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The ARRL Contest Update
December 3, 2014
Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
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IN THIS ISSUE

NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

As a new HF operator, if you only do one contest through the year, the ARRL 10 Meter Contest on Dec 13-14 is perfect for you on either CW or Phone...or both! If you are digital mode fan, the new 10 Meter RTTY Contest on the preceding weekend (Dec 6-7) is growing like a weed. Jump in with both feet and enjoy. (For you experienced operators - this is a great opportunity to make your station available to a Technician wondering what all the HF fuss is about!)

BULLETINS

For our non-W/VE friends planning an entry in the ARRL 160 Meter Contest this weekend, remember that you can work KH6, KL7, KP2, KP4, and all other US possessions since they count as ARRL sections in this contest.

If you make contest QSOs on more than one band but want to enter your log in a single-band category, leave all QSOs in the log! Do not delete them. Just make sure your Cabrillo header shows your category of entry as the correct single band and the contest sponsor will take it from there. (Check any posted of claimed scores or logs received to be sure you got it right.) Also, just submit your log once. Most email-handling log submission processes overwrite any older submissions with the latest log received.

And at last - don't forget the new 5-day (Dec 5) log submission deadline for CQ WW logs!

BUSTED QSOS

The owner of SuperBertha is W3TX, not K3TX. (Thanks, Ray NM2O)

CONTEST SUMMARY

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

December 6-7

  • ARRL 160 Meter Contest--CW (Dec 5-7)
  • ARRL EME Contest
  • CWOps Weekly Mini-CWT Tests (Dec 3)
  • TARA RTTY Mêlée
  • VU International DX Contest
  • Top Operators Activity Contest--CW
  • AWA Bruce Kelly QSO Party--CW
  • Ten Meter RTTY Contest
  • Straight Key Weekend Sprintathon
  • SARL Digital Contest
  • Great Colorado Snowshoe Run--CW

December 13-14

  • ARRL 10 Meter Contest
  • OK1WC Memorial Contest (Dec 8)
  • ARS Spartan Sprint--CW (Dec 9)
  • NAQCC Monthly QRP Sprint--CW (Dec 10)
  • NS Weekly Sprint--CW (Dec 12)
  • 28 MHz SWL Contest
  • UBA Winter Contest
  • Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint--CW
  • Run For the Bacon--CW (Dec 15)
NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

For the upcoming Stew Perry Top Band DX Challenge on Dec 27-28, one of the contest's most endearing features, along with distance-based scoring, is the amusing collection of plaques. Lew W7AT notifies us that "The Boring Amateur Radio Club...actively encourages the participants to sponsor plaques that recognizes heroic or nearly heroic or maybe even the best of a meager radio situation and its efforts. You can find the list of not only last year's plaque winners but also the calls of the Radio Stalwarts who sponsored those wooden beauties." These are some creative plaques - this year's list includes a plaque sponsored by TF4M for mobile operation, for example. Lew is soliciting sponsorship of plaques -- contact him by email with your idea and for the cost of the plaque.

Now THAT, my friends, is a ROVER! This is Ed KL7UW's mobile EME station. I don't think Ed tries to drive with this behemoth deployed, though. Can you hear me now? (There are more EME rover photos in the December issue of "Cheesebits" from the Mt Airy VHF Radio Club.)

The World Wide Radio Operators Foundation (WWROF) is please to present the Webinar: "Cost of a decibel" by Jukka Klemola OH6LI this coming Sunday, December 7, at 19:00 UTC. Everybody has pondered how to improve the contest station for the best possible ratio of decibels to money spent. Jukka shares some highlights how OH4A and OHØV have been balanced for achieving the best performance while moderating the budget. (Thanks, Ken K4ZW)

CQ Magazine has announced that John Bergman KC5LK of Brandon, Mississippi, has been named the new CQ Worked All Zones (WAZ) Award Manager, effective January 1. Bergman will succeed fellow Mississippian N5FG, who has managed the award for the past 11 years. Complete information on the WAZ program is available on the award's website. (Thanks, CQ Editor, Rich W2VU)

Here's something that should really spark up some Do-It-Yourself Ham Projects interest - disposable electronic circuits with a T-shirt printer! The Field Day XXXL size may get you a visit from the FCC power monitors, though! (thanks, Dennis N6KI)

The recent West Mountain Radio newsletter contained a great list of ham radio apps for your smartphone. Some are free and some are a couple of dollars -- all are useful. Of course, there are many more ham radio apps out there. Just search for "ham radio" at your favorite app store.

