[CQ-Contest] WPX CW - NN5AA and the 10 Meter Story

Richard L. King k5na at texas.net
Wed Jun 2 19:32:01 EDT 1999

I have been lucky enough to win the USA 10 meter plaque for the
past two years for the WPX CW Contest. So I felt I needed to be
on the air again to defend my streak and to see if I could

However, my station is not in competitive shape. The 10 meter 
antenna is a TH7DXX at 80 feet and something is very wrong
with it. Its SWR varies from two to one up to four to one.
Repairing this antenna before the contest wasn't an option for

I called and asked N5CQ if his station was available. John, N5CQ,
said "yes" and we agreed that I could again use my family's club
call of NN5AA for the contest.

N5CQ has recently built a terrific station in the Texas hill
country west of Austin. It is one of the most spectacular setups
I have ever seen and I have seen some good setups in forty-one
years of contesting and DXing.

He has a 200-foot Rohn 55G rotating tower high on a hill. His
driveway even has switchbacks so you can get to the top. The
tower has a lot of Force12 antennas stacked on it. For my
single-band 10 meter effort, I used six Force12 C3 antennas
stacked up the tower. Three of the C3s have the 40 meter option
and at the top of this massive tower is an 80 meter yagi. John
switches the tribanders in pairs using the WX0B StackMatch. The
40 meter sections have separate feedlines and are switched with a
second StackMatch.

The station is an FT1000MP and an Alpha 87A. A switch on the
input to the Alpha lets John switch to a Kachina so he can
operate remotely from his home. John has a fast computer there
running Windows98 with TR-log already installed. That made it 
an easy decision to go with TR-Log for the contest.

Since the antennas are always connected, John has installed
complete lightning protection. The station has been there for
about a year now and John has had no damage from lightning
strikes although he has had some hits. His station is an example
of the right way to install lightning protection.

I drove over there on Tuesday so that John could give me some
quick training on the station. The StackMatch switching offers
lots of antenna combinations and I knew I would have to remember
to switch it a lot to see if I could maximize the arrival angles.
During the contest, I found that about 90 percent of my QSOs were
with all six antennas selected together in phase. But that might
have been because I didn't switch it as often as I should have.

On Thursday, after I helped N3BB with some antenna work, I
dropped by the N5CQ station to play with the station again. N3BB
and N5CQ stations are only about five miles apart. N3BB and I
were worried that we might have some interaction with each other
during the contest, but that problem never occurred. About 2000Z
on Thursday, when I started listening around at N5CQ's, I noticed
N4BP was working Europeans. I discovered that I couldn't copy the
Europeans he was working. That concerned me even though N4BP was
only giving 559 and 449 reports. N4BP had been my major
competition for this contest last year and he is an excellent

On Friday I got to the N5CQ station about 2130Z after being stuck
in unexpected Austin traffic for a while. A line of thunderstorms
passed through Austin while I was in the traffic jam making the
typical 45 minute drive a long, stressful 1.5 hour drive. By the
time I got to N5CQ's, the weather was clearing up but the static
noise from the area thunderstorms would linger for the entire

I spent most of my time before the contest getting the options
set for TR-log. I am just too forgetful to remember all the neat
features from contest-to-contest and I always struggle getting it
set up each time. But I was happy with it by the time the contest
started. I am getting better at using TR-Log and I don't make as
many errors sending the wrong info at the wrong time as I used to

Just before the contest started I was amazed to hear a loud
UA9xxx/5B4 station. I called him as K5NA and got him on the first
call. Conditions seemed pretty good. I put his call in the
callsign window and I waited for 0000Z to arrive and he would be
my first contact as NN5AA. At precisely 0000Z, I was ready to hit
the key to send my call, but the 5B4 disappeared. In his place
was P3A which must have been his call for the contest weekend. I
quickly cleared and retyped the correct call in the QSO window
and started calling him. But by now, he had a pileup going but I
finally worked him at 0002Z for my first contest QSO.

The contest QSOs came slow but steady. I noticed that a couple
of European stations were worked very late here when it had to be
after midnight in Europe. I heard EA4ML both evenings very late
and I recall hearing them late other years in this contest. EA4ML
must have a good location.

