webform at b41h.net webform at b41h.net
Tue Mar 5 12:04:33 EST 2013

                    ARRL DX Contest, SSB

Call: YN5Z
Operator(s): K7ZO
Station: YN5Z

Class: SOAB HP
QTH: San Juan del Sur
Operating Time (hrs): 36

 Band  QSOs  Mults
  160:    0     0
   80:  270    47
   40:  681    56
   20: 1003    57
   15: 1421    60
   10: 1906    57
Total: 5281   277  Total Score = 4,388,511



ARRL DX SSB represented my third contest operation from Nicaragua. My goal for
the 2013 ARRL DX SSB  contest was simple â€" to see if a one man, Field Day,
contest Dxpedition can crack into the Top 10 in a major international contest
in the tough SOAB HP category. Though the results are not out, I believe I
managed this in the 2012 ARRL 10 Meter contest. Arguably though that was an
easier challenge being only a single band affair where a relatively small
station can generate respectable scores. There are also many categories across
which the competition spread out making it easier to stand out. In ARRL DX I
would have to step up. Somehow I had to operate across all contest bands. And,
I had to compete with perennial contest heavyweights from well tuned fixed
stations and operating experience over many years.

My complete station now fits into two hard sided golf bags, one hard sided ski
case, and a couple of briefcases. This has taken hours of work over the past
year to outfit the cases to carry antennas and the related parts, careful
testing at my home QTH, and a healthy dose of excess baggage fees. The station
is now made up of these key parts: 5 Band SpiderBeam and push up mast/tripod
for 10-20M, DXengineering fast taper 40M vertical, a top loaded Butternut HF2V
with 160M coil, a bunch of LMR-240, Kenwood TS-590, Elecraft KPA-500/KAT-500,
microKeyer II, SEC power supply, and a Heil Proset. One characteristic about
this being a true dxpedition is if I forget something or something breaks I
might as well be on a remote Pacific Island as I have no practical way to
recover. I have dozens of points where a failure will take me off the air. I
have one radio, one power supply, one amp, one footswitch, one microphone,
single cable assemblies, etc. If something does happen I have to fall back to
the proverbial Plan B â€" spend the day walking the beautiful beaches and
enjoying sunsets with a Rum and Ginger Ale. I actually at one point on Friday
was pretty close to activating Plan B but managed to work through the problem
to get on the air. More later. 

I also work within a self-imposed but pragmatic limit of being able to complete
the entire station setup within one day. This is the additional Field Day aspect
of my operation and consumes both physical and emotional energy. Probably more
than I thought. For the ARRL 10 Meter contest I setup this same station less
the two verticals and had it pretty well characterized. I figured I would save
a bunch of time setting up that part of the station again, which I did, which
would give me time to setup the verticals and still fit into one day, which was
almost true. The tedious nature of laying down the radials took longer than I
expected and I ended up spending a couple hours the next day to complete the
whole station. This is now as much station as I really want to manhandle. But,
all said I had the whole station ready to go early Thursday morning. Then the
challenge hit which would plague me the rest of the week â€" the wind arrived.

My QTH is a perfect one for ARRL DX and I chose it because of this. We rent a
house on the end of a North-South ridgeline that drops off 200 feet to the
ocean and valley floor pretty much over all directions north. The path to JA is
completely over the ocean. There are some hills which rise up again toward
Europe, but other than that it is fantastic. The height advantage I get makes
this work and why I can get away with the Spiderbeam on a short push up mast.
The terrain literally starts to slope down 5 feet in front of the mast. For
this weekend I ended up with the beam at only 15 feet high. From all accounts
it seemed to work well!

