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The ARRL Contest Update
December 9, 2009
Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
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IN THIS ISSUE

NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

Use your 10 meter SSB privileges to get on for the ARRL 10 Meter Contest this weekend. A mobile whip will do just fine - you can trim down a full-size CB whip to resonate on the 10 meter band. (The final length will be about 98 inches, so cut off 1/2-inch at a time and check SWR.) The exchange for US and VE stations is a signal report and your state, while DX (yes, there will be DX to work!) gives out the signal report and serial number of the QSO.

BULLETINS

Calling all clever creators - announcing the Contest Update's first-ever issue devoted to the aesthetics of the aether! Read the full details below and start looking for that pencil sharpener!

BUSTED QSOS

A scrub of the eraser to all my contest manager friends - PLEASE update your Web sites early. Print magazine deadlines can be up to three months before the contest! Make sure that contact information is clear and that questions about the contest will be answered. If your contest is always on the same weekend - first, second, third, fourth, last - note that in the rules so that even if the dates aren't published, a reader will know when your contest is held! Contest Corral in QST is regularly tripped up by out-of-date information. If you would like to see your contest promoted correctly, please help the editors by publishing up-to-date information in time for their deadlines.

CONTEST SUMMARY

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

Dec 12-13

  • ARRL 10 Meter Contest
  • North American VHF WSJT Contest
  • 28 MHz SWL Contest
  • PSK Death Match
  • Russian 160 Meter Contest
  • Feld-Hell Monthly Sprint
  • Croatian CW Contest
  • UBA Winter Contest
  • Great Colorado Snowshoe Run--CW

Date 19-20

  • OK DX RTTY Contest
  • RAC Winter Contest
  • Lighthouse Christmas Lights QSO Party
  • Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint--CW
NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

What to do during the season when flakes fly and evening comes early? Why, pour yourself a hot chocolate, sharpen the ol' No 2 pencil and write for your favorite newsletter. (This one!) The 20 Jan 2010 issue will be the first (and possibly last) Contest Update Creative Compendium. Any written item will do as long as it is 128 words or less and received by the judges (me - n0ax@arrl.org) no later than 2359Z on 10 January 2010. Please post poems, prose, palindromes, palaver, platitudes -- they're all welcome - prurience and potboilers prohibited! So there's your holiday project - with all the creative minds in the Contest Update's readership, I anticipate a surplus of savory scribbling to sort.

Speaking of scribbling and No 2 pencils, the ARRL Contest Branch continues to receive those paper Sweepstakes logs - including one with 1000 QSOs! Somebody has to convert those to electronic format - line by line - and thank goodness for the volunteers that help with this job. Please help paper loggers submit an electronic log - they'll be amazed at how much less work they have to do and it will speed the log processing process dramatically! (Thanks, ARRL Contest Branch Manager, Sean KX9X)

After a month of discussions the WRTC-2010 Judging Committee has announced the referees to be invited to Moscow in July 2010. Congratulations to the fifty contest veterans chosen to monitor the proceedings. Having been a WRTC referee three times, your editor knows this is not an easy job! (Thanks, Harry RA3AUU, WRTC-2010 Organizing Committee)

NØAX hears a mult! And is that a Vibroplex paddle on the desk? Yep - at the station of Ed KØKL during CQ WW CW. (Photo - NØAX)

Vibroplex changes hands - no, not from right to left, but from Mitch Mitchell W4OA to Scott Robbins W4PA, formerly Amateur Radio Product Manager for Ten-Tec, effective Dec 21. Scott is going to move the Vibroplex company from Alabama to Knoxville, Tennessee over the last two weeks of December and plans to have everything back on-line and ready to go by Jan 5, 2010. Founded in 1904, Vibroplex is a name that just keeps going and going! I wonder what brand of paddle Scott will take with him to compete in WRTC-2010?

At the other end of the Morse technology timeline, Dale NØXAS announces that his Masterkey MK-1 will support K1EL Winkey commands. You can see the whole list of MK-1 specifications and features online. A new firmware version should be ready for official release by the date of this issue. Dale reports that it has been tested with N1MM, WinWarbler, RCK-Log, Win-Test, WinEQF and several other logging programs.

WPX Contest Director, Randy K5ZD announces that the new 2010 WPX Rules have been published. He is looking for help in translating the rules to as many languages as possible, particularly to Russian, Japanese, German, and French. Please contact him directly at k5zd@cqwpx.com.

How is the health of ham radio licensing in the United States these days? Without some data, it's hard to say, but fortunately there are Web sites that publish the latest numbers. Len AF6AY has gone one better and done a fair amount of analysis, presenting and discussing licensing data over the past three years from several perspectives. Elwood WBØOEW took that data and graphed it, as well. How are we doing? Although growth is slow, it's positive and steady!

