AA5AU Contest Notes – 2004 JARTS WW RTTY Contest

The JARTS World-Wide RTTY Contest is one of my favorites.  I had operated in all 12 JARTS contests up to this year’s event.  In the first ever JARTS in 1992 I placed second in the world Single-Op and there is a very interesting story behind that year’s contest and how I missed out winning it.

In September of 1992, Eddie G0AZT, Frank N0FMR, Ron KP2N and myself operated from Aruba in the CQWW RTTY Contest as P40RY.  It was a great effort and more fun than I could ever imagine.  I have lots of memories of that trip but the one contact that stands out was busting through a European pileup to work HZ1AB in the middle of the afternoon on 40 meters with only one call.  In the end we set a new Multi-Single High Power World Record that held for several years.

When we were getting ready to come back to the United States after the contest, US Immigration officials at the Aruba airport would not let Eddie on the plane because he had been in and out of the United States too many times without having gone back to England (Eddie is a U.K. resident).  Eddie had been staying with friends in California and apparently US Immigration felt he had come and gone too many times to their liking.

So Eddie had to stay behind in Aruba until he could arrange to get back to the U.K.  For Eddie, it was an extended holiday which would enable him to operate JARTS as P40RY.  And in doing so, he easily won the contest.  And because of this strange occurrence, I would have to wait eleven years before I finally won my first JARTS contest in 2002.  Not only did I win the contest, I also set a new World record which was not broken last year and without 10 meters, it’ll probably be safe for a few more years although 9A5W would come close this year after seeing his claimed score.  (See all the JARTS Records here.)

So being the Single Op World Record holder, I felt no pressure to win this year although I would very much like to do so again some time.  Because of my work schedule, I was unable to get the Friday before the contest off to rest and I had to take the weekend call.  I knew I would not be able to put in a full effort and expected a very busy weekend at work and it ended up being that way.  I had to take several breaks from the contest to deal with work issues.

Friday was a very busy and difficult day at work and when I got home, I was physically and mentally exhausted.  I was not in the mood for a contest but when I looked at the WWV numbers and saw the A at 7 and K at 1, I figured conditions would probably be decent for this part of the sun spot cycle and decided I would go ahead and do the contest but was in no hurry to get started.  I got home from work an hour before the start of the contest and cooked dinner for Shay and me.  After dinner I cleaned the kitchen and did not enter the shack until right at starting time at 0001Z.  I turned everything on and got set up in a matter of minutes and at 0013Z I worked EA5BY on 20 meters for my first contact using the B radio.

But I immediately encountered a problem.  I started experiencing strange mouse movement problems on the Dell PC controlling the Left (Radio A) radio.  The cursor was jumping all over the place and even causing phantom left and right mouse clicks even when I wasn’t even touching the mouse.  This was driving me crazy and I tried to operate through it but it was causing way too many problems so I decided to fix it.

The first thing that came to mind was RFI.  I have two mice plugged into the Dell.  One is a small bus mouse I use for contesting and the other is a larger optical USB mouse which I use for browsing the Internet.  Thinking RFI was getting into one or both mice, I unplugged the USB mouse and USB printer from the PC thinking RF might be getting into the PC via the USB ports.  However, that did not fix the problem.  But I did leave them unplugged.

All the while this was going on I was still trying to work 20 meters on the B radio and answer work calls on my cellphone.  Next, I wrapped the cable from the bus mouse around a ferrite toroid at the input of the PC, but that didn’t help either.  While maneuvering the mouse, I discovered the problem was occurring even when I was NOT transmitting.  So this eliminated RF from the transmitters.

I wasn’t in a panic and decided to spend the time necessary to fix this problem right then and there.  I was tired and annoyed but I knew I wouldn’t be putting in a serious effort, so I didn’t mind taking the time to fix this deal although I kept getting interrupting with work calls.