However, this QTH also seems susceptible to and amplifies the wind. I remember
last year during my single briefcase operation in the 2012 ARRL DX from a hotel
in town that is was really windy that weekend. I had that memory in the back of
my mind. The winds by comparison during the ARRL 10 Meter contest were
relatively light. As were the winds the first couple of days during setup this
week. But then on Thursday they took a big step up from the 10-15 mph/15-25 kph
range into the 25-30 mph/40-50 kph range. I started having problems with the
spiderbeam keeping it pointed where I wanted. I tried a couple of different
approaches and only succeeded in breaking three of the fiberglass cross pieces.
Luckily I had some spares with me, but only two. So, when the third section
broke on Friday morning I hit my emotional low of the whole week. I
contemplated going single band 40, taking down the spiderbeam and replacing it
with my backup single band dipole system I used in the 2012 ARRL DX contest, or
just spending the weekend at the beach with adult beverages. I sat down to think
things through and got my head back into Field Day mode. This is the type of
thing which is what Field Day’s are all about. You have to improvise. So, I
started looking around for what I could do to replace the broken fiberglass
section. Amazingly I found that the boom from my 3 element 10 would fit inside
the fiberglass section so I used it to splice a couple broken sections together
and after a couple hours of work had the antenna back up in the air. This
section also gave me a secure point to attach a tie rope and I could actually
keep the beam pointed where I wanted. (Which was basically was due north for
the whole contest. I never turned the beam during the contest. The 3db
beamwidth of the spiderbeam with 3 elements on 20 and 15 and 4 on 10 is just
about exactly coast to coast.) I am sure the aluminum section somehow affected
my antenna pattern as it was in the plane of the antenna but at least I was on
the air. Unfortunately what I had planned as a rest day had now turned into an
emotional and physical drain.

In comparison to the setup the contest was fairly straightforward. I know this
part. Though this contest represented by far my single biggest single op effort
ever, from anywhere.  As the start approached I could see that starting on 20
was going to be the plan. 10 closed around 2200 which is the pattern I learned
during the ARRL 10 Meter contest. 15 can be open past 0000 but it is not strong
and rates would be low. So off to 20M it was. I wandered around the band and
stopped on 14287 about 2330 to get settled. When the contest started it was off
to the races. My first hour was a 281 which is the highest I have ever
experienced.  It was amazing and all the struggles and expenses of getting the
station put together were immediately repaid. The second hour was a 238 which
was not bad either. Eventually I would have seven 200+ hours and averaged just
under 150 an hour for the time I was on the air. This was serious fun!

I managed to stay up until just past 0700 the first night. My pre-contest plan
had been to operate 40 out of the 48 hours taking off 4 hours each night from
0800-1200 UTC. But, I went into the contest not quite as rested as I hoped and
I also had no experience in a major SO effort. So, when I felt myself fading I
thought it would best if I just grabbed my sleep time early. On the other hand
40 and 80 were great. In particular 80 was outstanding, well above my
expectations with my simple HV2V antenna. I really didn’t know what to expect
here. I did operate a bit on 40 and 80 pre-contest and thought things were
working well. Propagation to Europe on 40 and 80 from here is unbelievable.
They are so strong. I even managed to work a couple dozen Europeans on 80M one
night. I never expected that. Of course this meant that 40 was a bit of a
challenge by the time I got there as it was packed below 7200 with 59+++
signals. So, the game is to play hide and seek with the broadcast stations
above 7200. At one point I had a great run going on 7220 when promptly at 0500
a broadcast station fired up ending that fun. Anyway by the end of the first
night I had 1,212 QSOs which was well ahead of my 1,000 QSO goal. I was feeling

