woensdag 31 oktober 2012

CQ WW DX contest 2012 : debriefing

First of all : I qualify my station as a sturdy "Little Pistol".
I've more power, antenna height and ground quality than a normal little pistol.

The difference between my station and  a small "Big Gun" is the absence of a 4th element on the 3 higher bands, the absence of directivity on 40m and too small antennas for 80m and 160m.
Furthermore I need a receiving system.
My goal for the coming years is to upgrade my setup to a small big gun...

With this in mind, I'm very happy with the result in the contest.  Over 3000 contacts and nearby the 4M points limit. For the first time I can live with the number of multipliers.  Normally this is always my weakest point (I like running too much and dislike S&P).

For the first time I participated the online scoring system, with a special focus on the OQ5M score.  I experienced this as a very stressy subcontest in the contest.  I prefer to exchange scores at the end of a contest in stead of realtime scoring.

I've read the very thoroughgoing analysis of my friend Franki OQ5M about the difference in our results.   
Here is my humble opinion : I'm just a better SSB operator.

Since the day I started to participate in contests, I've had always this sickness : the search for new bandslots for my DXCC/WAZ/WAS program.  Also this year I worked new slots and I even got my 40th zone on 10 meters (zone 23).  
I didn't yet analyse the log for new country slots, but there are certainly new adds.  Yessss !

My hour record has been broken.  During the 2001 ARRL contest on 10m I was able to make 186 Q's in one hour.  This weekend I did better : 188 Q's, also on 10m and also the the States.

This was my best long run : 14h42 - 17h40 on  28596 kHz : 455 Qs, (average 153,3/hr )
The complete log analysis can be found here.

Per band :
160m : I made some contacts on dummy-load style.  Just enough to have some multipliers.  Difficult without antenna.
80m : good job, I didn't expect more on SSB on that band.  Zone 2 added to my WAZ (I hope that VE2IM confirms).
40m : nice runs but at a certain moment I had a heavy arc.  I suspect the 90 degrees PL block at the balun.  To be reviewed and repaired !
20m : super FB.  Although I had expect more about the rate direction USA.
15m : super on Saterday, difficult on Sunday due to Russian QRM stations
10m.  superb.  I worked a 10m DXCC.

140 countries and 39 zones were contacted. 

On Sunday afternoon I had to lower power on all bands to 700 W.  This due to a very demotivation letter that was put under the door : a neighbour couldn't view TV anymore...
This message took away all motivation for the last hours of the contest.

More about this contest, EMI problems and the behaviour of the MJF-998RT autotuner in the coming days...

vrijdag 26 oktober 2012

Many things has fallen only to rise higher...

The old roman filosopher Seneca - who knew nothing about antennas I suppose - spoke out these wise words.

Words that give me some hope after a very disappointing day : CQWW preparation day.

Nothing much to prepare : you just buy a remote tuner, hang a wire on it and it works.

Let's see how to make an antenna for 80 and 160m in a few minutes.  Take 30m of wire (just in the middle between the two wavelenghts), cut some radials and hang it up.  Terminate with the MFJ998RT and you can start the contest. 

Maybe a quick test before starting to be sure ?  No problem on 40m (no need, but nice to see it works),  no problem on 160m, and on 80m...   no tune.   Aaargh !!!  Why is this system not tuning on 80m ?!.   OK, wrong wire length:  let's cut of 5m.  Tune on 40m, no more tune on 160m, no tune on 80m.

This is not fun a few hours before the biggest contest of the year.  Call the antenna  help-desk (same number as Franki, ON5ZO).  Sure, he has suffered the same problems.  It doesn't work with 30m of wire.  Radials must be cut on the exact length, etc, etc...

Finally at 15h00 local time I finished (in the rain of course) a simple 80m full size vertical with radials on the ground.  A very poor solution on 80m and no antenna on 160m.

Direct consequence on the number of multipliers.  So I just fight for the number of QSO's :-)

But remembering Seneca, It will be better next month !

maandag 22 oktober 2012

X-QSO, SDR and splatter detection

Yesterday evening, the CQWW webseminar attracted more than 500 listeners from 70 countries.   Perfect quality, super FB  !

The content was rather predictable : no more inter-friend logchecking possible due to a quicker log submission and also much more quicker result communications (April in stead of August).

Some items has been explained in detail :

- the committee is able to record the complete contest on all bands with the help of 7 RX-stations worldwide. 
They are now in the possibility to check multi-signals on air and also to detect splatter stations. 
Let's hope they have foreseen enough yellow cards to give to all splatter stations !  I'm curious if there will be a difference on the bands.

- the idea of an x-qso.  This means that you log a station without points (nor penalties) for yourself, but the other one can use it as a valid contact.  Nice feature if you have doubts about a correct callsign, or not sure about the 10 minute rule for M/S stations.  However, most logging programs don't use this cabrillo feature yet.