You've probably heard that DX Summit has released a major upgrade to the popular spotting network website. Daily DX reports that Rich KY6R, has posted a review of the new "My DX Summit" online. (Thanks, Daily DX)

What happened to ENIAC, the first full-scale electronic computer? It almost went the way of all mortal things but you can read this Wired story about how oblivion was forestalled! (Thanks, Tim K3HX)

If you wondered just how all of those issues get put together, wonder no more! Seriously, you'll find the little town of Bourbon, MO about 60 miles southwest of St Louis on I-44. (Photo by NØAX)

Dave KM3T spotted an online archive of searchable PDFs for a number of classic radio and electronics magazines such as the complete collection of Popular Electronics from 1954 - 1982 and the Hugo Gernsback original, Radio-Craft.

BG9XD provided one of the few Zone 23 multiplier stations in last weekend's CQ WW CW. You can learn more about Chenxing's western Chinese QTH of Xining Qinghai on his QRZ.com web page.

No word at press time as to whether we managed to burn out 10 meters during the CQ WW CW although the loading was extraordinary. We'll find out at the end of next week in the ARRL 10 Meter Contest!

Web Site of the Week - The WRTC2018 Organizing Committee is pleased to announce the Team Selection Criteria for the WRTC 2018. A committee led by Ulf DL5AXX worked very hard and had long discussions to create this new set of rules. Whoever the 49 Team Leaders will be, they'll have to excel in contests from February 2015 through November 2016. The list of teams also includes three Youth Teams, the 2014 WRTC champs, KL9A and N6MJ, and some wild card slots, too. The changes in contests and category weighting reflect the continuing evolution of contest operating since the first WRTC in 1990.

WORD TO THE WISE

Do not spend two days listening to high-speed CW and then casually turn on the local Sunday night folk music show featuring Celtic piping. Or at least prepare to be amazed at what your brain does with it! You've been warned. By the way, for those of you still hearing random bits of CW, it's called "ghost code." Some operators hear it for less than an hour and some for a couple of days -- the time it takes for your audio neurons to revert to their normal programming.

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SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Now the Sweepstakes is over and your log is turned in - it is turned in, isn't it? - you should hustle on over to the ARRL Soapbox web page and post your story and a maybe a photo or two! The contest writeup authors, VE4XT for CW and N2IC for Phone, would love to see the interest elements of radiosport beyond the Top Ten!

Lots of pox on the ol' boy - more sunspots are enlivening the F layer. Just watch the Spaceweather movie from November 30th to see them rotating across the solar disc to face our way!

How did the Chevy Camaro get its shark fin antenna? It took some hams as you can see in this YouTube video. (Thanks, Steve K7LXC)

The Ham Radio Hoarder musical multiop is back with Ham Shack Blues! (Thanks, Gerry K8GT)

What is the best DX a human can receive without assistance of any kind? The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) at 2.5 million light-years away. Perhaps not coincidentally, at 150,000 light-years across it is also the largest thing that a human can see and definitely worth learning how to find in the winter sky. I can't say you'll win any bar bets but it is certainly worth experiencing!

RESULTS AND RECORDS

How good were conditions this weekend? The top four USA Multi-Multi claimed scores were all over 30 million points! K3LR (38.8M), W3LPL (36.1M), W2FU (34.2M), and WE3C (32.6M) - yow! The record set last year by the K3LR team was 33.9M and that looks to be toast. By the way, less than 24 hours after the contest, more than 4000 logs have been submitted with well over 2 million QSOs! In passing, I note that should the lead hold up through log checking, this would be the K3LR team's 11th straight M/M win in the ARRL and CQ contests, but the competition is getting closer-r-r-r-r!

