AA5AU Contest Notes – 2005 NAQP RTTY February

I’d been looking forward to this contest for a couple of months.  It was Icom’s involvement as awards sponsor for this contest that allowed me to “test drive” the PRO III transceivers.  I felt compelled to give my best effort and try to win this contest for Icom.  But I knew it wouldn’t be easy.  There would be several stations which would give me a run for the trophy.  Tyler K3MM, Dave K6LL, Scott VE1OP, Glen VA3DX, Steve AI9T, Charlie KI5XP, and Dean 8P2K would all be in there this year along with others.  The competition would be the toughest it’s ever been.  Knowing this got me fired up even more.

I was scheduled to be on-call at work on Saturday, so I went ahead and assigned someone else to take the calls (nice being the boss sometimes).  I was hoping to put full attention to the contest.  I wasn’t able to take part in either the Thursday or Friday evening NCCC practice sessions, but I felt confident the station was ready Friday night.  I gave everything a quick check that night.  All the antennas had low SWR, even the vertical out in the swamp.  As I sat in the shack Friday night, I checked WWV and found the solar flux at only 78, the A at 13 and the K at 2.  Even with the solar flux so low, I felt that if the K index could stay 2 or lower, propagation would be OK for an NAQP contest.

The NAQP test is a local contest and only North America really counts.  This makes the contest easier in that you don’t have to worry about working long distance DX with low power.  The NAQP is easier for me because I only have to turn the beam from 45 degrees (Northeast) to 335 degrees (Northwest) to cover the USA and Canada on the higher bands.  And about 80% of the time, I leave both antennas looking at 20 degrees north.  By not having to worry about turning the antennas, I can concentrate on working both radios and moving stations to other bands to pick up multipliers.  These are the things I thought about the night before the contest.  As I looked up on the shack wall at the seven NAQP RTTY plaques that hang there, I realized I had a six NAQP contest win streak going.  But that didn’t matter to me.  I wanted to win this one more than any of the others.  And I knew it would be difficult to pull it off.

I didn’t reflect too long on past achievements.  Taking a line from an old movie I told myself “What is behind me does not matter”.  What mattered was that I be as prepared as I could for the next day’s event.  And that this was important.  I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself, but I really wanted this one.

I started thinking about what I needed to do further to prepare.  One thing that I thought about was the weather.  As I listened to 40 and 80 meters that Friday night, I could hear some static crashes.  I hate static crashes.  The weather had cleared in southeast Louisiana earlier in the day and the rain had moved off into the far southeastern Gulf of Mexico.  But the forecast was for rain to return late Saturday night.  This wasn’t a good sign.  Weather is something you can’t do anything about so I just went to bed.

I wanted to sleep in on Saturday but I just couldn’t.  I was excited about the contest.  I got up about 7 a.m. local time.  I worked a few new band countries on CW that morning to pass the time.  Shay wanted to go to the wedding store (getting married on June 4, 2005), so I reluctantly agreed as long as we left the store an hour before the contest.  She agreed so off we went.  When 1700Z came around she still wasn’t finished and I wasn’t real happy but I hung in there.  We finally made it back to the QTH 15 minutes before the contest started.  I had left the station ready to go so all I had to do was get my ice chest full of Coca Cola ready.

At 1800Z I shot out of the blocks on 15 and 20 meters.  The K index had risen to 3 and I really didn’t expect 10 meters to be much so I ran on 20 meters on the B radio to get the rate going.  I worked 108 stations on 15 and 20 the first hour and was very happy.  Even during that first hour I was able to check 10 meters and found W6YX, 8P2K and VO1HP (they would end up being my only 3 all-band QSO’s).  So it was remarkable I was able to work 3 bands and get that early high rate.  It was a great start.  I kept checking 10 meters in the next hour or so, but it never came alive.

The second hour yielded 84 contacts with 50 on 20 meters, 33 on 15 meters and a weak N7MQ on 10 meters (thanks for the multiplier Mark!).  I knew 10 was slightly open to the west, but I just couldn’t afford to spend too much time there since 20 was going strong.  The 3rd hour slowed down to 66 QSO’s.  I worked 57 stations in both the 4th and 5th hour, mostly on 20, some on 15 and the rest of 40 as that band started to get active.

