Posts Tagged ‘contests’

IARU HF 2014

July 14th, 2014


Call: K8GU
Operator(s): K8GU
Station: K8GU

Class: SO CW LP
QTH: FM19li
Operating Time (hrs): 5
Radios: SO2R

 Band  CW Qs  Ph Qs  Zones  HQ Mults
  160:    0     0       0       0
   80:   50     0       3       4
   40:   87     0      11      12
   20:   47     0       7      15
   15:   16     0       7       9
   10:    0     0       0       0
Total:  200     0      28      40  Total Score = 25,092

Club: Potomac Valley Radio Club

Since the birth of our second child, I’ve had to become a little more creative in my approach to operating contests.  There are rare days when both children are in phase with their eating and sleeping needs and we can accomplish some things, and then there are the other days.  With the coincidence of the quadrennial World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) and IARU HF World Championship contests this year, I thought I would make a game of trying to contact all 59 of the competitors rather than maximizing contest score.  The motivation for this is that WRTC was in New England this year, which is a stone’s throw away from me and middle-of-the-night operation would yield QSOs with the WRTC stations on 40 and 80.

I did end up working all 59 of the WRTC stations with their distinctive 1×1 callsigns by furiously searching and pouncing on both radios on 40 and 80.  In fact, I worked most of them twice before I finally found K1T.  I’m going to do an analysis of the standings of the teams versus when I worked them to test if any of the teams were better at “marketing” than others.  Should be fun!  Anyhow, all of these operators were really outstanding but a special congratulations to N6MJ and KL9A who seem to have run away with the whole thing operating as K1A.

In the lead up to the contest, I finally managed to get the station fully SO2R (single operator, two radio—essentially the ability to operate interference-free duplex on any pair of HF bands) again.  And, in the process, I have automatic band switching again, so I don’t have to run across the basement to switch antennas.  Thank goodness for small conveniences.

Here’s the mess for low-power (100 watts and less):  KK1L 6×2 switch to connect two radios to any of six antennas, W3NQN single-band 200-watt transmitting filters for each band (10-80 meters shown here since I still don’t have a 160 antenna yet), and the K6KV-K8GU triplexer that allows me to share the feedline to the G3TXQ broadband hexagonal beam with both radios.  All this stuff was homebrewed by me but it is all available in commercial form as well.


I’ve described the W3NQN filters considerably in the past, but the triplexer is new (built in March 2014) and since I’ve had some e-mail traffic from a couple of people who know I built one, I’ll probably write something up on it in the next few weeks.  I mention it here because WRTC is actually one of the events that popularized the use of triplexers, which are downright freaky when you think about plugging two 100-watt class radios into a box that separates/combines the signals.  Electrical engineering for the win on this one.  Anyhow, I based my triplexer off the K6KV QST article from June 2010, finding some beautiful Johnson capacitors in a flea market for $5 each and using leftover toroids from the W3NQN filter project instead of the solenoid coils used by K6KV.  The whole thing set me back about $30 total and it works great with the W3NQN filters, to say the least.

This was the second contest with TRLinux contest software by N6TR and W9CF.  It has some idiosyncrasies, such as the effect of CAPS LOCK on the shortcut keys.  For example, did you know that ALT-r is not the same as ALT-R?  The great thing about it is that TRLinux talks natively with the YCCC SO2R+ box that I use to handle keying and audio switching for both radios.  And, the band data is handled by the YCCC SO2R+ with TRLinux, so I didn’t have to buy a band decoder for the K2.  That whole process of setting up the band decoding was another midnight oil project Friday night before the contest started.  Fun and games.  But, it worked flawlessly.

And my three-year-old son, future SO2R CW operator, rocking the Bencher and Palm paddles…”I’m doin’ lots of Morse code!”


ARRL DX with the K2

February 16th, 2014


One of the goals I had for the K2 that I failed to mention in the previous post was to fill-in for the K3 in DXpedition service.  This is a tall order.  It also necessitated upgrading the basic K2/10 to a 100-watt K2/100—being loud (enough) is an important part of pileup control.  I had the good fortune to come across an already-assembled final amplifier unit at an attractive price a few days after I purchased the radio.  I took that as a sign!

