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The ARRL Contest Update
February 18, 2009
Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
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IN THIS ISSUE

NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

Want to work some DX? Want to improve your code speed? Fire up the boilers for this weekend's ARRL DX CW contest. All of those DX beams will be pointed in your direction for the duration of the contest. The exchange is simple; you send an RST and your state or province. The DX station sends RST and power. (KW and K are common abbreviations for 1000 - also see the Operating Tip below regarding "cut numbers".)

BULLETINS

No bulletins in this issue

BUSTED QSOS

A golden issue last time - it's been a while!

CONTEST SUMMARY

Complete information for all contests follows the Commentary section

February 21-22

  • ARRL DX Contest--CW
  • AM QSO Party--Phone
  • REF Contest

February 28-March 1

  • Russian WW PSK Contest
  • CQ WW 160 Meter SSB
  • UBA Contest--CW
  • Mississippi QSO Party
  • North American QSO Party, RTTY
  • CQC Winter QSO Party
  • High Speed CW Contest
  • North Carolina QSO Party
  • DARC 10-Meter Digital "Corona"
NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

The Mar/Apr 2009 Issue of the National Contest Journal that will be landing in your mail boxes shortly, has a couple interesting articles on contesting Yagis. The first explores how to stack dissimilar Yagis and the second shows how to design a Yagi with a long boom that can be split between two towers. Speaking of antennas, K4DLI and W6XX provide the design details in this issue for the 3Y0X Peter 160 Meter Wire Beam featured in the March 2009 issue of QST. Several other articles, including a 2008 CAC Update by WC1M and the usual columns, round out this issue of NCJ. Be on the lookout for it. (Thanks, Al K0AD, NCJ Editor)

Registration for the Top Band Dinner at the 2009 Visalia International DX Convention is now open. The dinner will be held on Friday, April 17, at the Holiday Inn Visalia in the Birch Room, beginning at 6:30 PM with a no-host bar. The program will be Glenn Johnson, W?GJ, Co-leader of the current Desecheo DXpedition on "Top Band from KP5, Desecheo, February 2009." The cost is $36 per person and you can register by emailing Steve, WB6RSE at wb6rse1@mac.com.

Like a sunspot returning around the limb of the Sun, a month later brings the Top Band Dinner to the Dayton Hamvention! The Barnsider Restaurant, 5202 N Main St, will host the gathering once again, the no-host bar opening at 6:30 pm on Friday, May 15th. The cost is $29 and you'll need to get in touch with George K8GG at k8gg@arrl.net to reserve your place at the table.

Eric K9GY, contributes a link to this Interesting article on the psychology of winning. There are many facets to success in a competitive field and this article explores one of them, discussed a little further in this issue's "Conversation", below. The idea of mastery making its own motivation is something many contesters understand well.

Ian G3NRW reports that Propnet is expanding its coverage to 160 meters with all of the interesting and unusual paths reported recently on Top Band.

The Maxim Memorial Station stays just as busy as ever, pumping out bulletins and code practice. Got your Code Proficiency Certificate? (Photo N0AX)

And speaking of Top Band, from ARRL Bulletin ARLB012: "Starting Monday, March 9, Maxim Memorial Station W1AW will be using a new 160 meter frequency for its CW transmissions. To accommodate increasing activity near the current bulletin frequency of 1817.5 kHz, W1AW will move to 1802.5 kHz to reduce the possibility of interference."

Do you wonder why there are no contests on the 30, 17, or 12 meter bands? There are no regulations prohibiting contests, so how did the convention of keeping these bands contest-free get started? Brett VR2BG found the document "IARU official Resolution on 10MHz". There on page 9 of 48 (that's almost one page per kHz of bandwidth) is the observation that the amateur allocation there is narrow and secondary. Thus, contesting activity would almost certain cause harmful interference to the primary users of the band. Keeping it available to non-contesters is also a good idea. (Thanks, Tack JE1CKA/KH0AM)

A recent query about "stand-up desks" provoked a flurry of comments and suggestions about other non-seated positions for contesting. Along with just standing, several recommended "kneeling chairs" that put one's weight on one's shins, a beanbag-style round chair, and even a treadmill set on "slow". Hmmm, a treadmill, perhaps one could enter the self-powered QRP category? Contest and work out at the same time, hamster-wheel metaphors aside.

