[CQ-Contest] CQWW SSB 1997 Comments

Fred Laun K3ZO aalaun at ibm.net
Mon Oct 27 11:42:51 EST 1997

I invested considerably over the summer in trying to eliminate all
problems in my antenna farm.  Matt, KC1XX, and his associate Andrew
were down here three times to get everything right (KM3T joined
them on one occasion and DL7SI on another, also):  The 8-el. Telrex
Yagi for 15 meters which I acquired about five years ago from W4QAW
was finally installed at 155 feet -- Matt figured out how to do it
without the use of a crane, since the crane company couldn't get a
big enough crane in here to do the job -- the 4-el W6PU dual-driven
quad at 78 feet was restrung; the 3-el 40-meter Telrex Yagi at 94
feet was repaired from slight tornado damage it suffered two years
ago; the 3-el KLM 80-meter Yagi at 140 feet was brought down,
element by element, relays replaced where necessary, refurbished
and retuned; M-Squared's new prop-pitch rotator controller was
acquired and installed so I finally have some idea where the
antennas on my big tower are pointing again after having endless
troubles with the selsyns in the previous home-brew indicator. 

Murphy made a visit shortly before the contest so Matt and Andrew
spent last Wednesday here putting in new feedlines on the 80-meter
Yagi and the 20-meter Telrex 6-el Yagi at 150 feet and replacing a
shorted connector on the 20-meter section of the W6PU quad, and
accomplishing final calibration of the M-Squared rotor controller.

I should also mention that Mike, W3MC (formerly KO7V), had been
over several times also to make rotor and feedline repairs. 
Murphy, however, spent some time inside the shack as well.  One of
my two Titan amps is on the bench awaiting parts, so Chief Engineer
Jerry, N6CZG, readied Karl, K4YT's, new Titan Gold amp, which has
been sitting here for about a year in the box waiting for Karl's 
return from Germany, for service as the principal amp. this weekend.  
But an errantly-protruding set-screw on the bandswitch shaft managed to
short out a capacitor, blowing up the same board in both of my
Titan power supplies, so we had to ready Karl's Titan supply for
service at the last moment.

Nevertheless, at 0000z on 25 October (all times given hereafter
will be in UTC), everything was ready to go.  The weather was great
for me -- raining, which meant no line noise -- and indeed, all
weekend long I felt like I could hear everything on every band. 
The rain was hard enough to cause precip static on my Yagis -- the
quad is never bothered by it -- only sporadically on Friday night. 
After that, no noise at all anywhere except for one insulator which
likes to get noisy only when it rains, which bothers me only
slightly when I use the Yagi to Asia on 20.  

As everyone knows the sunspot cycle has finally started to go up
after taking it's good-natured time about getting started.  Indeed,
the openings on 10 and 15 seem to be better than what one would
expect with a solar flux in the low 80's, perhaps validating a
tentative theory that W3ZZ and I have postulated, to the effect
that sunspots with the polarity of the current cycle have a greater
effect on the ionosphere than sunspots polarized the way the
previous cycle was.  This theory was postulated based on the
observations of local veteran 6-meter operators like WA3DMF, to the
effect that the most recent sunspot peak did not find six meters as
lively as the previous peak, even though the two cycles were
roughly of the same magnitude.                         

Predictions for the contest weekend were for disturbed conditions,
but I was able to open on 20 with the beam on Asia, as I had
planned.  9M8R was the very first station to go into my log as I
began my run, which I thought augured well for the contest,
followed in short order by HS0ZAA, RW0LDF and VK6WJH among numerous
JA's.  But thanks to the disturbance that opening lasted only a
half-hour and then it was turn the beam south to clean up on the
Central and South Americans along with the occasional African.  At
0115 I checked 15 and found that it was still open to the south as
well.  At 0130 I finally hit 40 meters but found that not too many
Europeans were "listening up" as early in the contest they were
busy working each other.  So at 0230 I wound up on 80 for what was
to be the best European run I had on that band all weekend, given
that later on the QRN level from storms in the south and west was
ferocious.  The 80-meter beam seemed to hear better than it had in
some time, and I was satisfied that it is back to where it was when
I first put it up, but when the dust of the weekend finally settled
my cross-town rival Ken, K4ZW (ex-KE9A), also doing single op-all
band, trounced me decisively on that band.  What it amounted to was
that with alternative bands available for a change, I just didn't
feel like punishing myself by listening to all that QRN on 80. 
Getting old, maybe?

At 0530 I found 20 meters wide open to the Pacific, and I ran
across Dallas, W3PP (ex-K3WUW), who informed me that the Europeans
had been coming in from the Southwest also just a bit earlier. 
Indeed, 5B4AGC was still booming in from that direction.  At 0650,
afetr working what turned out to be my only European on 160
(G0IVZ), I took a two-hour break for sleep, returning at 0850.  I
find that in order to keep myself fresh I need to force myself to
get some sleep the first night.  Hopefully this will avoid cockpit
errors like I heard later in the contest on 40, where a station
using the call K5ZD was calling endless CQ's on 40 meters on 7065,
saying "tuning 7065" when he was actually transmitting on 7065 and
receiving on whatever frequency he meant to be transmitting on,
making it impossible for me and several others to let him know
about it.

