P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

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Andrew L. Faber, AE6Y, P49Y
6/5/12  (pub. ver.)

Wednesday, May 23 - Thursday, May 24, 2012.  I took my usual AA flight 272 from SFO, leaving at 8:45 p.m. and arriving in MIA at about 5 in the morning.  Didn’t sleep very well, but napped at the Admiral’s Club at gate D30, read radio papers, ate breakfast, etc., whiling away time until the Aruba flight left at 11:30.  It was completely full, mainly with partygoers for the Aruba Soul Beach Festival this weekend.  Picked up my Hertz rental car, a well-trashed Chevy Aveo with some 42k km on the clock (an eternity for a rental car on Aruba).  No questions at customs, so the lawnmower that I had brought down partially disassembled after about 2 hours of Procrustian surgery in a large suitcase survived unscathed and untaxed.  Now JP will have to reassemble it, but since he is a mechanic by trade, that shouldn’t be too difficult. 

My plan, since this was such a short trip, had been to drive right up to Ling and Sons north of Oranjestad for grocery shopping, but I got hung up in a large traffic jam on the outskirts of the city, so switched to Plan B – make a U-turn and head back to the house.

Because this was a spur of the moment trip (due to John, W6LD’s, having a work conflict that precluded his taking the contest), I was traveling light and didn’t bring my usual K3/P3 backpack combo.  I did have a small backpack with some radio cables and the rebuilt Alpha 91B capacitor board in it, plus the usual computer bag.  Without any extra days to fool around I started setting up the station immediately.  I also hooked up the internet connection and telephones, which Ed has organized and greatly improved.  The modem is now in the master bedroom.  The drill is as follows, following the directions that Ed had left for us: (1) Connect DSL cable in BR to the side of the black connector hanging from the modem (not the end slot). (2) Plug in modem.  Four green lights should come on. (3) Plug in router. (4) In dining room, plug in phone, and connect phone cord to the phone jack on the wall.  Worked without a hitch all week.

All the antennas seemed fine except, ironically, the 20m monobander, which John had fixed in March with a new balun, and John Crovelli had re-fixed with a new jumper feedline a few weeks later. JP had reported it as having a high SWR, and it measured about 2.4-2.6 to one across the band, without a good resonant dip. This may indicate lossy feedline problems. Fortunately, both the 91B and the 86 would load it up to over 1000 watts before running into excessive reflected power, so it seemed to perform OK. JP had also reported the 80m ant as not working, but that may have been due to his unfamiliarity with the K3, as it actually checked out fine. The 160, OTOH, had its top wire swaying loose in the wind to the North side of the tower. It may have been a victim of our southerly neighbor’s expansion of his yard into the cunucu. I ended up doing nothing about it, on the theory that it won’t be needed until CQWW in the fall anyway. The four beverages seemed to be fine [and they worked great on 40m during the contest. 40 would have been very difficult without them due to summertime noisy conditions.]

I moved the shack K3/P3 from the right radio slot to the left one, intending to use it as the main run radio with the benefit of the C31 on the Stackmatch. Put a Pro2 in the right slot, and attempted to setup the Bandmaster for the Icom CI-V input, but no amount of setup, changing addresses and baud rates, cajoling, etc., seemed to do the trick. The idea is that the radio switches the Bandmaster, which has its own little network connection to the Filtermax, which switches the W3NQN filters and sends a signal to the StackMatch to switch antennas. After considerable work, I decided to just switch the antennas and filters manually, rather than attempting to do more troubleshooting on the day of the contest. In this state, it is actually less convenient than the former system, where the TT decoders had band switches so that manual control would switch both the ICE filters and the antennas. The setup program is on the flash drive that now lives on the base of the monitor.

At a little after 6 I gave up and decided to go for a run at Savaneta, feeling my usual day-of-arrival weakness. Then picked up a foot-long Subway Italian sandwich, half of which was dinner tonight. It was warmer than in March: temp in the high 80s. After a shower and a phone chat with JP, I tackled reinstalling the Alpha 91B filter board. John had thoughtfully photo-documented the removal in detail, so the installation process was pretty straightforward. Hooking it up in place of the 87A on the K3, it appeared to work fine! Successful repair -- thanks John and Ed. I ran a small pileup of EUs (this at 10-11 at night), and kept it on for about two hours with no problems. I then upgraded the K3 and P3 firmware to version 4.51 and 1.16 respectively, to take advantage of the improved K3 AGC software. To bed at about 11 p.m.

Friday, May 25, 2012.   A long night’s sleep till about 8 in the morning, then switched the “new” Alpha 86 (i.e., the one I bought from Carl on the previous trip) in place of the “old” 86 (i.e., the one we bought from Carl 10 years ago) in the right-hand position, tried it out on all bands, and verified that it worked fine. It has the advantage over the old one that the Tune and Load lights work, making it easier to see the tuning scales. I checked each radio by listening to it in the other one to make sure the PTT timing was working properly and not cutting off any initial CW dots.

