P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

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3830 Report

Solar conditions defined this contest, as they often do. Two big geomagnetic storms depressed propagation on Sunday. The first storm started at the end of Saturday UTC, peaking in the early hours of Sunday UTC. I assume that was responsible for the short, but terrific 10 meter opening from 20-22z Saturday. During that time, there was the best JA opening on 15 meters that I’ve ever experienced from Aruba. The Caribbean is difficult for JA, but I’ve worked the big stations which still only have very weak signals here, typically S1-2 but copiable. In this 3-hour opening Saturday late afternoon, 9 out of 10 JAs were literally moving the K3 S-meter to 20-25 dB over S9! I worked 74 of them. SO2R was key to my running JA on 15 while making the most of the 10 meter opening to NA and EU. I worked 29 states and a half-dozen EUs plus the usual handful of South Americans.

The second geomagnetic storm hit around 18z Sunday. Prior to that, however, at 14-15z there was a second short 10-meter opening that netted some more states, notably as far west as AZ, as well as broad penetration into Europe. This opening is typical from Aruba and is usually followed by a second peak a couple hours later. Both the late-Saturday and early-Sunday 10 meter openings were limited more by low participation than by propagation potential. Sunday, in general, had very weak signals on 10, 15 and 20. There was some QSB where stations would call, I’d send a report and then nothing. But, there were just as many times when I’d struggle to get their call sign initially and then have them come back much stronger. Overall, conditions were much more suppressed than Saturday.

The low bands were outstanding both nights but far less productive Saturday night with fewer new stations to work. In the last 2 hours of the contest, P43A ran the bands with me and I went barefoot to the 3 bands I wasn’t running on just for the quick QSO. For some reason JP didn’t show up on 40 but while I was CQing there for him, I picked up several stations, including 2 mults I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten (since I had planned to finish the contest on 15 and 20). Improved low band conditions is our consolation prize during the solar cycle minimum.

The vast majority of RTTY signals continue to be far too wide and/or dirty. While this has always been the case, it wasn’t much of a problem until rigs such as the K3 started filtering their FSK and AFSK for the narrowest bandwidth needed for quality communication. This means that users of those radios, as well users who use narrow encoder filtering, are now punished for their good deed to the community. The wide signals can move in close causing QRM to the narrow signals, while not hearing a thing from those narrow signals. It’s like a boxer with a foot longer reach! And, this problem is exacerbated by high power. All of this is easily observed on a good bandscope like the P3. The CW and SSB sections of CQ WW have started disqualifying stations with excessively dirty signals. I think RTTY needs to follow suit, though it means more work for the contest volunteers.

The weekend was very enjoyable, despite the final score being next to the lowest I’ve ever done in this contest from Aruba. I’d like to believe that this is mostly due to the solar cycle. Still, my biggest unmet challenge is sleep deprivation. My cognitive ability evaporates after 24 hours in front of the radios, following more than 12 hours after I last slept. The early stages of hallucination start setting in and I know it goes quickly downhill. Around 03Z, I realized that I could fight it for several more hours on 40 and 80, or I could get some good sleep so I’d be in shape for the high bands all day Sunday. I realized I was sacrificing 4-5 hours of good low band potential, but that time would have been painful and as much so the next day with sleep deprivation. Besides, contests are supposed to be fun, so I opted for maximum fun across the weekend and went to bed for 8 hours! It really paid off in the sense that I felt at the top of my game solidly through Sunday, which was a total blast. It just feels weird to sleep that much in the middle of CQ WW!

I realized this weekend that it is that point in the solar cycle for a SO3R setup where one radio is dedicated to 10 meters. That makes it easy to monitor 10 meters continually and have instant QSY ability when unpredictable openings pop up, or I think I can move a mult there. This weekend, I had to interrupt a run on one of the radios to check 10 periodically. I have a pretty good idea of 10 by how 20 and 15 are doing but the sure confirmation is operating on 10 itself. In fact, I usually have to CQ there for a while because an empty bandscope could simply mean that few, or no, stations are there transmitting. I know I could have worked many more stations in the two openings if more stations had gone to the band. During the two 10-meter openings this weekend, I announced my 10-meter frequency to every QSO made on 15 meters. That helped get a few more stations in the log via 10 meters.

Multiple decoders continue to shine, with only 1-2 of the six printing correctly a significant amount of time. It takes thousands of QSOs to see and appreciate this. Trying a variety of decoders on one contest will mislead one into thinking certain decoders are superfluous. I know people who have tried the Hal DXP-38 during a contest and declared it was “inferior”, so they removed it. Many times this weekend the EXP-38 copied clearly when none of the MMTTY and 2Tone decoders got anything useful. This is especially true for off-frequency stations. Contesters and DXers like to say, “you can never have too many antennas” for exactly the same reason.

I’ve never used a remote tuning knob like the Pig Knob because I didn’t see any advantage to it over the tuning knob(s) on the radio. Well, I’ve become a believer with the new Elecraft K-pod. It is so much easier to tune the RIT or the second receiver with the knob close to my trackballs which, in turn, are close to my keyboards. The subtle difference is that my hand is not suspended mid-air across the keyboard to the radio while trying to make fine adjustments to frequency. It was hard for me to see the benefit until I used this configuration all weekend.

There are two debilitating noise problems at the station which we’ve yet to crack. There is a horrendous inter-station RFI problem on a couple of band relationships, e.g., 40 clobbering 20 and 20 clobbering 10. There has been no impact on the problem by low power band pass filtering, high power band pass filtering, stubs, ferrites, bonding, etc. Starting out Friday night, I was doing pretty good with 20 and 40, finding a dip in the 20m meter RFI spectrum in which to operate. Then I reached up to reduce the air conditioner cooling a bit and the RFI instantly jumped up another 10 dB. I quickly tried other A/C adjustments including turning it off, but nothing changed the now greater RFI. This has happened before and we’ve never found a connection.

The second problem is man-made noise that comes on for up to 2-3 hours at a time. Saturday morning it appeared around 8am and stayed until 9am. It rendered 15 meters unusable and was detectable on all bands. That is unacceptable at the peak rate for 15 meters.

I forgot to submit my log for RTTY Round-Up this year, first time ever doing that. So, today right after dinner and before going to bed, I submitted this weekend’s log. Hope I can make this a habit.

Thanks to everyone who troubled themselves to move bands for me. This obviously helps for mults, but also for QSO count as well. Many stations worked me on 4-5 bands. There would have been more 5-banders if 10 meters had been better. My appreciation as always to station owners John P40L/W6LD and Andy P49Y/AE6Y. (The upgrade to hot shower water with a Chinese flash heater is luxurious.)


Ed, P49X (W0YK)


Rigs: Elecraft K3s (2), K-Pods (2), P3s (2)
Amps: Alpha 86, Alpha 91B
FilterMax III low power band pass filters (2)
4O3A high power band pass filters
SixPak, StackMatch (2), BandMaster III decoder (2)

Tower 1: C31XR at 43 feet
Tower 2: 2 elements on 10 meters / 5 elements 15 meters at 55 feet
Tower 3: 4 elements 20 meter at 68 feet
         2 elements 40 meter at 76 feet
         1 element 80 meter Sigma 80 at 64 feet
         160 meter "Double L" vertical at 67 feet
Four 400-500 foot beverages using K9AY switching box/preamp (JA/W6, W1, EU and

Logging software: WriteLog 12.09F on three networked PCs

RTTY Decoders (each K3): MMTTY, 2Tone (2), Hal DXP-38 on main receiver
                         MMTTY, 2Tone on second receiver
                         (setting both receivers on same frequency
                          yields 6 parallel decoders)