P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

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This year’s contest was very similar to 2014. I suspect others will report some significant differences, depending on their location, but here in Aruba the two years were amazingly identical. One reflection of this is my raw score, which is just 0.3% lower than last year.

Friday night started out pretty good with my Qs, mults and score tracking ahead of last year, hour by hour. Last year was my personal best so this was a good omen. Saturday saw a small erosion of the lead but in the late evening, the low bands just weren’t performing, substantially worse than 2014. By Sunday morning the lead was very small and as the day wore on, it slimmed up even more. I operated another 30 minutes past my 30 hours and crossed over last year’s score after only 3 more minutes of operating! This is when one reflects on the long list of things during the contest that could have been done differently. Overall, I’m happy with the results and had a great time, thanks to all the other stations that were operated this weekend.

2014-2015 Results

         2014         2015
80        403          273
40        780          827
20        321          694
15       1235         1070
10       1208         1029
Total    3947         3893
Points  15,344       14,918
Mults     947          971	
Score   14.55M       14.49M 

Though the conditions seemed very similar, these band results show that the activity shifted lower in frequency this year. Basically, I follow the rate and work the two most productive bands for points. There is also a trade-off to be on all bands enough to maximize exposure to the prefix mults.


The similarity between the two years centered around generally good conditions on all band but nothing spectacular about any. There was also this eerie feeling that conditions were slightly unstable, with signal strengths very strong followed by near disappearance 30 minutes later, only to come back strong again afterward. It reminded me of following 6 meters and hoping to catch the “big opening”. Conditions generally deteriorated throughout the weekend, probably accentuated by the accompanying decrease in activity.

Off-Time Strategy

My basic strategy is to take a break when the rate drops, but with unstable conditions, it is tricky to determine when that point is. The first break is early Saturday morning, typically after EU sunrise when the low band rate plummets. Since those QSOs generate twice the points as the daytime high-band QSOs, I usually target the break when I think I could achieve twice the QSO rate the next day on 10-20 meters. I plan my second break at the transition from the high to low bands Saturday evening. I’m looking for hourly point rate, and new prefixes. I don’t care where they come from. The targeted third break is early Sunday morning when the low band rate drops, which is usually 1-2 hours earlier that the first morning.

I start Saturday and Sunday mornings when there are two bands solidly open that I can run on. Rather than start on 20 and have to switch to 10 shortly thereafter, I just wait until 10 is open to Europe solidly, and this is typically around 12z. By Sunday morning, I am down to 6-10 hours remaining and have the option to take another break or two when rate drops off. This is a dicey decision, though, because with these quirky conditions, it is easy to miss a spectacular opening late Sunday, or alternatively have to endure dismal conditions instead. Like last year, I took a fourth break Sunday when rate dropped off, hoping it would be better later in the day.

After a 2-hour nap, got on for the last 3 hours and was greeted with even more instability in solar conditions. Signals would fade out within the QSO and a couple of them had to just be scratched. Five minutes later, signals would be crashing in at S9+20dB, then gone again. At the same time, some far-away places like JA and YB seemed to have spotlight propagation with echoey, but solid, signal quality. But, my last 30 minutes of official score time was excruciatingly slow. By then, there was too little score time left to make another break feasible.

Part way through this last operating session, I had to give up on 10 meters. It might have come back, but the down periods were just too slim. After moving to 20, I then watched 15 succumb to the same decline and moved to 40 in the last half hour. There were good signals on 40, but not enough new stations to work and it was hardly better than the 15 meter band I had just left. Meanwhile, 20 oscillated between tremendous highs with big pileups to frustrating lows with several unanswered CQs.


On the plus side, I really appreciate all those who moved through the bands with me, many on all 5 bands. One station called me, literally, on my other band one second after I acknowledged our current QSO. Especially gratifying was the marked increase in tailending skill. Its really fun when a station drops their call in, once, just as the station I’m working finishes their exchange. I can pick them up without the time spent in a CQ cycle.

On the not-so-plus side, the excessive bandwidth of most (yes, most) RTTY signals is becoming a bigger problem with each contest. Two things are changing. First, there are increasingly more signals squeezing in a fixed sub-band. Second, the enlightened few have narrowed their transmit bandwidth and are dubiously “rewarded” with the wider signals able to move in closer to them, creating even more debilitating key clicks in their passband. This is a community problem and the fix will be hard, I’m afraid. What’s needed is for everyone to take steps to ensure their transmit bandwidth is the minimum needed for reliable communication.

There was the usual, and significant, amount of sent exchanges where zeros were sent for the serial number or else something like {his call} {his exchange}. Less than one out of ten caught this and resent the exchange correctly. Fully 90% had to be queried to please send a valid exchange. Are some folks not looking at what they are sending? Does the excruciatingly long transmission not alert them to the problem? I think this stems from something in the logger they are using, but it sure seems avoidable.

Finally, the integrity of spots was fairly low. So much so that I stopped wasting time looking at seemingly new mults on my bandmaps. Again, I suspect a configuration problem where the logger is setup to automatically spot each station logged. This might be fine when you’re tuning around working CQing stations who are fixed on a frequency. All too often, I’d go to a new mult on my bandmap and find a different CQing station. A bit later I’d investigate another new mult and find the same CQing station. A simple operator mistake, but one that affects everyone in the contest using Packet. In this contest, that is a lot of inconvenienced people!


As I’ve observed previously, the value of multiple decoders was once again shown to be extremely high. I run 6 different decoders, four on my main receiver and two on my second receiver in each radio. But, much of the time I have both receivers on the same frequency, so in effect I have all six decoders on my run frequency. There are many times when I get clear copy in only one of the six! That’s not very good odds for those who bet on only one decoder. Maybe my pile-up conditions are not typical, but the lesson learned can be applied to any station.

For some reason my main MMTTY decoders bungled the serial number on a high proportion of QSOs. 2Tone almost always copied perfectly. I’m not sure a generalization can come from this, but having both was important. 2Tone, on the other hand, has a much longer delay in printing received text, and is accordingly unusable as a main decoder. It is relegated to back-up copy when the main MMTTY decoder isn’t getting clear copy. And for whatever reason, a few times, a decoder on the sub-receiver copied clearly when the other 5 did not. All of this results in hardly any need for repeats in the harshest of QRM and band conditions.


Rigs: Elecraft K3s (2), Alpha 86s (2), FilterMax low-power bandpass filters, 4O3A high-power bandpass filters

3 networked PCs with WriteLog 11.24j, VE7CC CC User, DSL Internet, MMTTY (4), 2Tone (6), DXP38 (2), homebrew FSK/PTT Serial cables (4), Bose headphones, computer spectacles

Tower 1: 2 element 40 meter at 76 feet, 4 element 20 meter at 68 feet, 1 element 80 meter Sigma 80 at 64 feet, 160 meter “double L” vertical at 67 feet (top)

Tower 2: 2 element 10 meter at 55 feet; 5 elements 15 meter at 55 feet

Tower 3: C31XR at 43 feet

Four 500 foot beverages using K9AY switching box/preamp

Thanks to station owners John P40L/W6LD and Andy P49Y/AE6Y!

73, Ed - P49X (W0YK)