P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

Back to P40L-P49Y Contest Page







Callsign Used:




Another great contest weekend! High participation and “exciting” solar conditions. Elevated SSN and SFI are not without risk and we saw that throughout the contest. During my operating hours here in Aruba there were no total blackouts, but short-term signal levels varied greatly on all bands throughout the contest. I wasn't able to complete a number of QSOs when the other station faded into the noise floor within seconds. Even 40 and 80 behaved that way. On the other hand, there were times when the low band signal strengths were unbelievably high.


The biggest change I made was in the allocation of my 30 single-op hours over the 48-hour contest period. In the past, I've always emphasized the low-band rate and then filled in the remaining hours with the highest rates on 10-20 meters. I front-loaded the hours as a contingency for unforeseen problems with equipment or propagation. If I had a station failure, I still had time to take a break, fix things and still get my 30 hours in. Or, if there was a complete blackout, as there was one year, there would still be operation time left if and when the bands came back. As a result, I often finished by 18-19z. My experiment this year was to dispense with the front-loading and space my breaks out so as to capture a diverse and somewhat balanced mix of openings throughout the weekend.

For example, instead of forgoing the first couple hours of the EU opening on Saturday and Sunday mornings until the bands were solidly open, I shortened my nap break to be running on 10 and 15 by 12z. I was betting that the higher solar levels would open the bands much earlier and as my prior week operating confirmed, this was the case. By 18z when I would normally be running out of my 30 hours, I still had 4 hours left. Instead of powering through, I took a much needed meal and nap break and moved the last 4 hours to the end of the contest when I could catch the JA opening and all their great prefix mults. I was apprehensive about this deviation from my previous schedule, but it was very successful this time at least.

The run rates at the end of the contest, given my 3-4 hour break mid-day Sunday, were as high as or higher than if I had simply run out my operating time earlier in the day. And my anticipated JA openings on 15 and 20 meters fully met my expectations in the 21-22z hours.

My 30 hours timed out at 2250z, so I opted to continue running until the end. A common misunderstanding about the 30-hour limit for single-ops in WPX RTTY, is that you must turn off the radio at 30 hours. All the 30 hours means is that the first 30 hours in your log determines your contest score. But, you can operate the entire 48 hours if you wish. Of course, all QSOs, whether they count for your score or not, must be left in the log. Otherwise, the stations you worked, but didn't log, will get NIL penalties in their score. And that time in the contest is most enjoyable. The initial feeding frenzy is over and all the casual stations are giving out contacts just to enjoy operating their station. So many of them graciously moved from 15 to 20, or vice versa, to keep the QSO total running up. It was also gratifying to have so many JAs call in when it is early Monday morning in Japan.

Compared to my personal best in 2013 in this contest, this weekend yielded 300 fewer low-band contacts, or the equivalent of 600 high-band contacts. There were 200 fewer QSOs on 20 and 650 more on 10 and 15, largely due to 10 being equally productive as 15 this year with over 1200 contacts each. The net was 240 more QSOs this year, but a 4% lower score due to the shift from 6-point low-band contacts to 3-point high-band contacts. WPX levels the playing field across the range of solar activity.


My trusty propagation forecast model (www.k6tu.net) was severely challenged by the current actual conditions. Having listened to the first week of the FT5ZM expedition from California, I was interested (and, optimistic) in how they would sound down here. The forecast looked really good from P4 to FT5Z. Surprise! When the forecast showed S9+10dB signals levels, they were either absent completely or very weak. That was my first hint that this week’s solar conditions were not going to fit the forecast model that is based mostly on SSN.

Propagation uncertainty making this game interesting and challenging. My goals for this weekend were to beat my previous best in WPX RTTY while breaking 4000 QSOs and 1000 mults. The number of mults was almost the same at 952, while the QSO total increased more than 6% to 3953, also shy of my goal. But, due to the lower ratio of low-band contacts (double QSO points in this contest), the score is down 4%. The entire weekend was spent trying to minimize the unavoidable deficit.

RTTY Decoders:

This contest strongly confirmed the value in running multiple decoders on each audio stream. As for ARRL Round-Up, I configured 12 decoder windows, 4 on each of the two main receivers and 2 on each of the two sub-receivers. This diversity paid huge dividends. I’d estimate that my need for repeats decreased by more than 20x compared to using a single decoder on a receiver. As to the ongoing debate about 2Tone vs. MMTTY vs. other decoders (I also use a Hal DXP38 hardware decoder), I continue to see value in this decoder diversity. Yes, there are times when 2Tone is amazing, but there are other times when it prints nothing useful, yet MMTTY and/or the DXP38 print clearly. I’d be very uncomfortable without all three, especially in a serial number contest like WPX.

There are other decoder attributes that are important in contesting besides the basic decoding accuracy. MMTTY decodes several characters sooner than 2Tone. While an absolutely very short time, it seems like forever in a contest situation. OTOH, being able to 100% decode a signal buried in noise or QRM is a tremendous asset of 2Tone. The DXP38 decodes signals further off-frequency than either MMTTY or 2Tone and, again, this is a big advantage in the contesting environment.


I’m forever grateful to the multitude of contest participants, most of whom aren't “competing” at all, for making radiosport so enjoyable. Thanks for each and every QSO! And especially to those who move to other bands or take it on their own to try and work my call on every band. I’m also very fortunate to be able to escape the home QTH in CA and operate near the equator for a number of contests. Thanks to Andy, P49Y/AE6Y, and John, P40L/W6LD, for making it possible here at their Aruba QTH.

Ed - P49X (W0YK)