The 2009 ARRL and TAPR Digital Communications Conference was a three-day conference held in late September near Chicago. It featured twenty-one presentations from hams on the leading edge of digital communication. As an attendee, I particularly enjoyed the program on Software Defined Radio. ARVN:Amateur Radio//Video News captured every minute of the presentations on video and now offers them on six DVDs in high quality video and audio. They can be ordered from ARVN Web site. (Thanks, Gary KN4AQ)

Congratulations to new ARRL Contest Advisory Committee member Jim KI7Y who will be representing the Northwest Division, replacing your editor after a number of years of service. Jim is an active contester and an officer of the Williamette Valley DX Club. (Thanks, Jim K9JF)

Last week's conversation piece on "Why A Y?" prompted Dink N7WA to send this link to the Direct Pro Audio headphone splitter and distribution amp. This way everybody gets their own volume control, too!

DX legend and contester Jim Smith VK9NS passed away on February 10th. Jim and his wife Kirsti VK9NL were the voice of Lord Howe Island for many years and took many trips around the southern Pacific and Indian oceans, both during contests and not. From the antipode comes news of George G3LNS/5B4AGC's and Gyozi HA0MM's passing, as well. All three call signs graced many a contest log. (Thanks, Bruce G3HSR, Ed VP9GE, and Zoli HA1AD)

Web Site of the Week- Thailand's radiosport ambassador, Champ E21EIC, sends news of a Thailand Field Day. Held over the weekend of Feb 7-8, on VHF bands, it is intended to introduce the idea of competitive ham radio to the HS/E2 community. Fred K3ZO points out that nearly all of Thailand's hams are restricted to 2 meter FM because of the lack of exams, but with this kind of activity becoming more popular, there may be many Thai calls on the HF bands in the future.

WORD TO THE WISE

A T T - What's all that "A T T" stuff you'll be hearing in the ARRL DX CW contest? Those are the "cut numbers" for "1 0 0", signifying a power of 100 watts. Cut numbers are abbreviations that do away with all of those dahs and even superfluous dits. You probably already use N for 9.

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SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

If you think the entire band has gone nuts, you may be closer to correct than you think, depending on who's been working on your antenna lately, as shown in this thought-provoking video mentioned by several viewers that thought I would enjoy it. Hmmm. Do we have any Captain Kangaroo fans that remember the ping-pong ball bit?

When the computer gets to be too big for the shack, just get inside the computer! The innovative hams of Radio Arcala show you how in this video. (Thanks, Jim K7WA)

Online presentations and "Webinars" are great for training and club programs. (Graphic by Bob N6TV)

Bob N6TV put together a nice "Webinar" for the NCCC (Northern California Contest Club) about operating in the NCJ-sponsored NA Sprint. The resulting turnout on the bands indicates that it worked - you can look at the slides, too!

Mmmm, tasty! Here's what a computer network interface card looks like after some time in the balmy tropics at PJ2T. (Thanks, Geoff W0CG)

Field and Stream subscribers can log KJ7UN and KC7EWZ as they are featured on page 55 of the February, 2009 issue in an article on Search and Rescue. (Thanks, Tim K3HX)

RESULTS AND RECORDS

Publication of the 2008 IARU HF Championship Web results have been delayed due to various scoring problems, but should be up shortly. Unfortunately, the original incorrect scores will be delivered in the March issue of QST, so be sure to check the expanded Web article by K9LA for the correct tables and scoring information. Very few Top Ten places changed hands and most scores actually went up a bit due to the new data. (Thanks, Sean KX9X, ARRL Contest Branch Manager)

The final results of the 2008 WAE DX Contest SSB have been released on the DARC Web site. (Thanks, Joerg DL8WPX)

The final results of the 2008 LZ DX Contest have been published. Those interested may find them online. (Thanks, Wally LZ2CJ)

Rick "The Locust" K6VVA has published the final results of the recent Locust QSO Party. Swarm on over there and eat 'em up!

Dmitri ON4IT has created a Logs Received Web page for the 2009 UBA DX SSB contest. The page is under development, but the log listing should be OK.

In the recent CW Sprint and the post-contest ruminations over conditions and whether it favors the West Coast stations, it was pointed out that the NCCC, in particular, makes quite an effort to turn out the local contesters. For example, if 35 of the NCCC members were active, that was 105 potential contacts (3 bands x 35 stations) that could be made. In a four-hour contest, that's a lot. The moral of the story is that while you can't make your own propagation, you can encourage others to participate. And why limit it to your own area? With the Internet at every fingertip, exhortations to operate are just as easily sent cross-country as cross-town.

