[CQ-Contest] FO8DX Story (Loooong)

W1HIJCW at aol.com W1HIJCW at aol.com
Mon Jun 4 02:20:26 EDT 2001

     Mai Moana Island, Bora Bora  OC067
     W1HIJ, Op

WOW! What a great experience! At the end of November of last year, I had been
to Mai Moana Island, the home of Stan Wisniewski, FO5IW (and a "bed and
breakfast" resort) for two weeks and operated as FO0SCH. Conversations at
that time led to my decision to come back 6 months later and do the WPX/CW
contest from here. Stan graciously offered the use of his "club" call, FO8DX,
which as it happens was the only FO8 call active in the contest.

Mai Moana is a small island, a "motu", in the lagoon of Bora Bora. The island
and its lagoon are approximately 150 miles northwest of Tahiti. The motu
itself is some 250 meters long and about 100 meters wide. To get a different
perpsective, one can walk the circumference of the motu in about 5 minutes at
a leisurely pace. For those interested in more details, you can read the
report on my first trip here which was posted on the contesting.com site in
November/December of 2000.

This was also my very first experience of doing a contest from a location
other than my "home" territory. Therefore, I was more than a little anxious
about how it would all work out. That's another subject and one I'll deal
with at a later time. But in summary, doing a contest from Mai Moana is
probably the easiest way one can get one's feet wet, so to speak. Stan is a
superb host, the accommodations are all one could hope for, the food is
superb and the support and understanding of a contester's needs are complete.
Whatever little success I had is due in large measure to Stan, his wife and
daughter, Anais.

So after some (but not enough, there's never enough of course) planning I set
off from LA with a scheduled arrival on the Monday afternoon before the
contest. The site has a classic 3 element trap tribander mounted on a short
tower itself mounted out in the lagoon with some 65 feet of feedline
connecting to the shack, a building dedicated entirely to radio and set back
some 30 feet from the high tide line.

During my last trip here I had missed having a good low band (80 and 40)
antenna, so I brought along a Butternut HF2V vertical this time. It was
installed some 75 feet away from the tribander and the supporting pipe was
driven about 2 feet into the coral sand. At high tide the antenna was
surrounded by at least 30 or 40 feet of salt water on the side closest to
shore and distances of up to several hundred yards in other directions. There
was a clear shot over salt water from south clockwise through east. The only
drawback was that the feedline was 150 feet long and in the interests of
minimizing weight, it was RG8X.

I carried (as I had 6 months before) my FT990 transceiver and a laptop
computer. (The computer was graciously loaned by Dale Piedfort, KB7UB a
co-worker at HRO in Anaheim).

Setup was a piece of cake. The HF2V went up on Tuesday morning and tuning was
perfect, simply following the directions from Butternut. It came in at about
1.2 to 1 centered at 3525 and was completely flat over the entire 40 meter
band, so I didn't even have to use the 990's internal tuner. Salt water
grounds are the only way to go!!  :>)

After checking various results for several past years I settled on the goal
of winning the continent of Oceania, SOABLP. That would mean something on the
order of 1300 to 1400 QSO's and around 500 multipliers. It appeared doable,
although the big question in my mind was off times, which in fact would loom
much larger later. When I was on the island in November, almost all the
operating was done on 20 meter CW at night and while I was confident of the
path to Europe after dark, I didn't really know what to expect of other times
and especially of 40 and 80.

So, first the basic numbers:

Band    QSO's
80      45      TOTAL TIME =  32 Hours
40      277     TOTAL MULTS = 478
20      102
15      465
10      456

TOTAL       1345

     RAW SCORE = 2,286,274  (3.56 points per Q, not much in the
                            way of 1 pointers out here!!)

The contest starts here at 2 PM local time on Friday, not the best beginning
time since the D and E layer absorption is very high. But following tradition
of starting as high as possible (and with decent flux and geomagnetic
numbers) I hit 10 meters starting right at 1400 local.