Several VK's told me they would be available on 80 meters operating
below 3700 after 1100, but frankly the QRN was so bad I didn't even
feel like making the effort to stay on 80, so at 1035 I was already
up on 20 where the band was already wide open to Europe.  In fact
I think I went to 20 too late, as run frequencies were already at
a premium.  Anxious to try out my new 15 meter weapon as well as to
get away from the congestion on 20, I was already up on 15 at 1125. 
Europeans were runnable for me even at that hour though Dave, N3RD,
called in to inform me that they were barely a whisper up
Philadelphia way at the same time, no doubt an effect of the
disturbance, though the Frankford scores I have seen and heard so
far seem to indicate that it was only a temporary condition which
did not endure through the entire weekend.  47 stations went into
the log in the 25-minute period leading up to 1200, 76 in the 1200
hour, and 129 in the 1300 hour.  Some of the juicier mults calling
in included VQ9AI, A92GE and JY8XY.  Strangely enough there was
also short skip to Canada, and I was called by a number of loud
VE2's and VE3's including Zone 2's VE2QRZ (thanks John!).  

I hated to break away from a good run, but at 1400 I always check
10 meters to see if it's open, as it is an all-band effort, after
all.  What a pleasure to be able to use the FT-1000-MP's "tuned
front end" (actually almost like a pre-amp) on that band without
having any line noise!  There weren't any Europeans coming in but
I ran off 39 QSO's anyway from 1415 to 1450, picking up the
Caribbean and African stations I could hear on the chance that they
wouldn't be there later in the contest if the predicted disturbance
got worse.  The 4-el W6PU dual-driven quad on a 33-foot boom at 78
feet, newly re-strung, was working fine on 10 as usual, and seldom
did I have to call a station more than once.  At 1455 I was back on
15 with the 8-el Telrex and my 1500 hour was 137.  During that
period I was called by several UA9's in Zones 17 and 18, a fact
also noted by N5TJ (KR0Y) at VE3EJ when we briefly exchanged notes
later in the contest.  That would be the wee hours of the morning
in UA9-land and yet 15 meters was still open for them.

Some time back on this reflector there was a story about the ham in
Minneapolis whose neighbors were opposing his plans to erect a big
tower because flying birds might crash into it and die.  Those
people should visit my place!  At this time of year the blackbirds
are migrating south and they all seem to stop to rest at the K3ZO
Bird Hotel on the way.  Far from crashing into it, they just
"crash" on it for a few hours' rest before continuing on their way. 
Indeed, the chief hazard on my big tower that Matt, Andrew and Mike
report after having worked on it a considerable amount of time is
the smell from the blackbird guano on high.  Indeed, if my tower
permits didn't limit me to personal use only, I might invite the
fertilizer companies to come around here after Nauru runs dry.  

Along about 1520 or so I noticed the SWR on the 15 meter Yagi
becoming erratic and received signals pulsing up and down, and
after saying to myself "Oh no, the brand new feedline has gone out
already!" I switched to the 15-meter W6PU quad and kept going.  At
about that time my tenant N6CZG came back from a trip to the store
and remarked that he had never seen so many birds on my antennas as
there were that day.  Aha!  So that was the problem!  Switch back
to the Yagi and that antenna was working fine again!  Not only
that, but the mixture of rain and bird guano on the hairpin match
had lowered the antenna's SWR from 1.7:1 to 1.2:1!  I can only hope
that none of my feathered visitors had made the supreme sacrifice
in the process -- N6AA would never forgive me for that!  Later on,
I observed exactly the same phenomenon on my 20-meter Yagi, though
the SWR stayed at it's usual 1.5:1 after it was back in operation.

At 1620 I went to 20 to run Europeans there, the lower quad at 78
feet now being superior to the high Yagi at 150 feet on that run. 
The band was very crowded and the rates weren't all that great,
only about 70 or so, and so at 1745 I was on 10 and 15 picking up
mults to the south and to Africa.  Of note was the fact that as
late as 1900 15 was still open to Southern Europe.  Back on 20 at
1900 the Europeans were still runnable, but still the rates weren't
anything to write home about, so at 2055 I was back on 10 moving
up the band calling anyone I hadn't worked.  How about all those
LU's?  For anyone from Argentina who might be reading this, hey you
guys, you're doing a great job creating contesters down there! 
Congrats and keep up the good work!  Fabuloso!  The PY's and CX's
weren't doing too badly either.  What we need is some LU contest
missionaries to travel around and teach contesting to the other
Latino countries, just like their futbol coaches populate the
Colombian soccer league, for example.  

