P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

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3830 Report

What a great season opener for the CQ World Wide DX Contest series! In Aruba, the bands were wonderful this weekend. Of course, expectations are significantly lower with the extended solar cycle low. This was the third contest this year that pleasantly surprised me with contest results that are clearly related to improving band conditions. The first was ARRL DX CW from here in Aruba, when 160 through 10 provided exciting propagation. The second surprise was the Russian World Wide DX RTTY Contest just a few weeks ago. For the first time in several years we had prolonged great propagation from the NA West Coast into Europe on 15 meters -- enough to remind us of how things are outside of a solar dip. Operating from near the equator is favorable even in a solar low, but all the bands were relatively excellent here compared to recent years at this QTH. Hopefully, we're not far away from this North-South high-band propagation expanding to some good East-West propagation.

80 through 15 were solid all weekend, open strongly at the expected local times during the daily cycle. Ten was a bit like 6 meters with its fast QSB, yet pretty stable on Friday through Sunday. Friday mid-day, we enjoyed a solid 10-meter opening into Europe for over three hours. It even felt eerie, being so long since we've experienced it. Saturday and Sunday were not as good, but still remarkable. I had a real taste of what I hope ten comes back to as solar activity increases. My 10-meter results were definitely limited by lack of activity. People must be so accustomed to it being dead that they don't try. There are two ways for a band to be "dead": lack of propagation and lack of operators!

The local weather helped a lot with a much higher than normal rainfall which thoroughly eliminated any power-line noise. On the other hand, the downpours were so huge that I worried about rain static on the antennas and flooding in the house. Some schools and businesses closed this week when their buildings flooded. Friday as I was running Europe on 10 and 15, there was hardest rainfall I've ever experienced. So hard that even static couldn't build up on the antennas! I heard a loud crash from another part of the house, even through the noise-cancelling headphones. Checking, I found the light fixture had been jarred out of the kitchen ceiling from the pounding rain on the metal roof.

This modest little station (three 43-65 foot towers on a city lot) performed flawlessly. In fact, I can't recall a contest where I had zero problems to troubleshoot either outside or inside the shack. That's the goal, of course, but in this tropical environment it is a challenge to keep it all working well as island visitors. My thanks again to John, W6LD/P40L, and Andy, AE6Y/P49Y, for their commitment to the station and including me in its use. I arrived 1-2 days later than normal, taking the risk that I wouldn't have much station work and hoping to focus on operating, exercising and sleeping well. As usual, things turned out different. The rain and flooding prevented running for exercise. The vacationers here for a week of beach-duty were surely disappointed! Then, I spent all my pre-contest time sorting out issues with my computers. (How often do we read about that problem in this hobby?!) So, I did little operating and also lost sleep instead of going into the weekend well-rested.

I never was successful getting two parallel MMTTY installations working properly on each computer for supporting the two receivers in each radio. (My plan was to tune for mults with the second receiver on the same band I was running on--times two for SO2R. Or, is it SO4V? And, then what do you call it when a third radio/computer is added to the mix? Wow, five audio streams into two ears and 7-11 decoder windows to keep track of.) Anyway, somewhere in Windows/soundcard drivers/MMTTY/etc. the right and left channels would randomly move around. Even MMTTY standalone outside the logger wouldn't behave. Since there are usually two run bands 24 hours a day from here, it doesn't pay to give one up for searching. In fact with 10 open, there were three high-rate day-time bands so now the juggling game (or SO3R!) begins. And at dusk I had the choice of running on any two bands, 40-15 and still working stations on 80! My 20 meter numbers suffered from all the time I spent on 10 and I have yet to perfect SO3R for running ...there's just too much dead-time on one or more radios with three transmissions interleaved.

I networked in a third computer/radio for a SO3R configuration. The simplifying factor was dedicating the third radio to ten meters. It was an Icom 756ProII with its bandscope to constantly monitor the band for activity. Audio was mixed with the right run radio via a mixer/switch that allowed selection of either or both radios. Mostly I streamed only the right run radio until I saw activity on ten when I could mix in that audio for easier tuning to check out the signals there. When HC8/K6AW was running on 10, I camped there and WriteLog gave me an excellent picture of the rate and whether Steve was working new mults and stations that weren't in my log. When I wanted to run on ten, I moved one of the two main radios there, but for moving mults to ten, the barefoot radio worked great.

My main concern for this contest was maximizing my alertness throughout the 48 hours. In 2008, I had troubling hallucination for the second half of the contest. This summer I started aerobic exersising again in preparation for these 48-hour contesting marathons and also researched sleep deprivation. I made a big effort to self-monitor my mental acuity so I could take action before it was too late. Saturday night I took a 25-minute break when 15/10 started shutting down and I was ready for 20/40. I cooked an egg omelet, refreshed a bit and started up again as I was eating. A few hours later I realized that I was forgetting why I was pushing the specific keys in the specific order during the QSO phases. I knew the first signs of debilitating sleep deprivation were setting in. I fought it and did mental exercises to keep from sliding down the slope, but I knew that with 20 hours ahead of me I needed a couple of REM cycles in bed so I would be at maximum effectiveness on Sunday. So, I went to bed from 7-10 UTC, leaving maybe 100 Qs and a handful of mults behind. My strategy was to shake the mental decline so I could deal with the pileups and rate for the last 14 hours. In retrospect, that was a fine decision.

Coming into the contest, I had modest expectations. In 2008 as SO HP from here, I made 3400 Qs for 6M points. In 2009, EF8M moved the SO HP world record from 7.4M to 8.9M, beating our M2 effort here in Aruba tha year by 400K. EF8M was reported to be going back to defend and raise his record. So, I stuck to my normal contest goal of maximizing the operating fun during the contest and not concerning myself too much with winning or records. I was convinced that this little station could not compete with a good op from a super station on the Canary Islands. CQing for over a minute on 40 and 20 before my first QSO cemented my resolve to just focus on having fun. Immediately, I had tremendous pileups and it never let up until I left callers hanging at 00z on 27 September.

Conditions here in Aruba were much better than the last two years. My rate was on a different upward slope compared to both prior operations. At 24 hours, I was 600 Qs ahead of my 2008 SO HP effort and on track for maybe 4500 Qs and close to 9M points, assuming the bands held up on Sunday. They held up! There were many great moments and my favorites were when so many ops moved to other bands for me. Of course, there were the classic "contest moments" where some juicy double mult would call in on 15 and then quickly move to our newly-revived 10-meter band and 20 for me. That more than made up for my frustration at not feeling I could leave my run frequencies to chase many other mults that I knew were active on the bands and never made it into my log. The log statistics below this (long-winded) report tell of the two-day adventure. Thanks so much to the endless supply of RTTY operators who make this so much fun. At times, my pileups were growing faster than I could work them down. I know some people were annoyed and left. I'm sorry I missed so many, but I guess this is a better problem than dead bands! I'm always striving to improve my operating efficiency and there is plenty of headroom in that quest. Thanks for your patience and support. Contesters are great!


Ed, P49X (W0YK)