                           FO8DX Rate Sheet WPX/CW 2001

   HOUR   80CW    40CW    20CW    15CW    10CW    TOTAL   ACCUM
   ----  ------  ------  ------  ------  ------   -----   -----
     0       0       0       0      22      10      32      32
     1       0       0       0      28      12      40      72

AAARGH! There I was, 2 hours into the contest and only 72 Q's! This was going
to be a long weekend! Of course I expected a slow start, but not that slow.

     2       0       0       0      17      38      55     127
     3       0       0       0      55      14      69     196

The next two hours weren't much better, but at least there was some

     4       0       0       0      22       0      22     218

Most of this hour was taken off having some dinner. (Even contesters must eat
and dinner was a superb big plate of pasta with a great home made tomato and
prosciutto sauce.)

     5       0       0       0      52       0      52     270

At the end of the 05Z hour, the rate, mediocre though it was was getting
pretty hard to maintain, so I went up to 20 which in the past had been an
easy pileup generator for here.

     6       0       0      45       0       0      45     315

HA! not during contest time. Just too much competition from the stations who
were half the distance from Europe that I was. FYI, the path that TRLog shows
for central Europe from here is about 10,500 miles and the bearings are
almost the same as from Southern California. I had mental images of my signal
being stopped cold in the ionosphere by the newly launched signals from
California and points east.  :>) So off to the low bands at only around 9 PM
local, much earlier than I planned or expected. Will the vertical play?

     7       6      34       8       0       0      48     363
     8       0      35       4       0       0      39     402
     9       1      50       0       0       0      51     453
    10       0      38       0       0       0      38     491

YES! It plays, it's alive! Working steadily into the Midwest and East coast
on 40. But wait, something's wrong ... it's midnight my time and 7 PM on a
Saturday night in Japan (home of the prefix gold mine), where are the JA's???
Not here! Oh NO, there goes the hopes for mults. Well, maybe in the next hour
or two ...

Now for a digression ... I said there's never enough planning and at about
2230 local (0830Z) the generator was switched off as previously planned and I
went to operate on batteries. All went as expected, EXCEPT ... I neglected to
consider that there was no light available that ran on 12V!! So, there was a
brief period of panic while I dug out my little flashight and taped it to the
corner of the laptop screen. That necessitated my peering through what seemed
like very dim light to see the keyboard, and really slowed down my typing!
Also I discovered that the light from the screen is a very strong attractant
to all those little bugs. At times it seemed as thought I could barely read
the screen for all the little bodies fluttering around.

Back to the action! Did the JA's show up?

    11       2      19       0       0       0      21     512
    12      27      10       0       0       0      37     549

Nope! RATS! Antenna plays pretty well on 80, but the noise level is a steady
S7 to S9, kinda limits what I can hear.

    13       0       9       6       0       0      15     564
    14       0       0       1       0       0       1     565

Finally at a couple of minutes after 14Z (04 local time) I call it quits.
Well, just for a little nap here in the shack. Yeah, Right! I think the
proper phrase is "Crash and Burn". So much for planned off times which
originally been scheduled for 3 hours starting after breakfast at about 08
local or 18Z.

    15       0       0       0       0       0       0     565
    16       0       0       0       0       0       0     565
    17       0       0       0       0       0       0     565
    18       0       0       0       2       4       6     571

So there went 4 hours of my planned 12 hours. Right after breakfast
(remember, contesters also must eat!) I was back. Not a lot better ... I
messed around on 10, 15 and 20, and finally 10 woke up a bit.

    19       0       0       0       5      18      23     594
    20       0       0       0      16       7      23     617
    21       0       0       0       8      50      58     675
    22       0       0       0       0      37      37     712

Well, it's not great, but it sure seems a lot better than 8 or 10 hours
earlier. Now came the big decision. My original plan had been to take off
times in the middle of the day, since experience said that high absorption
led to some pretty thin times. Should I do it now or should I keep slogging
away. A relative lack of sleep and an empty stomach made the decision. Quit
for lunch (remember contesters must ...) and then a nap. With that plan I
should be able to go through the night.