How do they do it? Here's the K5TR multi-op team of Larry K5OT (L) and Ralph "Gator" N5RZ (R) doing land office business during the CQ WW CW. (Photo by K5TR)

2013 160 Meter Contest certificates went out Friday, November 21st and 2013 10 Meter Contest certificates will be out the door by the end of this week says Matt W1MSW, ARRL Contest Manager. They will be nice and fresh to look at while you're trying to beat that score this year!

The Society of Midwest Contesters (SMC) sponsored the NAQP Club Challenge for 2014 and announces the results for the top three participating clubs: Northern California Contest Club (NCCC), Potomac Valley Radio Club (PVRC) and Society of Midwest Contesters (SMC)

  • First Place: PVRC, 1,374,342,967 points, 434 participants
  • Second Place: SMC, 1,097,876,133 points, 393 participants
  • Third Place: NCCC, 1,070,524,319 points, 368 participants

The clubs have agreed to continue the NAQP Club Challenge in 2015. In a separate intra-challenge, the SMC created five regional teams for the Sweepstakes contests and the surge of competitive spirit caused participation to jump from 108 logs in 2013 to 168 this year! Participating in the challenge is a great way to stimulate activity and get folks on the air - why not jump in with your club? Make a challenge to the other clubs in your area and see what happens! (Thanks, Craig K9CT)

Raw scores for the 2014 CQ WW SSB Contest have been updated on the contest website. The new Multi-Operator Single Transmitter Low Power category is now called out as a separate listing. (Thanks, CQ WW Contest Director, Randy K5ZD)

OPERATING TIP

How accurate do you need to be? Here are two claimed scores from this past weekend's CQ WW CW contest in the Multi-Single category:

  • P33W - 11,095 QSOs in 210 zones and 817 countries for 32,809,569 points
  • CR3A - 10,575 QSOs in 208 zones and 819 countries for 32,353,581 points

With total multipliers an exact tie, the error rate of the teams will probably determine who finished first this year!

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TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

A recent post by Tom W8JI notes an unexpected noise source: "Phono (plugs) and BNC's are a little prone to having some resistance in the shield path as they age and a (ferrite bead) sleeve over the shield reduces common mode that might couple in at the connector. When I've had switching supply noise, the BNC's and phonos have generally been the way the noise has gotten in. Wiggling them changes the level when they act up, just like it does on a bad F connector shield connection."

Patrick NJ5G answered several questions at once by noting a link to some information about crimp vs. solder connections by the gurus at Davis RF who provide BuryFlex cables and other types of wire and cable.

No, that's not the F2 layer between North America and Europe over the weekend! It's a simulation of the solar magnetic fields. Learn more about this image at the Ames Research Lab website. (Image courtesy of NASA)

In the previous issue, I posted a tip about mounting antenna booms on opposite sides of the mast to cancel out their respective wind-induced torque. George N4UA suggested this might not be true, so after thinking about it for a while, I decided he might have a point and asked Hank KR7X about it. Hank is a registered PE and analyzed the case for a 2-element "shorty forty" and a typical tribander mounted on the same and then opposite sides of the mast. For the opposite-side case, when the elements are aligned so that the wind blows directly in-line with the boom there is some cancellation. (About one-half the torque remains and the fraction depends on the relative sizes of the antennas. If the antennas were identical, such as in a stack, then the torques would cancel completely.) The net torque resulting from wind blowing perpendicular to the booms depends on where the center of action (pressure) is located along the boom and cannot be canceled simply by opposite-side mounting. So we'll have to rate that tip as "Partly True." Hank pointed out that the most significant torques encountered by amateurs come when big 80 meter and 40 meter Yagis quickly start and stop turning. (Thanks, Hank KR7X)

Gizmag recently ran a story about a new RF circulator that is smaller and more efficient, using active devices instead of lossy ferromagnetic material. At the moment, this is a UHF-and-up device but perhaps some of the principles could be applied at HF in other ways. (Thanks, Dennis N6KI)

More cutting-edge developments were found in a recent issue of Microwave Journal as well-known amateur, Ulrich Rohde N1UL, collaborated on a paper about creating metamaterials with and other effects of Möbius strips. Again, this is primarily a microwave technology but maybe we'll see one-sided loops at VHF and lower frequencies someday!