OPERATING TIP

Don't go nuts with cut numbers and other time savers if they aren't likely to be expected by the receiving station. Abbreviations only work if everybody expects and understands them. So while 5NN is universally understood as 599, using the sequence U E T for 250 is much more likely to elicit a ? from the receiving station, wasting all of the possible saved time and then some. Stick to the basics!

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TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

As if upper and lower sideband weren't enough, we now can have right-handed and left-handed variants of each by using twisted radio waves! Generating and receiving them require some substantial antennas, at the moment, but at the beginning everything looks implausible. (Thanks, Jim K7YO)

Chuck KC2NB reports solving a years-long RFI problem. "For several years, when operating on 75 meters, I would regularly open one of (my) two garage doors when transmitting using one KW. The purchase of a 0.01 mF ceramic-disk capacitor at Radio Shack plus its installation across two terminals leading to the wall mounted switch solved the problem." As always, be sure to use an adequately-rated component for ac line or home wiring use.

Those of you with sagging pegboard, groaning under the weight of tools and cables, should check out the March edition of Popular Mechanics. An article titled, "Shop, Reborn" tackles the problem head-on with a perforated steel pegboard replacement. And it can serve as shielding! The following article about making your PC boot faster is good, too.

Here's where you go to learn all about log handling and log checking! (Photo, Tim K3LR)

John AE5X recently completed a series of comparative tests between Panasonic's new Oxyride and Duracell's alkaline batteries at various temperatures. Charts for the Oxyride and Duracell batteries at 5, 40, and 70 °F are posted. This is good information as you plan your next mobile run or expedition to a vacation contest site or even getting ready for the Freeze Your Butt Off Field Day that ran last weekend.

Tick! Tick! Tick! Causes no talk! The aggravating, AGC-busting pops from a nearby electric fence can be a real problem, but as this ARRL case study points out, the problem is often causes by problems along the fence, not the charger. Just walking the fence at dusk will help you find arcing weeds, insulators, or wires. These are easily cleared up, reduce or eliminate the noise, and make the fence work better. Everybody wins! Thanks, Danny K6MHE)

When tracking down an annoying audio power-frequency noise, Jim K9YC points out that if what you hear is hum (pure 60 Hz) rather than buzz (little or no 60 Hz, but lots of 180, 360, 420, etc.) suspect a magnetic field coupling problem, such as to a power transformer or conductor carrying high currents. If what you hear is buzz, suspect power-related noises caused by current flow between pieces of equipment. Jim details solutions and presents detailed explanations in his tutorials on RFI and Interfacing.

Concluding the section on noise, have you ever tried noise-cancelling headphones? The Bose QC-2 have a good reputation and Tim K3LR has converted them to boom mikes using the Heil microphone elements, as well. They are now the "cans of choice" at the K3LR multi-ops.

RF plate chokes are not the simple components they seem. If you are building, rebuilding, or repairing an HF amplifier this Web site by WC6W might be a good one to visit.

Dale KG5U contributes a couple of Web sites on the myths surrounding CFL bulbs and some frequently-asked questions. As he observes, you might find them (ahem) illuminating.

The Gadget Freak column in a recent Design News magazine featured a nifty workbench magnifier that you can make yourself. It might also work for looking at the display of your new pocket-sized VHF/UHF radio!

This section has mentioned the National Semiconductor WEBENCH design aid site before and they added even more features since. This online tool began with simple switching power supplies, branched out into active filters and the sky is apparently the limit. Nothing like making it easy for customers to use your components!

Technical Web Site of the Week - I enjoy the QRP groups for the sheer enthusiasm, can-do spirit, and hands-on focus. One of the best is the English G-QRP club and their annually updated SPRAT CD with all manner of interesting back issues, articles, tips and tricks - you name it! A great browse and a good CD for the shack. QRP contesters on this side of the pond may also want to check out Ozarkcon, the largest gathering of QRPers outside of the Dayton Hamvention's Four Days in May. (Thanks, Bill G4KKI and Jay W5JAY)

CONVERSATION

Make Your Own Luck

You hear this often in sports interviews when the victor is complimented on their good luck: "No, you make your own luck in this game!" Making your own luck is not something that is unknown in radiosport, quite the contrary!

As we get started in radiosport, our minds often are quite boggled by the amazing scores posted by the cross-town Big Gun. How can they possibly work all those stations? If one is given to pursue the matter, the answer is that they've done the hard work to put up a big station in an advantageous location, and kept their butt in the chair to operate it. And so we, too, charge off down the path of bigger, higher antennas and more sophisticated equipment.