- Big attention also for the power levels 5W, 100W and 1500W.  To be continued how they will handle this.

Solar conditions seem to be a good compromise for both higher and low bands and the local weather will also be a bonus. 

The CQWW counter says : 4 days and 16 hours...

zondag 21 oktober 2012

Final countdown for CQ WW DX SSB contest

This afternoon the G5RV wire went back into its box to make place for the vertical.  It's time for the serious work !
As always - it will never change - there is still some work to do.  Especially the vertical antenna with elevated radials must be assembled and tested.   Thursday the 4 radials for 160m and 8 radials for 80m will be put on place about 3m above the ground.  On Friday morning the 30m vertical terminated by the mfj998rt is the final work to perform.
I keep the manual tuner as a backup solution... I can't take the risk to have a non-performing vertical at Friday noon just a few hours before the start of the contest.  
Friday afternoon is sleeping time till around 22h utc.

This evening there is a web-event organised by the cqww team to explain the new rules.  I wonder if they are going to talk about sdr-checks during the contest...

The WAG was a nice event.  There was a nice run in CW on 40m but the general interest seemed rather low (or most guys were playing in ssb).

maandag 15 oktober 2012

On contest - cw part

A smaller version this year : due to the elections day where everyone had to make a vote, the contest committee decided to shorten the ON CW contest.  3 hours instead of 4.  Good idea because normally  during the last hour there is not that much to do.

Thanks to all DL, G and PA stations who gave some points, because the belgian operators were not present this year.  With 92 qsos and 30 multis, I think that this will be a top score, but it wasn't that difficult.
I was a multiplier, so the normal thing you think is that all others will make a contact while scrolling the band.  Not so, some stations kept running all the time and missed me as a multi.
I did a selective S&P : if a station was a multi for me, I made the qso; if not, I didn't call and turned further on the band.
In a contest like this, every  single multi can make the difference.  Most of the leading stations will make about the same number of qso.

Next contest : Worked All Germany.  I'll be active only on 40m CW and only during the night.  On Sunday the preparation for the CQ WW DX will start with the assembling of the low band radials.

zondag 7 oktober 2012

ON SSB contest 2012

In 2002 my xyl was the first  (and maybe the last) xyl winning the ON SSB contest.  
In 2005 I obtained a first place in both the SSB and CW part of this contest.
After this the motivation was gone for years.

A winner score in the ON contest means about 170 QSO's in 4 hours.  In a major contest this can be done during one super hour of operation.

This Sunday I took some time to participate.  With the same setup as always : a G5RV as inverted V , tuned in the shack.  Power output around 500W (the Acom1000 has no problems with swr >3) because I'm sure there is a risk for EMI with this setup.

After the first relative busy hour, the contest becomes boring.  The rate is simply too low.  Also the importance is too low : I was playing on a frequency where a weekly raw chewing occurs, so the OM asked friendly to qsy.  No problem, but this will never happen during a WW contest...

I hope to be in a top 3 position...

After the contest I investigated the dxcluster.  Incredible ...  the self spotting (or friend-spotting) rate is higher than I ever expected.  This isn't normal anymore.  

The top moment occured at 9h30 utc :

on3axu remembers pa3geo via a spot (!) : selfspotting is for children

One minute later pa3geo replies again via a spot (!) : I decide myself what I have to do...

To be continued next week in the CW part (shortened by one hour because every ON-ham has to go vote for the local elections.  In ON this is mandatory :-(  )...

Package arrived : mfj-998rt

Ordered Tuesday at dx-engineering, the package arrived on Friday.
As always,super-speed delivery without any problem.

I ordered a few little items like some clamps that I couldn't find in Belgium and of course the MFJ-998RT tuner.  Most of the negative reviews indicate bad quality of the soldering, so the first thing I did was opening the tuner.
To be honest, I was surprised about the high quality of the placement and solderings.  The quality check stamps were date 2012/August, so it must be a recent box.

I did a small test with the box in the shack connected to the G5RV.  The manual indicates the use of a 4:1 balun with this antenna, but I did it without.
On most cases the tuner tuned very fastly to a good matching on 80m and 40m.
While changing in the band the tuner starts an auto-tune "most" of the time.  Sometimes it does nothing and this has to be resolved be a power reset.
On 10 Mhz there was no matching although the tuner in the tx fixed it without problems;  Maybe the impedance was out of the range (no 4:1 balun remember).

Anyway it seems to work.  During the WW DX it has to match a vertical wire.  This must be performed without problems as the manuals indicates.

One minor point detected : in error mode the tuner starts to send CW code.  OK, nice, but who will hear this with the remote machine placed 50m from the shack ?