WPX SSB VE4VT(VE4EAR) SOAB HP
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Mon Mar 26 08:41:27 PDT 2012
CQWW WPX Contest, SSB
Class: SOAB HP
Operating Time (hrs): 36
Total: 1699 Prefixes = 796 Total Score = 4,049,252
Here are a few notes for anyone else foolish enough to consider operating a
major DX contest from this black hole I call home.
I thought I was prepared for this one. I had reviewed my notes from the last
couple of years and had studied the logs of the top finishers from eastern
Canada, Western Canada and the Midwest US. Their winning patterns of operating
all made sense based on their geographic locations. The answer was simple.
Eastern folks run Europe as much as possible and work Asia briefly during the
short openings. Folks out west run EU as much as possible with a greater time
spent running Asia. Folks in the Midwest run in whatever direction is open and
to whoever can hear them, with a focus on Europe. This of course makes sense
and is no secret. WPX is a pure rate contest. The mults come to you as long as
you can RUN.
Canadians have a slight advantage in we can operate below 7.125/14.150/21.200
and this provides some breathing room from the masses. However it comes at the
expense of slower rates but a great way to focus your attention on EU. The top
eastern Canadian stations will only venture into the US phone bands when they
have exhausted the supply of EU stations.
Soooo, how did all the planning work out? I ended the contest frustrated by my
lack of production on Sunday. 11 hours in the chair and only 325 Qs in the log.
Miserable performance by comparison to others and to previous years. What went
10m â" Opened to only deep South America both days with a grey line opening to
Oceania. Best time was mid-afternoon local time. Running was a waste of time and
produce very slow rates. Much better S&Pâing with a great multiplier / QSO
15m â" Sort of opened to EU around 1400z both mornings. However only the
biggest of guns could be heard. Very difficult to be heard by them. The band
was long to stateside which meant only stations in FL, TX, and CA were strong.
All other stateside were very weak. Being in the center of NA, means that only
extreme south east, south and south west stations fall into the skip zone.
Others are propagated via back scatter or sub-MUF modes. EU did open quite
strong around 1930z for about 1 hour When EU closed the band opened to OC and
AS and stayed opened until 0100z
20m - Much the same as 15m. Stronger EU stations could be heard as early as
1330 but not many were worked. The band peaked around 1400 and then faded to
marginal until it opened big time around 2000z. When 15m closes to Asia, this
band stays open for a little while longer but signals are very marginal and a
strong west coast wall is in place. There is only a short opening where the
path peaks to Japan and usually occurs just before the west coast path opens
and the east coast has started to move to 40m. Once the JA west coast path
opens, the west coast wall is entrenched and we have not shot at cracking
pileups. Many people forget that at this time of year, we often get a strong
over the pole opening mid-morning to south east Asia. While almost everyone was
focused on EU, I pointed the beam north and sure enough, worked several stations
in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Not enough to run but good finds during an
S&P band sweep.
40m â" The strongest signals to EU are at greyline here. For us that is about
2330 â" 0030. That means at the start of the contest signals were booming but
with all of eastern USA and Canada calling, the one extra skip zone means we
are not heard easily. Listening to XL3A and others running high speed to Eu was
indeed envious and the EU stations were either not heard or marginal for the
most part here. No option here but to relocateï The band did stay open both
evenings after the higher bands closed and produced more EU through S&P than in
past years. Running down low was not successful and produced very slow rates. At
least running up above 7.225 produced great rates stateside until the SW
80m â" This band was an after though as I almost forgot about this band. Went
there at 0500z and found it in very good shape Sunday morning. I am not
competitive here with high noise and only a sloper but I was able to work CT
and PY beyond the normal stateside
Biggest frustration was the inability to run as often as I had wanted. The lack
of a clear frequency was perhaps the biggest hurdle. Down low, or up high the
bands were packed. Just when you think you have found a little slice of
spectrum, you listen and find a weak North American station. Or you are calling
and people answer, but it is embarrassingly obvious they are not answering you.
Again being in the center of the continent means we hear everyone from all
directions. Pointing to EU means we are looking right down the backs of the
eastern folks and the west coast gang is blowing fire down our backs. Since
most folk's beams have a null on 90 degrees and there is a small lobe at the
180 point, means we get clobbered here by strong signals in every direction.
Even operating outside of the US phone bands, I was frustrated by both the slow
rate when I did find a frequency or the hidden transmitter problem where someone
else on the east coast is using the frequency.
By Sunday, I had worked all the big guns on 20 and 15 and the only way to up
the rate was to run. I used the second radio fairly successfuly Saturday and
it helped, Not so much Sunday. At times on Saturday, my S&P rate on the second
radio was 2-3x that of the run radio. Run radio â" 400 watts and yagi, S&P
radio 80 watts and ground mounted vertical.
If the solution to finding a run frequency is to crank down the RF gain and
ignore the stations beneath you, I am not sure I am ready for that. I hate it
when others do it to me! How much space is considered enough? Obviously the
stronger the adjacent channel, the more room you need. Perhaps the solution is
to crank the processor wide open, splatter for twice the needed bandwidth and
this keeps others away from your receive frequency. This approach works for
some big guns but I really donât like that idea either.
Bottom line is I wish I could have done better. I donât feel I can improve
antennas as I live on a small city lot and already have a decent beam for the
high bands and 2 elements on 40m. Feedline losses are low as I use 7/8â
Heliax for all runs. I canât legally go to higher antennas. I keep power
levels to between 400-500 watts to keep peace with the neighbors. I have to
live here as well. I have used plenty of filters in my home and close
neighbors to keep electrical noise down. The antennas hear real well (perhaps
too well) I canât do anything with propagation, it is what it is. Perhaps I
just need to accept this is contesting from the black hole.
Maybe CW contesting isnât so bad either?
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