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[CQ-Contest] RES: WRTC 2010

To: "Georgens, Tom" <Tom.Georgens@netapp.com>, <cq-contest@contesting.com>
Subject: [CQ-Contest] RES: WRTC 2010
From: "py5eg" <py5eg@iesa.com.br>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2010 13:52:08 -0300
List-post: <cq-contest@contesting.com">mailto:cq-contest@contesting.com>
Hi Tom & George
Very nice report 
Has been a pleasure to chat with you guys 

-----Mensagem original-----
De: cq-contest-bounces@contesting.com 
[mailto:cq-contest-bounces@contesting.com] Em nome de Georgens, Tom
Enviada em: segunda-feira, 26 de julho de 2010 10:00
Para: cq-contest@contesting.com
Assunto: [CQ-Contest] WRTC 2010

I have barely been home since the WRTC ended, but I had been gathering my 
thoughts while on the road.  I have not written a detailed contest story in a 
long time since they were getting repetitive.  However, the WRTC 2010 was an 
awesome event, unlike any other, and I wanted to remember it by putting the 
story in writing.  


The Plan

The first thoughts of WRTC 2010 began at the closing ceremony in Florianopolis 
Brazil in 2006.  After stating several times that this would be his last WRTC, 
Randy said he was up for doing this one more time.  We were disappointed in our 
performance in many respects, and we both were convinced that we could do 
better than our 10th place finish.  A bunch of clear drinks with green leaves 
at the bottom may have influenced our decision as well.

When the qualification criteria was announced, it was not going to be possible 
for me to qualify without doing a number of high point contests from my home 
area of California.  The idea of trading off several of my favorite contests 
from Barbados to operate one WRTC was not very appealing.   Randy was clearly 
building the points to qualify, but I was not certain he really intended to 
participate again or whether that was just the alcohol talking one late night 
in Brazil.  Once he reiterated the plan, I could return to my normal operating 
schedule from Barbados.


We were both very busy and spent very little time preparing.  We touched base 
in March, before my last trip to 8P prior to WRTC to be sure that I brought 
back any necessary gear.  I would bring my two K3's, power supplies, Dunestar 
filters, master control box and a myriad of small items and cables.  We agreed 
that we would get together on the WPX CW contest weekend to assemble the 
station and work on our operating strategy with the new rules.

We spent some time talking about the implementation of the lockout.  I had also 
seen some sample designs on the reflectors that used the TX INH functionality 
of the K3, but I did not like how they worked.  Instead I went ahead with a 
different approach and I designed a custom box with a small processor inside.

The next issue was the triplexer.  I had never seen of such a device, yet I was 
hearing that it was a common item in this type of competition.  In doing some 
research on the web, I found a reference to a Field Day team that used one 
successfully to share a tribander.  I was very intrigued, but there was no 
design data. However, in the course of the search, I found that QST was about 
to publish an article on this design.  When the article came out, I was 
embarrassed that I did not think of the simple concept myself.  Since time was 
of the essence, I ordered the identical parts and had a unit built a week later.

The testing of the unit was a total surprise.  Using the decoupling head as 
described in QST and my switchable bandpass filters, I could share a dummy load 
without any hint of interaction, with the exception of the 20 meter harmonic on 
10 meters.  While the isolation was good, the impedance match was not great and 
I did not have much time to work on it before traveling cross country to 
Randy's for our test session.

I did the redeye flight arriving Saturday morning and we immediately started 
setting up when I arrived.  We decided to use my station automation from 
Barbados to do the filter and antenna selection as well as the keyer function.  
It required making some custom cabling to connect to Randy's W3NQN filters and 
6-pack.  We also had to get the audio recording solution to work as well.  We 
decided to use a third computer to record and the referee could use the mixer 
controls to adjust the levels of what he heard in each ear.  This should give 
enough flexibility to handle any scenario.  Overall, we spent more time that 
weekend working on audio issues than anything else.

With the station fully assembled, we began testing in earnest.  This  was the 
first real test of the triplexer and the isolation was as good as I saw at 
home.   It was also good to use it for an extended period to test the 
components.  However, the SWR through the decoupler was still not what I wanted.

Overall, the station worked fine, but there were some more switching options we 
wanted to add to the control box and we wanted to change the functionality of 
the lockout box.  Both would require some programming in the interim

In the intervening period before WRTC, I did reprogram the lockout and control 
boxes and got them all retested.  I also spent a lot of time with the 
triplexer, including an alternative implementation.  I could not improve the 
SWR on the existing box and confined my experimentation to the second unit, 
knowing I had a usable baseline in the box we originally tested.  I eventually 
understood the design tradeoffs the author had made, and wished I had just a 
little more time to optimize the outcome.  In the end, I had a unit with a 
better match, lower loss, and slightly less isolation.  However,  it used more 
fragile components than the original design and had never been tested over an 
extended period.