Is drinking from the firehose of spots getting to be too much? Sam K5OAI recommends VE7CC's "CC Cluster" software as a way of managing information overload. The program has excellent filtering capabilities and displays extra data with the spots. Wes WZ7I notes that the format of Skimmer spots from the CW Skimmer software was causing a problem due to the "-#" appended to call signs. A version in the "special" directory of the BCDXC Web site corrects this problem and it will be incorporated in a future revision.

Here's Mark K6UFO/NN7SS during CQ WW SSB at one position of his two-station shack on Vashon Island, WA. W7VMI is the local club call sign. (Photo - NØAX)

In the December 2009 EMCOMM QUARTERLY we learn "A Navigator's Definition of Latitude and Longitude": Latitude is where we are lost and Longitude is how long we've been lost there!

From the 30 November AMSAT Bulletin ANS-340 we learn that another long-dormant satellite has returned to life - "The satellite unexpectedly resumed transmissions recently. It was first heard by Keith N4ZQ on 19 November 2009 and transmissions continued until it switched OFF on 27 November. Due to the weak battery and solar panels, the satellite switches off during any eclipses or even poor illumination. Launched originally in March of 1984, OSCAR-11 is the second of the "old birds" to return to service, following OSCAR-7's recent return to partial service.

Jerry Sevick W2FMI passed away on Nov 29th. Gary K9AY remembers him for his popularization of the transmission line transformer, a part of nearly every contest station somewhere. As Gary observes, Jerry pioneered the introduction of transmission-line transformers to amateur radio.

Two other operators also became Silent Keys near the time of the CQ WW CW contest. Andy RU1AO died in the terrorist train bombing heading to Moscow before the contest. Katsu JH2AMH was killed in a car accident on his way home after the contest. We'll miss these call signs in our logs next year.

Web Site of the Week - Doug KR2Q found this on-line report of top Claimed Scores from the CQ WW Web site and the 3830 scores reflector. This is a great way to keep tabs on "who's who" in the CQ WW - good job!

WORD TO THE WISE

Copying - This is what you're supposed to do with a CW signal. Randy K5ZD presents the following list of all the ways WPX competitors mis-copied KH7XS in the 2009 WPX CW contest: K57XS, K5ZHS, K5ZXI, K5ZXS, KH6XS, KH7HS, KH7X, KH7XB, KH7XE, KH7XH, KH7XI, KH8XS, KS6XS, KS7XI, KS7XS, KS8XI, KX7XS. The most common bust was KH6XS followed by KS7XS. There are multiple lessons to be learned from this list - don't blindly log spotted calls, ask the station or hang around until you're not sure of the call, and don't guess based on a database.

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SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Here's a video of what it sounds like to tune 160 meters with a good Beverage antenna. This one is 720 feet long and fed with 1000 feet of RG-6. (Thanks, Lee WW2DX)

Whose woods are these? I think I know - they're NN1N's and that's his XM240 at the edge of the hill with this past weekend's blanket of snow. (Photo - NN1N)

Bob N6TV forwarded the link to this video of a very bright bolide meteor exploding over Utah. From the narrative, "...the energy of the meteor coming into Earth's atmosphere was so powerful it had to be measured in terawatts" and "In some areas, the flash of light was so bright it caused light-sensor street lamps to shut off." How long do you think the ping was off that trail?

Enjoy photos of some old friends at KB8TAD's Boatanchor Pix site - I even found my Minerva Tropicmaster tabletop receiver! (Thanks, Kirk K4RO)

The scientists at Britain's National Physical Laboratory must have nanomittens because they were able to create the world's smallest snowman! There must have been some magic in that old scanning electron microscope they found, for when they turned it on and scanned, he began to emit visible light all around!

RESULTS AND RECORDS

Preliminary claimed scores in CQ WW CW are incredibly close in the top categories. How close? Let's start with Multi-Multi:
W3LPL -- 18,521,410
KC1XX -- 18,513,315
K3LR -- 18,347,578
Multi-Two is almost as tight:
NY4A(@N4AF) -- 9,702,210
K1AR(@K1EA) -- 9,299,057
As is Multi-Single:
KT3Y -- 6,768,980
K9RS -- 6,584,576
K8AZ -- 6,388,428
And Single-Op All-Band High Power:
K1DG -- 6,960,096
K5ZD -- 6,950,125
I'm not sure there has ever been a closer finish in all these categories in the same contest. The log checkers have their work cut out for them! By the way, 3911 CW logs have been submitted as of 7 December.

Dink N7WA has been collecting 3830 soapbox comments from CQ WW CW Soapbox reports and there are a lot of them. Last year's collection reached 850 kbytes in size!