At about 10 I drove over to Chris and JP’s. No one was home, so I left on their porch the suitcase with the lawnmower inside and some parts I had bought for JP (LEDs and PC board stock), plus the Tailtwister replacement parts. Then went to go shopping, stopping on the way at Carl and Sue’s, to say hello to the three Czech operators who were there for the contest, along with one wife and one grandchild. The primary spokesman was OK7MT (Mike), who spoke some English, while the other two (Vit, OK5MM, and Peter, OK2PP) spoke very little. They will be P40H M/S in the contest.  

Back to the house for lunch then finished the radio setup. I have the computer hooked up in one of the usual fashions: external monitor attached, external keyboard and mouse to USB dongle, one USB port to the Compaq 4-port USB expander, then to rig control for each radio using the USB-to-2 serial-port converter, USB relay box to Radio1/2 input on DXD, USB to Winkeyer (for keying and PTT). Napped for about 40 minutes after lunch, then ran an EU pileup on 10 meters for a while. It seemed a good omen that 10m was open in the 18Z hour to most of Europe, not just the normal midday Mediterranean and Middle East opening.  

At about 3 p.m., I went out for a run, feeling stronger than yesterday, but no faster. Of course, at this hour it was hotter, and today also quite a bit windier. In fact, the whole week is hotter than in March, with a reported high of 88-89 degrees each day. After a shave and shower, I performed my normal pre-contest ritual: napping/dozing for a while, then having dinner (the second half of yesterday’s Subway sandwich), putting out contest junk food and drink and waiting nervously for zero hour at 8 p.m. local.  

CQ WPX CW Contest Saturday, May 26- Sunday, May 27, 2012 – Contest notes more or less as dictated during the contest. A disappointingly slow start on 40: many CQs with not many answers. At 0028Z I’m only on contact number 44. I’m running about 1300 watts on the 91B and it shows zero reflected power on the metering lights. I’m sending at 35 wpm, with the Winkey pot set at 33 [later in the contest, I slow down, as the best strategy on 15 seems to be to send at 33-34 and on 40 on Saturday 31-32, as there is more noise on the low bands and more repeats are requested both by me and by the stations worked.] At 0400Z I’m at 450 by 296 prefixes for 797k points, including 14 second radio Qs on 20. Both 20 and 15 are wide open to EU. Although this rate seems low, and many contacts require repeats, a 112/hour rate on 40 is actually very good with the double points for low bands, so I stay on 40, even though it would be much easier on 20/15.

Just hit 1M points at 0438Z with NR4M contact at 520 by 334. A brief break at 0555Z I’m at 635 by 389 for 1.423M points. I set the second radio on 15 and start making contacts there while running on 40 (24 in the 06Z hour and 17 each in the next two hours). At 0723Z a weak ZL1ANH calls in, so I turn the beam west and get a few more ZLs and VKs. At 0742Z the first JA calls, JS1NDM, whom I can barely hear. Things are slowing down, so at 0843Z I decide to take some time off, at 837 by 498 for 2.3M points. Band totals are 15:53, 20:23, 40:756. Not bad, but well behind the paces of P40W and PJ4A last year [as I recall, 40 was less noisy last year, and there was more activity also, since the EUs weren’t diverted by today’s excellent 15m condx.] After a brief sleep, back on at 1017Z. 40 is now open to Japan, and they are now easier to copy than earlier in the evening. At 1113Z, after about an hour of JA’s on 40, some of which have been easy QSOs and some of which have required repeats for the call and/or the number, it seems time to go to the high bands. At 898 by 531 for 2.665M points. It sounds like 15 is much stronger than 20, so I set the left radio on 15 to start running.

 I have the second radio on 10 waiting for an opening to EU. Of course it starts first in Spain and the Mediterranean; ED3T (Spain) is the first Q at 1355Z, then C4Z (Cyprus) at 1423Z. Running a split US/EU pileup with the C31 aimed at the US and the 10/15 monobanders at EU. At 1630Z I work P40H on 10 on the second radio – literally the only time in the entire contest that I even hear them, let alone work them. 10 is starting to open more, but the rate is good on 15, so I wait until 10 is very solidly open to EU, then move there at 1733Z, hanging out on 28015 for the next four hours. I have been using the K3’s AGC SLP=0 and THR=15, but get blasted too often by strong signals, so I lower the threshold setting to 12, and it reduces that effect. I do ride the RF gain, though on 10 (only) I also have the preamp on and generally need full RF gain.

