Tuesday, April 14, 2015

WQ6X Joins Team NX6T for 2015 JIDX CW Contest

This last weekend found me on another Amtrak trip to Oceanside allowing me to operate the JIDX contest with team NX6T in Fallbrook.  We had a shortage of CW operators so I ended up running the 2am to 6am shifts solo.  This time of night/morning is my favorite operating period anyway, so no complaints from me.

We ran the usual bevy of K3 radios.  Our antenna system included a 12-db gain C-31 @ 40' (Tower #1) and a classic 3-element Stepp-IR and 2-el. 40 meter yagi @ 70' (Tower #2).
A pair of 80 & 160 meter dipoles drooped from near the top of tower #2 both broadside to Japan.

Being almost 900' above sea level, the Fallbrook location gives an excellent low-angle trajectory bounce off the ionospheric F2-layer for an easy skip "across the pond" to Japan.

While this year's score was 100 QSOs behind the 2014 CW effort, it may still be that as a Multi-single operation we have a significant chance for 1st-place world wide, as we have done for the last 5 years.  Of our 823 QSOs, my 279 contacts comprised 35% of the score.

While this year's event went rather smoothly, the one thing we could not control was the atmospheric effects caused by an M-class flare coming in at the last minute giving an A-Index of 34 at one point.  As a result, we were shy approx 100 - 150 QSOs on 10 meters, explaining our 15% QSO reduction this year.  Surprisingly, next to 160, 10 meters was our WORST band.

Nevertheless I did manage 6 QSOs at the other end of the spectrum (160 meters).  QSOs on 160 are worth 4 points (2 points for 80 & 10).  As for 80, QSOs were made mainly Saturday morning (around 3am).  Operations on 40 meters were overall outstanding, but at the last moment, 15 meters became our top band.

Because this weekend was also the Yuri Gagarin (GC) contest, several times during the contest non-JA stations would want to work us.  If they didn't understand "JA only", we would then send them "599 03", sending them off on their merry way.  In the process, somehow a BG9 (Chinese) station ended up in the log.  No problem - no extra penalties for that.  In retrospect we should have worked the GC contest dudes. keeping a separate log - something to consider for next year.

This year I found that non-JA stations seemed unusually aggressive; in particular, W6's, W7's & VE7's.

As usual, 40-meters around 09:00z to 12:00z was loaded with random shit.  The non-licensed S. American SSB stations were incredibly egregious this last weekend.  There was of course the Cyrillic station on 7.024 and the numerous tuner-uppers; so bad at one point that I thought 40-cw had become the new National Tuneup Frequency.

While I don't normally pay attention to the K3 panoramic adapters, for JIDX it was helpful on Sunday morning when looking for a "hole" within which to run a frequency.  I had to move to several "holes" throughout my stay on 40-meters.

Amazingly enough during this contest I did not hear any Russian beacon stations, nor were there any phantom RTTY stations in the CW spectrum.

During the dinner hour my operating slot was preempted allowing Don K6AM the opportunity to run a frequency on 20-meters remotely from his home QTH.

It always amazes me to watch a radio being operated remotely.  At one point w/o thinking I attempted to look at the DX spot screen on that computer, oblivious to the fact that Don was running a frequency at that time - Oooops.

My typical bitch about no JD1 stations was partially answered this year by an 8N1/JD1 station N6KI heard working a MASSIVE pileup.  While multipliers are important, once we work the main 47 prefectures, even more important than a JD1 are raw QSOs, especially on 160, 80 & 10 meters.  Working easily had new multipliers on as many bands as possible is also more important than "waiting in line" for an illusive JD1 station.

As you can see from the WQ6X prefecture tracker we managed to work all 47 of the Japanese prefectures.  On 40 & 15 meters we worked nearly all of the 47 prefectures.  Because a number of Japanese run low power on 10 meters, having better 10-meter propagation would have upped our multiplier total considerably.
Again this year some (solo) JA stations seem to not know their prefecture number but will give you their JCC# if you ask for it; from which you can extract the prefecture #.  Overall, I find this amazing.  Imagine a California station not knowing what county they are in during CQP.

Something I bitch about in EVERY Cw contest is the proper repeat sending of the prefecture #.  When I send to you "NR?" all I want back from you is the prefecture # - I DO NOT - Repeat DO NOT - want you to send 599 over again.

Often I am asking for a repeat because of quick-fading on your signal.  Sending 599 wastes just enough time that when you get around to sending the NR your signal has faded yet again, requiring another repeat.

All this wastes time and risks logging errors which can cost us all QSO points when the log-checking robot (LCR) evaluates our logs.

