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To: 3830@contesting.com, we9v@qth.com
Subject: [3830] ARRLDX SSB PJ2T(WE9V) SOAB(A) HP
From: webform@b4h.net
Reply-to: we9v@qth.com
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2008 14:07:09 -0700
List-post: <3830@contesting.com">mailto:3830@contesting.com>
                    ARRL DX Contest, SSB

Call: PJ2T
Operator(s): WE9V
Station: PJ2T

Class: SOAB(A) HP
Operating Time (hrs): 41
Radios: SO2R

 Band  QSOs  Mults
  160:  356    53
   80:  659    58
   40: 1371    59
   20: 2122    59
   15: 2585    58
   10:   83     9
Total: 7176   296  Total Score = 6,372,288



Well, that was certainly fun.  Obviously more fun that operating back in the
Black Hole.  First and foremost, I would like to thank Geoff (W0CG/PJ2DX), the
Caribbean Contesting Consortium (CCC), and Jerry (WB9Z) for the once in a
lifetime opportunity to operate one of the big ones from one of the big ones as
a single operator.  That is, operating one of the major 4 contests from one of
the major contest stations.

Originally, the plan was for another 3-man M/2 from PJ2T as we did last year,
but the two other operators dropped out on me.  So I could either cancel
myself, find some other operators, or try my hand at Single Op.  I've operated
a few times from the DX side (KH7R 3 times, 6D2X, FS5PL, PJ2T 2 times) but
always as multi-op.  So I thought I would give SO a try.

While I was quite excited at the opportunity to do single-op, at the same time
I was very nervous and anxious.  I had NEVER operated a contest even close to
"full-time".  Most of my DX contests were part time efforts from home or
multi-ops from the DX side, or stateside at KS9K/K4JA.  In the last 10 years,
I've only operated one Sweepstakes for the full 24 hours!  So, sleep was a
major source of anxiety.  More anxiety came from the little stuff, like what to
eat and what not to eat/drink (thanks Mikey/K9NW, Eric/K9GY), as well as contest
strategy.  Being a guest op at a multi-op, you can get real-time advice from the
station owner as to what you should be doing and when.  But as a single op,
you're not allowed that luxury.  So I spent a bit of time pouring over
Tom/8P1A's previously published ratesheet, as well as John's/KK9A/P40A (thanks)
LP sheet, and PJ2T's previous SSB and current CW ratesheets.  Of course, things
change every year, but at least it gave me a little insight as to where I
should be and when.

Since I was doing single op and staying at the PJ2T station all by myself, I
did something that I rarely do...I invited my family.  Since I had an entire
bedroom all to myself, it was only a little cost adder to get flights for my
wife and 3 year old daughter.  I had brought my wife to one other contest...a
KH7R M/M...and she hated it and would never do it again.  She didn't like that
most of the conversations were ham related and she didn't like having my full
attention during the contest weekend.  But time heals all wounds (that was
around 1999) so she decided to give it another try.  I told her that this time
would be worse and better at the same time.  Before the contest, I promised to
spend a lot of family time together doing tourist things, but during the
weekend it's 100% radio, as this wasn't a muli-op.

Well, PJ2T isn't exactly set up for SO2R, in the least bit.  So I brought down
all my SO2R stuff...WL's W5XD box for headphone, PTT and footswitch switching,
and a homebrew isolation box for the soundcard to have L/R separation for TX
audio and microphone.  Geoff had a great idea to set up a 2nd station on a
table next to position #1 with a spare FT-1000MP and linear, instead of moving
position #2 closer.  That idea worked great.  All the other SO2R stuff didn't
go nearly as well.  I spent hours upon hours trying to figure out how to get
the TX audio to both radios without hum.  My isolation transformer wasn't doing
the trick.  Therefore, I couldn't use one microphone and have the computer
switch between radios, and it also meant that I wouldn't have a voice keyer for
both radios.  By now, the days are rolling by and I still don't have a setup for
SO2R.  And my wife growing very upset by the lack of tourist time and too much
radio setup time.  Long story short, it never got solved.  I was about to just
throw a hand mic on radio #2 and use it mostly for listening/checking the
bands.  But then I couldn't even get the hand mic I found to work.  I guess I
was just going to go at it the old fashioned way...one radio.  So off to do
more tourist stuff with the wife before contest day.  Then, over a good night's
sleep, I had an idea.  I had seen a spare Heil HC-5 mic element in one of the
multitudes of parts boxes.  So I decided to make my own version of the Heil Pro
Set Plus that has both mic elements, except one would go off to the 2nd radio. 
Since the footswitch was controlled by Writelog and the W5XD box, I was
protected from transmitting on two radios at once, since the PTT was only able
to be routed to one radio at a time.