I checked the mouse settings in the PC and tried a few changes but nothing there helped.  I had a strong feeling the problem was external to the PC like perhaps an electromagnetic field entering the PC.  I’m not sure why I thought this but the phantom mouse movement problem had an RFI (or EMI) look to it.  I found the ground disconnected to the PC and reconnected it (I had disconnected the ground when I moved the PC off the floor before evacuating for Hurricane Ivan in September), but that didn’t fix it either.  I then started turning off pieces of equipment one by one.  I first turned off the radio (IC-775DSP), then the amp (PW-1) and when I turned off the Astron 40 amp power supply that powers the SixPak antenna switch, DXP-38 and NIR-12, the problem disappeared.  I had found the source of the problem.  The power supply sits about 8-10 inches away from the PC and apparently was emitting some sort of electromagnetic interference (EMI) into the PC.  This power supply also powers a third radio, but I wasn’t using the third radio so I changed out the supply with a smaller 12 volt supply and everything started working normally.

So when I got back to operating, 15 and 20 meters were dead.  At the end of the first 3 hours I had only 80 QSOs so it was not a good start but I knew it was a long contest.  I used to love these 48 hour iron-man contests, but as I get older, I don’t like them so much any more.

With not much energy or enthusiasm to work the contest, I shut the B radio down and just operated one radio while I watched the Busch NASCAR race on the shack TV and kept an eye on the Packetcluster hoping to pick up some new band countries with several DX operations going on like TX9 and TJ3.  I operated in this casual mode until 0430Z when I decided to go to bed with only 107 contacts in the log.  It felt strange having this low of a total because I would expect to have 107 contacts after the first hour!

I needed sleep so I slept six hours and restarted the contest at 1030Z.  I was hoping for some nice JA action on 40 meters but only worked JF1PJK and I was greatly disappointed at the lack of JA activity on 40 that morning.  I was feeling kind of lazy so I operated only one radio (the IC-775 with the IC-PW1) and was switching back and forth between 40 and 80 meters mostly S&P.  Then at 1045Z I see VK6HD spot me on the cluster while I was working W4ZE on 80 meters.  I have been trying to work Mike on 80 RTTY for a long time.  Since I was S&P on 80, I used the Packetcluster to arrange to meet Mike on 3580 kHz but that frequency was busy so we tried 3576.  I called and listened, called and listed but never heard him.  Mike told me a few minutes later when we worked on 40 meters that I was 459 with QSB on 80.  My 80 meter inverted vee antenna does not receive as well as it radiates.  I was disappointed not to work Mike on 80.  There wasn’t much on 40 and 80 that morning.  I worked only ten stations from 1045Z to 1208Z when I switched to 15 meters and heard signals!

I was very happy to see the A drop to 4 and the K drop to 2 (later it would drop to 1 and the SFI would rise to 92).  15 meters was very good that morning but 20 was not so good.  Signals from EU on 20 meters were not very strong and there were no JA’s coming through.  Around 1300Z I see TX9 spotted on 30 meter RTTY so I jumped out of the contest to take a look.  They were strong with good copy.  I turn the power down to 200 watts and start calling them split up, but they are working only Japan.  I hear my friend across town, Mike W5ZPA, also calling up the band so I am motivated to try to work them before Mike does.  But they worked JA after JA and finally after about 15 minutes I decided to give up and go back to the contest.  A little later Mike spots them and puts the frequency he worked them on.  I jumped back to 30 meters, go the frequency where Mike worked them and make contact with just two calls.  I needed them on 30 meters and it was nice to get that one in my DXCC log at 1328Z on Saturday.

Back to the contest, 15 meters was really good.  I still hadn’t turned on the B radio and I contested most of that morning with just the Icom in the “lazy” mode, mostly chasing new multipliers on different bands as they were being spotted on the Packetcluster.  I also picked up five more band countries on CW and SSB working ZD7F on 12 CW, TJ3SP and SU1SK on 12 SSB, 4U1ITU on 17 CW and TJ3FR on 10 meter CW.  I was having fun DX’ing and contesting at the same time.

