Monday, March 18, 2013

ED5T and the 2013 Russian DX contest

Once again, conflicting agendas meant that I wasn't able to take part in this years Russian DX contest. However, Vic EA5KV and CW wizz Belar EA5YI got together with our contest mentor José Miguel EA5DFV and long time contest partner Pascual EA5CLH, for a multi-single entry. I was finally able to get up on sunday morning to witness the end of the contest, and find out just why those who participate say this is a great contest!

The guys managed a nice rate throughout the contest (over 2700 contacts in 24 hours) but looking at the scores posted so far, seems that the score was pretty average, there are a lot of big numbers out there! To be fair, the antenna situation meant that there weren't antennas available for the mult station, only one tribander, the 40m yagi, and wires for 80 and 160. The 40m yagi was shown to tune up nicely on 15 though and some multipliers were caught that way!

Here's a shot of the summary at the end of the 'test:

This gives an idea of why its a nice test: 24 hour format, CW and SSB modes, and countries + russian oblasts as multipliers, makes for an interesting exercise in strategy planning.

And at the end of the day, what counts is "having fun", and I think the final photo shows some pretty happy faces! (How much iof that is also to do with the fact that we got to put José Miguel's Elecraft K3 through its paces?!)


Lets see if next year I'm able to participate in this one.

Monday, March 04, 2013


It seemed like a good idea at the time, I suppose.... But really, I am not cut out for 40m contesting. Or any low band contesting, come to that. It's incompatible with my lifestyle, but more importantly, it's incompatible with my circadian rythmn.

The reasons for deciding 40m were simple enough: Firstly we didn't have many operators, with only two of the TCC club members available for the whole weekend, so no option to do a serious multi-single entry. Last year when this same situation occured, we did two SOSB entries on 10 and 15m. But this year, we had just installed a new 2 element yagi for 40m and this was an ideal chance to try it out. Also Elías EB5KT had never done a single op entry, in spite of operating in many multis at ED5T. So it was decided: I would do 40m SOSB HP and Elías SOSB 10 or 15, depending on the solar flux.

As usual, the runup to the contest was hectic. We finally managed to get the yagi installed and tuned 3 days before the contest, but no chance to even leave the tower cranked up due to very high wind and rain right up until the eve of the event. At work things were hectic too, with power cuts and system crashes all through friday leaving us with fraught nerves. I finally made it up to the station around 1900, just in time to raise the tower in twilight and leave it guyed. Elías had already set up the gear, except the Acom 1000 for his station which I brought up, so we were able to go home for dinner and I even managed an hours sleep before heading up to begin.

It looked promising to start with. After a few teething problems with headsets and the audio settings, I found a good frequency and started QSOing in the runup to start time. But, 30 seconds before starting, big signal EI7M started up only 1kc away from me, rendering the frequency useless. After a brief fight, I decided to work the band, and got a few in the bag before deciding that my option was to work split. I was lucky to find a clear transmit frequency but was often having to change my receive due to others using the same one, plus heterodynes from broadcast stations. And so I continued with a slow but steady rate for 3 hours, until the band almost dried up. I finally managed to find a spot to run in simplex, but by the time the sun was well up, I had only got 382 QSOs in the log and 43 multipliers. Two years ago in Multi Single, we had over 700 QSOs in the same period.

Here's the new yagi at sunup on satruday morning:

I went home, exhausted, but unable to sleep more than an hour. In the afternoon, I managed another hour, but by the time I got back up to the station, I was already experiencing the disoriented feeling that comes with sleep depravation. Elias left the shack around 2200 after putting 800 qsos in the log on 15, and I got back on 40. This time I was able to find a simplex run frequency and managed OK up until midnight. But when the rate meter started dropping, so did my eyelids, and in the end I stumbled out to the car, pulled out my yoga mat, dropped it on the floor, and fell asleep instantly....

Two and a half hours later I got up again and back on the radio, and from then until breakfast time managed to get another almost 350 odd QSOs in the log before the band started dropping out. This time when I went home, I managed to sleep fine! Here's my not-too-pretty face before heading home:

Sunday evening I headed up early and while Elías continued working the pile on 15, I got a message from Vic that high wind and heavy rain was forecast and could I please lower the tower. At this time I was thankful for that thoughtful christmas present from my brother-in-law, a head torch! Very useful for trying to find the guy ends in the vegetation at night. Shame I forgot to pull out the safety rod installed through the tower to prevent it completely collapsing in the case of pulley failure. The motor then stuck and I started cursing.....thankfully 10 minutes later it decided to come back to life and I was able to complete the job.

Back in the shack, I got on 40 once Elías finished on 15. After a while I thought the rig was a bit deaf, and after checking, seems like the relay in the AL1200 was sticky. We gave it a bash and it came to life, but at that stage, with the dipole instead of the beam, and a sticky linear, I decided to call it a day, with 745 qsos and 54 multipliers in the log. I hadn't set myself a goal, but I certainly was not satisfied with the result.

However, on reflection and as Bob K8IA says, doing this is good experience. I'd never done 40 SOSB before and while I don't think I'll be doing it again in a hurry, I'm sure the experience will help me in future multi-op contests.

I was also able to get a good chance to try out the new home-made 2 element yagi against the dipole, one of the main objectives of this contest. I have to say that I really didn't notice much difference, so it's perhaps back to MMANA modelling software to see where we maybe went wrong.

And of course everything is relative. I was comparing my score with our previous effort two years ago, and also to EF7X who was operating in the same category as me and with who I was in constant contact with throughout the contest via the EA-contest whatsapp group. José Ramón did a magnificent effort, putting in twice my score. However I also have to remember that not too long ago, I could only have dreamed about working all states bar Utah in one weekend on 40 metres!

Thanks to Elías EB5KT for his moral support and accompanying me some of the time, here he is "noshing on a sandwich", as he was spotted by K9PG:

Also thanks to the rest of the Torrent Contest Club for letting me do the SO effort. In 2 weeks time we hope to be back to Multi Single in Russian DX!

Thanks to all for the QSOs and  C U in the next one!