Only to find that, while we are closer, they are still ahead of us. Drat! Generous souls that they are, we ask to see their logs and we find them finding multipliers, running stations, and choosing their bands with uncanny luck and fortuity. How do they do it? How did they get so lucky? We work just as hard - our hours on the air are the same - but there they are with a few more zones, more countries, more QSOs. Darn their good luck, anyway.

Here are two fellows with persistence - "my" WRTC-1990 team of Mikhail RW0CN (L) and Yevgeny UW0CA (R) at the Pacific NW DX Convention in August 2008. (Photo N0AX - center)

But luck is something you will also hear described as "The harder I work, the luckier I get." Or as Tree N6TR put it the other day, "Luck = Preparation + Opportunity + Effort". Truer words were never spoken. You can't buy your way to good luck. You can't read a book and have that sixth-sense about propagation that seems to reside in some operators. It takes practice, practice, and more practice to become smooth enough that while running QSOs at winning rates, your mind can also be asking itself if maybe the long-path on 15 meters wouldn't turn up a multiplier or maybe that fellow you worked last weekend at sunrise will be on today, too.

In the ham radio contesting game, another form of luck is to recognize it when you get it. The skill to hear a VK9 calling in the big pileups off JA stations, for example. The skill to get two or three letters of a call buried in noise and QRM and without relying on a database know just who that is because of the speed of the call, the time of day, the band conditions, and so forth. That's how you get lucky.

There is a lot of technology we bring to bear on the contests. Each new technique peels back the fog a little more, making the QSO totals rise, even as flux falls. But it is the lucky operators that rise to the top time after time after time. Their equipment didn't fail. They were on the right band at the right time. They aren't guessing at call signs. As technology lifts all boats, they were the ones prepared to sail on the tide and get to the fishing grounds first. You prepare to give yourself the opportunity to maximize the results of your efforts. That's how you do it. See you in the pileups this weekend!

73, Ward N0AX

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CONTESTS

18 February to 4 March

An expanded, downloadable version of QST's Contest Corral in PDF format is available. Check the sponsor's Web site for information on operating time restrictions and other instructions.

HF CONTESTS

ARRL DX Contest--CW, from Feb 21 0000Z to Feb 22 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST, State/Province or Power. Logs due: Mar 23. Rules

AM QSO Party--Phone, from Feb 21 0000Z to Feb 22 0000Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-14. Exchange: RS, name, and S/P/C. Rules

REF Contest--Phone,CW, from Feb 21 0600Z to Feb 22 1800Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RS, serial, and French dept. Logs due: Mar 15. Rules

Russian WW PSK Contest--Digital, from Feb 27 2100Z to Feb 28 2100Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST and Oblast code or serial. Logs due: 15 Mar. Rules

CQ WW 160 Meter SSB--Phone, from Feb 27 2200Z to Mar 1 2200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8. Exchange: RST and State/Province or CQ Zone. Logs due: Mar 31. Rules

UBA Contest--CW, from Feb 28 1300Z to Mar 1 1300Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST, serial, and ON province. Logs due: Mar 21. Rules

Mississippi QSO Party--Phone,CW, from Feb 28 1500Z to Mar 1 0300Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28, 50-432, CW 3.545, 7.045, 14.045, 21.045, 28.045;Phone 3.857-862-867, 7.238, 14.275, 21.375, 28.375; VHF 50.13, 144.22, 146.55, 446. Exchange: RS(T) and MS county or S/P/C. Logs due: Mar 31. Rules

North American QSO Party--Digital, from Feb 28 1800Z to Mar 1 0600Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: Name and S/P/C. Logs due: 14 days. Rules

CQC Winter QSO Party--Phone,CW, from Feb 28 2200Z to Mar 1 0359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. CW 1.825, 3.56, 3.71, 7.04, 7.11, 14.06, 21.06, 21.11, 28.06, 28.11. Exchange: RS(T), S/P/C, name, CQC nr or power. Logs due: Mar 17. Rules

High Speed CW Contest--CW, from Mar 1 0900Z to Mar 1 1100Z and Mar 1 1500Z to Mar 1 1700Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST and HSC nr or "NM". Logs due: 30 days. Rules

North Carolina QSO Party--Phone,CW, from Mar 1 1700Z to Mar 2 0300Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. CW 3.54, 3.74, 7.04, 7.14, 14.04, 21.04, 21.14, 28.04, 28.14, Phone 3.86, 7.26, 14.26, 21.36, 28.36. Exchange: RS(T) and NC county or S/P/C. Logs due: Apr 2. Rules