In the contest I picked up some nice multipliers like 5U7B, ZC4LI, 4X6UO and CN8KD on 15 meters along with 9I40Z and 5U7B on 10 meters.  When I saw ten meters was open to Africa, I turned on the B radio and put it on 10 meters.  I wasn’t hearing anything to the north, so I put the antenna at 130 degrees hoping to pick up some South American stations and USA on backscatter.  At 130 degrees I was still copying the AF stations with no problems.  It wasn’t a skewed path, it’s just that the path was very open.  While playing around S&P on 15 meters, I called CQ on 10 and was answered by ZS6WB!  That was cool.  I did pick up some South Americans on 10 but there were no USA stations on backscatter.  Later I would work EC8AUZ and find ZD7J on ten.  I couldn’t get through to ZD7J right away.  He was pretty weak and working Europe.  I eventually came back to him and found him calling CQ.  I called and he came right back to me.  He wasn’t in the contest per se, but he did include his age (44) in his report along with his name and QTH.  So I gave him my name, QTH and age, thanked him for the contact and put him in the log.  I thought that was pretty cool of him to accommodate the contesters by including his age in his message.

Europe started fading on 15 around 1700Z so I concentrated on 20 meters after about 1745Z but not before working R1ANF in Antarctica on 21090 kHz at 1743Z.  On 20 I found good stuff while S&P like 4U1ITU, EA9IB and 9I40Z.  15 meters was still good after the path to Europe went away.  I worked EC8AUZ, CN8LI and CX4AAJ.  I was tired so I took a nap at 1930Z and came back two hours later when I worked my first JA on 15 meters at 2133Z (JA5JWQ).  15 meters was still very good and I worked a lot of JA stations and even picked up my first USA station on 10 (K5AM on backscatter).  I had a very good JA run on 21083 kHz for 20 minutes starting at 2238Z.  Just before that, I logged YC2ECG on 15.  15 meters was once again jammed packed with signals just as it was when the path to Europe was in.

At 2300Z, the NASCAR Nextel Cup race broadcast started and I switched back into the casual operating mode while I watched the race on the shack TV.  I love watching NASCAR on TV and the UAW-GM Quality 500 was an exciting race.  At 0008Z I switch to 30 meter CW and work ZD7J for another new band country.  After that I switched from 15 to 20 meters in the contest.  I worked only USA and VE stations with the lone exception of JA1XRH on 14081 kHz at 0031Z.  There would be no good JA opening on 20 tonight.

At 0038Z, I switched to 40 meters for an hour then switched to 80 for a few contacts then back to 40 where I had a tremendous run on 7038 kHz for one hour that included being called by FR1HZ at 0223Z.  It was mostly USA and VE stations with a few EU contacts but it was fun while I watched the race on TV.  20 meters was absolutely dead until NP4BM was spotted and I worked him on 14083 at 0555Z.  At 0617Z I worked PA3EVY on 40 meters then went to bed.  I saw I had 569 contacts and couldn’t believe I had that many.  It was a fun evening and I was glad to see Dale Jr. finish third in the NASCAR race.

I slept about 5.5 hours, got up and made a big pot of coffee.  I turned on the IC-775DSP and found signals from Japan on 40 meters at 1130Z, an hour before my sunrise.  My first contact that morning was YB2DGR on 7038 kHz at 1136Z.  I switched to 20 meters and worked ON4CHT, 9A5W and CP1FF but 20 meters was not very good and there was no JA opening on 20 after 40 meters went away after sunrise which was around 1230Z.  I worked my last JA on 40 at 1213Z and found my first signal on 15 meters at 1217Z (SP3BGD).  I was happy to see 15 open to Europe before sunrise!  I left the B radio turned off and worked just one radio that morning watching the Packetcluster for new entities on the WARC bands.

I was feeling better on Sunday when there were no work calls coming in.  I was rested and felt like contesting in earnest and wanted to take advantage of the good conditions.  The K dropped to 1 for a few hours then back to 2 and 15 meters was hot again.  I had my two best hours of the contest between 1200Z-1400Z on Sunday when I averaged over 60 QSO’s/hr including a nice run on 21086 kHz.  These are not super rates by any means, but it was fun doing it on one radio.  Some notable contacts were 4K1DI on 15 and VU2WAP on 20.

