dinsdag 27 november 2012

CQWWDX CW contest part 1

Ouf, the contest season 2012 stops here for me.  No ARRL 10m nor other smaller ct in december.
With more than 10.000 qso in only 6 months, it's enough (the family complaints achieved the yellow stadium, so it's time for a break).

Before the contest :
I wasn't at home last week, so I pulled out the tower one week before the start.  I normally don't do this, but now there was no other possibility.  Because in Belgium they are not able to perform a good weather forecast for some days, and certainly not for a complete week, I decided to keep some reserve in height.  One the height is chosen I can't change it due to the two wire antennas installed for the lowest bands.

CQWW contests always remember me the famous edition of 2002 where we had the hardest hurricane I've ever seen.  With 140 kmh wind speeds the tower was dancing in the dark and we even lost our chimney.  This will never happen again, I've learnt my lesson.

Also a predictable problem : I had a business event with after-party at Friday in the center of our capital Brussels.  To avoid car problems, we decided to form a team of 5 people in a single car.   Wrong combination : apparently there is a life outside the contest, and the majority of our "team" decided to stay until midnight.   To make a longer story short : I missed the contest start, was so tired that I had to sleep in our 2nd qth and I started the contest at about 7 AM utc.   OQ5M reached 700 K points had several hundreds of contacts in the log.  One to one competion finished.

OK, let's start : S&P on 80m on the inverted L made for 160m.  I've tested this, my autotuner was able to tune so no problem... except...  when I turned on the Acom1000 I was warmly welcomed by an arc-error, and another and another,...   Sh***t !   I suspect a too high voltage and the basepoint of the wire causing an arc to the metal (earth) part of the MFJ-998RT.  This is a failure in the contruction concept of this box.  The wire antenna must pass a hole made in the metal part.  When there is wind in combination with high energy on the wire, arcs are possible.  I've to find a solution to have a better isolation.  On eham.net I wrote this small piece of text about it.

So no 80m on Saterday (the tuner box had to bere-attached from the 160m wire to the 80m wire) .

While speaking about Murphy (the arc problem isn't really Murphy, I had to test this with high power in advance) I've survived some other problems.  Too much problems to be good.
3x computer crash with the really blue Windows screen dumping memory,
my manual keyer refused work and this could by solved by a power off/on of the TX.  Here I suspect the Microham box.
2 times I suffered a non-stop cq-calling.  This is  really annoying : people are answering and the pc starts to call cq over and over.

But the biggest challenge was the fight against fatigue.  This is the first time ever I had this issue.  The last week was very hard on qrl and the so needed rest before a contest was absent.  This costs my some extra hours so there was an activity degree of "only" 34 hrs.  Normally I can reach easily 40 hrs.

Final score >2900 Q's, 3.7 M points.   Not bad in a mode that costs me more energy  and concentration than SSB.

I've encourtered a few new things :

- for the first time I've occupied a frequency at the lower part of the band, i.e. 21.015 Mhz.  Very difficult to keep the frequency because many stations want to play around this point.  The pile-up was very high and I've had difficulties to handle it.  It's the first time that my Yaesu MKV with roofing filter installed was at its reception limits. 
Normally I use the 250 Hz CW filter and if single calls come and go (and they are answering at the correct freq) I can handle this very well.  But with such a pile-up this was not the case.  Everybody seemed the same.  I could only pick out slower of faster ones, or some chars that are sent at the end.
Better roofing filters and a 300-400Hz CW filter is the solution. 

Some weeks ago I had a visu conversation with ON4CT, Dirk, owner of a FT5000.  He was convinced that with this filter system he gains +10% QSO's.
I really have to agree.  I lost several QSO's in the pile-up because of the reception part.
So Santa Claus : pse a FT3000 or - if possible - a FT5000 for Christmas !

On 15m I ended with 809 Q's.

- big party at 80m : although my 405 Q's due to my absence, I made 78 Q's with the USA/Canada.  This surpises me because I had only 6 radials at the ground and about 800W power.  No reception antenna(s).
It seems that my signal was rather strong at States site.  To be confirmed by RBN statistics.
On 160m I made 7 Q's outside Europe on a total of 45. 

- the biggest surprise was on 40m where the dipole was able to contact 84 countries (more then on 20m) and where I worked most multipliers on all continent at first call.  Very strange because I ran on Sunday evening at a very low rate.  From time to time I received an answer, not from Europe but from VK, ZL, JA, ZS.  Only later at the evening the pile-up came from the US as expected.
633 Q's on 40m.

Due to my absence the battle with Mr. F - OQ5M - took not place.  He wins this without any problem. 

But during the contest I've put the focus on performance between our stations.  With Reverse Beacon Network we can easely compare our bands. 
It seems that on 20/15/10 we stayed very close to each other both on contacts as multipliers.  This looks good for future battles.  The biggest difference seems to be the 80m band although at first sight my signal arrives stronger in the US.