Also, in the mean time, I had the 15 meter section of my Dunestar fail.  I 
ordered a replacement, since I wanted a new one for Barbados anyway, and Ron 
sent me some replacement caps for the 15 meter section.  The repaired Dunestar 
looked good, and we now had a backup set of band pass filters.

While I was working on the triplexer and lockout boxes, we ordered a pair of 
LDG automatic antenna tuners.  Randy tested these in various combinations.  One 
of our concerns was the sensitivity of the power monitoring device and we 
wanted the option of putting the ATU after the monitor to avoid any issues with 
SWR.  In the end we decided to install the ATU's in the 40 meter and 80 meter 
feedlines so we could move around the bands without returning, and we could 
also use these antennas on the high bands, if necessary.


I had been exceptionally busy at work and simply could not keep up with the 
complexity of the hotel, VISA's, tours, applications, etc. .  None of this 
would have come together without the help of my executive assistant at work.  
She not only followed up on every item for me, she also took care of my wife 
Kathleen and son Alex who would be going with me.

Every step of the way was on a tight schedule, including the arrival of my 
passport with the Russian visa the day before I was to leave for Europe on a 
business trip.  We also wanted to extend our trip to visit St Petersburg after 
the WRTC weekend.  Eventually all the plans came together, but some of the 
tourist options were not resolved until we were in Russia.

The trip was finally upon us.  Alex and Kathleen spend the summer in Maine so 
they left the week before I did.  I flew all day on Thursday 6/31 to Randy's 
house in Massachusetts for one last check out of the station.  We wanted to 
validate the new lockout and control box software as well as get some run time 
on the triplexer.  I also wanted to get a feel for how the antenna tuners 

I was to arrive late in the evening at Randy's, but flight delays made me even 
later.  Around 2AM, I arrived at his QTH and we immediately started to set up.  
Things were going OK until we could no longer match the 40 meter dipole on 15 
with the ATU.  As it turns out, we blew out the 15 meter section of his W3NQN  
filters.  Randy had another NQN filter set that had a couple of bad sections s 
well.  Our plan was take parts out of the 15 meter section of the old filter to 
replace the ones in the newer unit.  Unfortunately, there were no obviously 
damaged components so we used the smell test to guess which ones to try.  
Although the process was not pretty, we eventually substituted six caps and the 
filter now worked OK.

Once we had everything working again.  We did a final checkout of the station.  
In the process, it seemed like the triplexer isolation was better with two 
dunestars than with one Dunestar and one NQN filter.  We decided to go with the 
dual Dunestar configuration with the NQN as a spare.  We also chose to go with 
the new triplexer design, despite the lack of run-time.

We then spent the rest of our time contemplating what we would do in the event 
of failures of individual components.  If the Control Box failed, we would need 
two keyers, filter selection, and antenna selection.  We chose to bring two 
spare W5XD keyers  and build another manual switch for the Dunestar filters (I 
already had one).  For the 6 pack selection, we would bring the manual switch 
and wire it in if necessary.  For a lockout box contingency, I would build a 
version of the cable documented on the reflector that used TX INH.  We piled up 
a bunch of spare cables and were all set.  We had nearly enough backup hardware 
to operate a second WRTC station.

Around noon, after being up all night, I left for Maine to join Kathleen and 
Alex.  In addition, my daughters were coming up with friends for the holiday 
weekend.   Over the weekend, I made a trip to Radio Shack and gather parts to 
build the last items.  They came together, but it was a challenge in a 
tool-limited environment.

All seemed well, until Sunday night.  I happened to turn on my computer to 
print a file, and the screen never came on.  I connected it up to a monitor and 
it seemed to be working, so possibly just the screen had failed.  However, it 
also had an unexpected message about new USB devices found.  While there would 
be monitors provided at the contest site, I could not be sure that it was the 
only problem.  Out of desperation, I called my admin in California and asked 
her to send me another computer from my house.  My plan was to have it shipped 
to our DC office, and I would pick it up during my 5 hour layover at Dulles 
airport.  After a few false starts, the plan came together.

On Monday night, Kathleen, Alex and I, along with six suitcases, drove down to 
Logan airport in Boston to stay overnight for our morning flight.  Our first 
flight to Dulles was without incident.  Instead of driving out to the DC 
office, they took the PC that was shipped, and took another of the same model 
they had around the office and brought them to me.  It was a huge relief to 
have options in the event of more PC trouble.   We then took off for a long, 
but pleasant, trip to Moscow.