Of course we get to my MAIN beef with JIDX contests - not enough Japanese participation.
Again this year, there were 5:1 (or more) N.A. stations calling CQ JA than there were JA stations calling CQ JIDX.  Somehow we need to encourage more Japanese stations to not only play in their own contest but to run a frequency so we can find them.  The only way that can happen is if JA amateurs park themselves in front of their radios for a dozen or more hours and get down to business.

WINTEST screen at the end of JIDX 2015

Did you play in this weekend's JIDX GiG?
How many prefectures did you add to your log?

Sunday, April 5, 2015


This past weekend I took Amtrak to Oceanside allowing me to join up with team NX6T for the 2015 WPX SSB contest; colloquially known as the "Weird Prefix Contest".  Every year we seem to herald the arrival of an increasing number of WEIRD prefixes; altho I guess some people think of NX6 as rather weird.

We operated as a Multi-2 station using 3 K3 radios; 2 for running frequencies and search & pounce (S&P) operations and a 3rd radio to find multipliers on one of the run frequency bands using a lock-out system guaranteeing only 2 transmitted signals at a time.

At NX6T Dennis (N6KI) spent some time this weekend mentoring a couple of up-and-coming contest operators.  SSB contests are a great way to gain exposure to the contest world; the WPX being a world-wide event exposes new operators to the joys of working exotic countries in the course of contest activity.  DX type contests are also an excellent way to learn how to copy weird vocal dialects.  With CW & RTTY dialects are not a problem.  Voice contests teach operators to copy numbers under adverse conditions.

In addition to WQ6X we had quite an array of operators including: N6ERD, KB7V, NA6MB, N6KI, NN6X, N6EEG, W6JBR, WA3IHV, AG6KA, KJ6YXI & KK6NON.

Station #2 @ NX6T

In addition to an array of quality operators, at NX6T we make use of a number of operating aids, including Mr. Bill, the Easy Button and Por-Que Pig.  I even went so far as to record the Easy Button into voice memory #3 as the QRZ message while running a frequency.

We of course make use of the various DX clusters, skimmer utilities (for CW & RTTY contests) and the occasional tip off that comes by way of VHF repeaters.

As a multi-operator setup we are allowed to make use of just about any form of assistance we can think of.  That is one of the reasons we run 3 (or more radios), allowing "off duty" operators the opportunity to locate important multipliers.

Space weather wise things were not too bad altho on 10 & 15 meters the atmospheric noise was severe enough that it made many signals sound super distorted.
Once I figured this out I realized there were not a bunch of "bad" radios showing up on the air.

Super-quick fading was also noticed; especially on 10 meters where a station would jump up in strength and just as quickly disappear.  This is yet another reason (as I have pointed out in other blogs) that contest exchanges should be kept short - insuring that the entire message is exchanged before the signal fades out.
Stepp-IR + 2 el. 40 @ 70'

For this contest it initially seemed that 20-meters was going to be a dud with 40-meters being our major showing.  By the time it was over 20 meters topped at 1006 QSOs, followed by a close 988 on 15 meters.  10 & 40 meters were a close call at 752 & 739 respectively, leaving 217 & 8 QSOs on 80 & 160.  Openings to Madeira and Central/South America were a nice surprise, as was the east coast on 160.  Having a lower solar flux helped the lower bands, no doubt.

C-31a @ a mere 40'

As with all contests (especially DX contests) I have my share of operator complaints; but none worse than SO9Q securing a QSO with me (I had been on that frequency for 90+ minutes) and then IMMEDIATELY sliding .2kc up frequency to call CQ contest.  HuH?  Is that brazen? stupid? unconscious?
Or, is there something else I am missing?

Because the JA station frequency limitations on 75-m SSB (I displayed a picture of this in my blog about the JIDX contest) I found the best frequency to attract JA stations was: 3.747.47.  Someone gave NX6T a "spot" while I was running that frequency, probably accounting for the JA-streak I encountered Sunday morning.

While we in no way expect to take any kind of award for this contest, it DOES get us ready for the upcoming JIDX contest (where we are poised for our 5th consecutive 1st place worldwide) and then the CW WPX contest (Memorial weekend) where we will probably use the WQ6X call.

Prefixes worked screen

To me, because of the myriad of callsign prefixes that appear "out of nowhere", WPX is truly one of my favorite contests (4th favorite).  CW events are more fun however so I look forward to May.  And, I even learned a new word: ZANGO!  Do you know WHAT a Zango is, or HOW to Zango?

QSOs per hour - 214 was tops

You can view our overall score submission at the 3830 Scores website.

Did you work NX6T during last weekend's WPX contest?  On how many bands did you find us?