At 2215, after putting a few Pacific stations like P29AS in the log
on 15, I was back on 20 and worked 79 Asians in the 45 minutes up
to 2300 plus a 90 hour at 2300 -- my best 20 meter run all weekend,
and with the beam on JA, no less!   Even earlier, between 1900 and
2030, several JA's and UA9's had called in while I was running
Europe, and if anything their signals were stronger and with less
flutter than they were later in the opening -- and when we say 1900
we're talking about 0400 local JA time!   Of note is that Europeans
were still being heard on 20 at 2400 when I moved to 40 and 80. 
Nothing much doing, so as I am in the habit of doing I took a two-
hour nap between 0100 and 0300 the second day as this turns out to
be a very slow time for a single op-all bander who has been working
everything on all bands up to then.  Back on at 0315, I tried 80
but the QRN from the storms in the south was atrocious so I went to
40 at 0340.  Hey, the cycle is now high enough so there is no
longer any mid-evening drop-out of Europe on 40, and my efforts to
run Europeans on 40 at their sunrise paid off immediately.  There
were a number of loud signals that called in from UA3 and UA4-
lands, and the 0500 hour was worth 51 QSO's to me, not bad when you
consider that all of them were run split-frequency.  As usual, I
honored the IARU Region I band-plan and only used frequencies above
7040 to listen on for runs, though it meant that I had to change
listening frequencies relatively frequently.

At 0700 I took my final nap of the contest, coming back on at 1000. 
In other words, I took a total of seven hours off during the
contest, broken up into three periods.  This is just about what I
always need in order to keep going efficiently throughout the
entire contest, and I believe the CQWW police will find that my
unique rate doesn't really vary from one period of the contest to
another, though this weekend it will probably be worst on 20 with
all of the congestion on that band.  

Back on at 1000, I declined once again to fight the QRN on 80 and
after picking up some mults on 40 I was back on 20 at 1115, staying
there only until 15 was runnable again at 1210.  Thanks to Dave,
N3RD, for spoofing me about my "frequency in use" attitude there,
sorry that with the competitive juices flowing and after all
weekend with little sleep, I didn't take it in the humorous way it
was intended!  I was immediately put in better humor by the 136
hour that happened at 1300, however, and once again at 1400 I broke
off a great run to take a look at 10, and, hey, today that band WAS
open to Europe!  Almost immediately CT, F, LZ, I, SP, DL, YO, EA,
S5, IT9 and a smattering of Africans went into the log.  Some of
the multis were running Europeans on the band, but my strategy was
to get a bunch of mults there as quickly as possible and get back
to the great rates on 15, which I did at 1500 after putting 16
country and 4 zone mults into the 10 meter log.  

The 15 meter log showed another 104 hour at 1500 plus a 90 hour at
1600 and another 48 stations went into the log from 1700 to 1730
before the amplifier cycled off as I was in the middle of a QSO
with IK4FMT, which I completed barefoot.  At first I thought the
220v breaker had gone down but it turned out to be a much more
serious problem;  it was the Titan's power supply, and with the
other two power supplies I was amp-less for four hours and 45
minutes until Chief Engineer N6CZG, working feverishly and aided by
a trip to Radio Shack, was finally able to bring one of the ailing
Titan power supplies back on line at 2215.

Talk about instant humility!  I was forced now to S&P desparately
around 10, 15 and 20 for anything I could scrounge up, though in
some ways I was having more fun since I really enjoy S&P'ing more
than running anyhow, and it gave me a better chance to observe band
conditions.  In the process I managed to break through some pretty
decent pile-ups on 6V1C, FR5DX, S97A, 4U1VIC, 6Y6A, KH8/N5OLS (on
ten no less!), HH2PK, FK8GM, ZF2AH, FO8DX, KG4QD, and PZ5JR.  As
some have observed here before, in phone pile-ups timing can take
the place of brute froce when absolutely necessary.  Wait a couple
of seconds before dumping your call in and hopefully the last
couple of letters will be hanging out there all alone.  

The last hour-and-three-quarters of the contest, amplifier now back
on line, was mostly spent S&P'ing and running JA's on 15, which
hadn't been in here on that band to my knowledge on the first day. 
Along with the JA's the occasional DU, KH0 and KH2 were also found. 
Interestingly enough, while the new 8-el Yagi on 15 was definitely
superior to the lower quad at the beginning of the European run,
both antennas looked about the same into JA.

Compared with last year, when my score was good enough for fourth
place USA single-op high-power all-band, my score increased by
600,000 points, with 300 more Q's, five FEWER band-zones, and 28
more band-countries.  One-sixty was down by 13 QSO's, 4 zones and
10 countries.  Eighty was down by 74 QSO's, 9 zones and 11
countries.  Forty was down by 50 QSO's and 6 zones but up one
country.  Twenty was down 294 QSO's, 18 countries and 3 zones. 
Fifteen was up 616 QSO's, 23 countries and and 5 zones.  Ten was up
128 QSO's, 49 countries and 11 zones.  Why, you could almost graph
the solar flux on a QSO-per-band chart!

If these were disturbed conditions, what fabulous times await us on
the CW weekend?  I can't wait!

73, Fred

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