We arrived in Moscow late morning, had an uneventful pass through customs and 
we were off to the hotel.   A few of the competitors were already there and we 
renewed some old acquaintances in the lobby while we checked in.  The room was 
very nice.  It had a small separate room for Alex and a very effective air 
conditioner.  The local broadband Internet was very slow (and expensive for me) 
but they had wired service that worked just fine.

In an attempt to acclimate to the time change, Kathleen and I tried not to 
sleep right away.  Instead, we went on a walk around the hotel grounds.  We saw 
the "beach," the "ship," and the Scandanavian Hall.  We also saw one of the 
ground teams assembling a sample station at the hotel.  The tower was on the 
ground and they were just installing the dipoles and feedlines.  The tower was 
so thin that I could not fit my foot on a rung between the corner pipes.

After our walk, I set up the station in our room.  I had all of the control 
gear and cables along with the filters.  I would be able to test the computers, 
radios, power supplies, lock out box, keyer, filter selection and antenna 
selection.  It all came together quickly and it looked like all the gear 
survived the trip.   Once complete, we had a brief dinner and went to bed.

The next day, my company's representatives in Moscow arranged a tour of the 
city.  It was an intense all day tour in extreme heat.   It was very enjoyable, 
but exhausting.   K1VR said I looked wiped out when I returned.

It was now Thursday night and most of the competitors and referees had 
gathered.  It was great to see people that I had never met before, or had last 
seen in Brazil.  There was a lot of probing among the teams with regard to 
strategy and equipment.   The new technologies this year were the triplexers 
and the lockout schemes.  In general, the conversations were honest, but 
circumspect.  Most teams were not completely willing to disclose the full 
extent of their thinking.  More broadly, while everybody was friendly and 
pleasant, there was an overarching tension and anxiety about the competition 
that I did not recall in Brazil.  It seemed to me that late nights and heavy 
drinking were not as prevalent as last time.

The tension and intrigue grew on Friday with the opening ceremony, station 
draws and the competitor/referee meetings.  The opening ceremony was very hot 
but it was organized and serious. The draw was also well run.  We all had maps 
of the stations and created our own preferences when, in fact, it did not 
matter.  The stations were essentially identical and relatively close to the 
hotel (unlike our 300kM drive in Brazil). Our only wish was to be far from any 
civilization.   We ended up with a station that looked as good as any other, 
our only concern was that we had another station very close by.  We also were 
privileged to have HA6ND as our referee.  We had fun with George all weekend.  
We also met the unsung hero of the weekend, RU3BH.  Vladimir, along with his 
family and another couple, set up and maintained the station, as well as  
giving us great support all weekend, despite his limited English (and our 
non-existent Russian)

The competitors meeting was relatively calm with a few contentious issues 
around recordings and Russian language operation.  The bigger issue was the 
rule that the station you work must copy the call and exchange correctly for 
you to get credit.  There was a fair amount of passion around this point but 
the judging committee did not yield.  For the record, we lost three times as 
many Q's due to copying errors by others than we lost due to our copying errors.

While in the meeting, Randy and discussed the station setup.   We were to get 
to the station around 7AM but the contest did not start until 4PM.  If we had 
issues, we would appreciate the time but, if things went well, it would be a 
long time in the hot sun waiting for the contest to start.  We decided to 
arrange for transportation back to the hotel in the event the station was ready 
with plenty of time to spare.

After the meetings we had a very subdued dinner that broke up early.  Clearly 
people were getting their game faces on.


Between the time changes, preparation issues, and pre-contest anxiety I had 
been having a very difficult time sleeping.  I had set the alarm for 5AM and 
tried to get as calm as possible.  I fell asleep quickly but eventually woke 
up.  I looked at the phone by the bed and it said 4:40.  I was very pleased 
that I had slept so well.  When 5 o clock rolled around and the alarm did not 
go off, I realized it was my son's phone and it was still on US time.  The 
actual time was really 1 AM and I had not really slept much at all.  Most of 
the rest of the time was tossing and turning, waiting for 5 AM to arrive.  One 
thing that was different was that it was not the normal anxiety, it was more of 
excitement.  I was not nervous anymore, I was eager for the event to start.  
Based on conversations with the other players, I felt we had engineered enough 
station capability to be competitive, and we were ready.