  Just before the half-way mark of 18 hours of elapsed operating time, at 1929Z, the totals are: 1913 by 789, with band totals 278, 795, 23, 817 (10-40). The EU soccer matches must have ended recently as I’m getting a lot of EUs with very low contact numbers. I’ve been sending at 33 wpm for most of the day, including on 10.

I’ve been on 20 for the last two hours starting at 2201Z on 14050. It’s been a very pleasant pileup. Now is the time for one of those weird decisions that must be made in WPX. I just finished my second best clock hour of the contest (140 Qs on 20 in the 23Z hour), but do need to take some time off, having only taken 1 ½ hours off so far out of the required 12, and will predictably do better than half of that rate on 40 in the evening, so, difficult as it is, I QRT from 0004Z to 0116Z. Interestingly, when I left 40m early this morning, my overall average was 96/hour. With the better high band rates, it’s now up to 110. I have 22 ½ hours of on time so far, so need to take 10 ½ hours off. Not wanting to take it all off in one block, I’m going to take an hour now, decompress and have some food and get ready for the evening grind on 40 meters. I’m at 2484 by 902 for 8.7M points. I’ve been using the K3/91B as the run radio. When I started running on 20, I was using the Icom, and it freaked me out. It sounded strange and I didn’t have confidence in it; switching to the K3, everything felt normal again [of course, I had done many contests with the Icoms and they do work OK, though they are not nearly as good on a crowded band as the K3.]

Well, I’m running out of guys to work on 40. It’s 0506Z, at 2814 by 954 for 11.1M points. Now 1131 Qs on 40, and I’ve made a few second radio contacts on 80, though 80 is very noisy, and not very busy, so there seems to be no point in trying to run on that band. It’s 1:08 local time, and instead of sleeping all night, I’m going to get up at about 5 a.m. to try to get an early morning JA run to get some new prefixes.  

OK, I did it: got back on the air at 0919Z and have been on for about an hour and a half working 84 stations including a good number of new JA prefixes. Copy is difficult on the JA’s and rarely can I get the full call and exchange without multiple repeats. The signals aren’t really distinct, and have some polar distortion that makes them hard to discern. So I’m going back to sleep, and then planning to work my remaining 8 hours and 15 minutes in a block on the high bands till the end of the contest. I’ve worked 21 new prefixes in this stint, and the score stands at 11.7M points. 

  Refreshed after 4 ½ hours of sack time and some food, I’m back on at 1544Z. I try 10, but it’s not as good as yesterday, with weaker signals and seemingly less activity, so I go back to still smokin’ hot 15 after a half hour. I park on 21033. At 1752Z, W6AEA opens up right on my frequency and ignores repeated requests to QSY, though he is very loud and obviously hears me. He eventually goes away, but another annoyance eventually forces me to QSY to a quieter frequency. UA5A is about 400 Hz below me; normally on the K3 I wouldn’t even know he is there, but he has such loud key clicks that they interfere even this far away and cause me to need repeats on weak signals. I’ve heard a number of clicky stations this weekend, but this is by far the worst. I take an 8-minute break then resume on 21007, which is blissfully quiet. Now at 3260 by 1023 for 13.5M points. Splitting power to US/EU works well now.

With 15 so good, I probably should just stay on it, but the normal protocol would be to go to 20 in the last two or three hours of the contest (particularly since I have relatively few QSOs there), then maybe to 40 near the very end. I completely mishandle this, however, and undoubtedly lose 100k or so points in the process. I do go to 20 at 2228Z but the rate isn’t as good as on 15. I try 40 at 2305Z but amazingly have only two contacts in a wasted 10 minutes, so it’s back to 20 to run out the contest.  

 Then, in a brand-new contest experience, the computer goes nuts in the last 10 minutes, and I end up actually logging the last seven contacts on paper and sending the exchanges by hand. This is not easy to do at the end of a long contest, particularly with four-digit contact numbers. This has never happened in any prior contest, including those with many more contacts (such as 6500 in ARRL CW a few months ago). The computer suddenly slows down to a crawl, and reacts slowly to keystrokes and to screen updates. [Rebooting after the contest restored normal operation. It’s as though it was demonically possessed and some massive process was underway inside it – much worse than merely running a backup or something like that. The computer was connected to our wireless internet (though I wasn’t using it), and maybe it had been hijacked in some massive denial of service attack. I don’t think it is a hardware issue at all.] It would send CQs ok but every time I wanted to send an exchange, it would send part of the call, then stop sending and flip out of PTT. It seemed that when the program focus changed from the screen to the keyboard (which happens with every keystroke), there was a delay. A mystery.

After the contest, I entered those last seven contacts manually into the program, took a phone call from Lisandro, then medicated myself with a combination of Tylenol and Frangelica, finishing a bottle that had lasted for several years. 