Another rite of passage for the K2/100 would be…how does it perform in a pileup?  One of the really great things about ARRL DX CW since the advent of the CW Skimmer and Reverse Beacon Network is that literally any U.S. station (especially on the East Coast, my Western and Midwestern friends will remind) with a modest signal can elicit a blistering run of Europeans.  I’ve been relatively unhappy with the K3’s response to pileups, with callsigns often being mushed together more than with other radios (e.g., the TS-930S).  I understand that tailoring the K3’s AGC should help this—the KE7X book now graces my shelf but I haven’t had a chance to explore all of his suggestions yet.  Having heard anecdotally that the K2 does better in this regard, I was excited to break it in with ARRL DX.

Sarah worked this weekend and I was frankly wiped out from a full week at work plus shoveling 18 inches of snow and cutting up trees from the previous week’s ice storm!  Nothing approximating a “full” operation was in the cards.  In about two hours of operating, mostly on Sunday, I made about 140 QSOs on 10 and 15 meters.  I’m happy to report that the K2 did quite well with regard to the pileup response and I didn’t manage to break it CQing hard at full power.  The K2 also passed the “W3LPL test”…Frank lives just a few miles away and is frequently quite loud here.  But, I could still hear nearby stations with no problem at all.  The one thing that disappointed me about the K2 is that it seemed a little deaf as the 15-m band was closing to Europe.  A number of stations were right at the noise floor and were tricky to copy.  This might have been “one-way” propagation, too, a topic I should write about at some point.

The upshot is that I’m extremely pleased with the K2 and I look forward many more QSOs with it!

2012 WPX CW contest

May 27th, 2012

I don’t normally operate the WPX contests, but several friends (e.g., KB9UWU and SM2WMV/SJ2W) were planning efforts and I thought it would be worthwhile to spend some time working them.  The high bands have been in good shape lately.  And, WPX CW was the first CW contest I ever operated (in 1997…my call was AA8UP then if you want to look up my stellar performance).  Why not have a little fun?!

The 30-meter open-wire fed dipole at 40 feet worked great as two half-waves in-phase on 15 meters into Europe (and the Pacific).  Now, I can move the lackluster 15-meter dipole high into the back tree for N/S operation.  In fact, it might actually be smart to just put a second 30-meter open-wire fed dipole there.  Interesting thought.  Probably have the parts to build another tuner in the junkbox(es).

I paid basically no attention to strategy and just did whatever I pleased working interesting stuff and running a little bit later on.  I didn’t spend much time on 40 and I didn’t work the 2nd radio very hard until the last 1.5 hours between 2114 and 2249 on Sunday when I made 124 QSOs…not big rates, but a nice pace for using the second radio to fill in dead space.  Here is the damage:

Call: K8GU
Operator(s): K8GU
Station: K8GU

Class: SOAB LP
Operating Time (hrs): 6
Radios: SO2R

 Band  QSOs
  160:    0
   80:    0
   40:   52
   20:  206
   15:   97
   10:   12
Total:  367  Prefixes = 256  Total Score = 266,496

Club: Potomac Valley Radio Club


“Sleep when the baby sleeps,” new parents are told.  All six hours of operating were with Evan asleep and about four were with Sarah asleep.  So, guess who’s behind now!

CW Sweepstakes 2011

November 8th, 2011

So, K3KU, who won last year’s Maryland-DC certificate in A-power (150-watts, no DX cluster) for Sweepstakes CW posted to the contest club e-mail reflector a few weeks ago noting that although he had won that I had nipped at his heels with 7 additional hours of operating left on the table.  I responded to the reflector that he had operated long and made more contacts and therefore deserved the win…but, that I was highly motivated by that fact this year.