Our driver took us out to our station at 6:30 AM.  Besides the normal setup, I 
was worried about three specific items, antenna interaction, generator noise, 
and RF in the tent.  The station was exactly as advertised and RU3BH and team 
were ready for us.  They took fantastic care of us all weekend.  They also 
seemed to perfectly position the tent to allow the breeze to pass directly 
through.  Although very humid, the tent was very pleasant inside.

Before we oriented the tables, I wanted the generator started so I could hear 
how loud it would be.  As it turns out, the generator was barely audible in the 
tent.  Our plan was to put the three tables in a line with the pelican case 
behind the middle table.  This would give me something to sit on while I 
assembled the station, and it would be a platform to hold the RF parts 
(triplexer, filters, and six pack)

Everything was going OK, when I made a huge mistake.  I was sitting behind the 
table connecting cables (all of which were labeled) and handing ends to Randy 
to plug in.  I thought I was done when I had a cable left over that said "+12V" 
on it.  I thought I had handed Randy a cable to connect to power.  It turns out 
that I had, and the other end was plugged into a signal input on the lockout 
box.  Not good.  I then put the cables in the right place, but the lockout box 
did not work correctly.  The signal input goes directly to the microprocessor, 
and I had just burned out an input with the 12V.  I have a very low resting 
heart rate, but it was now sky high.  I tried to calm myself to consider 
options.  I had the schematics with me and frantically searched for a solution. 
 Restoring full functionality would require a soldering iron and the ability to 
reprogram the processor.  I still had the cable for use with TX INH, but I did 
not want to use it since we never practiced with that functionality.

Trying to contain my emotion, I went into my spares box to get my programming 
cable.  Looking through the box, it occurred to me that I had brought a spare 
microprocessor.  If the programming worked, I may be able to recover.  I 
connected the cable to the existing processor and it communicated just fine.  I 
popped the other processor out of the socket and put the new one in.  The 
program loaded just fine.  There was one more step in that we made a design 
change since the original implementation and I needed to solder a wire to pin 
one of the chip.  We could live without this, but we would lose a little 
functionality.  It turns out that RU3BH had a soldering iron and I was able to 
tack the wire on, despite shaky and sweaty hands.  The wire was on and we were 
back in business, although I had just burned off a lot of nervous energy.

The rest of the set up was entirely uneventful.  I used the LCD monitor with my 
PC with the bad screen and it worked fine all weekend.  Randy dealt with the 
power monitors and the score reporting software with George, our referee. We 
played around with the power monitor and it was not the ordeal I had 
anticipated.  Randy and George had some occasional words about the indicator 
during the contest, but it was mostly a non-issue.

Randy also tuned up the ATU units so we would not need to touch the antennas.  
We did an overall test of antenna interaction and it was non-existent.  We also 
had no RF in the tent despite the fact that the 80 meter inverted Vee was 
staked about 5 feet from the radios.  The triplexer isolation looked good and 
we started to make a few Q's.  I had a quick pileup and the bands sounded good. 
 We could hear numerous other WRTC stations warming up, including our nearest 
neighbors.  Signals were a full 60dB over nine but, with one exception, the 
close by stations had clean signals and were not a problem all weekend.

It was some time after 10:30 and we started thinking about returning to the 
hotel.  The station seemed ready and we would just burn nervous energy in the 
extreme heat waiting for the contest to start.  Instead we would return to the 
hotel, get some rest, get cool and eat.  The plan was to leave the hotel at 

I returned to the room took a shower and tried to rest for about 90 minutes 
before having lunch.  There were a number of other competitors back at the 
restaurant as well.  Some were close enough to walk, others had referees with 
cars.  We left to go back to the station and the traffic was remarkably heavy.  
We did not get back until around 2:30.  There was a last test I wanted to run 
that I forgot in the morning.  I wanted to test path loss through the switching 
by using my Elecraft signal generator at the tribander port to make sure there 
was no unexpected loss in the system.  It looked fine.  After adjusting 
microphone audio some more, we were ready to go.  In honor of our Hungarian 
judge, I put on my Hard Rock Café - Budapest shirt.

About 15 minutes before the start we were to turn off the radio audio and an 
open our callsign envelope.  We drew R34P.  Randy was not at all happy about 
the "P" at the end.  My concern was the "4" in the double number call.  We 
decided that I would start on 20 CW and Randy would work the other bands.  
After a little discussion, we chose to go for 14001.

