P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

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What a fun weekend! Despite the dismal solar forecast and the recent FT craze, legacy digital contesting was quite live and well. Why was 10 meters (sort of) working? The solar storm going into the weekend made for constantly changing conditions, but fortunately I experienced no RF blackouts, just drastic ups and downs.

I wasn’t sure which entry category would work best for me from Aruba this time. An all-band effort seemed ominous in these conditions but a single-band caper might be boring, although one can push hard on a second receiver to S&P while running on the same band. And, for this location, there is the consideration of inter-station RFI which sometimes makes the higher harmonic-related band completely unusable. (There is something external to our station and antennas that is re-radiating the second harmonic across the entire band and it comes and goes during the day, as though there is an enabling switch that gets thrown. In last year’s WW RTTY I went low power for the first time just because of this horrendous RFI issue.)

Ultimately, and at the last minute, I decided to go ABHP. Being able to run at least two radios is a lot of fun and I would really miss that, especially on the RTTY mode. High power would help ease the pain of the solar conditions. I had to carefully select my operating frequencies when on 40 and 80 at the same time. 80 RFI is noticeable on 40 but not a practical problem. 20 wipes out 10 pretty much, but who’s going to be on 10? Surprise! 10 was amazingly open for me here in Aruba. I actually went SO1R on 10 for an hour and half late Sunday afternoon. In retrospect, I made the right call on ABHP this year.

I fully expected to have zero contacts on 10 meters, as has been the case in many recent contests. Then, the band opened Saturday around local noon and most of NA was workable, including the west coast which hardly ever happens at this point in the solar cycle. KH6, CR3, EA8, EA, TR8 were all easily worked. It sure didn’t feel like the bottom of the cycle. I checked 10 every 30 minutes on Sunday and never saw a signal peep. Finally, late Sunday afternoon, I decided to take a flyer and go transmit to see if I could scare anyone up. Well, guess what, the band was open but no one was there. A dead band scope can be due to a closed band or an inactive band. This weekend, it was definitely the latter for those of us down by the equator. I suspect only the N-S path was workable which is great for us but not so much for higher latitude stations who only have the few of us to work. That is all to say that I really appreciate those who did get on 10 and work the handful of stations down here. To the others, don’t forget the 10m position on your band switch!

Minute to minute operating conditions varied widely and often. One minute the noise and the signals were all just one big mush. Other times, a band was quiet and the signals were crisp and distinctive. In general, things got better as the weekend played out. That actually worked nicely because Sunday had some periods of very nice, quiet conditions here where very weak signals could be worked. That’s when we’ve worked the big guns and need access to the deeper layers of smaller signals.

In a few weeks, we will perform a complete re-build on the towers/antennas here, so the 10 and 15 meter Yagis were down already, leaving only a C31 on 10 and 15. That wasn’t a concern because I didn’t expect to work much, if anything, on those bands. But, without a triplexer, that meant I couldn’t be on 10 and 15 at the same time. Despite having pretty good 15 and even some 10, the C31 was plenty fine switching between the two while running 20 on the other radio.

The log stats are far below what I expect from a “normal” year for this contest. The 3,500 QSOs this year compares to the typical 5-6,000 and this year’s nearly 6M score pales against the 10-15M score I would normally expect. But, even with an average QSO rate half normal and peak rates below past experience, it was still a lot of fun. It also felt good to get back in the “legacy” digital saddle after playing with FT this past year. Both are fun, but very different experiences. Wouldn’t it be great if we could cherry-pick the strengths of RTTY and FT to have the ultimate digital mode! Thanks for the band moves and for working P49X on multiple bands. The statistics are appended below. Thanks to Andy P49Y/AE6Y and John P40L/W6LD for sharing their modest, but strategically located, cottage station here in Aruba.


Ed, P49X (W0YK)


Rigs (2): Elecraft K3S (2), with P3 (2) and K-pod (2)
Amps: Alpha 86 & 91B
Logging software: WriteLog 12.44A on three networked PCs, one for each SO2R radio and one master as backup.
Tower 1: 3 elements 20 meter (reflector fell off) 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 
Tower 2: empty at present, 55 feet 
Tower 3: C31XR at 43 feet 
RX antennas: four 500-foot beverages using K9AY switching box/preamp