AA5AU Contest Notes – 2006 CQ WPX RTTY Contest

This contest really showed me that my new antennas are working well.  Unlike the RTTY Roundup, this contest generates much more DX activity.  It was the best test so far for my new A3S and D40 and both antennas did a great job this weekend.  Running low power, I was able to generate a couple of real good runs into EU on both 20 and 40 meters.

The WPX RTTY contest is one of my favorites but it comes at a time of the year that is challenging for me.  I first met my wife on February 10th and we always celebrate the occasion.  And some years the contest falls on Valentine’s Day.  This year February 10 was the Friday before the contest.  Since the contest starts at 6 p.m. local time on Friday, this year I would have to miss the start in order to have dinner with Shay.  I didn’t mind this so much because this is a long contest with 18 hours of off-time required for single ops.  So I was committed to a late start but I just didn’t know how late.

Weather was also a factor in my start time.  A warm front, followed by a cold front was scheduled to occur sometime in the evening that would bring strong thunderstorms and lots of rain.  I know how important the low bands are to this contest with the doubling of points, but with major noise I wouldn’t do well trying to copy through the static crashes.  Since I had stayed up all day Friday I was a bit tired too.  So after spending the evening with Shay, the weather was getting quite nasty.  I decided I would go to bed for the night and start the contest at 1000Z (4 a.m. local time).  This would allow me to work the low bands until 20 and then 15 opened.

Luckily the cold front blew out all the bad weather and the low bands were fairly decent Saturday morning.  The solar flux was 75, the A index was 3 and the K was 2.  This wasn’t too bad.  There were already lots of signals on 40 meters and I decided to call CQ on 80 while S&P on 40.  My first contact was JA1XUY on 40 meters.  KE7AJ answered my CQ on 80 and I was off and running.  For some reason I wasn’t really fired up about this contest.  I’m not sure if it was the late start or what, but I just wasn’t as intense as I can get.  When my first hour only netted 44 contacts, I decided I was just in this one for the fun.  If things got going real well later on, then maybe I would kick it up a notch.

I stayed on 40 and 80 until 1240Z when I switched from 80 to 20 on the Kenwood.  There were lots of signals on 20 and EU was starting to come in pretty good but I wasn’t able to get any runs going on 20 that early.  But I did notice that the Europeans were not having any problems hearing me when I answered their CQ’s.  Since all the activity on 40 during this contest was on the low end, I had to suffer with high noise on 20 from the second harmonic coming from the 40 meter radio.  I only had to contend with this for 50 minutes when I switched the 40 meter radio to 15 meters around 1330Z.  There were still lots of signals on 40 but not a lot of new activity.  15 was starting to open to EU and I was surprised to work some stateside that early as N9CK was my first 15 meter contact.  But there wasn’t enough to stay on 15 so I went back to S&P on 40 while CQ on 20 on 14083.  I wasn’t able to hold that frequency on 20 for long as the EU signals were getting strong and the band extremely crowded.   Eventually I was off 40 and back to 15 at 1420Z.

The problem I have with starting a contest with serial numbers this late is that I get a lot of requests for repeats.  When I send a low serial number 12 hours into a contest, people think they didn’t get the number right.  I guess that’s one disadvantage to being a big-time RTTY contester where everyone knows your call.  But I can live with it!  So about every third or so exchange brought a request for a repeat for the first few hours.

Eventually the numbers started coming up and the request for repeats stopped.  There was a half-way decent opening to EU on 15 but not a lot of signals.  I tried finding a clear spot near the middle of the band to CQ on 20 but it was next to impossible.  As I look at my log after the contest, it appeared I was S&P on both bands, but I remember what I did.  I was just clicking on packet spots on both bands in a packet-style S&P mode.  I’ve done this before but it used to not be successful because on RTTY, someone could be spotting AFSK or using low tones.  However, I find that more and more people are running FSK high tones and the packet spots are getting closer now to the actual operating frequency of the station being spotted.  So this packet S&P mode worked pretty well on both radios when I couldn’t find a clear frequency on 20 to CQ and I couldn’t get any rate going on 15.  Eventually I found my way back to 14083 and had a 30 minute run, but I just couldn’t maintain it in that part of the band.  I tried finding clear spots on the lower end of 20, but there were signals all the way past 14060.  So I kept doing this packet-mode S&P on both radios and it was working fairly well and every station I worked was a new multiplier.