Here it was, hours before the contest and I essentially haven't made a single
QSO, haven't "checked propagation", and most importantly, haven't checked how
all this stuff was going to work together, especially at QRO levels.  More
anxiety.  My wife was very understanding, and even allowed a low key beach day
for Friday, a return to the QTH fairly early and I was even going to try to
take a nap before the contest. Well, that didn't work out so well either.  I
heard my phone go off from an SMS message.  Turns out a bunch of trades
triggered (I trade options as a side "business"). So I had to get up and see
what was going on.  Oh, and I had broken my laptop a day or two earlier, so my
trading platform wasn't accessible.  I was able to use one of the PJ2T
computers and a web interface into my accounts, only to find strange things
going on.  So I had to make an international call to my broker to work through
a bunch of this stuff.  Not exactly a relaxing afternoon prior to the contest.

On top of all that, I heard that Rich N6KT/HC8A was going to be on.  Ouch.  I
knew that the 10M propagation advantage he had would be nearly impossible to
beat.  Trying to beat Tom at 8P was going to be a tall enough order, especially
considering both of their DX-side single-op'ing experience and iron pants versus
my non-existent DX single op experience and tons of part time efforts.  So I
made a game day decision to either try low power, or do my favorite..single op
assisted.  I opted for the higher rates of higher power, and stick with my
standard operating class of SO+P as I normally do in WW, SS and ARDX.  Of
course, it has limited benefit from the carib.  The biggest benefit I had hoped
for was for finding a 10M opening.  Based on my lack of DX single op experience
and apparently worse conditions than last year, my goal was to end up somewhere
between Tom's winning score last year, and the number 2 slot, which was nearly a
tie between FY5KE's HP effort and John's LP effort.  So between 6000 and 8000
Qs.  As a single op, the highest Qs I've ever achieved in a contest was 3900
for WPX SSB in 2002 from K4JA.

The contest started out slower than expected on 20M.  I probably stayed too
long.  But I was rewarded with a 304 clock hour after a band change to 40M. 
After the rate fell below 100 (9z), I thought I could relieve some of my sleep
anxiety by getting a little nap before 20M opened.  I grabbed the alarm clock
from the bedroom and crashed on the couch by the radios.  Surprisingly, I woke
up on my own just before the alarm went off, just short of a 1.5 hour nap.

More anxiety came from "what in the world is my wife and 3 year old daughter
going to do for 2 days while I play radio?"  Fortunately, Geoff and Cindy were
very kind and hospitable and took them on some sightseeing day trips on both
Saturday and Sunday.  A big thanks to Geoff and Cindy.  Even more surprisingly
was the food, drinks and back massages served up by my wife.  It was awesome,
and I'm very happy that she didn't make me feel guilty about my selfish hobby.

15M was late to open on Saturday, and the rates weren't all that good.  Several
attempts at 10M were fruitless.  Later, I was rewarded with a very small opening
to Texas and Arizona, and nearly nowhere else.  I'm grateful, but it still
sucked.  After moving to 20M, I was rewarded with a personal best 340 hour
(qrate).  That was sweet.  After several hours on the low bands, well after
everyone else has gone to sleep in the house, the doldrums (<200 hours) and a
long hot day was wearing on me.  More than I could handle.  I was falling
asleep at the radio at 2am local (06z).  I decided it would be best (?) to get
some sleep and be fresh for the high bands the next day.  I could have taken a
3 hour nap and gotten up at the absolute worst time slot (9z Sunday from
carib), or just get a little more sleep.  So I set the alarm for 11:30z and if
I wake up earlier, I'd get back on.  Well, I woke up earlier...about 11:20z,
for a 5+ hour sleep.  Doh.  I got what I deserved.  15M was even worse Sunday
than Saturday, as was any 10M stuff.  I did manage a few mult passes from 15 to
10, trying to get neighboring states to TX/AZ, but otherwise was just a few more
TX/AZ stations.  I have no idea why my 10M line, especially the mults, is what
it is.  It's certainly not for a lack of trying.  15M slowed down sooner than
expected, so move to 20M produced some nice rate near the end of the contest. 
Even 20M slowed early, so a "last minute" QSY to 40M was handsomely rewarded
with 34 QSOs in 7 minutes (nearly a 290 rate)!

Overall, I'm very happy with my effort for my first DX single op effort.  I met
my goal of between 6000 and 8000 QSOs.  There's still a lot to learn, and plenty
of more operator time I can try to use next time, if/when there is a next time.

Big congrats to Rich, Tom, the 6Y crew.  Big thanks again to Geoff, Cindy,
Jerry, CCC and my wife Shirmela.  And thanks to all for the Qs.

Chad WE9V

PJ2T:  http://www.pj2t.org

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