[CQ-Contest] WRTC from the West Coast

Bruce Sawyer n6nt at ynn.com
Sun Jul 9 18:13:17 EDT 2000

Some disconnected observations on WRTC as heard from the SF Bay area...

I still remember some of the zinging criticism we suffered in 1996 regarding
the inequality of WRTC stations.  ZD8Z was one of the most vocal, as I
recall, and Jim made a big point that from his perch the stations were
anything BUT equal.  Naturally, several of the competitors who finished in
the bottom half of the rankings voiced the same complaint.  So this weekend
I made a concerted effort to try to observe how the S5 guys did on station
equalization and not get distracted by the rest of the contest.

My IARU contest effort was strictly S&P, and that S&P was for WRTC stations
only.  I did buzz a few friends I heard who were serious about the contest,
but only a few.  In the spirit of the thing, I really went slumming:  I
plugged in the mike and hooked up to packet.  Ugh!  It felt just like
visiting a tattoo parlor down by the docks.  But if the focus is finding
WRTC stations, I guess you have to do both.  During the contest, I made many
notes into the .not file, trying to record an honest signal strength reading
every time I heard one of the stations.

When the opening on 20 finally died last night, I had only managed to get 90
WRTC contacts into the log.  (A little different from 1996, when I got 353.)
All of those contacts were on 15 or 20; I never heard a hint the WRTC
stations could be heard here on the west coast on 10 or 40, and I did keep
checking often when it might have been possible.  There were 5 of the
stations I never did manage to find.  Who knows?  They may have been
pitifully weak stations that couldn't make it out...or the operators may
have had better sense than to chase water-weak W6 stations when they could
run the locals at a rapid clip.  Those stations were S5333G, S544Z, S571W,
S576K, and S583D.

For the other 47 stations, though, my personal feeling is that the S5 guys
did an incredible job of equalizing stations.  I have readings in my .not
file that are all over the map, but the variation tends to be a function of
time rather than variations among stations when readings were taken at the
same time.  A few times I found stations who were much weaker than the
others and thought I had found some real loser stations, but then later
readings on the same station showed no difference.  For example, I have a
note at 1613Z that S549L was S9 and the strongest station yet heard, while 2
minutes later I recorded S517W as barely audible at S2.  An hour later,
though, I heard S517W right up there with the strongest stations.  The
difference earlier was probably just due to beam heading.

Signals here on Saturday morning were simply awful.  Almost none of them
showed any indication on my meter, and they were ESP at best.  That's the
period of ~1630Z until ~2015.  My rate at 2000Z  was about 2/hour, so that's
when I decided then it was time to go to church services for a while (St.
John's Bar & Grill, next door to the Sunnyvale HRO).  During that whole
painful period, I could hear the east coast guys getting through one after
another, no problem.  Out here, I could only hear something for maybe 20% of
each QSB cycle.  Pure torture!

Once the sun set in S5, things sure seemed to pick up out here.  Almost all
of the signals I heard from ~2330Z until ~0700Z were in the range of S6 to
S7, with an occasional strong S9.  (S522R was 10dB over at 0409Z!)  I think
by the time it got good here on the west coast, everybody else had thrown in
the towel and decided to forget the contest.  It was so bad, in fact, that I
had two of the teams (S539D and S531R) move ME from SSB to CW in order to
get a "rare" zone 6 contact.  (Maybe it was rare because all the contesters
were already in Bled?)

One unrelated observation I wonder if anybody else made was what seemed like
a cavalier attitude on accuracy by some of the teams.  Many times I heard
the WRTC station bust a call sign or come back to a partial, have the caller
give a correction or a fill, and then the WRTC team just TU'd the caller and
went on without ever giving a correction.  This happened over and over to
me, and once the TU is sent then the pile-up never gives you a chance to
come back and be sure.  Another gripe from this end was signing.  Some of
these guys would go for l-o-n-g stretches without ever giving their call.
Several people gave a report to S526O and THEN asked for his call.  Wrong!
He just ignored them and went on.  I finally gave up trying to figure out
who this was and called him, then refused to give a report until he told me
who he was.  I don't know who any of the teams were, but I bet that guy got
his contest training in the Caribbean! :-)

Funniest incident:  at 0539Z I ran into S574V on 20SSB, CQing away with very
few callers.  Reason:  sitting right on the same frequency, and about 20dB
stronger, was DL0DR, also CQing away.  Naturally, DL0DR was getting all the
answers.  It took a long time before I could find the right moment to call
S574V, when the DL station was quiet for a second, and I tried to tell the
op there was a super-strong DL station right on top of him.  His answer:  in
the most irritated tone of voice possible, "We know".  This is a guy who is
used to waging frequency fights with 6 over 6 over 6 over 6, and winning.
(Probably one of the W3LPL gang.)  It doesn't work that way with 100w into a

Anyway, back to the starting point, I think the S5 guys deserve a major
round of applause for having put together at least 47 stations that were
extremely well equalized.  I don't know about the 5 I missed, but the 47 I
did hear were incredibly well-matched.  Good job!

Bruce, N6NT

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