I tried not to let Sweepstakes consume my home life before the contest since contesting is a major disruption for a married couple, let alone a couple with a four-month baby.  So, I did not start setting up and testing the logging software, etc, until Saturday morning of the contest.  As long-time readers know, I replaced TR Log for DOS in the Spring with TR4W on Windows XP.  I also replaced the real-time keying interfaces (basically an NPN transistor and a resistor attached to a serial or parallel port) with a K1EL WKUSB.  This combination worked flawlessly for the most part, although there were a few glitches I need to fix.

Last year, 80 meters was excellent.  And, for a city lot station, I have a pretty good setup on 80 (full-size vertical and a K9AY RX antenna).  So, even when I had a slow start on 40 meters with the second radio on 20 meters, I had high hopes for a bottomless pit on 80…that never happened.  And, something—perhaps related to the lawn mower incident— is wrong with the K9AY.  So, I had a solid S9 buzz on 80.  When I worked K3AU (op K2YWE), he sent ‘A’ as his precedence and a serial number that was 20% higher than mine.  In fact, every time I heard him, that geometric relationship in our scores held.  I was worried but plowed forward.  The high bands were clearly in good shape because there was always a clear run frequency on 40 and 80.

I operated from the start at 2100 UT on Saturday pretty much straight through until 0700 (3 am local, actually 2 am after the Standard/Daylight time change) on Sunday morning.  Slept for about 4.5 hours (an even multiple of 90 minutes, I might point out) and was back at it again.  Having not spent much time on 20 the night before, I was keen to get there and was well-rewarded for doing so after scraping up what I could on 80 and 40.

I never really worry about multipliers in SS.  Like the “Soviet Russia” jokes go, “In Sweepstakes, multipliers work you.”  But, the fact that K3AU was kicking my butt and the fact that I had only 70 sections (out of the possible 80) on Sunday morning was a bit of a motivator to set score aside and make an effort to get “the Sweep” of all 80.  My normal (low-sunspot) strategy is to call CQ all day Sunday on 40 meters with the second radio S&Ping on 20 and vice versa.  With two more bands definitely in play, this was a different experience.  Since I finished the W3NQN filters, I now felt confident that I wasn’t going to destroy my receivers operating SO2R on 15 and 10.  However, I soon noticed that there was quite a bit of RF getting into the computer.  When I was CQing on 20, keyboard entry to the computer was choppy.  It’s very difficult to line-up a second-radio contact when you can’t enter the call!  Some ferrite will fix this.

So, I ended up using the second radio mostly as a multiplier monitor.  First, I found KE0A (North Dakota) on 10 meters with a roaring pileup.  I kept CQing on 40 and 20 with 10 in my right ear until the pileup died.  I dumped my call in and worked him on the first try while running off a dozen or so guys on the left radio.  SO2R WIN #1!  The same thing happened with the elusive VY1EI (who deserves a massive medal—Northwest Territories).  However, VY1EI’s pile-up management technique involved moving around in frequency.  So, I just waited for him to move and I had the good fortune of being able to study his habits for a half hour without losing rate on the other radio.  SO2R WIN #2!

With VY1EI in the log, I only needed Nebraska for the Sweep.  And, I was rewarded when W0PQ answered my CQ on 20 at 2242 UT.  So, with the Sweep out of the way, I pressed on trying my best to stay motivated and keep the rate up.

Although running (calling CQ) is mentally easier, I found search & pounce much more effective from a rate standpoint for a lot of the contest.  I probably should have done even more.  TR4W guessed that I made 441 QSOs by running and 294 by S&P.  It also says that I called CQ 3870 times.  That’s a pretty bad return on investment.  Anyhow, here are the numbers from 3830 for the interested:

                    ARRL Sweepstakes Contest, CW

Call: K8GU
Operator(s): K8GU
Station: K8GU

Class: Single Op LP
Operating Time (hrs): 21
Radios: SO2R

 Band  QSOs
  160:    0
   80:  182
   40:  330
   20:  170
   15:   31
   10:   22
Total:  735  Sections = 80  Total Score = 116,000