I was back on the air just before 1200 on Saturday morning. After a short time
on 40 I moved to the high bands and ran into the classic problem trying to
attract people’s attention when they are all beaming to Europe. Rates were
pretty punky until the 1500 hour when 10M opened strongly and where there
certainly was less competition from Europe. In the next 5 hours I made over
1,000 QSOs on 10 and was totally in the zone. At one point I noticed the Last
10 rate meter hit 485. In the 2000 hour I moved to 15 and then made 930 QSOs in
the next 5 hours. At this time I also started moving stations around to fill in
missing multipliers. Thanks to all of those that moved. When 15 closed I took
off a half hour for a quick shower and dinner. Then back on 20, moving to 40
when it closed, and then some more 80. Again my plan was to operate until 0800.
However around 0530 I realized I was not going to make it as I was fading and
having a hard time concentrating. I was also struggling on 40 to find a run
frequency. So, I changed my strategy to take my off time earlier and then get
up earlier to operate on 40 when competition from Europeans below 7200 would be
much less. So I crawled into bed. About 0230 in the morning local, 0830 UTC,
however I was woken but what sounded like a hurricane. The wind had decided to
take another big step up the velocity scale. Gusts now had to be approaching 50
mph/80 kph. I sounded like the whole house was going to get blown off its
foundation. I had a very restless rest of the night compounded by the
experience of having a local land crab try to crawl into bed with me. I got on
the air an hour after I really wanted to at 1115. By now I realized 160 was
going to be a total bust for me. I never even heard a signal. My HF2V just does
not have enough receiving capabilities to make it pull anyone out over the
noise. I had a pre-contest sked with EY8MM on 160 who actually claimed he could
hear me, but I heard nothing of him. I also passed a FL station from 80 to 160
on Sunday morning and though he could hear me fine with S6 signal levels, I
could only pretend I was hearing him. Clearly if I miss out on the Top 10 box,
having zero 160 mults will be a part of it. Even 10 mults would make a big
score difference.

At another point during the predawn morning I had TI8M call in to say they were
having the same high wind problem at their QTH. My verticals were holding up
well. The spiderbeam however was now getting totally buffeted in the wind. As a
consequence the spacing of the elements was going through constant and wide
variations, which in turn was causing giant SWR swings. On 20 I had the added
problem that the driven element would get tangled with the 17 driven element
off and on. As a consequence the amp would keep tripping off because of high
reflected power. The high winds were also playing havoc with the local power
grid and I experienced a couple dozen 2-5 second power outages which caused
everything to reset. These coupled with the morning problem of attracting
attention when everyone in W/VE is working Europe really made the morning a
grind. This was the low point of the contest for me and my rates showed it. I
made only 18 QSOs in the 1200 hour. Eventually I figured out I could run
barefoot on 15 and 20 while I waited for 10 to open. So, though rates were low
at least I was making QSOs. During the 1600 hour 10 opened and the antenna
seemed better behaved here so I could get back on the amp. For being the second
day I had reasonable hours. As I though “10 meters, the gift that just keeps
on giving”. I moved to 15 around 2130 as the rate slowed and again had pretty
good rates. At this time I noticed that VT was still the real trouble mult. At
this point I only had it on 20 when realistically I should have it on 5 bands.
Luckily one called in on 15, and I moved him to 10 then set an end of contest
schedule on 40. I tried to get on 20 for the last 30 minutes or so and I know
many stations where going to be looking for me, but I just could not keep the
station on the air with the wind induced problems. As the contest closed I
looked for the VT station on 40, who didn’t show up, but my RI schedule did
adding one last mult to the log.

All in all I have to pretty pleased with the contest. My pre-contest goal was
for 3M points and 4,000 QSOs which I thought might get me into the Top 10 based
on looking at the last 5 years scores. Based on how fast I got to 3,000 QSOs on
Saturday I upped my estimates to 4M points and 5,000 QSOs both of which I
exceeded. Time will tell if I make it into the Top 10. 

One final observations about contesting as a SOAB HP in a major contest. I now
have total respect for the guys that can operate 46-48 hours. I have no idea
how they do it. I don’t think I can train myself to get there. I can’t even
keep my butt on the hard chair and my wrists on the keyboard that long. I was
physically sore when the contest was over and resorted to sitting on a pillow
sometime Saturday night. Staying mentally focused and sharp is the added
challenge. At one point on Sunday as I was listening to my DVP I thought to
myself “Gee â€" I didn’t even pronounce the work November correctly, that
is not even close to being right.” It was all I could do then to think
“Well you must have recorded it correctly before the contest, trust yourself
and leave it alone.” It was interesting that I actually found my
concentration the hardest at slower rates. At high rates you just seem to fall
into a rhythm and get energized to make everything click. At slow rates I would
lose concentration between QSOs. 

