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WPX SSB Contest: K3ZO Results and Comments

To: <3830@contesting.com>
Subject: WPX SSB Contest: K3ZO Results and Comments
From: syam@Glue.umd.edu (De Syam)
Date: Wed, 3 Apr 1996 10:15:15 -0500 (EST)
This was an interesting contest.  Murphy was present most of the
weekend, but my score improved a lot over last year's anyway.
First the results:
   K3ZO: Single Operator/All Band/High Power
   BAND   Raw QSOs   Valid QSOs   Points   Prefixes   
   80SSB     402         402       1120      207 
   40SSB     219         219       1236       42 
   20SSB    1476        1476       3692      511 
   15SSB      53          53        143       28 
   10SSB      23          23         66        7 
 Totals     2173        2173       6257      795 
    Final Score = 4,974,315 points.
Off times:  05:33 - 10:11 (30)                4 hrs  38 mins
            01:57 - 04:33 (31)                2      36
            07:57 - 10:56 (31)                2      59
            13:37 - 15:27 (31)                1      50
                 Total                       12      03 
The contest started out well.  Tuning around on 20 just before the
contest, I heard my friend Dallas, K3WUW/HS0ZBI, just getting set
for his effort from HS50A, so we talked until the contest started,
and by that time we had been joined by E22AAB (HS0/G3NOM In
disguise) and HS1CHB, so I started off the contest with three
different Thailand prefixes.  The first ten minutes of CQ'ing
brought two JT1's and UA8TAA, but the peak had passed with Japan so
there was little volume to the North and I finally aimed West and
picked up lots of West Coast zero-point prefix multipliers.  (I was
somewhat surprised when an EA1 called me off the back of the beam
at about 0130 his local time;  the high sun angle this time of year
is helping 20 even with the sunpots almost nil;  Why don't we have
good openings at that time of the morning on 20?  Because he's a
lot closer to the Geomagnetic Equator than we are.)
After the West Coast runs on 20 tailed off, I went directly to 80,
figuring that the Europeans on 40 would still be running high rates
on their own frequencies, and not many would be listening split
yet.  But before I could get going on 80 I had to cope with
Murphy's first visit.  Because of ice damage two years ago to my
KLM 80 meter beam, I have an antenna tuner in line with the 80
meter beam at all times.  This is because we were never able to get
it completely tuned on the CW end the one time we had a crane in
here since then.  Well, I couldn't get the antenna to tune at all
on any part of the band tonight, so, after determining that a
length of coax between the antenna tuner and the coaxial antenna
switch was shorted, I connected the 80 meter beam directly to the
antenna switch, since the antenna is tuned fine for SSB work, and
I only really need the tuner when I work CW.  Lesson #1:  Check out
everything BEFORE the contest, not after it has already started. 
Not adhering to this adage cost me 20 minutes of non-deductible
prime time.
I fired up around 3803 at 0203, listening on 3721 or so, and was
immediately the object of an unbelievable European pile-up, totally
unexpected.  Usually when I work split on 40 or 80, my receiving
problems come from either QRN or stations adjacent to my receive
frequency, and not from stations creating QRM for each other by
calling me.  Not that I minded this turn of events!
The pile-up died down in a hurry.  There weren't really that many
stations, but apparently even fewer on this side who were listening
down -- I believe I can name them all:  KE1Y, KC1XX, WZ1R and
myself at that particular point in time.
I stayed on 80, running them on my own frequency when the European
string began to end, and then knocked off for my first time out at
0533.  When I came back on again at 1011, I fiddled around on 40
and 80 getting mults and then went to 20 far too soon.   At 1045
GMT, the band was somewhat open but only a few Europeans could hear
me through their regional QRM, and there weren't that many Africans
beyond 6V6U to take up the slack.  Finally at 1140 or so I could
begin to run them at decent rates, and I resolved to stay on the
lower bands later the following morning.  
The increasing sunlight over the North Pole has brought back our
morning short-path opening to Asia, and after HS0/G4UAV called in
at 1218, I pushed the 6-el Yagi up to 20 degrees to try to catch
some Asians along with the Europeans in the run.  Lots of Russian
3, 4, 9 and 0 area QSO's resulted along with the odd YB, 9M2 and
9M8.  K1VWL also made his presence at BY1QH known to me.  Things
went on pretty well until about 1545 when the rate began to drop
precipitously.  It seemed that a lot of the Europeans were beaming
in other directions since they were still having good openings to
the East and to each other, and my high 6-el Yagi (150 feet) had
ceased to dominate while the lower 4-el quad (78 feet) had not yet
come into its own.   