Results for the 2009 French CW championship (aka "coupe du REF") are now online, both CW and SSB. (Thanks, Pascal F5LEN and the French Contest Committee)

The result of this year's first-ever World-Wide Digital SSTV Contest are now available on the DICG Web site. (Thanks, Yoshi ND1A)

OPERATING TIP

We all know we're supposed to have clean transmit audio, but how is not always exactly clear, so to speak. In addition, we've all heard live and recorded audio that sounds nothing at all like the same voice. Eric K3NA published a copy of his paper titled "Can You Hear Me Now - Adjusting the Transmit Audio Chain" on the Contesting Compendium. In his typical thorough and lucid style, Eric walks you through the process of doing this right, offering some neat tips on how to make your live and recorded audio sound both good and the same. (Thanks, Pete N4ZR)

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TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

Hams will benefit from research being done to improve batteries used for energy storage. In particular, the development of sodium-ion batteries (instead of lithium-ion) looks promising as described in this Technology Review article. Sodium ions are larger than lithium ions, but they are far more plentiful. Stay tuned for further details!

"Gland" is the term for a plastic seal that waterproofs a cable's passage through a bulkhead. A good assortment of glands is available from Rose-Bopla. John W5NNK contributed this link and recommended the GD Multiple Sealing Rings when dealing with more than one cable.

Tod, KØTO found a series of papers on listening for long-wave non-directional beacons below 535 kHz. Each chapter can be obtained by ending the URL with "chapter1.htm", "chapter2.htm", and so forth. The subject of synchronous noise blankers is covered in chapter 6.

Here's another example of a clean SO2R layout from K5RC (aka W7RN) near Virginia City, NV. (Photo - K5RC)

If the ear cups in your headsets are pressing on your eyeglass temples, temple cushions may be the solution. Spectacle-sporting Bob N6TV says that he has used eyeglass temple cushions from David Clark with Heil Prosets and they helped a lot. (Thanks, Bob N6TV)

Finally, a use for the PL-259 outer shells that you just can't force yourself to throw away after you forgot to put it on the cable and had to cut the body off and start again. (No, I never did that - I just heard about others doing it.) The photos in this eham.net article illustrate the process clearly.

Building (or rebuilding) a new tube amp or HV power supply requires special high-voltage wire. This is pretty pricey stuff but automotive spark plug wire is a good substitute and saves money! You can also use the center conductor and insulator of RG-8 or RG-213 up to the 5 kV rating of the cable. (Thanks, Dino KX6D)

Imagine an antenna that heals itself after it breaks! Here's a story about new flexible antennas made from liquid metal. That would be almost as good as shunt feeding the liquid metal robot from Terminator II - the ultimate SteppIR! (Thanks, Brent W5WW)

Technical Web Site of the Week - For those of you tracking down power-line noise, Scott WU2X rounded up the URLs for information about it on the ARRL Web site. There is an index, an FAQ, and the External Noise Handbook to help you douse that buzz!

CONVERSATION

On the Road Again

I do a bit of HF mobile operation and have considered entering a VHF+ contest in one of the Rover categories. Articles like the following analysis by Jim Duffey KK6MC certainly attract my interest - and maybe yours, too! I'll let Jim take it from here...73, Ward NØAX

Roving is hard work. It is particularly hard work to set up a rover from scratch. I am interested in what motivates a person to put together a competitive rover, rove in a couple of contests, perhaps win a section or division, and then not be heard from again as a rover. It seems like a big investment in time and effort in an activity not to continue it. When more people are on it is more fun to rove and to contest.

Shortly after the initial posting of claimed scores for the June 2009 VHF QSO Party, I did a brief analysis on the Rover activity. Now that the final results are out, I thought I would use the latest numbers. Rich K1TEO has also posted a nice summary on the Rover activity in the June 2009 contest on his Web Report. Here is the chart of activity in the June VHF QSO Party since the inception of the Rover class in 1991:

The band is always OPEN at this restaurant as post-prandial rovers Danny K7SS (L), Ward NØAX, and Adam K7ST (R) shanghai a passerby into snapping a cell phone photo. (Photo - K7SS)

Year Entries Rovers % of Total
2009 1152 102 8.9
2008 1074 96 8.9 (1)
2007 860 98 11.3
2006 1047 96 9.2
2005 840 92 11.2
2004 766 91 11.9
2003 818 92 11.2
2002 672 84 12.5
2001 680 61 9.0
2000 749 62 8.3
1999 701 75 10.7
1998 865 72 8.3
1997 837 74 8.8
1996 923 72 7.8
1995 837 52 6.2 (2)
1994 781 68 8.7
1993 818 63 7.7 (3)
1992 840 64 7.6
1991 710 50 7.0 (4)
Note 1 - Three Rover categories
Note 2 - Current scoring implemented
Note 3 - Rules change due to grid circling
Note 4 - Rover category started

The 2009 June VHF QSO Party general and roving activity is at a high not seen for many years and this is good. It shows that the VHF contesting community is growing, or at least holding its own. Some of the increased activity may be due to the popularity of the Fred Fish Memorial Award as well. The presence of modest, but not pervasive Sporadic E also helped activity.