Club: Potomac Valley Radio Club

Those numbers include 10 dupes (at least two of which duped me several times).  But, the score is calculated as 725 x 80 (x 2).  Last year, I lost 12 QSOs with two additional penalty QSOs.  I’m not optimistic about this year.  Last year’s #3 finisher in Maryland-DC is claiming 738 x 80 in 24 hours (and an effort to improve his accuracy).  And, K3KU is claiming 716 x 79 also in 24 hours.  So, I may have to settle for a spot down in the rankings again this year.  After the contest, K2YWE fessed up that his K3AU effort was actually a last-minute switch to Unlimited…so, at least I have a chance despite some mediocre performance on my part this year!  It all comes down to the log-checking.

DXpedition QSLing

November 1st, 2011

This post might better be titled “supporting things that you value.”  A recent large-scale DXpedition to a “new one” just started sending out QSL cards in the past few weeks.  I have seen a bit of traffic leaking onto the regional contest club’s e-mail reflector about QSLing this operation and today someone complained that QSL requests that included donations were being processed rapidly and that he had not yet seen his. He was thoroughly chastised by a number of people on the reflector (including one of the DXpedition operators who went on at some length about the cost of the DXpedition) before the thread was (wisely) quashed by the moderator.

I composed a short reply very early in the melee, but decided (also wisely) not to contribute it because it really had little to do with contesting.  So, I’m writing here in hopes that someone finds it interesting.

When I was a new ham, I won a copy of the ARRL Operating Manual at a hamfest.  It sounds inane now, but I read the thing cover to cover.  In the chapter on DXpeditions, the author writes, “A donation should never be a condition for receiving a QSL card.”  That has stuck with me through the years.  The fundamental question is: why spend tens of thousands of dollars on the effort only to hold the operators who worked you hostage for a donation that might cover your QSLing costs if you’re lucky?

But, life is rarely black and white and most DXpeditions understand the futility of that question, so the situation outlined above rarely happens.  In the present scenario, the DXpedition stepped into the gray by prioritizing donors ahead of non-donors.  I have no problem with this.  In fact, as I began to write in my reply, it is a matter of supporting things that are important to you.  If having a card for the “new one” is important so you get on the Honor Roll for this year’s DXCC Yearbook, how much is that worth?

This falls into the same category as people who used to complain about the results of contests sponsored by CQ magazine being unavailable for free online.  Well, if you want the results, buy the magazine!

Enough ranting…did somebody mention that CW Sweepstakes is this weekend?  SWEEPSTAKES!

Revisiting the 50-MHz Transverter

July 17th, 2011

I recently resurrected the 50-MHz transverter project and have made good headway getting it working.  On Friday night, I began the process of tapping holes in the PA module heat spreader.  But, despite using plenty of “cutting fluid” (3-in-1 oil), I managed to break a (well-used) tap on the first hole.  Since the maximum (linear) power out of the driver stage is 200 mW, I embraced my inner QRPer and put the PA project aside to give the transverter a try in the CQ WW VHF contest.

The 6-meter Yagi had come down in favor of Yagis for 222 and 432 when the loaner FT-736R showed up.  So, I scampered up onto the roof and moved Yagis around.  I had hoped that this moment would be accompanied by changing out RG-8 coax for LMR-600 and LDF4-50A that are taking up space in the shop and shack.  But, I was not ready to commit to cutting that and I still don’t have LMR-600UF for the rotator loops.  Plus, I should replace the rotator at the same time.  That amounted to too much work for the available time.  I really just need to bite the bullet and install a rotating mast for the VHF antennas that’s not so precarious.

Got everything hooked up late on Saturday afternoon, but had to tend to some domestic concerns and was QRT until later in the evening when I heard my neighbor W4EE calling CQ on six SSB.  Did not know that he had six!  Apparently, this is a new thing for him, too.  He was surprised that I didn’t vibrate his radio off the desk like I usually do!  Told him I was running 200 mW and everything made sense.

