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Tue Nov 28 00:17:36 EST 2017

CQ Worldwide DX Contest, CW

Call: WC1M
Operator(s): WC1M
Station: WC1M

Class: SOAB(A) HP
Operating Time (hrs): 28
Radios: SO2R

 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
  160:   21     8       18
   80:  191    17       72
   40:  778    28      112
   20:  826    28      100
   15:  512    23       90
   10:    0     0        0
Total: 2328   104      392  Total Score = 3,331,632

Club: Yankee Clipper Contest Club


For the first time in a long time I had hopes of a serious Unassisted SO2R
effort. I'm in pretty good shape, having lost almost 30 lbs and exercised a
fair amount, and felt that I'd have the stamina for 40+ hours. And after a year
or so doing partial Assisted efforts I was itching to tune that second radio and
find the mults on my own. Besides, I wasn't on tap for making Thanksgiving
dinner this year, something I've had to do for the past 4-5 years that takes a
lot of energy the week before the contest.

But stamina wasn't the problem this time. A combination of sub-par conditions
and issues with all of my low band antennas soon transformed the weekend into a
partial Assisted effort. But it was still a lot of fun. After all, CQWW CW is
the King of Contests!

I knew going into the weekend that my low band antennas weren't operating well,
but thought I'd get by. The center frequencies of the 160/80 trapped vee and 80
Delta loop were both high by about 100 KHz, pushing SWR between 2:1 and 3:1,
but figured I could do OK with the Acom 2000a at 1000W or so. I soon found out
that was optimistic, with the best I could do around 750W. And that was pushing
it -- the amp tripped quite often. It was particularly bad on 160, where the
bandwidth is very narrow to begin with. Only could do maybe 500W at the bottom
end of the band.

The 40 4-square was also a problem. Normally I use it for Diversity reception
with the 2-el Cal-AV beam at 110'. It's also great for quickly switching South.
But just before the contest I discovered there's something wrong with the
directivity. Seemed like EU stations were louder NW than NE. In fact, it seemed
like all stations were louder NW-SE. But SWR and dumped power seemed normal in
all four directions, and they're each a little different so I think the
switching voltage is getting to the control box. The only odd thing is that the
dumped power seems suspiciously low NE-SW -- about 1% versus typical best case
of 2%). Nothing wrong with the elements or feed lines, as far as I could see.
So I think something's going on inside the control box. I rehabbed it recently
(last year or the year before I think), so curious what it could be.

And then there's the Beverage. It's been a great listening antenna for many
years, but starting last year it got extremely noisy and nothing I've tried has
corrected the problem -- new transformers, all damage to the wires repaired, new
noise-blocking choke, etc. The only difference from prior years is that we now
have Comcast high-speed Internet. The lines on the pole aren't far from the
shack end of the Beverage, and the shallow-buried line to the house probably
passes within a few feet of the Beverage. Hard to believe there'd be much
emission from a shielded cable, but I suppose there could be. Another
possibility could be a bad connector somewhere, as suggested by N1UR in a
recent post. The Beverage is all but useless, and I'm not sure how to track
down the problem.

Despite what I thought was better planning, got to the radio a few minutes
late. Ran 40 and S&Ped 80 for the first three hours, barely squeezing out
90 Qs. 40 was OK without Diversity reception, but I couldn't get any rate to
speak of. 80 was a struggle, but I did manage to get about 45 mults. A few
fruitless trips to 160 convinced me that the low bands were going to be
problematic, so I decided to switch to Assisted, using only my local CW Skimmer
setup (monitors three bands) and make it a less-than-full-time operation. 

Spent the next five hours clicking on Skimmer spots, except for a one-hour
break at 0500z. Happened to check 20 around 0745z and was surprised to see a
strong EU sunrise opening. Clicked and worked some mults, but decided they were
all vanilla 20m mults I'd quickly get in the first morning run. Went to bed at
0800z, woke up at 1100z, made some coffee and was back on at 1130z. 

20 was already rocking, so I settled in at 14011 and ran like crazy for about
an hour and a half. Rate was excellent -- the 10-minute meter went over 200
often. 177 during the 1200z hour, and a peak one-hour rate of 184. Cleaned out
mults on the bandmap for a few minutes then switched to 15 at about 1300z. The
rate was lower, but the next three hours were 105, 114 and 118. Probably could
have done a lot Qs more on 20, but needed the mults on 15 and knew there would
be plenty of time to boost Qs on 20. Couldn't be sure 15 would be as good the
second day.

After the morning runs I took the next five hours off, including a trip outside
to fixed the 80 Delta problem. Normally the SWR is under 2:1 from 3500 to 3700
or so, but it had shifted high, putting the low end of 80 over 3:1. Checked the
connections at the balun and feed line and they were OK, so I repositioned the
wires by adjusting the ropes that tension the two bottom corners, which had the
effect of moving the triangle several feet to one side. Also freed the corner at
one end from some branches that had decreased the angle between one side of the
triangle and the bottom wire. All this did the trick -- the SWR was back to
normal across the CW band! Well worth the hour or so it took to do it.