The bell rang and we were off.  I was able to hold 14001 but I had K0DXC on the 
other end of the circuit.  I did not know he was operating from K1LZ but I 
figured people would be beaming our way to work the WRTC stations.  The rate 
was a pleasant surprise and it would continue all weekend.  The way we started  
remained the pattern all weekend.  I was mostly running while Randy was 
frantically combing for mults and Q's.  We tried alternating CQ's all weekend 
but they were only effective when the rates were slow.  As soon as one operator 
had rate, it was more productive for the other op to S&P.  Generally, the S&P 
op had priority and could interrupt the running op any time he wanted.  

Several hours into the competition, the sky began to darken and serious winds 
began to blow.  It was clear that there were electrical storms in the areas as 
we could hear the static building in the radios.  When static levels were over 
S9, rates dropped and we needed to start thinking about shutting down.  
Fortunately, we were never faced with that decision.  Our QTH had very high 
winds, but others had torrential rain and hail.  One station had a lightning 
strike about 50 feet from their tent.  After an hour, the sky cleared but it 
was tense while it lasted.

Twenty eventually gave way to the low bands.  The excellent rate continued 
through some excellent hours on 40 and 80.  With daylight lasting until around 
11PM, there were limited hours of darkness and the bands stayed productive.  It 
seemed like one or both of us could generate rate somewhere all weekend.

Before the contest, I did not think anyone would get to 3000 Q's, but we passed 
that with many hours to go.  I started to think about 4M points and 3500 Q's.  
After passing 3500 Q's with nearly an hour to go, we pushed for 3600 and 4M.  
It was going to take a bunch of mults to get to 4M but Randy kept finding new 
ones.  Finally XU7ACY called in, putting us over the 4M mark, but we fell 3 
short of the 3600.

When 1200Z rolled around it was time to stop.  We had no idea where we stood, 
but it seemed like we did well.  It was hard to tell since, every other station 
had the same openings we did, the question was whether we missed any.  Time 
would tell.

No matter what the outcome we worked as hard as we could.  On top of that, all 
the custom gear worked exactly as advertised, and without incident.  At no time 
in the course of the weekend did we ever even suspect a problem.  I remember 
thinking that we tried our best and the station performed flawlessly.  There 
were no excuses, any team that beat us did so because they did the better job.  
I can think of no higher praise for the competition organizers.  This was 
arguably the best radio competition ever held.


We more or less jammed everything back in the bags for the ride home.  We 
gathered out by the tower for final pictures and goodbyes.  We were told that 
the station builders may want our help to take down the tower.  We offered, but 
RU3BH was fine with doing it with the team that put it up.  There was heavy 
traffic and it took about 30 minutes to get home.  After unloading the car, I 
went up to the room to take a first look at the scores.  Admittedly, I was 
expecting a finish better than 5th.  I suspect, with QSO totals so high, many 
of the other stations had similar reactions.  Before the contest, we would have 
been more than happy to finish 5th, but we could not avoid the "what if's"

The teams convened for dinner.  Most operators had nothing but praise for the 
conditions and the stations themselves.  Clearly this was a draining event as 
dinner was subdued and broke up early.  I went back to the room expecting to 
watch the World Cup final.  As soon as I hit the bed, I knew it was not to be 
and I was asleep before kickoff.

The next morning we went on a large group tour of Moscow.  It was great to 
share war stories with the other competitors.  Some of the stories were not so 
pleasant, like the OE team that lost both radios.  There was a lot of 
discussion of lockout strategies with teams that tried dual CQ's all weekend 
and those like us that had one running and one searching.  Another area of wide 
variance was the amount of SSB QSO's.  Among the top teams were those with the 
most and least percent of SSB Q's.  It seemed that there was no firm winning 

After a long hot day, we were back for the closing ceremonies.  There was some 
jostling at the top and the N6MJ/KL9A team slipped into the top three and the 
RW1AC/RA1AIP securing a very close, but well deserved victory.

With the scores in the book and much more pleased with our effort than in 
Brazil four years earlier, it was time to speak about next time.  Both Randy 
and I said beforehand that we would never do another WRTC.  I told Randy my 
mind had changed somewhat.  I would never do another traditional WRTC where 
station selection was critical to the outcome.  However, I would do another 
event like this in a minute.  The Russians raised the bar, and it is critical 
that WRTC embrace this format.  Otherwise, it may become more of an exhibition 
and irrelevant as a competition.

We all stayed up reasonably late and said our goodbyes.  The passion for the 
sport and appreciation for what the organizers had done made for an emotional 
evening.  It was my distinct honor and pleasure to have participated in the 
most compelling event of my RadioSport career.  Words cannot express my 
appreciation to the Russian team for putting this competition together.  It was 
an extraordinary experience I will never forget.

73, Tom W2SC

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