P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

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The contest was loads of fun and the weekend had its unique characteristics. The station worked well but band conditions were disappointing. I narrowly avoided having this be my all-time worst showing from Aruba in this contest.

Band Conditions

Unfortunately for me, Aruba seemed to be sort of a propagation black hole this week which surprised me. With the SSN at 17 and 23 over the weekend and the week before, I expected better conditions. Reports out of Europe and NA note good propagation, but here it was a different story.

Sunday, for example on 20 and 15, signals were weak and sometimes in the noise floor until about 1615z when almost instantly the signal levels popped up and some OK pile-ups commenced. These conditions lasted until I stopped at the 30 operating-hour point around 2030z. There were brief times when the signal level dropped out again, but mostly it was pretty good. There were also peaks in signal levels that created instantaneous pile-ups.

Making QSOs was a struggle until the 16z hour when instantly 15 and 20 turned on. Still, the bands drifted in and out, ranging from great pileups one minute to struggling for contacts the next. The low bands also had their ups and downs. At times they behaved almost like the high bands with lots of callers, quiet background, crisp audio. Then, there were the periodic doldrums with high noise and marginal signals.

Many times I could hear NA and EU running each other at high rates when I couldn’t get much going down here. Signals from both continents were weak for me and this was probably exacerbated by those stations beaming each other with South America off the side of their antennas.

During the week, a precursor to the weekend was trying to work Z60A from here which would normally be pretty easy. Most of the time their signal was in the noise here while NA was reporting “Big signal!”. This was primarily on 20m and up. 40 and 80 had the normally good propagation to EU and Kosovo.


In comparing WPX contest results, QSO points are more useful than QSOs due to the differential QSO points based on low vs. high bands. This is a nice feature of the CQ WPX contests across the solar cycle. Our total QSO counts are down now in the bottom of the cycle due to the absence of 10 meters and depressed QSO counts on 15 meters. But, this is at least partially offset by higher QSO counts on 40 and 80 where a QSO is worth twice what it is on the high bands. In this year’s contest, my low band points rate was almost always higher than on 20 or 15. This makes the contest (from a competitive perspective) a low-band contest. I tried to maximize my time on 40 and 80. In the end, 8600 points were made on 40/80 with only 4900 points on 15/20.

My start was not as strong as 2017 so I bore down and tried to catch up throughout Friday evening. When I took my first break at 9z (5am local), I nearly on par with last year’s pace. It felt good to catch up.

On Saturday morning it started falling apart. The 15m bandscope was mostly empty until late morning. 20m wasn’t much better. Both EU and NA answered CQs on both bands but there was just no volume. In the 16z hour, things began to pick up and there were rate spurts reminiscent of average high band conditions in past years. But, the the high-band rate was far below 2x the low-band rate.

Hour by hour I watched this year’s pace fall further and further behind last year. Saturday night the low bands gave out 2 hours earlier than Friday. Unless a miracle happened Sunday, it looked like this year might be the lowest score in the 12 consecutive years I’ve done WPX RTTY from Aruba.

Sunday morning seemed to confirm that fear. I was about to take a break when all of a sudden the bands quieted down, signal strengths increased and moderate runs began. The hourly rate went from 38 to 160 in less than 60 minutes. It wasn’t enough to make up for lost ground, but it stemmed the decline. At the end of my 30 hours of score operating, I moved “up” to my third lowest result.

This was about 2030z, so I decided to take an exercise walk around the neighborhood. One of the real-time alternatives I considered during the weekend was to take breaks such that the last two hours of the contest period would be in my 30-hour operating score, and on the lucrative low bands. I got cold feet and decided to get my 30 hours logged and then still operate the last two hours outside the scoring and see how it was. Well, this year at least, I would have been better off to skip the first two hours Sunday morning and operate the end of the contest. EU, NA and JAs were calling in on 20m. 15m was open even stronger than 20m to JA. The very few NA signals still on 15m were quite strong. It was an exciting opening.

In retrospect, I should have started on 40 and 80 Friday evening rather than 20/40. Based on Sunday night, 80 was open nicely to EU by 22z, an hour before local sunset. I should have started an hour or two later each morning when the 15 and 20 were closer to opening. And, I probably should have worked the last two hours of the contest.

I continue to come in with less mults than those with less QSOs. This time I worked hard grabbing all the copyable mults in the Packet-infused band maps. Can’t figure out the discrepancy.


2BSIQ (2 Band Synchronized Interleaved QSOs) is all the rage these days in CW contesting. However, the RTTY mode frees up brain cycles to allow the operator to extend this skill to interleaving QSOs on 4 or more receivers. I run an Elecraft K3 in each band by running on the main receiver and doing S&P on the sub-receiver on the same band. The same principle of 2BSIQ applies between these two receivers. But with a 2-receiver radio on each of two bands, there are now 4 receivers with QSO streams that can be synchronized and interleaved, i.e., 4RSIQ.

One of my objectives in this contest was to improve my 4RSIQ skill. Both the RTTY mode and spotting assistance in this contest facilitate working on this technique. It’s fun when it works, but it is so easy to hurt yourself when some irregularity happens and it all comes crashing down!

My second major objective this weekend was a complete overhaul of my IT system. New PCs, new keyboards/mice (Bluetooth), new FSK keying (TinyFSK), etc. Pretty risky but fortunately it worked flawlessly except for one PC that periodically froze up on a temporary basis, resulting in stalled transmission for a few seconds. I made generous use of all my known swear words.

Transmission Bandwidth

Wide QRM-inflicting signals continue to predominate the bands. I suspect most offenders aren’t aware of their painfully obvious impact as viewed on a bandscope. The worst signals were obliterating 5 operating slots on each side. Really disgraceful. The ironic thing is that the more narrow your own transmit signal, the more you are hurt by the wide signals. Narrow signals can never operate close enough for the offenders to hear them. There is no feedback to the perpetrator of the problem. Perhaps disqualification of the entry will begin to get people’s attention.


Contesting wouldn’t exist if a lot of us didn’t get on and operate. Thanks to all participants, full-time or part-time for making this a really fun weekend. 1973 of you worked me at least once. 118 came back for all 4 bands. Thanks to W5XD for continued support and enhancement of WriteLog to increase operator efficiency. Also, thanks to K0SM for the TinyFSK Auduino code. Finally, thanks to Andy P49Y/AE6Y and John P40L/W6LD for use of the cottage station.


Rigs: Elecraft K3Ss (2), K-Pods (2), P3s (2)
Amps: Alpha 86, Alpha 91B
FilterMax III low power band pass filters (2)
4O3A high power band pass filters
SixPak, StackMatch (2), BandMaster III decoder (2)

Tower 1: C31XR at 43 feet
Tower 2: 2 elements on 10 meters / 5 elements 15 meters at 55 feet
Tower 3: 4 elements 20 meter at 68 feet
         2 elements 40 meter at 76 feet
         1 element 80 meter Sigma 80 at 64 feet
         160 meter "Double L" vertical at 67 feet
Four 400-500 foot Beverages using K9AY switching box/preamp (JA/W6, W1, EU and

Logging software: WriteLog 12.25C on three networked PCs

RTTY Decoders (each K3): MMTTY, 2Tone (2), Hal DXP-38 on main receiver
                         MMTTY, 2Tone on second receiver
                         (setting both receivers on same frequency
                          yields 6 parallel decoders)

RTTY Encoder: Arduino Nano with TinyFSK code

73, Ed - P49X (W0YK)