As Europe started to go away on 15, I noticed my 20 meter QSO count was way down.  Since I already had over 300 QSO’s on 15 and barely over a 100 on 20 meters, I decided to go to 20 meters.  Before going to 20, I saw CN8KD spotted on 10 meters which I thought was strange but there he was pounding in on 28087 and an easy multiplier.  I worked him at around 1700Z, but could still copy his signal 2 hours later, an hour after his sunset.  I also worked HK3SGP, PY2SRB, PY7ZZ, PT7AZ and KM4M (backscatter) before going to 20.  On 20, I did a quick S&P on the band and found decent signals from Europe where I worked SV8CS (after considerable difficulty), YO3APJ, LY2FN, ES1AJ, EA7CWA, YU1RH and RD3A.  I found 14085 clear so I called CQ and had a very nice run from 1808Z to 2010Z, a whole two hours in the middle of the band where I worked USA, VE and lots of EU and got my 20 meter QSO total up while kicked back in my comfortable operating chair, feet propped up on the desk, keyboard on my lap and watching NFL football on the shack TV.  It was relaxing, enjoyable and a lot of fun.  At 2030Z I decided to take a two hour nap.  When I got up I was hungry so I fired off the grill and BBQ’d some tasty hamburgers.  I came back to the contest for the last 40 minutes and worked 9M2/G4ZFE on 15 meters at 2326Z.  He was calling CQ with no takers, had a nice signal and was an easy multiplier.  A few minutes later ZC4LI is spotted on 40 meters.  He was pretty weak but I was able to make the contact.  At 2356Z I worked KE5OG on 20 meters and that was it.  I shut it down.

Overall it was a fun relaxing contest once I got rested up and work stopped bothering me.  Condx were pretty good and I really started enjoying myself on Sunday so I’m glad I stuck with it even though I was working lazily on just one radio.  In hindsight, it’s too bad I couldn’t arrange to have the weekend off from work and didn’t get any rest on Friday.  I think I could have had a great effort had I gone 100% and I might have even given KM4M a run for the money in the USA.  But all that is “woulda coulda shoulda” and “wait until next year” material.  I’ve already put in my work budget to hire an assistant to take the call during RTTY contest weekends.  The budget was approved so with any luck, I’ll be able to put in full efforts in most contests next year.  Can’t wait!



Call: AA5AU
Operator(s): AA5AU
Station: AA5AU

Class: Single Op HP
Operating Time (hrs): 28
Radios: SO2R

Band QSOs Pts Mults
80: 31 63 14
40: 233 554 60
20: 279 696 72
15: 340 939 87
10: 37 98 21
Total: 920 2350 252 Total Score = 596,900

Station A:
Icom IC-775DSP transceiver
Icom IC-PW1 amplifier running 750 watts output
JPS NIR-12 Dual DSP audio filter
Dell 2.66 GHz Pentium 4 running WriteLog for Windows under Windows XP Pro
WriteLog for Windows beta version 10.50D
MMTTY Plug-in for WriteLog in the main Rttyrite window
HAL DXP-38 in a cloned Rttyrite window for receive only
DXTelnet 5.1

Station B:
Kenwood TS-870 transceiver
Ameritron AL-80B amplifier running 500 watts output
JPS NIR-12 Dual DSP audio filter
HP Pavilion 200 MHz Pentium I running WriteLog for Windows under Windows 98se
WriteLog for Windows beta version 10.50D
MMTTY Plug-in for WriteLog in the main Rttyrite window
HAL DXP-38 in a cloned Rttyrite window for receive only

Cushcraft A3S triband yagi with 40M add-on kit @ 62′ controlled by a Yaesu SDX-800 rotor
Cushcraft A3S triband yagi @ 55′ controlled by a Yaesu SDX-800 rotor
80 meter inverted vee with apex at 60′