    23       0       0       0       0       0       0     712
                          DAY TWO!
     0       0       0       0       0       0       0     712
     1       0       0       0       1       0       1     713

Back on at 02Z (16 local). Seems like it was a pretty good idea. Sunset this
time of year in Bora Bora is just about 1730 local (0330Z) and the bands
improve dramatically starting around 1630 local. Sure enough, it works again.

     2       0       0       3      27       0      30     743
     3       0       0       9      29       0      38     781
     4       0       0      15      32       0      47     828
     5       0       0       0       0       0       0     828

But note that these "decent" hours are on 15, not on 20. In the past 20 had
been the strong band from here to EU. But at contest time, no way. No matter
now hard I tried to hold a run frequency it was just impossible on 20. But on
15, I could make it work. I still don't know whether it was because I was
louder on 15 or whether the competition was weaker. Actually, at this point I
didn't care, I just wanted to be able to run, the band was unimportant!
Dinner time (remember, contesters must ...). Actually I had planned to quit
for meals anyway. It seemed like a good way to space out my off times and
also get completely away from the radio.

     6       0       0       0      51       0      51     879
     7       0       0       0      70       0      70     949
     8       0       0       0      22       0      22     971

Two more decent hours (EU on 15) and then WHAM!, someone turned off the
ionosphere! I struggled for a while and then gave up. Off to 40 and 80.

     9       6      43       0       0       0      49    1020
    10       1      33       0       0       0      34    1054

Crossing the 1000 Q mark and the million point mark was a big boost. And
besides there were JA's on 40 and the mult total was climbing pretty rapidly.
I might actually make it. Maybe 1300 Q's is in reach after all. (The chances
seemed pretty dismal when the Q total was 700 a few hours ago!)

    11       2       6       7       0       0      15    1069
    12       0       0       2       4       0       6    1075

And then, and then, the bottom dropped out. All the JA's went away to do
whatever they do at 7PM in Japan on a Sunday night. Hello, HELLOOOO??
Decision time again ... I have 3 or 4 hours of off time left. What to do ...
wait for Sunrise on the West Coast and hope that Sunday morning will bring
out a bunch of people on 40, then I'll take my off time around breakfast? Or
should I quit for a few hours now and then just run straight through to 2PM
on Sunday, hoping that the unique prefix will draw people out? Well, I'm
pretty tired, not concentrating very well, that does it, I'm going to quit,
get 2 or 3 hours sleep and then go on through to the end.

    13       0       0       0       0       0       0    1075
    14       0       0       0       0       0       0    1075
    15       0       0       0       0       0       0    1075
    16       0       0       0       0       0       0    1075
    17       0       0       2       1       0       3    1078
    18       0       0       0       1       6       7    1085

Well, OK, maybe four or five hour's sleep ... back after breakfast with no
off time left. The die is cast, I sit down in the chair at about 0840 local
and know that I don't get up 'til "the fat lady sings" at 1400.

    19       0       0       0       0      32      32    1117
    20       0       0       0       0      49      49    1166
    21       0       0       0       0      55      55    1221
    22       0       0       0       0      74      74    1295
    23       0       0       0       0      50      50    1345

And boy am I glad I did! From a nothing band all weekend long, 10 finally
came alive. I started the 19Z hour with 195 contacts and finished 5 hours
later with 456. The best hour of the contest was the next to last, and the
consistency in the last 4 hours was remarkable. Plus, it was a KICK! The
adrenalin finally started flowing and I had a ball. When it was all over, my
Q and mult totals weren't quite what I wanted, but my score was some 50,000
points higher than last year's continental winning score.

Stan, his wife and daughter had gone off to a Mother's Day Brunch, so I had
the island to myself (Well, except for Martin the German Shepherd and Vodka
the cat). Very kindly he had stuck a note under my nose as he left saying
"Lunch is in the Fridge". And what a lunch it was, cold shrimp, and excellent
cold vegetable salad, fresh French bread and a bottle of great French
Chablis. Now that's the way to end a contest. Had lunch and crashed for 3
hours, waking up just in time for dinner! Did I mention the food is great

OK, enough of the play by play, how about some commentary as the
sportscasters say. Doing the contest from here was very enlightening.
Intellectually I knew, of course, that 16S, 152W is a long way from anywhere,
but I didn't really come to grips with just how much difference that would
make in being able to run. In retrospect, I'm quite satisfied with the 1350
Q's (which by the way is a personal best for a 32 hour stretch).

