Anyone who follows me on Twitter or reads this site will have noticed that I was planning on taking part in the CQ WPX RTTY contest last weekend and that I was keen to sort my aerial out in advance. I lowered the mast, fitted my new balun along with two new coax tails and raised it on Friday. When I checked the aerial, the SWR wasn’t as low as I’d expected and the bandwidth seems to have reduced so I need to investigate why that’s happened. It tuned well enough on the RTTY segment of 15m though and that’s the band I wanted to use so I opted to continue as is and look into it afterwards.
The aim of the CQ WPX RTTY contest is to work as many stations as possible with every different prefix being a multiplier. You can see from this that there are a lot of potential multipliers.
My plan was to put an entry in as a Single Operator, High Power, Single Band – 15m. This would give me a chance to operate during daylight hours when the band would be open and then get some sleep at night after the band has closed. I estimated that I’d operate for around twelve hours each day. Single Op entries are allowed a maximum of thirty hours over the course of the weekend so this worked well for me.
I spent some time in the couple of weeks leading up to the contest looking at different software packages for logging and I settled on fldigi for a number of reasons. Firstly and perhaps most importantly, I’m familiar with it. I use it for my day-to-day data comms and I know how to use it. Secondly, there’s a native OS X version and as my shack computer is an iMac, I wanted something native rather than having to run a virtual machine with Windows in it. I’m sure that there are better software packages for data contesting but I got on very well with fldigi, my only wishes would be that it can run a live checklog for tracking multipliers worked/wanted and some kind of DX Cluster integration. I worked the entire contest without any assistance, even though it’s allowed in all categories. I’m quite sure that if I’d had a cluster running that I’d have worked many more multipliers than I actually did.
I started on 15m on Saturday morning at just before 07:00 but it took nearly half an hour of calling CQ before anyone replied to me. I tuned around 15m a couple of times and the band was absolutely dead, nothing audible at all. My first QSO on Saturday was at 07:20 and I operated until 18:01 with no breaks apart from a couple of runs to the toilet for a wee! The morning was spent working Europeans and in the afternoon I had a very nice run of North American stations. Just before lunchtime (a sandwich eaten while operating) I worked East Malaysia, a new DXCC for me. After finishing for the evening I switched the radio back on at 18:48 and heard a handful of stations so I worked them before finally finishing the first day at 18:54.
At the end of the first day, my stats were as follows:
I went to bed tired, but happy. I’d set myself a goal of beating the current G record for single op, high power, 15m and I knew I was well on the way to doing that. The current record stands at around 460,000 points.
I started operating at around the same time on Sunday but this time the QSOs came immediately and I was running. I had a very nice run to Japan from just after 08:15 up until nearly 10:00 when I worked over 50 Japanese stations along with other Europeans and I had another good run late afternoon into the USA which, although not quite as busy as Saturday was very welcome. I worked two new DXCCs on Sunday, the first being Nepal quite early in the day and Alaska towards the end of the contest. Apart from being a separate DXCC entity, Alaska was one of the two remaining States I need for my WAS award so now I just need North Dakota (if anyone can help with a sked, please contact me).
I finished on Sunday at 19:04, I could still hear a few stations calling CQ but I tried to reply to them and they couldn’t hear me at all. I was wasting my time trying so I decided it was time to end.
My final figures for the weekend are:
Allowing for duplicates and errors I’m confident that I’ll beat the current G record. I don’t know if there will be other entries in the same category this year from the UK but I’m just happy that I reached my goal. I averaged around 30 QSOs/hour which isn’t up there with the big boys but I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have a particularly big station.
I didn’t feel that band conditions for the contest were very good. I’d been keeping an eye on the Solar Flux Index and it had been dropping for a few days prior to the weekend, even going below 100 for one day. I understand that 10m wasn’t really in good condition and I felt that 15m could have been a lot better. Despite that, I had a thoroughly good time and enjoyed all the operating I did. My Acom 1000 amplifier worked like an absolute dream and didn’t miss a beat all the way through. I ran a heavy duty cycle, my CQ calls lasted around 8 seconds and I left a 5 second pause between them so the amp was running for a lot of the time and at 400 watts output, it was just ticking over. When I ran my ‘long CQ’ macro which lasted 15 seconds the amplifier did kick the fan up to a higher speed but it still didn’t struggle at all.
As is customary, I’ve created a QSO map of as many stations as I could, this map includes 620 of the 707 I worked and you can click the map for a much larger version.
Now I have to be patient for five or six months for the results to be published!