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2007 Contests




2007 IOTA Contest

I admit I never had the IOTA contest on my radar. It's in the summer when I usually have everything disconnected at my home station for lightning protection, or only operate on 6M. But I was going to be on the island so I figured I'd operate if there was sufficient activity. If it got slow, I always have antenna work or other things to build.

The contest started at 1200z, but I didn't expect that getting on right at the start would matter much so I enjoyed a little extra sleep and a leisurely breakfast. Around 1330 I had everything hooked up and called a few CQs on 20SSB. Not much action, so I decided to try CW. Called CQ, got an answer right away and began running. After about 5 minutes, there was a huge pileup on my frequency...I honestly thought I had stumbled onto a DXpedition's frequency. I soon realized all those guys were calling ME! So I cranked up the keyer speed and went into full-bore contest run mode.

Rates were pretty good...but the pileup got out of control occasionally, and I had to resort to Caribbean-style pileup management. Later in the day I went to SSB again, and this time, raised a huge howling pileup of Europeans. Islands are multipliers in this, and QSOs with island stations counting 15 points (vs 3 for non-island QSOs). So in order to get the multiplier up, every few minutes I told the pileup to stand by "except for island stations"...then there were so many Gs calling I had to ask for "islands outside EU005 (England)". Also spent time on 40 CW, then a little bit running around on 80 and 75M. Got some reports like "good signal...louder than the Europeans calling" from a couple of Gs and EIs.

Ended up with about 1500 QSOs in 12 hours (the IOTA contest has a 12-hour category, for which I may have set a new record for high-power mixed-mode island stations).

Things learned:

1. It is amazing how many IOTA-chasers there are. Being on a relatively rare IOTA like NA-137 can generate some biiiiiig pileups. I will do this contest again next year.

2. Everything still works, and appears to still be pretty loud.

3. The repaired ProIII works...my external amp-keying relay box kept it working.

4. Still need a second radio.

Found a new source of RFI this weekend...I  moved my little cellular booster into the house, since it wasn't doing much from the garage/hallway. The power supply (a small-size wall-wart) generates S7-9 buzz across the whole 20M band. A few ferrite beads cured it, though.

September 2007 Sprint

Well, I managed to get a second radio and amp installed. But I discovered some strange problems with the SO2R setup...could not manually key Radio 1 (the FT1000D) through the WX0B box. Keyed the Pro3 fine, though. Hmmm. Also had some problems getting Win-Test to behave with the WX0B SO2R box. Hmmm again. Monkeyed around with a few clip leads and external relays and managed to get on.

Never really got into a rhythm, and basically operated with one radio at a time (forgot how to get CT into 2-radio mode until the last hour).

Not a strong showing for score...did not break 300 Qs, which is kind of a breakpoint for the Big Guns in the Sprint. However, I managed a Golden Log (zero errors in the log-checking process). And the Maine High-Power record (sorry again, Bert!).

Lessons learned:

1. Need to practice 2-radio operating.

2. There appeared to be some really bad interference from 40 to 20. I need to work on grounding, filters, stubs, etc. Other bands seemed OK.

3. Need to sort out the CW keying issues.


Added the 5-element 15M beam below the bottom SteppIR to fill in the null at 15 degrees. The Comtek box for the planned 160M 2-el vertical array did not arrive in time, so I used one vertical (the new one, which is a bit closer to the water and will be the NE element in the array).

Discovered the day before the contest that my sound card does not support the functions that Win-Test needs to use for DVK operation. Nuts. No chance to swap it out, so I resigned myself to going without any kind of CQer. Then I recalled that I had a box with a couple of buttons and a CQ message stored in the Pro3, so at least one radio would have a voice keyer. But it always played in the monitor, so I could not listen on the other radio while transmitting. And it is impossible to call CQ with your own live voice on one radio while trying to listen to the other radio. Try it some time. So once again it was a one-radio operation, though I had a second radio there.

Things played very well. After 24 hours, I was about 100 Qs and 20 mults behind K5ZD, who seems to have won. I was pleased to be called on 80M by EY8MM, and several Africans. The 4-square is turning out to be an excellent antenna. All bands worked well...rates peaked a bit over 190...a couple of times. I misfired on Sunday, though. I convinced myself that my multiplier was too low, and got hung up tuning around DXing at 70-80 Qs per hour, while ZD was running at 150/hour. Needless to say, he waxed me by another 300 Qs.

But the score (3150 Qs, a bit over 5 Million points) looks like a solid third-place, behind ZD and NN3W, who was operating at the N3HBX superstation with considerably more hardware than I had (see notes below on top TIC ring/SteppIR).

Things learned:

1. All bands are runnable here, except maybe 160 (which should be runnable on CW, especially if I get the 2-el array working). There was even a short opening on 10M, and I was able to get answers to CQs. One DL I worked later on 15 said he only worked two Ws on 10...me and N4CW/1, also in Maine.

2. The top TIC ring froze Saturday evening at 290 degrees...totally useless, even if I ran the SteppIR in 180-degree mode. Sunday was run entirely on the low SteppIR at 60 feet (and the low 15 at 40 feet). Still felt loud. I discovered the root cause (I think), have procured a new motor and will have it installed by the CW weekend.

