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DL1IAO

Stefan v. Baltz 

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#HF Radio Contesting & Personal Information

CQ WW CW 2002 DL1IAO SOAB LP


Introduction

I believe most of you have been faced with the following situation: Your home station needs attention, the clubstation is already booked up but you would hate to miss CQ WW CW, the DX Contest!  On the other hand you realize that this is a great chance for your station to make a small progress, at least once a year.

Preparations

In July I removed all the "temporary" wire antennas from the crank-up tower and replaced the old Sommer P5 tribander with a newly refurbished KT34A.  The KLM will come down again next year to be the multiplier and/or 2nd radio antenna on the houseroof, and will probably be replaced by a KT34XA.  I also acquired a Cushcraft 40-2CD and an old military aluminium mast which will be some 80/160m vertical.  However, none of the antenna plans – except the KT34A – materialized in time for WWCW, and I started to think about what I could do in the remaining 4 or 5 days.

It sounded like a good plan to put up the 40-2CD driven element as a Rotary Dipole right above the tribander to get an idea how the complete 2el would behave.  This, however, required a new, longer mast, even when I mounted the DP 90deg off the tribander.  As I had been trying a variety of wire verticals on 80m over the past 3 years, I decided to rely on something simple this time, and get up an INV V style Dipole at 17m, right below the rotor.  As a matter of fact verticals attached to my tower tend to burn the Tailwister rotor pot, and cause lots of weird HF interference in the close shack (2nd floor, right next to tower).  I decided not to waste much brain power about 160m until the other bands were done.  Most likely I would push up the 15m fieldday mast and run a Dipole or INV L back to the tower.

Another issue were the multiple hardware repairs inside the shack.  Both TS870s needed a new VFO encoder and needed to be cured from the monitor tone problem.  There also was a long-time instability problem in the homebrew 4CX1500B linear which I purchased 2 years ago.

I start working on the radios on Monday evening and finish both the next morning, thanks to the helpful advices from DJ5IL.  The linear problem seems to be too time-consuming to take care of right away, and I begin to accept that this is going to be my second LP entry in a row.  Later I crank down the tower and start dismantling the mast, tribander and rotor to replace the pot.  I get to the 40-2CD parts late in the evening and begin to build the driven element.

The next day I make the trip to Hummel Towers and purchase 4m of aluminium mast tubing which is about the maximum length I can get into the car.  The next two days are spent assembling the hardware, soldering and running cables down the tower, and preparing the 80/160m dipoles.  Assembly of the Rotary DP turns out to be especially delicate as I need to do it from the street and some bushes need to be cut down extensively.

The tower hardware is not finished before Friday morning and I fold over the tower two more times to shorten the Rotary DP.  During the last fold over the tower almost gets stuck at 45deg, so Im more than relieved to finally view the 40m DP high above the tribander from the near fields (see Photos)!

After all the tower crank-ups and crank-downs I climb the tree for one of the 80m DP halfs a bit slower than usual but I get all the work done just before sunset.  After a warm meal I talk to DL2MEH who is all set for 10m single band, and try to get some good advice how to get up 160m real quick.  While carrying the fieldday mast down the dark garden I get a pretty good idea, though: The 40m feedline with the coax coil and the DP on top should make a usable T-Vertical for 160m.  With an L-network I quickly get the SWR down to about 3:1, low enough for the internal tuner.  Signals sound healthy, even without a counterpoise, and I work LA7MFA and a YU right away.  Just the rotor needle dances in the rhythm of my CW but I decide that it will survive the 100 watts of HF.

I certainly appreciate the fact that there is no more tower to get up and that there is time for a shower and a quick rundown of the different band/antenna combinations.   Even 80/40m works just fine with the band filters!  I had the right feeling that there would be no pre-contest nap this year, so I slept in just a bit this morning.  I feel pretty tired after almost one week of hardware work and just cant imagine to go 48h straight.  However, the new feeling of turning a 40m antenna at the home QTH really helps building up some excitement level, and with just a few weak signals on 20m, 40m sounds like the logical choice for a good start.

Day #1

The band sounds more crowded than ever – great if you dont need to look for a frequency!  I make my first solid contact with N2RM and try to find my rhythm.   I like to use VFO A for turning up the band, and VFO B to turn down.  This way I can pay special attention to multipliers who prefer to work high in the band.  This year VFO B starts at around 7080!  ZA1B, OA4WW and CY0MM are first nice surprises, and an incredibly loud YW1D indicates that the Rotary DP works very well.  A couple of times I find a hole around 7060 and drop a few CQs from time to time during the first two hours.  This way I manage the first 80m contacts with the 2nd radio and get an idea of propagation.