Finally at around 1620Z I was able to get a run going on 14076 for about 50 minutes, but again I got forced off the frequency.  As I went S&P on 20 to find a new frequency, I found 14085 clear and got a run going there for about 40 minutes.  My new A3S was really performing well into Europe.  I also found 21085 clear too so I alternated CQ’s on both 15 and 20 meters for a while but no great runs.  When I didn’t get an answer to a CQ, I would click on a packet spot to work a multiplier and then back to my run frequency with a CQ.  I was working fairly hard to keep the rate up.  This contest is a rate contest with an emphasis on points.  Since prefix multipliers are easy to come by CQ’ing, it’s best to try to run rate.  But QSO points are the ultimate objective.  Being in the central part of the US and running low power, it’s very difficult to achieve the high QSO points compared to others in the Caribbean, South America, East Coast USA and Europe.  I know I am at a disadvantage and the only thing I can do to compensate for this geographic disadvantage is to run rate as much as possible.

I’ve won the world low power title three times in this contest – the first two years the contest was run in 1995 & 1996 and again in 2001 when I had a phenomenal year of RTTY contesting.  But when the rest of the world got good at RTTY contesting, my geographical disadvantage become more apparent than ever.  So I never go out and try to win the world title in this event.  I try instead to win the USA and possible NA.  Last year I had my best ever WPX RTTY contest with 1609 QSO’s and 3581 QSO points to go along with 527 multipliers and a final score of 1,887,187 points.  It was a new NA low power record, but it was only good enough for 7th place in the world!  I had more QSO’s than second through sixth place, but my QSO point total cannot compete with others.  Only the world winner ZX2B had more QSO’s than me last year.  It’s just the way it is.

This contest does not generate the high rates of the ARRL Roundup for me, so when my best hours of the contest so far were 73 and 74 respectively between 1700-1900Z, I wasn’t all that surprised.  I struggled in the next 5 hours after that.  I kept checking 40 meters during the day and there was activity there, but nothing I hadn’t already worked.  At 2143Z I worked 9A15DX on 40 and that is very early for me to be working EU, especially low power so I was encouraged that the low bands might be good later.  I stayed on 40 S&P while CQ on 20 for an hour before I moved back to 15 meters on the Icom to work JA’s.  But 15 was not all that great and although I worked a few JA’s, I didn’t hear a lot of them.  So at 2339Z I went back to 40 meters just before sunset and started working some good DX like YT7TY, EO6F and a few other EU stations.  This was good stuff since it was still daylight outside.  I was still having problems getting any decent runs going on 20.  And the 40 interference on 20 was too much to deal with so at 0028Z I took an hour break to eat dinner with Shay.

After dinner I put the 20-meter radio on 80 meters and was happy to find lots of stateside signals.  40 meters was wall-to-wall RTTY signals from 7025-7060 Khz.  So I ran 40 meters around 7050 Khz while S&P on 80.  This worked well and between 0200Z and 0300Z I had my best rate-hour of the contest at 82.  The low bands were very quiet and very good.  Eventually I got moved off 7050 and slid down to 7049 Khz where I ran stateside and EU for over 2 hours!  This was the first indication that my D40 was working extremely well when stations like ZS2DL and several Europeans called in.  I tried alternating CQ’s on 40 and 80, but I wasn’t getting many replies on 80 so I did mainly S&P when I saw 7X0RY spotted on 3588 Khz.  I had to take a listen and was surprised to hear him.  I called him and he came back to me.  Wow!!!  It would be the highlight of the contest for me.

When 3Y0X showed up on 40 meter CW, along with the CW Sprint, everyone moved up the band and 40 got very crowded.  There were so many RTTY signals on top of each other that it was very difficult to copy anything that night!  There were signals all the way up to 7065 Khz but no one wanted to go up above 080 for some reason.  It was challenge on 40 that night but a lot of fun nonetheless.

The low bands were great, but after 0600Z my rate fell off tremendously.  Watching the gray line map I decided to work the low bands until the sun was all the way up over EU.  I would then check 20 meters looking for that rare opening EU after their sunrise, but 20 was dead.  So at 0743Z I went to bed.  I had 1151 QSO’s and 420 multipliers which I thought was pretty good.