Spotted in the latest Circuit Cellar, here's a new product that 70 cm users might employ - a low-power frequency-programmable, narrow-band transmitter that operates from 425 to 470 MHz.

David WØIM reported a handy discovery for portable antenna users. "I was wandering in Menards, and found some 5-foot aluminum extension poles...officially for a Roof Rake, or Snow Rake. One of those things us Northerners use to remove snow from a roof. They were $7 for 5 feet, so now a 25-foot mast is $35 dollars total." There are lots of seasonal products at hardware stores that would be expensive if purchased in low quantities for electronics. For example, watch for the fiberglass "snow stakes" that mark the edges of walkways and driveways -- they make great insulating material for a couple of bucks each.

Mentor Graphics and Digi-Key have announced a low-cost electronic CAD package for printed-circuit board layout and schematic capture. Designer Schematic and Designer Layout aren't free, costing about $600 together, but they are fairly powerful and not limited in capability like the free and student versions of other such software.

Technical Web Site of the Week - Tis the season of an annual favorite, the EDN Magazine "Design Notes" classic to help you rapidly zero in on those bad bulbs in string of lights! Then you can get back to the bands and work some of that great DX!

CONVERSATION

This

Overheard this weekend on the Kenai Peninsula, southwest of Anchorage, Alaska...

KL7RA: "Dave, which bands are open right now?"
NN1N (operator at KL7RA): "ALL OF THEM!"

The fall of 2014 has been a contest season, hasn't it? While in some years, solar shenanigans have clobbered at least one major contest, we've had a pretty good run this fall, culminating in the terrific conditions over this past weekend. Some records have been set that will no doubt stand for a long time, assuming the cycle begins falling off next year. Cycle 24 has been a bit of a puzzle, though, so it may just take its sweet time. Maybe it will get stuck! Yeah, that's the ticket! A permanent peak! Sure...

Scott KØMD set a new personal record of operating in a single contest during one weekend on two continents: one in summer (CE2) and the other in the frozen winter of MN (KØ)! (Photo from KØMD)

When somebody asks what the attraction of contesting is, you can point to your logs and show them one contact after another with stations all over the place, in all directions. You needn't have been a Big Gun, either. CW being the effective mode that it is, QRP stations were filling their logs, too. There were a lot of happy dances in shacks across the land, including by your editor who picked up three all-time new QRP entities along with turning on the jets and making some noise.

Everybody-works-everybody contests are special in that there are no regional targets and there is a maximum incentive to stay as active as possible. While this can make it more difficult to work something particularly rare, the activity levels are incredible. Your questioner might be surprised to find out CQ World Wide is in the top ten largest sporting events on the planet, only surpassed by some of the larger marathons.

Tell the audience that if they listen, they will be able to hear the world turning. (Yes, I've used that phrase before and it's true!) Higher bands follow the Sun, the lower bands follow the night, and 20 meters just gleams. Some programs like ViewProp can play back a log on a map or globe to show propagation as it changes, making the experience a visual one that is easier to understand by the non-ham.

If you have a good station, invite some non-contesters to do an hour or two with you. I'll bet you have a hard time getting them out of the chair once they get the hang of it! Experienced hams will fondly recall their own first contest with a beam antenna or a first over-the-pole opening of working fluttery rare prefixes just as fast as you can go! The upcoming 10 Meter contest is perfect for new contesters to get a feel for tuning, copying, and logging.

As you can tell, I'm still buzzing and from my email and various media streams, I can tell at lot of readers are, too. Many QSOs. Many multipliers. Many smiles. Why do we do it? This.