Got back on the radio around 2100z and found 40 hopping, and it was so good I
figured it had actually opened earlier. This time I tried adding the 4-square
for Diversity, and was pleasantly surprised that it made a big difference. The
directionality seemed closer to normal, though not as deep a null as usual, but
the vertical polarization really helped -- much better copy. Ran off 104 Qs,
then the rate dropped, producing only about 140 Qs in the next three hours. At
0100z the rate was low enough that I decided to grab a nap. Thought I could get
up for the EU sunrise opening at 0400z, if there was one, then stay up straight
through the morning runs. The rate on 40 at 0400z was terrible, so I spent
about three hours running 80 until the rate dropped to almost nothing. No new
mult spots either. Back to bed for another four hours.

This time I got up at about 1030z and saw that 20 wasn't really open yet. Made
some coffee and worked a few Asian and Pacific mults on 40, then swung into
another fine run on 20. 74 during the 1100z hour, then 170 during the 1200z
hour. Switched to 15 at 1300z and ran off 119 Qs, but the rate quickly dropped
to the point where I thought it would be better to go back to 20 (really glad I
spent three hours on 15 day one!) Did 250 Qs on 20 during the next two hours,
then the rate went all to hell on all the bands. Took off another three hours.

Came back to the radio at about 1940z. 40 wasn't quite open and the rate on 20
was pretty slow. But by 2000z the rate on 40 really picked up and was able to
do 101, 124, 95 and 59 during the last four hours of the contest, with the last
hour being mostly point-and-click.

After the first morning, the number of new mults on the band map started to
drop off, and by about 1400z the second day new mults rarely showed up. I could
be that my local Skimmer didn't hear stations that were there, but it seems to
hear really weak stations a lot better than I can. Could be that the callsign
recognition setting is too conservative. I was tempted to add the Cluster to my
spots, but decided that it felt better to use only the antennas at my station
for spotting. Sort of between Assisted and Unassisted.

Conditions were a bit strange. Every part of the world came through at some
point, but the number of zones and countries seemed lower than previous years.
The first night was pretty-much wiped out by a K index of 3-4, but even with
the K down to 1 for the rest of the contest the low flux kept the lid on
propagation. No 10m at all here. I checked pretty often, keeping an SDR or
bandscope on the band as often as I could without compromising spots on other
bands, but never saw a single signal in any direction. I was away from the
radio enough that I might have missed a brief opening, but usually there's at
least a few weak signals to the South -- LU an such. Nothing.

Propagation on 160 wasn't all that much worse than other years -- I did work
some EU -- but my transmit and receive antennas pushed the numbers way down.
Thought I'd hear more Caribbean stations, so maybe that was
propagation-related. Or hurricane related...

All in all, I was pretty pleased with the numbers for only 28 hours and poor
conditions. Had lots of fun and the partial effort was much more relaxing than
going for the gold (or the wood). Will try to fix the 160/80 vee and the
beverage before the snow flies, though time is getting short for that (the
160/80 vee requires a tower climb, which I haven't done in a while.)

Hope to get on for the 10m and 160m contests, then ARRL DX CW. CU then.

73, Dick WC1M


160M  -  trapped vee @90'
 80M  -  delta loop @75, trapped vee @90'  
 40M  -  Cal-Av 2D-40A @110', 4-square    
 20M  -  4/4/4 SteppIRs @96'/64'/34' on TICs, C3E @50', 4-el @72'
 15M  -  4/4/4 SteppIRs @96'/64'/34' on TICs, C3E @50', 5-el @50'
 10M  -  4/4/4 SteppIRs @96'/64'/34' on TICs, C3E @50'. 6-el @115'
Tower#1:   Force 12 EF-610, Cal-AV 2D-40A, 4-el SteppIRs, 160/80 trapped vee
770-MDP:   Force-12 EF-420
AB-577 #1: Force-12 EF-515
AB-577 #2: Force-12 C3E

Delta loop hung from a tree

dual 580' beverage aimed 20/220 degrees (not working -- massive noise)


Elecraft K3 + Afedri SDR-Net + Alpha 87A, Elecraft K3 + Afedri SDR-Net + Acom
2000A + Afedri SDR-Net on unused antenna, Writelog, YCCC SO2R Box, homebrew
Windows antenna switching/tuning software ("AntennaMaster"), HDSDR,
CW Skimmer, iPad running Touchmon USB for touch-screen "button box",
K1XM MOAS II USB Switch, TopTen and KK1L SO2R switches, Green Heron and Hy-Gain
rotor controllers, microHam Stack Switch and StackMax

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