At around 02:00 4 double multipliers sit right next to each other on 80m and I make the move down.  Im surprised that I work J3A and KP3Z so early and the DP feels loud.  When I find 3538 completely quiet I settle down for 200 QSOs in the next 100 minutes for my best hourly rate of 126 during this weekend.  The points/QSO ratio is not that bad either as many W/VE stations call in, and I am able to work more 40m goodies on the 2nd radio.

It is important to have an eye on 160m at regular intervalls to not miss the easy European multiplers.  This is especially true when you dont have a decent antenna.  Even zones 33, 17 or 21 will be a matter of pure chance!  At 04:30 I plug the 40m coax into the L-network, switch off Radio As bandpass filter and work 21 multipliers in 30 minutes, all in Europe.  Then I jump back to 40m and start some run on 7077.   20m produces the first Russians and southeastern multipliers on the 2nd radio.

At 05:45 I make another sweep of 40m to bag as many loud 3-point stations as I can.  The D44TD pileup is unbelievable and I need 3 minutes to get thru.  Shortly after sunrise at 06:25 its time for a second trip to 160m and after the now familiar swap of feedlines I hear a loud AA6TT in zone 5!  There is a continous flood of Europeans calling so I throw in my call mostly for the sake of fun.  The fun level even increases when he comes right back with my complete call!  As he was the only workable US for me, with a far superior signal, it was interesting to read post-contest comments about how weak he felt a couple of times compared to the eastcoast Multi-Ops!

The 07Z hour and half of the 08Z hour are spent on 80m where I work some nice caribbean multipliers (P4, VP9, J7, 6Y) and OY1CT, and on 40m.  There are still lots of good zone 4/5 signals on 40m so that I find it hard to leave for the higher bands.  When doing singleband 10/15m I love the first 15-20 minutes of the band opening as you will pick many good AS/OC multipliers out of a very calm band.  The EU QRM is non-existent at that time, and there will be few stations on the band in general.  Thus it is very rewarding for your multiplier total to be on 10/15m during this early point of the opening, but for me it is always a tough decision.  40/80m are at their peaks at the same time!

At 08:38 I jump right up to 10m and work what I can hear.  There are some substantial packet pileups which I just cant break.  These include both KH2 and KH0, ZL6QH and a few semi-rare Europeans which are too weak.  Some of the big pileups simply disappear at some point and I work JT1CO, MD6V and ZL6QH after the dust has settled.   Propagation to the far east sounds relatively poor and I cant hear a single JA which is unusual.  At 09:25 things repeat on 15m but I work both AH2R and KH0/JF2VAX this time.  Band conditions are not good enough to allow a run with DX stations, so the 10Z and 11Z hours are alternately spent on 10 and 15m to maximize the multiplier totals.

When 10m is open to some degree it is another hard decision when to put in some time on 20m.  As long as it is mostly Eastern Europeans and occasional Asians during the morning, it pays off more to take a thorough sweep of 10 & 15m – especially when there is a chance for disturbed propagation on day #2.  In case of a US-opening on 20m I would probably hang in there and try to work as much on the 2nd radio as I can.  For some reason I always seem to lack QSOs and multipliers on 20m though this is one of my best bands antennawise.

Consequently I spend the 12Z and half of the 13Z hour on 20m and work AH2R and a zone 23 UA0.  There should be more from East Asia and from VK/ZL but I cant hear any of them.  By way of compensation the band is pretty good to US and Im able to establish a nice run on 14008.  Beginning 13:30 I S&P 15m where all the activity seems to be, and run US for a while high up in the band.

As 10m does not sound nearly as good I move up there as late as 15:20.  I start my usual 2-VFO sweep of the band but when I find 28011 clear I settle down for the best US run of the weekend of 110 QSOs in the next 60 minutes with some occasional 15 & 20m 2nd radio QSOs.  One of the station deficits I especially suffer from is the lack of additional 10/15/20m antennas for the 2nd radio.  The 40m DP is quite usable on 15m but a poor 10/20m performer.  The 80m DP can be used there, but I find it more effective to listen to 40m, even early during the day.

I start the 17Z hour with a run on 14034 but quickly return to 10m S&P.  At 17:30 I find a pretty clear 21032 and run US at a slow but steady rate for the next 90 minutes.  This leaves more time for the 2nd radio and I work AH2R as best 40m QSO.

Most of the 19Z hour is dedicated to 20m which is declining shortly after 15m - an observation also made last year.  As I begin to feel tired I like to do something easy and start CQing on 80m at 19:50.  I have a 77 hour but only few multipliers and decide to take off about 30 minutes for a shower and some fresh air.