Soapbox, as sent to 3830 reflector: 

This was a contest that wasn't meant to be -- for me. My station co-owner John, W6LD, had dibs on this contest since I had done WPX Phone, but work commitments forced him to cancel out, so I decide to do a very quick trip. Arrived in Aruba on Thursday afternoon instead of the usual Wednesday, and traveled light without my usual K3/P3 in the backpack, just intending to rely on the shack K3.

Having done this contest LP the past two years, I was looking forward to the fun of going HP this time.  Our Alpha 91B had been sidelined by a blown filter capacitor, but John had removed the board, and Ed, W0YK, had replaced all the caps and bleeder resistors on it, so that all I had to do was reinstall it and turn on the power.  Worked like a champ all weekend. 

As others have noted, the conditions were quite amazing, on 15 particularly. It took a lot of discipline to gut it out on 40 Friday night, while 20 and 15 were open to EU all night long! Although it's easier to run on those bands, and the rates are higher, they are never so good as to make up for the double low band points. 40 seemed very slow and noisy, and it was hard work to try to get those numbers correct in the noise. Never thought I'd have twice as many Qs on 40 as on 20! And it's been a long time since I had more EU (48%) in this contest than W/K (38%).

Had a very strange computer QLF episode in the last 10 minutes of the contest (thankfully not earlier). Suddenly the computer seemed to become hesitant to send reports but it would send CQ's fine. There was some peculiar interaction with the keyboard and screen display updates, such that there was a time lag between pressing the keys and something happening. Apologies to my last 7 or 8 contacts, but I actually had to log them on paper and send the serial numbers by hand (not easy to do with tired brain/hand at the end of a contest!). It all seems fine now, and it's the same computer and software that worked flawlessly in many previous contests, including ARRL CW a few months ago, so go figure...

The usual lively Aruba social calendar was curtailed due to the short trip and to some of the winter regulars (like P40V and P49MR) being back home, not to mention W2GD taking a rain check, but did manage to stop in to see OK7MT and his cohorts at P40H, also Chris and JP (P43C, P43A) and Lisandro (P43L).

Rig: K3, 756 Pro2, Alpha 91B, 86
Ant: 1 el 80, 2 el 40, 4 el 20, 5 el 15, 2 el 10, C31XR (all F-12), beverages
Software: CQPWIN, ver. 12.5
Website: check out www.arubaqth.com.  Comments and suggestions are welcomed.

73, and thanks for all the Qs,
Andy, AE6Y

Here are band-by-band comparisons of my scores for the past three years (2010-11 were LP) and P40W(W2GD) for 2011. 


P49Y 2012 HP

P49Y 2011 LP

P49Y 2010 LP

P40W 2011 HP









































Monday, May 28, 2012.  I got up around 7 and mostly fiddled with radio stuff indoors in the morning. I did go outside to check on the brush clearing that Chris had done in the cunucu. It’s mostly centered on the area from the back gate out into the wild, with our beverage feed lines now exposed. They did a nice job. I thought of trying to rein in the top end of the 160m dipole, but it couldn’t be done from the cunucu easily, and would have required climbing the tower, so it seemed the better part of valor to leave it for the fall, since it won’t be needed until CQWW anyway.

Spent a few hours fruitlessly trying to diagnose the Bandmaster problem with the Icom radio. I verified that the Icom was putting out band voltage, and that the cables were wired correctly. Even tried the second Pro2 and the second Bandmaster, to no avail. I did lug the old FT1000D out of the closet and verified that it keyed the Bandmaster properly. I even tried using the Icom’s CI-V remote jack (as opposed to ACC-2) into the CI-V jack on the Bandmaster using two plugs that I managed to scare up in one of the metal cans in the storage area under the operating desk, and two alligator clip leads, but that didn’t work either.

This took up most of the morning. At noon I drove over for a brief chat with Lissette and Lisandro. They are sad due to the very sudden and untimely passing of a very close friend. Then off to Savaneta for a run in the midday sun and a swim in my “private” swimming hole near Marina Pirata. Later in the day, I visited Chris and JP to see the kids and discuss finances, then we had a very pleasant dinner at B55. Then final packing, including putting the Titan power supply in my “small” suitcase, buffered with a large beach towel and some dirty clothes. It weighed in at 69 pounds. AA didn’t charge any extra, but let’s hope it survives the trip home. I left the K3 set up as the left radio, with the right radio slot vacant. I put the “old” 86 on the second table in the radio room, and the 87A in the MBR closet on the shelf under the shelf with the radios. I also hooked up an Elecraft hand mic that I left there and the N0SA paddle and logikit keyer, so that the station is ready for phone and CW. Note that to use the mic, you must go into the Mic Menu item and set it to Fp.H (front panel high) and tap key “2” to turn on bias.