P40L-P49Y Contest Summary Information

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The 25th CQ QPX RTTY Contest was a blast and I hope it was the same for others. Conditions and activity exceeded my expectations for the solar minimum. Still, the 30-hour scoring limit for single ops is too long for maintaining SO2R QSO rate. In fact, there weren’t 30 hours when even one band wasn’t open enough to run “rate”. I ended up spreading my operating over the entire 48 hours in an attempt to capture the highest rate times. On the plus side, the 4-5 hours sleep each morning was luxury! Years like this I’m glad for the 30-hour scoring time for SO compared to 36 hours in CW/SSB WPX.

This result is slightly higher than last year’s effort. Total QSO points are higher but prefix mults are 10% lower. It will be interesting to see if the lower mults is unique or similar to other logs. The best 60-minute rate was only 3 QSOs short of my all-time high back in 2013, but as noted above, the average rate over 30 hours is way down in these solar minimum years. Interestingly, this peak rate occurred on Sunday morning rather than in the first couple hours of the contest as it always has previously.

WPX rules nicely compensate for lower total contacts, however, with double QSO points on 40 and 80 meters. For this reason, I tend to think of WPX as a “low-band contest” with 10-20 meters to keep us active in daylight hours. Modest QSO rates on the low bands can generate points faster than seemingly high rates on the high bands … a factor of 2x is huge.

The towers/antennas here have deteriorated, as expected in this environment, since the last re-build in 2008. During my stay here in January, the 20-meter reflector fell off and one of the loading T-bars also fell off the 80-meter dipole. I fixed the dipole loading by adding a coil at the feed point to compensate for the missing T-bar. Apparently, that increased the RF voltage at the center such that a hole was blown through the PVC element insulator, shorting out one half of the dipole. This week I fixed that with a patch of Teflon sheeting and the antenna played solidly all week and through the contest at 1500 watts. I “fixed” the 20-meter reflector by imagining that the signal strength was tremendous even without that element. (This is a trick, i.e., “think” you are loud, stolen from Dean N6BV.)

In the station, I discovered one of my K3’s sub-receivers had no signals or band noise but otherwise seemed to operate correctly. After trying everything I could think of, I peered inside and fortunately noticed that the sub-receiver input was not plugged into the motherboard, although it appeared to be.

So, entering the contest weekend, I was pretty bullish about station hardware. Until about 4 and a half hours in, when the 91B amplifier shut off. I soldiered on for a while at low power (on 80 m) but eventually caved in and took a one-hour break to swap in a spare 86A amp. The 91B is blowing Step-Start fuses like it did in 2015 when we eventually discovered a shorted 24-volt winding on the power transformer. Sure hope that’s not the case again and that the fix will be easier and less hassle and cost.

There is an interesting and recent trend in QSO phases deployed by an ever-increasing number of operators. This is where the S&P caller sends their exchange in answer to a CQ, rather than just their call sign. Almost all of them then send a QSL/TU message after I send their report, so no time is saved overall. I’ve decided to pretend they are doing this to save time and so I send my exchange AND my TU/CQ messages as one transmission. If that confuses them, then I consider us “even”! Seriously, I’m not sure where this “technique” comes from, unless it is plagiarized from FT8 contest messaging where it DOES make sense for the S&P station to send their exchange on the first call. (The logic for this is sound in FT8 contesting, which can be explained outside of this soapbox.) I really don’t have a beef about this and I assume the practitioners don’t mind the way I handle it. ;>)

An hour after the contest period ended, there were 1000 logs received. Apparently, the uproar several years ago about shortened deadline for log submittal hasn’t turned out to be such a overwhelming burden it was imagined to be. It also shows RTTY contesting is alive a well, despite the instant popularity of FT8 this past year.

Thanks to everyone who participated, at whatever intensity, because contesting is a team activity. It’s not possible without a large number of us and the fun increases with the more active stations. I personally appreciate each and every QSO partner. And, it’s a thrill when I get the 4th band with a given station. (Yeah, sorry about 10 meters. I CQ’d for an hour at prime time on Sunday and worked exactly one station, a CX. Checking later, I found zero hits on the RBN for that one-hour effort.) Up next is ARRL DX CW next weekend with the P40L team.


Rigs (2): Elecraft K3S (2), with P3 (2)
Amps: Alpha 86 (2)
Logging software: WriteLog 11.37b on three networked PCs, one for each SO2R radio
and one master as backup.

Tower 1: 3 elements 20 meter (no reflector) 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: 2 (yes, two!) elements on 10 meters interlaced with 5 elements on 15 meters
 at 55 feet

Tower 3: C31XR at 43 feet

RX antennas:  four 500-foot beverages using K9AY switching box/preamp


73, Ed - P49X (W0YK)