Early in the contest, I think that part of the reason that I couldn't get a
run going very often was that everybody in the states has their antennas
aimed at Europe. Later of course that changes, but now I really empathize
with the comments from VK and ZL that people seem to ignore the Pacific. And
where were all the JA's anyhow. My first CW WPX was in 98 and I remember much
longer and more productive JA runs on 40 and 15 from Southern California
about the same distance away. Did I just miss them, did anyone else have
better luck? The US generated the largest number of mults (193), (Thank you
vanity calls), Europe generated 146 mults and Japan only 59.

Another interesting table is:

       Continent List  FO8DX Continent Report WPX 2001

                    160    80    40    20    15    10    ALL
                    ---    --    --    --    --    --    --
   USA calls   =      0    11   104    50   221   370    756
   VE calls    =      0     1    16     6    12    21     56
   N.A. calls  =      0     0     5     0     5     4     14
   S.A. calls  =      0     4    15     2     2     5     28
   Euro calls  =      0     0     0    29   181    14    224
   Afrc calls  =      0     0     0     0     0     1      1
   Asia calls  =      0     4    10     4     9     3     30
   JA calls    =      0    17   113     5    21    26    182
   Ocen calls  =      0     8    14     6    13    12     53

I was really surprised that the JA total is less than the EU total. Activity?
Bad timing? or maybe I just need a JA antenna!

Did the vertical work? You betcha it did. I'm just another living proof of
the truth in K2KW's article in the last NCJ.

Did I win the continent? Don't know yet ... a "dark horse" showed up out of
nowhere, ZK1EFD was going like gang busters. last number I heard from him was
around 1250, but that was Saturday night and I didn't hear him on Sunday. Was
he also low power? Don't know ... but it felt like a real race.

And finally, would I do it again?  you betcha batman!  I had a ball. In fact,
plans are already afoot for ARRL DX in 2002 from here. Could be a very nice
multi-two setup ...

73, and thanks to everyone for all the Q's,

Bill, W1HIJ(/6)

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>From Marijan Miletic" <Marijan at Miletic.net  Mon Jun  4 08:24:34 2001
From: Marijan Miletic" <Marijan at Miletic.net (Marijan Miletic)
Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001 07:24:34 -0000
Subject: [CQ-Contest] MP clicks
References: <200105312327.f4VNRTs25673 at paris.akorn.net>
Message-ID: <006201c0ecc7$67ee6e60$2c48fea9 at pentium>

Let me quote famous contester Randy, K5ZD/1 after few years of RTTY AFSK
operation:  Why nobody told me that the same PC CW interface can be used 
for FSK
from a different RS-232 pin!?

I use two 10K resistors in series from a proper RS-232 pin, 0,1 uF capacitor
inbetween, ordinary 2N2222A PNP tranzistor for any shaped keying and protective
1N4148 diode in the base.  This is bit longer shaping then 2 ms but good enough
even for 22 msec RTTY pulses.

I worked EU FD this weekend with friends and an old but excellent FT-980.  It
had too much shaping and 1:1 dots would come out with only 33% weighting.  Just
like the unfortunate FT mod initiallly propossed in this thread.  And few other
misleading figures elsewhere...

73 de Mario, S56A, N1YU

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tom Rauch" <w8ji at contesting.com>
To: <cq-contest at contesting.com>; "Marijan Miletic" <Marijan at Miletic.net>
Sent: 31. maj 2001 23:25
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] MP clicks

 > > 2 ms keying shaping satisfies all amateur radio needs including RTTY DX!
 > >
 > > Once upon a time there were CAS and ICAS specs on tubes...
 > >
 > > 73 de Mario, S56A, N1YU
 > We don't run RTTY on the CW mode by off-and-on keying the
 > carrier through the CW key jack on a rig.
 > 73, Tom W8JI
 > W8JI at contesting.com

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