So I went to 15 and Murphy dropped in again.  March around here is
typically a month of relatively high winds (for us), and this year
was no exception.  The Tailtwister which rotates the 4-el Quad took
a real beating in the ARRL Phone DX Contest and through the rest of
March, and, though still turning, it does not want to go where I
want it to sometimes if the winds are a little high.  So I thought
that for the few South Americans and Africans on the band, I would
use the 40-meter Yagi instead, so I wouldn't have to turn the quad
away from Europe, where I would need it later on 20.  The 40 meter
beam works pretty well on 15 even if the SWR is up around 2:1. 
Well, instead of tuning up carefully I blundered on to the band
with the Titan 425 out of resonance and promptly popped one of my
Bird 10-position coaxial antenna switches, so I had to transfer all
important antennas to the other one, which took a little non-
deductible time again.  
About 10 QSO's on 15 and I'd worked everything that was there, so
back to 20 again.  About this time Murphy entered the picture again
in the form of a neighbor accompanied by dictaphone tape recorder
knocking on my door to prove that I was interfering with her TV and
telephone.  I had been warned by a local ham after the ARRL Phone
DX Contest that a neighbor was gunning for me but I didn't know who
it was until she knocked on my door.  This was a person with whom
my attorney and I had dealt unpleasantly before -- my earlier
attempt to solve this family's problem had ceased abruptly when I
was forcibly ejected from their home after ascertaining that one of
their TV sets -- the one I was bothering -- had been illegally
hooked up to the cable TV system -- using zip cord, no less!  The
husband is a former CB'er who fancies himself as an electronics
expert -- you get the picture.  He "knows" how to hook up to the
cable system for free and then the spoil-sport ham neighbor comes
along with RFI and foils his little plot!  Well, at least this time
I had a bullet-proof phone to give her so hopefully half the
problem has been solved.  More non-deductible time wasted! 
I suffered so-so rates again until 1900 or so when the 4-el quad
finally came into its own, along with most Europeans being forced
to look our way because we were now the only game in town.  At 2300
I went to 40 and after working 15 or so loud ones who were
listening up, I found a frequency to CQ on and again was promptly
set upon by a monstrous and surprising European pile-up.
A pause here to describe how I find a good run frequency on 40,
though it will concern relatively few on this reflector because it
probably requires a 40 meter beam to be able to run sufficient
volumes on 40.  No, I DON'T listen to what the Europeans running
W's are calling out for listening frequencies and fire up there. 
I know it's been done, but is there really any moral difference
between doing this and knowingly firing up on "someone else's"
transmit frequency when using simplex?  I tune through the USA
phone band from the bottom up to about 7225 (my 3-el Telrex takes
in both the phone and CW bands at one setting  - it's tuned for
about 7075 -  so I don't like to run people above 7225 due to the
higher SWR) and use the clearest frequency I can find in that
range.  I choose a .5 split so in case I do get near "someone's"
listening frequency I won't be right on top of them.  
And, yes, I always find a listening frequency above 7040 which is
the lower limit for SSB in the IARU Region 1 band plan.  OK, I
admit that I do it partly in self-defense because I don't want to
feel guilty when IARU Region 1 President PA0LOU, who I see
regularly at IARU meetings, harps on this topic once again as he
does every time I meet him.  But I also respect my fellow
contesters in Europe, and their desire to adhere to their IARU
Region's voluntary band plan.  I don't want to force them to make
the decision between going down below 7040 to work me and thereby
possibly subjecting themselves to the wrath of other European hams,
or not working me at all.  On 80 meters I also avoid listening in
the IARU Region 1 Contest-Free-Zone from 3650 to 3700.  In addition
to the above-stated reason, my Yagi, which is a good low-noise
receiving antenna (except when there are thunderstorms off the back
in W4- and W5-land -- its F/B ratio on 80 phone is not the
greatest), is fairly narrow-band and the closer the frequency I can
find nearest to 3750, the better I am able to use its all of its
available forward gain on receive. 
At any rate I had this immediate pile-up of Europeans to handle,
and it seemed to hold up pretty well.  True, I had to dodge loud
stations who showed up near my transmit frequency and change my
listening frequency a few times, but they just kept on coming. 
OD5NJ even acquired a remote VFO between the ARRL contest and now -
I could answer him without a pause this time!  Another surprise was
RV0AR calling in at 2348 GMT.  
80 wasn't as productive as the night before into Europe so once 40
died down it wasn't hard to convince myself to take a break at
0157.  My decision was helped by a comment made by single-band KE1Y
in the middle of a CQ that he was getting bored!   Back on the band
at 0433, there were a fair number of additional Europeans to be
worked, and then I went to listening on my own transmit frequency
at about 3810.  One station that called me there was 8P6NE, who
gave me the big number 006.  I didn't work another 8P6 the whole
contest.  This reminded me that there is a Caribbean Net that meets
on 3815 around 1030 GMT and if you use a nearby frequency for
running between 1000 and 1030 you can sometimes attract these net
participants to call you.  And somebody said we contesters don't
have any secrets?  I was earlier berated by a couple of our
brethren for revealing that for the Spanish-speaking cogniscenti
there is an LU Novice band which runs between 28900-29100 just
loaded with eager beginners ready to acommodate the Spanish-
speaking contester.  You would have thought I had sold the family
heirlooms!  Frankly, my great desire is to have everybody know
everything I know and then to be able to more-or-less compete with
them anyway.  If there is something I haven't mentioned, obviously
it's not because I don't like to run off at the mouth about things! 