So Santa Claus : pse my long asked 80m vertical (Titanex or DXE is ok) for Christmas.
Pse xyl : give me some free time to install the K9AY loop that resides in my shack for several months.

On 160, I made to few Q's in order to compare.

Thanks to all of you for giving the points and the patience to copy ur call correctly !
Thank you D4C and RRDXA friends from CR3L for contacts on the 6 bands.

And to the LYxxx and UR0xx stations that disturbed my JA run on 20m and my US run at 40m without qrl? and without qsy'ing when asked : I keep your calls in mind.    We meet again one day !

vrijdag 23 november 2012

Not for dummies

Just a few hours to go before the start of the biggest morse in the world.  My final Morserunner session ended in a one-hour single call exercice at 40wpm.  It's the first time I copy this speed with almost no errors.  Before there was always a battle to copy the difference between S-H, D-B and U-V.
Now this is over.  Somewhere in the brains a connexion is finally established to take the right char.

In my beginning years this was the weekend where I closed the shack and didn't make one single contact.  Too difficult and too high cw speeds.  Exercice during years is the only way to survive this fear.

See you the coming hours/days on the band !

maandag 19 november 2012

I'm ready for CQWW CW

A short message to all competitors in SOAB assisted :  I'm ready !

Even on 160m this time, but still with limited < 1 KW power on both 80m and 160m.

I can't sleep on Friday because of a business event, so this will cost some hours of extra sleep in the weekend, but the motivation is high.
A few new countries on 80m and 160m are always welcome.

zondag 18 november 2012

Listening up : 21285 to 21360...

Yes, finally I worked PT0S.  A hell of a job !
They were only active in SSB today, and I'm not at home the coming days, so this was the unique day to work them.
The experienced operator was running split over almost the entire 15m band.  And like always there were southern EU stations calling all the time in the complete band segment of 75 Khz... and like always, they were not listening at all.
If you intend to participate an DXpedition, and if you intend to go to a rare one, please be prepared and do some exercice in advance ! 

And please : do it in CW !

Hurray on 17 meter !

On Friday I received a direct QSL : Cuba on 4 bands, including 18 Mhz.

Finally I have enough countries for a DXCC on 17m.  Hurrah on 17 meter !!

Nothing to boast on the other WARC bands : only 50 confirmations on 24Mhz, and even worse, 27 countries on 10 Mhz.  This is the disadvantage of using the same Optibeam connection for both 40m or 30m.  During the contest season there is simply no 30m antenna... and between the contests I don't have the time to play...

MFJ-998RT and 80/160m antenna

After the bad experience with the 30m wire terminated by the MFJ998RT autotuner in order to have a dualband 80/160m antenna, I did a new test :  This time I used a 42m wired folded as an inverted L with the highest point at 24m.

Both 80m and 160m can be tuned on this wire. So much better then before.
This doesn't mean the antenna is working fine, but it's allready a better result then last month !  I only use 42m long radials and will keep the 20m radials to connect to my full size 80m wire antenna.

I will certainly switch between the two antennas on 80m during the CW contest..

In the mean time I uninstalled the current balun and 90 degrees PL-connector on the 40m antenna.  No traces of smoke nor other failures.  Nevertheless I had two sparks so there must have been something wrong.
I don't expect any more sparks followed by amplifier protection and a temporary (strange, why is this occuring only during a few minutes ?!) very bad swr on this Optibeam... I hope...

donderdag 1 november 2012

EMI solution found

continued from the previous blog...

Sunday around 16h Z, we're all about 38 hours in the air, a small letter takes the xyl's attention.  A neighbour is complaining the inability of viewing TV.  (note : house numbers chance quickly due to new buildings in the neighbourhood).
We are convinced that this is about our latest arrived neighbour.  Very bizar, because he lives in my beaming direction to SA, a direction that I almost never use and also an almost dead angle if I'm beaming to the US.
I don't want police at my door on Sunday and decide to decrease power on all bands to 700W with the Acom1000.  This has an immediate impact on running and S&P, but I don't care.
On Monday morning - after some refreshing sleep - I determine that I'm handling with the wrong neighbour.
The complaint comes from a house 100m further, exactly in the direction to the States.
Strange, because we're living together without problems since more than 10 years.

I go knocking on the door.  The om and his xyl explain the problem : they are looking TV with an simple antenna under the roof - something that is very exceptional in Belgium where cable and satellite are the mostly used for TV reception - .

I explain my case and also add the comment that this type of RFI is unavoidable and that there isn't a direct technical solution.  There is a straight radiation right to his reception antenna.  This can't be solved with filters and ferrite.

We agree that I will report if there is a big contest so they can take precautions and do something else.  Only pointing to the USA causes problems so I can take this into account while planning the contest strategy.

Ouf !  Big problem solved !