Fifteen meters was pretty strange.  The west coast was open and I did get that weird Midwest path by beaming west, but occasionally the band would open to the Midwest and East Coast direct path so I kept swinging the beam west then east.  15 meters was just not very good as the paths kept changing, yielding only 121 QSO’s and 43 multipliers overall.  So I checked 40 meters early at 2200Z to find plenty of signals already there.  So I had to move the A radio from 15 to 40 in order to keep the rate going.  But this brought on the 20/40 meter interference factor between the two radios and I wasn’t real happy with that.  I tried the vertical out in the swamp and it did cut down on the interference since it’s away from the towers, but signals were much better on the 40-meter add-on element to the A3S.  It was better to CQ on 20 and S&P on 40, so that it was I did.  When I did a pass on 40, I went back to 15 but there wasn’t much there so I went back to 40.

So I had to work the 20/40 combination for 2 full hours but I did manage 57 QSO’s from 2200-2300Z as previously mentioned and a very nice 79 contacts from 2300-2359Z when the pizza that Shay ordered for dinner arrived.  So I took my first rest period from 0000-0100Z with 451 QSO’s and 137 multipliers.  I was pretty happy with this considering how bad 15 and 10 meters were.

The plan after dinner was to do 40 and 80 meters for the rest of the contest and that is what I did.  That first hour after dinner brought an astounding 107 QSO’s and 35 multipliers and I was pretty happy with that.  It slowed down to 71 QSO’s and 16 multipliers the next hour but that was pretty good.  There was no sign of static crashes on the low bands and I was grateful the weather was cooperating with my effort so I broke out the Crown Royal to toast Thor and celebrate his absence.

I had a plan to try to run both 40 and 80 meters on both radios and to move new multipliers to the other radio, but that never happened.  I couldn’t get a good run going on 80 meters.  Signals were generally weak so I convinced myself I was just going to have to do S&P on 80.  From 0300-0400Z I worked 66 stations and 9 multipliers.  Things were slowing down but my score was creeping up to my February 2004 record.  So I pressed harder and harder.  At one point in the last hour (0400-0500Z) I was S&P on both radios looking for any stations I hadn’t already worked.  I don’t do S&P on both radios often.  As a matter of fact, I almost NEVER S&P both radios, but I was desperate to get everyone in the log and break the record.  At 0320Z, with 40 minutes left in my 10 hours, I unofficially broke the record.  It was cool, but I knew I had to push even harder in case I got “dinged” on a few contacts.  I did everything in that last hour – CQ both radios, alternate S&P & CQ, and S&P both radios and ended up with 44 contacts and five more multipliers.  When it was over, I wasn’t even tired and wondered if I was stopping at the right time.  Once I confirmed that it was time to stop, I save the logs, sat back and took a big swig of Crown Royal and Coke which I had been sipping the last 2 hours.  Man was I happy!  But in the back of my mind I knew it just might not be good enough.

It had been a hell of an effort.  I just love this contest.  Low power is my strength and it is so much fun to dig those weak multipliers out on 80 meters.

It would be my last contest using the pair of PRO III’s.  I’m sending the one with the bad 6 db attenuator back to Icom on Monday and buying the other radio (I blew it up during the XE RTTY contest – no fault of the radio).  It will be interesting to put one of the Kenwood’s in the Radio B position for BARTG.  But the Kenwood has always a great radio for me.  It will interesting to work the PRO III and TS-870 side-by-side.

I have no idea whether I accomplished my main goal of winning this contest or not.  But I do know one thing.  I had my best ever NAQP RTTY contest and when that happens while conditions are not their best, one can only smile.  And I did smile.  It was a great day with a bunch of my friends on the radio and I just can’t ask for more than that.  Thanks to everyone for the contacts!


 North American QSO Party, RTTY

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

Class: Single Op LP
Operating Time (hrs): 10
Radios: SO2R

Band QSOs Mults
80: 137 48
40: 235 54
20: 240 53
15: 121 43
10: 6 4
Total: 739 202 Total Score = 149,278

Station A:
Icom IC-756PRO III
Icom PS-60 power supply
Dell 2.66 Ghz Pentium 4
WriteLog version 10.53D
MMTTY plug-in
NIR-12 DSP audio filter
Dunestar 600 band filter

Station B:
Icom IC-756PRO III
Astron PR-40 power supply
Compaq Deskpro 233 Mhz Pentium II
WriteLog version 10.53D
MMTTY plug-in
NIR-12 DSP audio filter
Dunestar 600 band filter

Cushcraft A3S w/40 meter add-on at 62 ft. (Yaesu G-800SDX rotor#1)
Cushcraft A3S at 55 ft. (Yaesu G-800SDX rotor #2)
80M inverted vee
Butternut HF2 vertical (40/80)

WX0B SixPak antenna switch
Dunestar 2 radio headphone selector
Heil headphones
Bird wattmeter