That’s it for now. Thanks everyone for the QSOs. My log will be up on LOTW


QSO/Sec by hour and band

 Hour     160M     80M     40M     20M     15M     10M    Total     Cumm   
D1-0000Z  --+--   --+--   --+--  279/51   --+--   --+--  279/51    279/51  
D1-0100Z    -       -       -    236/0      -       -    236/0     515/51  
D1-0200Z    -       -       -    165/2      -       -    165/2     680/53  
D1-0300Z    -       -     44/27   21/0      -       -     65/27    745/80  
D1-0400Z    -       -    165/17     -       -       -    165/17    910/97  
D1-0500Z    -    141/39    1/0      -       -       -    142/39   1052/136 
D1-0600Z    -     53/5    42/0      -       -       -     95/5    1147/141 
D1-0700Z    -      4/1    49/0      -       -       -     53/1    1200/142
D1-0800Z  --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--    0/0    1200/142
D1-0900Z    -       -       -       -       -       -      0/0    1200/142
D1-1000Z    -       -       -       -       -       -      0/0    1200/142
D1-1100Z    -       -     18/2      -       -       -     18/2    1218/144
D1-1200Z    -       -     59/1    28/1      -       -     87/2    1305/146 
D1-1300Z    -       -       -     26/0    29/14    3/3    58/17   1363/163 
D1-1400Z    -       -       -       -     12/8    75/18   87/26   1450/189 
D1-1500Z    -       -       -       -     14/5   200/22  214/27   1664/216 
D1-1600Z  --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--  187/2   187/2    1851/218 
D1-1700Z    -       -       -       -       -    236/3   236/3    2087/221 
D1-1800Z    -       -       -       -       -    206/3   206/3    2293/224 
D1-1900Z    -       -       -       -       -    180/1   180/1    2473/225 
D1-2000Z    -       -       -       -    171/14    2/1   173/15   2646/240 
D1-2100Z    -       -       -       -    211/12    4/2   215/14   2861/254 
D1-2200Z    -       -       -      3/2   183/3     3/1   189/6    3050/260 
D1-2300Z    -       -       -       -    219/2      -    219/2    3269/262 
D2-0000Z  --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--  146/0    --+--  146/0    3415/262 
D2-0100Z    -       -       -     96/0      -       -     96/0    3511/262
D2-0200Z    -       -       -     54/1      -       -     54/1    3565/263 
D2-0300Z    -       -     81/2    32/0      -       -    113/2    3678/265
D2-0400Z    -       -    160/3      -       -       -    160/3    3838/268 
D2-0500Z    -     64/2      -       -       -       -     64/2    3902/270
D2-0600Z    -       -       -       -       -       -      0/0    3902/270
D2-0700Z    -       -       -       -       -       -      0/0    3902/270
D2-0800Z  --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--    0/0    3902/270
D2-0900Z    -       -       -       -       -       -      0/0    3902/270
D2-1000Z    -       -       -       -       -       -      0/0    3902/270
D2-1100Z    -      8/0    52/3      -       -       -     60/3    3962/273
D2-1200Z    -       -      7/0    11/0      -       -     18/0    3980/273 
D2-1300Z    -       -       -     43/0    13/0      -     56/0    4036/273 
D2-1400Z    -       -       -       -      4/0    44/0    48/0    4084/273 
D2-1500Z    -       -       -       -       -     34/0    34/0    4118/273
D2-1600Z  --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   --+--   93/0    93/0    4211/273 
D2-1700Z    -       -       -       -       -    141/0   141/0    4352/273 
D2-1800Z    -       -       -       -       -    164/0   164/0    4516/273 
D2-1900Z    -       -       -       -       -    127/0   127/0    4643/273 
D2-2000Z    -       -       -       -       -    149/0   149/0    4792/273 
D2-2100Z    -       -       -       -    103/1    58/1   161/2    4953/275 
D2-2200Z    -       -       -       -    194/0      -    194/0    5147/275 
D2-2300Z    -       -      3/1     9/0   122/1      -    134/2    5281/277 

Total:     0/0   270/47  681/56 1003/57 1421/60 1906/57

Posted using 3830 Score Submittal Forms at: http://www.hornucopia.com/3830score/

More information about the 3830 mailing list