Either I didn't know it myself or I just forgot to bring it up.   
I went to 40 to get South American mults rather quickly and then
knocked off again at 0757. 
Up again at 1056, I resolved to stay on 40 and 80 longer this time
and not to go to 20 too soon.  After all, you do get double points
on 40 and 80 in this contest, so you can get by with half of the
rate you would want on 20 and above.  It was at this time that I
got my one and only sudden inspiration of the contest.  HC8A was
running stations on 3799 and several VK's were taking turns trying
to attract his attention, but HC8A was hearing the W's and the JA's
better than the VK's, obviously.  And the VK's were LOUD here.  I
asked myself the question: "How can I get those VK's to call ME?" 
The VK's theoretically have a window between 3794 and 3800, but
long ago their authorities told them not to use 3794, and lately
the issue of how far the lower sidebands extend out from the
carrier frequency has moved the authorities to limit them to 3798-
3800 for all practical purposes.  Well, I figured, maybe HC8A
wouldn't mind all that much if I fired up on 3798 for a brief run. 
I was immediately rewarded with four quick VK and one FK QSO plus
a few USA and Canadians thrown in.  Then I heard VK3EW break
through to HC8A on 3799 so I folded my tent and stole away to 40,
where I ran a few VK's and ZL's on my own transmit frequency,
before being asked to listen down by someone who turned out to be
an FK!  Yes it does help to have beams on these two bands!  On 40
I worked the only two JA's I could hear; they were coming in over
Hawaii instead of direct path which always makes things more
difficult here.
Twenty Sunday was essentially a repeat of Saturday's conditions.  
Therefore when the high Yagi lost its edge I used up the rest of my
time off starting at 1337.  I think taking the time off this early
rather than being forced to do it during high-rate hours later on
was the key to a better score for me this time.  It seems counter-
intuitive to take a time off so early in the morning but since you
only have 20 meters for high rates at this point in the cycle, why
not?  Later I came back on and found both 15 and 10 good for a few
mults that hadn't been available on 20.  9R1A and J56CK were also
begging on 15, as was AH8A. 
Murphy returned to the fray about four hours before the contest
ended.  I was running them reasonably well on 20 and the frequency
had cleared up nicely, but it became harder and harder for me to
answer callers.  At times I had to try three or four times before
the rig would come on the air.  And it just got worse.  A couple of
times it took so long to come back that I briefly lost my run
frequency.  Baffled Europeans were repeating their numbers to me
again and again, wondering why I hadn't acknowledged.  In
retrospect, I had noticed that toward the end of both the ARRL CW
and Phone contests I had had similar problems, but of a much more
intermittent nature.   Lesson #2:  I should have fixed them then
instead of waiting for the problem to aggravate itself.   Anyway,
#2 TS-830-S was substituted for TS-830-S #1, and the problem was
solved.  Except that TS-830-S #2 has a dirty bandswitch on the 20
meter position which caused me to "lose the nixies" a couple of
times, once while in the middle of giving my exchange to an HC2. 
Resolved:  Immediately prior to the next major contest, all
antennas, coaxes, connectors, exciters, and amps will be given a
smoke test!
A couple of final comments:  Boy it was great to see all those 
LU-H's (Cordoba Province) in there.  That was my old stamping
grounds as LU5HFI in 1972-1974 and I like to think some of my
enthusiasm for contesting rubbed off on some of the locals who have
passed it on to the next generation of hams.  Old friend LU3HAK,
one of the mainstays of the LU4HH club,  was up here this past
summer, attended a PVRC meeting with me, and I believe he took some
of the continuing enthusiasm back with him.  
And I was non-plussed when KB3TS/NH6, after giving me his #001,
proclaimed: "Go FRC!"  Can it possibly be a case of mistaken
identity?  A fortuitous one in this case. 
Murphy and all, it was fun!  Now we can relax and chat up all you
guys at Visalia and Dayton before returning to the other half of
WPX in late May.             

Oh yes, I had once promised to give out some tips for phone 
operating to go with some CW tips I gave out earlier.  That 
won't be necessary now.  Pile-up master N6KT has said it 
all in a beautifully written three-part series in CQ 
Contest Magazine.  There is nothing I can possibly add to 
Rich's excellent piece.  Read, for example, Rich's succinct 
explanation of why "last two letters" is useful for DX nets 
but not for contest pile-ups.  A beautiful piece of work, 
just terrific!                  
                                    Very 73,
                                    Fred Laun, K3ZO          

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