Ended up working a few other locals on Sunday including N3UM, who moved me from 6-meter CW to 2-meter SSB for a quick chat.  He just completed the N1DPM active bias mod to his Mirage B2518G, so was eager for an audio report.  Sounds good!  He said my B3016G sounded good on-frequency, but I haven’t gotten the mod actually inserted into mine yet.  Probably that Kenwood (TS-700S) audio making up for the amp’s inferiority…

Eventually, I will be posting more details on the circuit here.  This is one of those projects that I would not encourage anyone to duplicate as I have constructed it.  However, there may be useful features.

Field Day W3AO/KE3Q QSO standings

July 10th, 2011

As I wrote previously, for 2011 Field Day, I made a game of trying to contact W3AO and KE3Q on as many bands and modes as possible.  Here are the official standings from KD4D who managed the PVRC competition:

Call HF 6M 2M UHF GOTA Digital Satellite Total
K1DQV 11 2 2 2 0 3 0 20
K8GU 11 0 1 4 1 1 0 18
W3GG 12 1 0 0 0 5 0 18
K1HTV 10 2 2 0 0 3 0 17
NA3M 12 0 0 0 0 3 0 15

So, K1DQV was at the top of the heap (with a 2-meter CW contact, I might add).  Anyhow, I’m quite pleased with the results and happy to report that W3AO is claiming the all-time high QSO total for Field Day this year.  Congratulations.


K8GU Field Day 2011

June 26th, 2011

I had not been a big fan of Field Day for many years until last year.  Although ARRL technically terms it “an operating event,” it has most of the features and flavor of a contest.  But, the bands are crowded, there are a few more drunks and lids than your standard contest.  Your local club thinks it’s a great idea to put up a tower and an ancient tribander, but they only do a half-witted job of it making a lot of work for something that could have been smoked by a doublet in the trees. Or, you show up at a random Field Day site, introduce yourself, and offer to operate CW—only to be handed a J-38 or a blank stare.

Last year was different.  Sarah’s branch chief at work is a ham and she’s married to a ham.  Somehow, it came up that I was a ham and soon we had an invitation to Field Day at her mother’s place near the water of the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  I was reluctant, but they assured me it would be OK.  They have a tower trailer for a triband Yagi and trees for dipoles on the low bands and they operate 1A.  It was fun.  Sarah enjoyed herself, too, which is a welcome change for a ham radio event!

For a variety of reasons (namely the impending birth of our first child), we elected not to go to the Eastern Shore this year.  After talking to a few guys at the PVRC/W3LPL open house last weekend who implored me to come to their operation (W3AO, the FD of epic proportions) instead, I decided I needed to do something.  Since W3AO was making a run on the all-time Field Day high score record this year, I opted to make a game of running 1D and working W3AO (and their GOTA station, KE3Q) on every band and mode available.  The goal was to not disrupt our weekend too much and to have fun, possibly contending for a plaque offered by PVRC for the most band/mode QSOs with W3AO/KE3Q.

Here’s how things shook out (yellow = QSO, blue = no QSO, red = no QSO possible with W3AO/KE3Q, hashed = no QSO possible with K8GU, but possible with W3AO):

So, I did pretty well with W3AO, all things considered.  I was not QRV on RTTY until Sunday morning (forgot that I did not set that up on the “new” PC yet).  By that time, I missed the really good opportunities to work them on 20 and 80.  I don’t know if I ever would have on 15 and 10.  I did see them spotted on PSK31 (a mode I will never enjoy—one QSO was enough) on 15, but could not hear (erm, see) them here.

It was a bummer not to have 6 meters here and despite 3-4 requests, the 2-meter phone operator(s) refused to QSY to CW with me, even though one told me I was his first QSO in an hour!  It did take almost 10 minutes for them to find a key to work me on 222 and 432 CW!  Thanks for going the extra mile!  I believe my total of 17 QSOs ties K3DI’s record, plus one more with KE3Q, for 18 total.

I worked KE3Q right away on 75 meters, but never heard them again.  I did see QRS Skimmer spots for them on 40 and 20 CW in the middle of the night and at the very end of event, respectively.  But, I do not believe they were QRV on CW on any other bands.