I slept for about three and half hours and restarted on 40 and 80 again at 1144Z, but 80 wasn’t yielding much to I switched to 20 meters to find strong EU signals at around 1218Z.  There were so many signals on 20 I couldn’t find a clear spot to CQ so I went into the packet S&P mode again and just clicked on new multipliers as they showed up.  I did this for an hour when I finally found at clear spot at 14068 and started calling CQ at 1310Z.  I was immediately answered by IW1ARB and all of a sudden had a good EU run going with lots of new multipliers – another sign the A3S was working well.  I was able to do this for a solid hour before I was finally moved off the frequency.  By this time 15 meters opened and I was able to do packet S&P on both bands for a while.  Finally I found 14067 open and CQ’d there with limited success but was again forced off the frequency.  I don’t recall ever having this much trouble holding a frequency, but I was forced to move.  On 15 meters I was able to get a short run into EU on 21084.  15 was much better Sunday than Saturday.  The solar flux had jumped up one to 77.  But it was the K factor that dropped to 0, then went to 1 that probably spurred 15 meters that day.

Sometime during the morning hours Shay walked into the shack and asked how long the contest was going to last.  She wanted to go to a movie that afternoon which meant I had to change my operating schedule.  Since I wasn’t having a “great” contest, I decided to go ahead and work straight through to 2100Z and take the last 3 hours of the contest as off-time.  I really didn’t want to do this.  I wanted to take a 3 hour break during the day and then come back for the last three hours so I could get more points on 40 and 80.  But that wasn’t going to happen.

20 meters was a little much to handle.  Too many signals across the band from 14060 all the way up to over 14140 Khz.  It was amazing.  There were clearer spots on the high side but I could not get runs going up there.  I had better success at running on the low end and did so around 14064 for a while.  When the EU signals tapered off on 20, I was able to get something going up around 14086 Khz but it didn’t last long.  I then tried 14082 and again but was forced off.  I eventually found a clear spot around 14077 where I was able to stay for the last 40 minutes before I went QRT at 2103Z.  All the while I was switching the Icom between 10, 15 and 40 meters.  I did work a few SA stations on 10 and CQ’d with the beam to the south hoping 3Y0X would find me, but they didn’t.

All in all, I was satisfied with the effort.  It is not going to be good enough to win NA with 8P2K breaking the record with a great score this year, but it may be good enough for a 3rd consecutive USA low power win.  I guess we’ll find out when the results are published.  In the meantime the NAQP RTTY contest is in two weeks.  With K3MM having a strong effort in this year’s WPX, I have a feeling there will be a battle in NAQP.  And I’m sure Charlie, KI5XP, will be out to avenge me edging him out in July’s NAQP.  It should be a good time and I’m looking forward to it.


2006 CQWW WPX RTTY Contest Claimed Score

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

Class: SOAB LP
Operating Time (hrs): 30
Radios: SO2R

Band QSOs Pts
80: 165 378
40: 382 1256
20: 668 1304
15: 292 508
10: 5 14
Total: 1512 3460 Prefixes = 526 Total Score = 1,819,960

Station A:
Icom IC-756 PRO III transceiver w/Icom CT-14 CI-V interface
JPS NIR-12 Dual DSP audio filter
Dell 2.66 GHz Pentium 4 running WriteLog for Windows under Windows XP Pro
WriteLog for Windows version 10.55D
MMTTY Plug-in for WriteLog in the main Rttyrite window
HAL DXP-38 in a cloned Rttyrite window for receive only
Icom PS-60 power supply
RigRunner DC power distribution panel

Station B:
Kenwood TS-870 transceiver
JPS NIR-12 Dual DSP audio filter
Compaq DeskPro Pentium II running WriteLog for Windows under Windows 98se
WriteLog for Windows version 10.55D
MMTTY Plug-in for WriteLog in the main Rttyrite window
HAL DXP-38 in a cloned Rttyrite window for receive only
Astron PR-40 power supply
RigRunner DC power distribution panel

Cushcraft A3S triband yagi at 66′ controlled by an M 2800 positioner and RC2800P-A controller
Cushcraft rotable D40 dipole at 72′
Cushcraft A3S triband yagi @ 45′ controlled by a Yaesu G-800S rotator
80 meter inverted vee with apex at 60′
Butternut HF2V 40/80 meter vertical ground-mounted in a swamp with eight 40′ radials