was so pernicious that I shifted frequency to 14087.87, leaving him behind, being rewarded with an immediate call from XE1SPM
and a host of others who figured it out and called me up 1kc where I enjoyed a relatively quiet run frequency for a couple of hours.

DL - Dx  RTTY  &  Marconi MMC  Stats
 While neither score (above) is all that great, according to the 3830 Stats, it would seem that both took some sort of a 1st place; for W6 in the RTTY GiG and SOSB-40 for the Marconi event.  Time will tell if reality matches up with the 3830 site.
Did YOU work the DL-Dx RTTY or Marconi Memorial Contest GiGs?
Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?