Having 6 meters and digital from the start probably could have increased my totals a bit.  A satellite QSO or two would also have been good.  But, I did not have it in me to get that set up in addition to building microwave gear and getting the baby’s room ready.  Plus the 432-MHz amp I bought recently has been held hostage by the deadlock between Canada Post and their workers.  So, I only have 10 watts on that band until that arrives, making the annual Field Day “Battle for Bandwidth on the Birds” that much more exciting with a small antenna oriented for terrestrial work.

It was a good time, although I think I’ll be itching to go out into the “field” again next year…thanks for the QSOs and the QSYs!

Mirage Active Bias mod, Part 1

June 9th, 2011

After chatting with Terry, W8ZN, about whether to keep or sell the AM-6155s (which I did sell to finance a tower), he suggested that I apply the N1DPM “Active Bias” modification to my elderly “160-watt” Mirage 2-meter amplifier.  I contacted Fred, N1DPM, and he sent me a copy of his paper Linearization of Solid State “Brick” Amplifiers from the 21st Eastern VHF/UHF Conference (1995), along with some additional notes from his notebook.  It’s pretty eye-opening how non-linear the amp is without the modification!  I finally gathered the parts and hacked it together last night.  Hope to test it soon with a “dummy” transistor and then live on the amp. The braided wires go to the thermal compensation transistor which is thermally bonded to one of the RF power transistors.

It probably won’t be ready for the ARRL June VHF this weekend, though.  So, I’ll only be using the amp on CW.  That’s no matter since I haven’t hung the low-loss cable (LMR and Heliax), nor have I received a D1010 432-MHz amp that will be on its way to me soon.  Everything seems to take longer than it ought to!


February 27th, 2011

A few readers of this blog may have been surprised to contact me on a new mode last night…RTTY.  I’ve tried radioteletype once before in the past (also in the NAQP contest) but rather unsuccessfully the first time.  The second outing was a bit better.  I suppose with practice it becomes fun, but the primary motivation here is ARRL’s Triple Play award for contacting all 50 states each three times, using CW, SSB, and digital.  CW was, of course, easy.  And, I’m making good progress on the SSB totals.  So, I figured I would stop putting RTTY off and give it a shot.

As you are probably well familiar, I normally contest with two TS-930s.  Their prior owners (who were CW contest/DX types like myself) made various “improvements” to them, most of which I appreciate, but I have no idea how they affect FSK. One radio simply does not work on FSK (need to look into this) and the other has the passband shifted about 50-100 Hz off-center of the normal RTTY frequencies. So, when I was running AFC in MMTTY, it would “walk” to the point that having a lock on the other station would put me at the edge of their passband. I had a terrible time making QSOs for the first hour until K0TI told me I was off-frequency (thanks, Dan!!!) and then I started paying attention to all of the numbers in MMTTY and turned off the AFC, which had some deleterious effects that I overcame thanks to the occasional repeat. Typical analog op becomes digital lid op.

I sent the MacBook (our “home” computer) with Sarah to a conference yesterday.  Since that’s the only place I have LoTW’s Trusted QSL installed and I failed to export a .p12 file, I’ll have to hold tight for a couple of days until they return.  (This is not entirely true, I have an old .p12 file, but I haven’t backed it up again since I renewed the certificate a few weeks ago.  Bad backup practices…although I just got a new external drive so the old drive can be used to do a Time Machine back up…finally.  Another day, another project.)

This post mostly mirrors my 3830 post, but here are the numbers for the curious.  My grepping missed one QSO on 80 meters when I did the totals (N1MM rounded the frequency up to 3600 kHz) for 3830.  So, these numbers are right, aside from log-checking discounts:

Call: K8GU
Operator(s): K8GU
Station: K8GU

Class: Single Op LP
Operating Time (hrs): ~3

 Band  QSOs  Mults
   80:   37    21
   40:   58    27
   20:   35    18
Total:  130    66  Total Score = 8,580

Club: Potomac Valley Radio Club

Team: PVRC #1