73, KK6MC James Duffey

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CONTESTS

9 December to 22 December

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.

Note: the following contest dates or times are incorrect in the print version of Contest Corral - the correct data is:
REF French Contest: January 30 and 31 (time OK)
UBA Contest: January 30 and 31 (time OK)
BARTG RTTY Sprint: 1200Z to 1200Z (date OK)
The online PDF is being corrected as this issue goes to press. (Thanks, Serge VE2AWR)

HF CONTESTS

ARRL 10 Meter Contest--Phone,CW, from Dec 12, 0000Z to Dec 13, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 28. Exchange: RS(T) and State/Prov or serial. Logs due: Jan 13. Rules

28 MHz SWL Contest--Phone,CW, from Dec 12, 0000Z to Dec 13, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 28. Exchange: Log

ARRL 10 Meter Contest QSOs. Logs due: Jan 31. Rules

PSK Death Match--Digital, from Dec 12, 0000Z to Dec 13, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50. Exchange: Name and S/P/C. Logs due: Jan 20. Rules

Russian 160 Meter Contest--Phone,CW, from Dec 12, 0000Z to Dec 13, 0200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8. Exchange: RS(T), serial, square ID (see Web site). Logs due: Jan 21. Rules

Feld-Hell Monthly Sprint--Digital, from Dec 12, 0000Z to Dec 12, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST, Feld-Hell number, QTH. Logs due: 10 days. Rules

Croatian CW Contest--CW, from Dec 12, 1400Z to Dec 13, 1400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST and serial. Logs due: 30 days. Rules

UBA Winter Contest--Phone,CW,Digital, from Dec 12, 1700Z to Dec 12, 2100Z and Dec 13, 0600Z to Dec 13, 1000Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-7. Exchange: RS(T) and UBA section or serial. Logs due: 3 weeks. Rules

Great Colorado Snowshoe Run--CW, from Dec 13, 2100Z to Dec 13, 2259Z. Bands (MHz): 14. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, class, CQC number or power. Logs due: 30 days. Rules

OK DX RTTY Contest--Digital, from Dec 19, 0000Z to Dec 20, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST and CQ Zone. Logs due: Jan 15. Rules

RAC Winter Contest--Phone,CW, from Dec 19, 0000Z to Dec 19, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50,144. Exchange: RS(T) and province or serial. Logs due: Jan 31. Rules

Lighthouse Christmas Lights QSO Party--Phone,CW, from Dec 19, 0001Z to Jan 3, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50,144. Exchange: Serial or ARLHS number. Logs due: Jan 31. Rules

Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint--CW, from Dec 20, 2000Z to Dec 20, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, ARCI number or Power. Logs due: 30 days. Rules

VHF+ CONTESTS

North American VHF WSJT Contest--Digital, from Dec 12, 0000Z to Dec 16, 0200Z. Bands (MHz): 50-222. Exchange: Both calls, grid square, acknowledgement. Logs due: Jan 15. Rules

RAC Winter Contest--Phone,CW, from Dec 19, 0000Z to Dec 19, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50,144. Exchange: RS(T) and province or serial. Logs due: Jan 31. Rules

Lighthouse Christmas Lights QSO Party--Phone,CW, from Dec 19, 0001Z to Jan 3, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50,144. Exchange: Serial or ARLHS number. Logs due: Jan 31. Rules

LOG DUE DATES

9 December to 22 December

December 12 - Wake-Up! QRP Sprint, E-mail logs to: ru-qrp-club@mail.ru, Mail logs to: (none). Rules

December 13 - High Speed Club CW Contest, E-mail logs to: hsccontest@googlemail.com, Mail logs to: Jo Mertens, DJ4EY, HSC Contest Manager, Am Muhlebruch 32, 59581 Warstein, Germany. Rules

December 15 - Homebrew and Oldtime Equipment Party, E-mail logs to: hot@qrpcc.de, Mail logs to: Lutz Gutheil, DL1RNN, Bergstr. 17, D-38446 Wolfsburg, Germany. Rules

December 22 - EU PSK63 QSO Party, E-mail logs to: ut7fp@srars.org, Mail logs to: (none). Rules

December 22 - LZ DX Contest, E-mail logs to: lzdxc@yahoo.com, Mail logs to: BFRA, P.O. Box 830, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria. Rules

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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

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