Im back into business at 21:50 and catch LU and C5 on 20m which is otherwise unproductive.  As I have already worked a variety of eastern multipliers on 40m I first check 160m and manage to work RT9W and UA9AT for zone 17.  Then its all 40m with a good run of W/VEs and mixed Europeans on 7057.

My halftime score is 1632/485 vs 1447/500 last year.  In comparison I did very well on 40/80m but my highband multiplier is far behind the 2001 numbers, especially on 10 & 20m, reflecting the somehow declining condx.

Day #2

I get a good start into day #2 with CT3EE (DF4SA) on 160m who CQs on 1835 – 100W on both sides!  EA6, EA8, GU, LX and UA2 round off this successful trip, just the endless swapping of feedlines makes 160m somewhat painful.  Until about 03Z I mostly stay on 40m to maximize my 3-point totals including a substantial 1h US run on 7000.5 – slightly above 9K9X.  The Rotary DP seems to get out just great and I even get calls from VU2PAI and HP3XUG!

At 03:00 I need to take off another 25 minutes and then work IT9, OY, ZA, 5B and 4X on 160m – I start to become a believer in "feedline-antennas"!  On 80m I can work what I can hear with HC8N as best DX in the next hour.  Another quick 160m trip yields 2 more EU multipliers before I start S&Ping 40m.

At 05:55 I listen to 15m on the 2nd radio and realize that these are the first minutes of the opening.  9V, HZ and HS are worked easily.  I hope to fill in some needed multipliers on 20m, too, but the band offers mostly Eastern Europeans, ZA, Z3 and EX.  Probably this was a mistake as the lower bands were pretty good at that time.  I work T7 and LA as last 160m multipliers this morning, and after a brief 20 minute sweep of 80m I run the last W/VEs on 7007.

After moving to 10m at 08:00 the second morning is mostly a repeat of Saturday: Very few East-Asians and JAs, and as a consequence most QSOs on S&P.  I do work a JA on 10, and BY, BV, YB and VK are highly appreciated double multipliers on 10 & 15m.  As the rate slows I move to 20m earlier today.  Between 11:00 and 12:35 I log 111 QSOs, including TF3GB for zone 40.  Then I toggle between 15 and 20m with occasional runs high on 15m.

At 14:50 10m starts to get populated and I stay until 16:10 with a nice run on 28014 at the end.  As it is obvious that all 3 high bands will close shortly after each other, I return to 15m afterwards and to 20m at 17:10.  US is workable until about 19:10 and I try to work all the 3 point stations, even asking K5ZD for a still missing 15m QSO.

When the rush is over I start to lose concentration and illusions get as bad as they can get.  40m signals sound strange and there are just too many of them.  Most of them are Dupes so I CQ on 7051 but lose my frequency after 15 minutes.  My experience from previous 48h efforts is, that when I lose concentration I seem to do best with CQing.  It takes away the pressure of deciding whom I should call, and if I should tune up or down the band.  When calling CQ all I need to do is copying a call, and obviously this has become a deep sitting routine for me!

At 20:15 I start calling CQ on 3523, my home for the next 70 minutes. For my state of concentration I do considerably well and keep logging stations.  If only the illusions would go away!  I am fully aware of my state and regularly stand up, open the window etc. – but everytime I return in front of the radio, my thoughts deviate.  I waste more time tuning up and down 80m but finally do something good and listen to 20m at 21:50.  YN8TLS/TI3 and S9MX are both double multipliers, 5N0W a new country. 

After a short, unproductive trip to 160m I start CQing on 7072, hoping that I am able to continue like I did on 80m.  The band is very hot now and US stations call in with big signals.  But beside the illusions I also begin to fall asleep.  At one time I would suddenly wake up and hear "DL1IAO 5NN21".  I look up on the screen, but the last contact is a G3 12 minutes ago – probably on CQ.  So I send out a report and hear "TU YI9OM TEST"...  This certainly is one of the incidents cutting down my operating time to less than the estimated 47h!  After the YI9 QSO I feel pretty alert and continue my run on 7072 for about 30 minutes.  Then its all a blur.  At 23:43 I check 20m again and work 3G1X for a double mult, CX9AU and KP3Z for new countries.   Needless to say that the KP3 seems to have at least as much trouble making the contact as myself...

My final score is 3.20M / 2730 Q / 129 Z / 482 C.

Notes

Compared to last year my 10 & 20m multiplier is down somewhat, so is the points/QSO ratio.  I am also down on 10 & 15m NA QSO totals, reflecting the general shift of activity towards the lower bands.  40m was a nice surprise and the Rotary DP certainly passed the test.  With 220 NA QSOs vs 195 on 20m I really should get up the missing half of the Cushcraft 2el 40m!




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