3. The SteppIR-to-2-radio interface and lockout stuff I built works fine. It allows either radio to use either SteppIR, or both, with each SteppIR following the frequency of the radio to which it is connected. It is slightly more manual than some might like, but it gets the job done.

4. I need to get real SO2R capability going so I can tune the second radio for mults while running, and won't get distracted with DXing. Also, I need to work harder on finding non-EU stuff...ZD had a lot more zones than I did. But it's so much fun to run Europe from the island!

5. There was some broadband noise on 80M, peaking in the direction of the house (SE). Disconnecting the clothes dryer breaker seems to have cured it, so there will be no laundry service on contest weekends!

6. I goofed on the logic for steering the 15 and future 10M monobanders into the two stacks. Now I need a couple more relays.

7. Need to figure out a modern-era DVK solution. The microHam MK2R+ SO2R box includes a voice codec for DVK functions as well as a lot more flexible receive-audio switching system and built-in WinKeyer, so I'll try that and at the same time, retire the WX0B box. 

2007 CW SS

Spent a lot of  time on Saturday trying to wrestle the HW/SW interfaces between the microHam box and Win-Test into submission. I did not get everything working, and found an interesting bug with WinTest...it may be caused by some unique properties in my keyboard, but the large Insert key does not trigger the "Insert" CW message (the little Insert key works fine). It's strange, since the Big Insert key works fine with CTWin. More detective work needed...will try other software to see if it is a keyboard or WinTest problem, will also try another keyboard.

UPDATE: Found out this happens when in Advanced SO2R mode, with BOTH SHIFT and CAPS LOCK set to switch focus. Solution: pick one key or the other, but NOT BOTH!

Saturday night was plagued with a wind and rainstorm from a fading hurricane coming up the coast, and the power kept flickering on and off, so I turned off all the radios as a precaution. Only made about 35 Qs in SS. Spent a gorgeous 50-degree calm dry Sunday fixing the top TIC ring and getting the 160M verticals ready for the Comtek box (running control line, etc.).

2007 CQWW CW

This is THE contest. I got off to a good start, everything was working fine. The 80M 4-square and 160M 2-element vertical array played very very well. I got some nice reports via email after the contest. Things went bad when I went to 15M in the morning...I just could not get a decent rate going, and K5ZD just outran me for several hours Saturday morning. I need to figure out if it was propagation, antenna height, or interaction between the 40M beam and the top SteppIR. I can do some testing in the spring with a local to figure out if the 40 is the problem. I know there is some interaction, because I can see changes in the SWR when I turn the Cushcraft 40 relative to the 15. But is it changing the pattern/gain? I'll do a controlled experiment, using the Cushcraft 40 to start, then replace it with the Force 12 Delta 240, which was designed to avoid interactions with other antennas.

Anyway, when the dust had settled my score was somewhat higher than last year, while most scores were down. I guess having the better antennas on 80 and 160 and a second radio helped. The claimed score is third behind K5ZD and LZ4AX operating at K3CR in PA, where propagation was clearly better. 

Things learned:

1. Confirm the callsign and time settings on the logging program before the start.

2. The SO2R problems are pretty bad. One in particular is a big wideband ac buzz that I now know goes away when the transmitting radio power is dropped below 500 W. That ought to be easy to isolate and cure...when I have time. I also need to build a switchable stub system for the SteppIRs, linked to the band data. I think a 40M quarter-wave stub, with the end open or shorted, depending on the band, ought to be the simplest solution. Open-ended, it ought to short 15 and pass 20 and 10; shorted, it will pass 15 and short 20 and 10. Just need to make sure the relay on the end can  handle the voltage when the thing is open. Or maybe I'll build two stubs and switch them at the WX0B box, avoiding the HV problem.

3. Gotta figure out the 15M issue...if it is an issue at all. Cannot be weak on 15. Nosirree.

4. The wideband noise on 80 needs to be sorted out. I thought the drier was the culprit, but it was still there two of the three nights of the contest with the drier disconnected.

5. Receiving antennas need to be evaluated. The KD9SV twisted-pair Beverage is an option, as is the K9AY loop system. Must try both next summer.

2007 Phone Sweepstakes

I had planned to operate SS only long enough to earn a Clean Sweep mug. I have quite a few of them, and try to get one every year. A few weeks before the contest, Ed, K1EP, asked if I'd be interested in doing a multiop. I had some repairs to do, and a helper would make the work go faster. Plus I needed another set of eyes to help debug some SO2R issues between Win-Test and the microHam SO2R box. So I agreed and we took the Friday late boat out to the island.

Turns out the ME record would take 1440 QSOs to break, which seemed reachable. Saturday morning, I got the TIC ring repaired, and having Ed in the shack to turn the rotator while I was on the tower was really helpful. Plus he got the SO2R stuff working well enough to give us DVK functionality, which I did not have in the CQWW SSB. The contest went well, we got a sweep, and broke the ME record.  We even made a few dozen QSOs on 160 - a first for me in SS. But there were problems...

1. The DVK sounded like crap on Radio 1 (the Pro3). Sounded fine on the FT1000. More work to do to get that right.

2. Fair amount of interstation crud.

3. The 80M dipole seems to be too close to the shack, and sends RF into the audio (the 4-square was fine).

4. Need to add another relay to select either the dipole or 4-square. That was planned but I never got to it.



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