73, Ward NØAX

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CONTESTS

December 3 through December 16, 2014

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 160 Meter Contest--CW, from Dec 5, 2200Z to Dec 7, 1600Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8. Exchange: RST and ARRL/RAC section if US/VE. Logs due: Jan 6. Rules

CWOps Weekly Mini-CWT Tests--CW, from Dec 3, 1300Z - See website. Multiple time periods. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Weekly on Wednesday, 28 to 38 kHz above band edge. Exchange: Name and member number or S/P/C. Logs due: 2 days. Rules

TARA RTTY Mêlée--Digital, from Dec 6, 0000Z to Dec 6, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST and State/Province or serial. Logs due: Jan 1. Rules

VU International DX Contest--Phone,CW, from Dec 6, 1200Z to Dec 7, 1200Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RS(T) and Indian state or prefix. Logs due: Dec 26. Rules

Top Operators Activity Contest--CW, from Dec 6, 1600Z to Dec 7, 1559Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST, serial, and TOPS/PRO number. Logs due: Dec 18. Rules

AWA Bruce Kelly QSO Party--CW, from Dec 6, 2300Z - See website. Multiple time periods. Bands (MHz): 3.5,7. Exchange: RST, Xmtr type, power, name. Logs due: 30 days. Rules

Ten Meter RTTY Contest--Digital, from Dec 7, 0000Z to Dec 7, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 28. Exchange: RST and state or province or serial. Logs due: 7 days. Rules

Straight Key Weekend Sprintathon--CW, from Dec 7, 1200Z to Dec 7, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Monthly beginning on the second Saturday local time. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, SKCC nr or power. Logs due: 5 days. Rules

SARL Digital Contest--Digital, from Dec 7, 1300Z to Dec 7, 1600Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-14. Exchange: RST and serial. Logs due: 7 days. Rules

Great Colorado Snowshoe Run--CW, from Dec 7, 2100Z to Dec 7, 2259Z. Bands (MHz): 14. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, class, CQC number or power. Logs due: 30 days. Rules

OK1WC Memorial Contest--Phone,CW, from Dec 8, 1630Z - See website. Multiple time periods. Bands (MHz): 3.5, 7. Weekly on Monday, see website for bands. Exchange: RS(T) and serial. Logs due: 5 days. Rules

ARS Spartan Sprint--CW, from Dec 9, 0200Z to Dec 9, 0400Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Monthly on the first Monday evening local time. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, and power. Logs due: 2 days. Rules

NAQCC Monthly QRP Sprint--CW, from Dec 10, 0130Z to Dec 10, 0330Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-14. Monthly on 2nd Tuesday or 3rd Wednesday local time (alternating). Exchange: RST, S/P/C, and NAQCC mbr nr or power. Logs due: 4 days. Rules http://naqcc.info

NS Weekly Sprint--CW, from Dec 12, 0230Z to Dec 12, 0300Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-14. Weekly on Thursday evenings local time. Exchange: Serial, name, and S/P/C. Logs due: 2 days. Rules

28 MHz SWL Contest--Phone,CW, from Dec 13, 0000Z to Dec 14, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 28. Exchange: Log ARRL 10 Meter Contest QSOs. Logs due: Jan 31. Rules

ARRL 10 Meter Contest--Phone,CW, from Dec 13, 0000Z to Dec 14, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 28. Exchange: RS(T) and US or XE State/Prov or serial. Logs due: Jan 13. Rules

UBA Winter Contest--Phone,CW,Digital, from Dec 13, 1700Z - See website. Multiple time periods. Bands (MHz): 1.8-7. Exchange: RS(T) and UBA section or serial. Logs due: 3 weeks. Rules

Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint--CW, from Dec 14, 2000Z to Dec 14, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, ARCI number or Power. Logs due: 14 days. Rules

Run For the Bacon--CW, from Dec 15, 0200Z to Dec 15, 0400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Monthly on 3rd Sunday night (local). Exchange: RST, S/P/C, Flying Pig nr or power. Rules

VHF+ CONTESTS

ARRL EME Contest--Phone,CW,Digital, from Dec 6, 0000Z to Dec 7, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 50-1296. Exchange: Call signs, sig rpt, acknowledgement. Logs due: Jan 1. Rules

LOG DUE DATES

December 3-16

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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

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