P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

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3830 Report

That was a nice way to start down the backside of the current solar cycle! Conditions and activity far exceeded my expectations. The uncertainty of propagation prediction is one of many aspects I love about this hobby.

Going into the weekend the SSN was 86 and by the end it was 154, much higher than I expected. My propagation analysis used a SSNe of 42! It also helped that the A and K indices were lower than expected, exiting the weekend at 4 and 2, respectively, after being highly elevated the past few weeks. Operationally, I had no hopes for much happening on 10 meters.

However, I was encouraged by 10 meter QSOs into EU and NA when I was setting up the station prior to the contest. Still, I didn’t think I’d work any west coast NA, especially the northwest. Last year, 10 meters was my biggest band (most QSOs) with 1671, but the 654 QSOs this year was surprisingly high. VE7, WA, OR and no. CA all came in during the contest, but no KL even though many were on other bands.

Comparing the two years, QSOs are up and mults are down. Score is only slightly lower. But the QSO totals by band have dramatically shifted down, the peak being 15 meters this year instead of 10. One perspective is that this year is actually more band-balanced in that regard. However, I suspect we are about to have our share of “little-to-no-10-meters” in the near future.

I didn’t get around to setting up the station until late Wednesday when I discovered that one of my K3s would not transmit or receive. Elecraft support was amazing on Thursday as we tried everything imaginable. For some, as yet unknown, reason the radio has stopped recognizing the new KSYNAs that have been in this heavily used radio since late 2014. In the end, I sacrificed the sub-RX in both radios by using the old KSYN3 from the K3’s sub-RX for the main-RX in the problem radio. The alternative was doing a Single Band entry with SO2V.

Despite that work-around, anxiety spilled over into me worrying about the radio holding up during the contest, but both radios were flawless. Moreover, the 91B that failed in RTTY Round-Up was also 100% solid all weekend after replacing its power transformer. Even better, nothing else failed inside or outside the station.

My only regret is not being able to effectively S&P while running on each radio. That is very difficult to do and I wanted to improve my skill this weekend. My learning will have to QRX for the next big contest. I also use this excuse as to why my mults are lower this year.

Predictably, my biggest challenge was maximizing the number of operating hours when I was lucid enough to operate well. I am not yet able to will my body into not sleeping for 48 hours. When it is sufficiently sleep-deprived, it simply shuts down. In the past, I have tried powering through this condition, only to wind up hallucinating. The surprising thing is that my RTTY operating skills are so ingrained that few errors were made while in this state of not understanding what I was doing (and, worrying that I wasn’t doing it right). I’m sure, though, that my effectiveness was greatly reduced even though I was putting valid QSOs in the log. K5ZD advised me to just sleep a bit each night, if needed. This, from the guy who wrote an excellent NCJ article many years ago about contesting, sleep deprivation management and how he managed nearly 48 hours operating.

By now I’m well familiar with when my mind and body have gone over the edge in a long contest. I reached that point relatively “early” in the contest period at 5am local time Saturday and took a one-REM sleep break of 90 minutes. Another half hour to fix breakfast and the days “contest food/drink” before starting up again. Saturday evening the rate dropped in the transition period between 10/15 and 20/40, so I took a short break to shower, fix dinner and collect some nighttime contest food. I wanted to be fully effective for as long as I could that night. But, the “edge” came again at 2am Sunday, so I took a 2-REM sleep of 3 hours. I intended to then fix my food before sitting back down to the radio, but couldn’t resist taking a listen first. I got hooked after finding some new mults and wound up running for an hour until the rate dropped on 40 and 80. In retrospect, I’m glad I made this deviation from plan. It was sunrise, so I quickly did some kitchen work and returned to the fray.

The rates really dropped off on Sunday, just as they did last year. At the 24-hour point, I was only slightly behind last year and pushed to surge ahead. But, Sunday was every bit as depressed at 2014 and my hopes were soon lost as I slowly lost the lead I had tenuously gained. Then, the dreaded final 2 hours came with the local transition from the high to low bands. Often, this period is a great let-down as it can be hard to figure out what bands to be on to maximize score. I moved the 10 meter radio to 20 and soon had good runs going on 20 (EU/NA) and 15 (Asia/NA). The JA conditions and activity on 15 at this time were the best I’ve ever had from Aruba. The EUs on 20 were consistently coming in at a slow rate. The 23z hour Sunday was a gratifying 137. I was on such a high roll that someone had to come on frequency at 0001z Monday and inform me that the contest was over. I smiled at the last official QSO being a double-mult TF on 20 at 2359.

My latest learning on sleep management is to permit myself to take sleep breaks when needed. This greatly relieves me from worrying about how to stay alert and to look forward to taking a sleep break if/when needed. With that as a nominal plan, I can now work on shortening the breaks. For me this is far better than pushing myself beyond sleep deprivation just to put a larger number of operating hours in my 3930 report. I’m convinced that my score is far better off with fewer operating hours where my effectiveness is higher.

The 4 Beverage RX array here continues to be a low-band asset. My 40 and 80 results would be far lower without it. The seldom used east-west Beverage was essential to pulling VKs and ZLs out on 80 meters. And, the directivity is key to splitting NA or EU out of the pileups. The caveat is that I have to be careful not to miss a station off the side of the operative Beverage. Fortunately, with the K9AY SO2R 8-port Beverage controller I can engage multiple Beverages and then select just the direction of the station I want to work. The convenient pushbutton control head for each radio makes this easy and they get a thorough workout on 40 and 80.

Like last year, there were periods where signals sunk into the band noise and spotlight propagation moved around within a continent. Amazingly, my RTTY decoders printed clearly even when I could not hear any signals in the headphones. The long-standing RFI problem of 40 getting into 20 was subdued most of the time, but it returned dramatically in the middle of a QSO on Saturday evening, just as if someone flipped a switch. I have no hypothesis for how that could happen. Fortunately our recent problem with some local man-made noise on the high bands was not present except for a small amount for a while on Sunday. There were enough strong signals above it so I could keep on going.

Out of the four times I’ve done SOABHP in this contest from Aruba this score is third place. To be fair it is nearly the same as the second place score. But both are far behind my personal best in the outstanding high-band conditions of 2012, even exceeding some of our M2 efforts in this contest. For this I give sincere thanks to all the stations who fill the RTTY sub-bands and get into my logs … contesters and non-contesters alike. Yes, even the stations sending their brag tape (and, no contest exchange). They are all part of this mode and thank goodness they get on and participate with us. One advantage of SO2R is that I can temporarily distract my frustration by focusing on the other radio. ;>)

It was an immense pleasure to meet the P40BC team for dinner Sunday night. Ben DL6RAI, Luise DL2MLU, and Wolf DK6MCX, are wonderful folks and are clearly having a great time at their newly acquired (former) P40V-sk QTH here. Thanks also for picking up the dinner tab for our mutual property managers (Cris P43C and Jean-Pierre P43A) and myself!

Final thanks to my friends John W6LD/P40L and Andy AE6Y/P49Y for the continual support of my use of their nice station here. It is lot of ongoing effort by all of us to maintain it in top operating order and very gratifying when we prevail over the challenges.


Ed, P49X (W0YK)