P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

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This result is a surprise.  Friday night conditions were terrible here and throughout the weekend the bands were be up and down.  The worst was Sunday mid-day when I put in my last four hours and 15m disappeared completely for a while and never recovered fully.  Even 20m almost crashed.  It seemed that I had to ask for repeats in every QSO.

I just dug in as hard as I could and amazingly ended my first 9-1/2 hours at my first break with exactly the same QSOs and points as the past two years!  Still, I was rather discouraged about the prospects for the rest of the weekend.  I barely kept pace with a couple of Stateside stations on serial numbers Friday night and early Saturday, but at least Aruba wasn't as deprived as the 2008 WPX CW where signals were either weak or non-existent.

Saturday was the best day for conditions here.  The low bands were their usual pleasure Saturday night, a huge contrast to Friday.  Signals were clear and crisp and the QRM seemed much less.  I don't know about Sunday in total, but the four hours I operated were extremely marginal.  I was counting on 140/hour rates and fought to stay above 80/hour.  When 15m disappeared in the middle of my run, the only signal I heard on the band was P40R and even Roger was weak, just 8 miles away.  Slowly one or two European signals started popping in again and I got some more of it before my 30 hours ran out.  I even checked 40m and almost QSY'd there at 16Z!

The point total ended up a bit above my all-time high in 2007 but the real boost came from nearly 100 more mults.  I was stunned at the 808 pfix total.  It will be interesting to see how others did on pfixes.  Maybe there were just more available this year.  Never did use Packet because I was averaging a mult every four QSOs and it just didn't pay to leave the run frequencies to chase mults.  Not to mention the fact that I never got the RFI out of the DSL modem on 40 and 80, so the Internet connection was QRM'd and destroyed by my operating.

I modified my off-time strategy from prior years and stopped operating only when the Q rate dropped below 65-70/hour on 80/40m and 140/hour on 20/15m.

This meant that my prior 2-hour break late Saturday afternoon disappeared.  It also resulted in me refraining from getting started Saturday morning until 15Z when 20m and 15m should be solidly open.  Although harder on the body, I think the operating time was better optimized.  I'm sure glad I didn't leave more than four hours for Sunday this weekend!

I tried a non-intuitive change in my TU message this year by lengthening it and always send the other station's call sign.  My thought was to lessen confusion on the frequency and based on this weekend's conditions, I'm really glad I did that.  At 60 WPM, it doesn't add much time and I could get rid of the 'DE' that I usually use to help listeners sort out who was doing what on frequency.

Other than Windows going beserk a half-dozen times, the entire station worked flawlessly: equipment, computers, software, modems, network, accessories, transmitting antennas, Beverages, primary power, light bulbs, etc.  There was zero inter-station RFI and the Beverages really helped divide up the pileups geographically on the low bands.  Once in a while, Window throws a fit by flashing all the open windows on and off and zooming the cursor randomly around the screen without help from the trackball.  One just has to back away from the keyboard and trackball and "let it pass".  Whenever I've tried to intervene, really bad consequences occur.  The last time it happened was just after K5ZD sent his exchange on 15m Sunday and in my panic I reached for "the key" like I would on CW before I realized this mode doesn't have such a computer override/safeguard.

Another first for me was how much better the DXP38 decoded compared to MMTTY much of the time.  I've never experienced such a difference between the two.

Granted I didn't take time to play around with different MMTTY profiles with various decoding algorithms in these odd atmospheric conditions.  The call signs and serial numbers were garbled so often in MMTTY that I took to using the DXP38 decoding windows as my main focus.  Coincidently, for the first time I used some high performance sound card units (EMU-0202) to drive MMTTY.  I thought they worked great, but in the past I've just used the internal sound cards in my 10-year old laptops with no problems.  I'm thinking it wasn't worth the trouble to drag these extras boxes down here.  Maybe it was just conditions and maybe it would have been worse without the external units.  I really don't think sound card performance matters so much in RTTY, but for some of the other data modes like PSK, perhaps there is an advantage.

So, as always, a big thanks to the endless supply of RTTY contesters, especially the casual folks who get on and create an endless supply of QSOs for us mutants.  As well, huge appciation to John, W6LD/P40L, and Andy, AE6Y/P49Y, for sharing their wonderful contest station with me.  Each of them, BTW, got on with their K3s in CW-RTTY mode and worked me.  This is a cute feature but a bit awkward for high rate contesting.  I worked six stations on the other radio while waiting for them to send 30 wpm CW translated to 60 wpm "Farnsworth" RTTY.  Actually, Andy tried twice unsuccessfully sending only the MARK frequency.  We need to enroll that boy in RTTY Contesting 101, hi!  And finally, I couldn't have done this contest without the loan of an Alpha 86 from P40YL and P40V who have moved back to the island part time now.  In fact, its time to pop the cork on some wine and get ready for a post-contest dinner somewhere with them tonight.