DARC 10-Meter Digital "Corona"--Digital, from Mar 3 1100Z to Mar 3 1700Z. Bands (MHz): 28. Exchange: RST and serial. Logs due: Apr 6. Rules

VHF+ CONTESTS

Mississippi QSO Party--Phone,CW, from Feb 28 1500Z to Mar 1 0300Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28, 50-432, CW 3.545, 7.045, 14.045, 21.045, 28.045;Phone 3.857-862-867, 7.238, 14.275, 21.375, 28.375; VHF 50.13, 144.22, 146.55, 446. Exchange: RS(T) and MS county or S/P/C. Logs due: Mar 31. Rules

LOG DUE DATES

18 February through 4 March

February 21, 2009 Asia-Pacific Spring Sprint, CW, email logs to: apsprint@jsfc.org, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Rules

February 21, 2009 North American Sprint, SSB, email logs to: (see rules, web upload preferred), upload log at: http://www.ncjweb.com/sprintlogsubmit.php, paper logs and diskettes to: Jim Stevens, K4MA

6609 Vardon Ct, Fuquay-Varina, NC 27526, USA. Rules

February 22, 2009 Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, email logs to: (none), upload log at: http://www.fpqrp.com/autolog.php, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Rules

February 23, 2009 10-10 Int. Winter Contest, SSB, email logs to: tentencontest@roadrunner.com, paper logs and diskettes to: Dan Morris, KZ3T, 131 Valencia Lane, Statesville, NC 28625, USA. Rules

February 24, 2009 REF Contest, CW, email logs to: cdfcw@ref-union.org, paper logs and diskettes to: F6CTT, Cornee Fromy Joseph, Route de Coesmes, F-35240 Retiers, France. Rules

February 24, 2009 UBA DX Contest, SSB, email logs to: ubassb@uba.be, paper logs and diskettes to: Du Bois Dimitri, ON4IT, Witgerstraat 31, B-9310 Herdersem, Belgium. Rules

February 28, 2009 Hunting Lions in the Air Contest, email logs to: lions@vsnl.net, paper logs and diskettes to: The HLITA Contest Committee, Lions Club of Bangalore North, C/O Lion Ajoy - VU2JHM, # 9/1, Kshitija, Opp Geetanjali, 5-Cross, Malleswaram, BANGALORE-560003, India. Rules

February 28, 2009 CQ 160-Meter Contest, CW, email logs to: 160cw@kkn.net, paper logs and diskettes to: CQ 160-Meter Contest, 25 Newbridge Road, Hicksville, NY 11801, USA. Rules

February 28, 2009 SPAR Winter Field Day, email logs to: winterfd@spar-hams.org, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Rules

February 28, 2009 MIE 33 Contest, email logs to: je2mde@jarl.com, paper logs and diskettes to: JARL Mie Branch, c/o H. Masuda, 750-30 Kanonjicho, Tsu, Mie 514-0062, Japan. Rules

February 28, 2009 AGCW Straight Key Party, email logs to: htp@agcw.de, paper logs and diskettes to: Friedrich W. Fabri, DF1OY, Moselstrasse 17b, D-63322 Roedermark-Urberach, Germany. Rules

March 1, 2009 BARTG RTTY Sprint, email logs to: ska@bartg.org.uk, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Rules

March 1, 2009 Vermont QSO Party, email logs to: fmesser@madriver.com, paper logs and diskettes to: Fred Messer, WA1LIE, Vermont QSO Party Coordinator, 317 Meadow Road, Waitsfield, VT 05673, USA. Rules

March 1, 2009 New Mexico QSO Party, email logs to: (none), paper logs and diskettes to: Los Alamos Amateur Radio Club, PO Box 787, Los Alamos, NM 87544-0787, USA. Rules

March 1, 2009 ARCI Fireside SSB Sprint, email logs to: contest@qrparci.org, paper logs and diskettes to: Jeff Hetherington, VA3JFF, 139 Elizabeth St. W., Welland, Ontario L3C 4M3, Canada. Rules

March 2, 2009 RSGB 1st 1.8 MHz Contest, CW, email logs to: 1st160.logs@rsgbhfcc.org, paper logs and diskettes to: RSGB-G3UFY, 77 Bensham Manor Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 7AF, England. Rules

March 3, 2009 EPC WW DX Contest, email logs to: epcwwdx@srars.org, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Rules

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

ARRL Contest Update wishes to acknowledge information from WA7BNM's Contest Calendar and SM3CER's Contest Calendar.

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