The band seemed open in all directions but not great in any
one direction. All signals were weak and noisy in the Texas
static levels. But by 0042 I worked an African station to
complete a 10 meter WAC in the first 42 minutes of the contest.
The first hour ended with 49 QSOs in the log and my best hourly
rate of the entire contest.

The first night's high point was a two hour long-path opening to
Africa and Europe. I worked 5X1Z at 0456Z and he was definitely
coming in on the long path. At 0542Z I worked my first European
on the long path and over the next hour logged six S5 stations,
three DL stations, three G stations, two HA stations, two OK
stations, one F station, and one SP station. Early in the opening
I was working the Eastern European stations and the last four
stations worked were the three G stations and the F station.

All the LP Europeans were weak and I had to work hard to pull
them through. At 0657Z after I worked a G4 station, the band
suddenly closed and the long path signals disappeared. The band
was then completely quiet at 0700Z and I went to bed. The
second night of the contest I listened for the LP opening to
reoccur but it didn't.

A funny thing happened to me the first night. I was learning to
use the second VFO on the FT1000MP in dual mode so I could S/P up
the band while I was calling CQ. After a QSO on the second VFO, I
either forgot or hit the wrong button necessary to return to my
CQing frequency.

Now I am tuning up the band calling CQ on VFO B but I think I am
actually CQing on the fixed frequency using VFO A. I hear a
loud station through my CQing and I start thinking about timing
my CQs so I can get his call and work him on the second VFO. I
suddenly realize that the loud signal is HC8N and they are
calling NN5AA over and over! But how did they know that I was on
frequency? Those guys are really good! Not only is their signal
the loudest thing on the band for 24 hours a day, but they
operate with effective ESP calling stations before they are
called. I then realize that I had been transmitting on the wrong
VFO. So I make the QSO and quickly QSY off their frequency with a 
red face. I bet they were thinking, "what a lid".

The Saturday daylight hours were a consistent 20 to 40 QSOs an 
hour all day long and I was CQing for most of that time. Once in 
a while a European station would call me. This would encourage me, 
but I never got any real European runs going.

Saturday afternoon was exciting as more thunderstorms were in the
area. I was standing up to look out a window while calling CQ in
order to watch a thunderstorm cell about two ridges over from me.
The cell moved from west to east passing just north of me and
then on across Austin. That worried me a bit but it never came
close enough for me to shut down the station.

Saturday night I was up to see if the Long path would open to
Europe again. Sadly, it didn't. With all the late night openings
on 10 meters, this is the first year I had to start worrying
whether I was going to take the correct amount of time off the
air to avoid operating more than 36 hours. I forced myself to 
go to bed.

Daytime Sunday was about the same as Saturday. The QSO rate was
slow but steady and an occasional European station called to keep
me going. Neither Saturday or Sunday produced any significant JA
runs and I worked only 18 JA stations all weekend. I really
expected conditions to JA to be better than that. Once I was 
called by two JAs in a row and I got really excited but no others 
called me.

Although the slow but steady rate on 10 meters doesn't sound like
much, it is a big improvement from other years in this contest.
Typically 10 meters is a poor band at this time of the year. But
the spotty openings to Europe and the long path stuff added up to
a new USA record. My final score was:

     746 QSOs  1413 Points    400 Prefixes   565,200 Points

For comparison to the old scoring, I removed the points for the
395 QSOs with USA stations. The old method of scoring would have
made my score:

     746 QSOs  1018 points    400 Prefixes   407,200 Points

That's about a 30% decrease in score. The old 10 meter record 
was 162,134 points and 259 prefixes set by N5RZ in 1989. I think 
allowing one point credit for same-country QSOs has created more 
activity for this contest. It was a good change to make and made 
the contest better.

N4BP may have beat me as I believe he was ahead of me with QSO 
numbers on Sunday. It will be interesting to hear what he thinks 
about the 10 meter conditions during the weekend.

It was an interesting weekend. Thanks to John, N5CQ, who allowed
me the use of his station. He is a terrific host.

73, Richard

k5na at texas.net

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