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The ARRL Contest Update
February 11, 2015
Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
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IN THIS ISSUE

NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

The joys of working CW DX are rarely more available to HF newcomers in the US and Canada than in the ARRL's International DX CW Contest. You don't have to fight through layers of DX stations - the DX is calling you! And the CQ WW RTTY WPX contest is a great way to get your fingers wet on the digital modes, too.

BULLETINS

There are no bulletins in this issue.

BUSTED QSOS

Here is the correct link for N4ZR's front-end protector article. Some spurious characters were added to the link in the previous issue. (Thanks, Larry W6NWS) And the correct link to the ARRL Contest Results page is www.arrl.org/contest-results-articles (Thanks, Mike VE3GFN)

CONTEST SUMMARY

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

February 14-15

  • NAQCC Monthly QRP Sprint--CW (Feb 11)
  • PODXS 070 Club Valentine Sprint--Digital
  • CQ WW RTTY WPX--Digital
  • Asia-Pacific Sprint--CW
  • Dutch PACC Contest,
  • OMISS QSO Party--Phone
  • New Hampshire QSO Party
  • FISTS CW Winter Sprint
  • RSGB - First 1.8 MHz Contest
  • Maine 2m FM Simplex Challenge--Phone
  • Run For the Bacon--CW (Feb 16)

February 21-22

  • ARRL Int'l CW DX Contest
  • Semi-Automatic Key Evening (Feb 18)
  • Russian WW PSK Contest (Feb 20)
  • REF Contest--Phone
  • SARL Youth Day Sprint--Phone
  • Feld-Hell Bingo Sprint
  • CQC Winter QSO Party
NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

CQ World Wide has added a Cabrillo Opt-Out tag for certificates. After the CERTIFICATE: tag, simply add YES (the default) or NO. Since one of the biggest expenses of running a contest is the printing and mailing of paper certificates, this will help the contest make better use of available resources. Not all sponsors support this tag as yet. Downloadable electronic format certificates are not expected to be affected by this tag. (Thanks, Randy K5ZD, CQ Worldwide Contest Director)

This is where the big Arecibo EME signal gets its start. By the time it hits the feed line, peak power is 2.5 MW and steady-state power is 150 kW. Yes, I'll bet you can hear them! (Photo by NØAX)

IEEE members should take a look at the February 2015 issue of IEEE Microwave Magazine for the article "RF and Microwave Links: The MTT Society and the Amateur Radio Community". Authored primarily by IEEE Fellow Robert Caverly WB4PWZ, he was joined by your editor, Al Katz K2UYH, Rick Campbell KK7B, and Marc Franco, N2UO/LU6DW. The Microwave Theory and Techniques (MTT) Society's MTT-17 committee was very helpful in promoting and contributing to this article.

Top Gun among RTTY ops, Ed WØYK was recognized both for his contesting and vineyard achievements in this story by the San Jose Mercury News. The well-written article captures the general sense of contesting quite well, especially the convergence between vineyard and ham station siting. While the article notes the need for younger hams, it is balanced with a mention of new technology available and being used by hams. (Thanks, Bob N6TV)

What's a SkyPi-40? Turns out it's a Raspberry Pi-based SDR transceiver transmitter which supports RTTY, CW, WSPR, and other FSK modes with 1 watt of output power! Read all about it in the latest issue of the DKARS Magazine.

Point-and-click could become point-and-log with this new smart ring that allows you to write messages just by waving your finger around!

A new release of the Super Check Partial database files is available from Stu K6TU. The number of calls in the file has grown to 45,949! You can send your log to Stu when you submit it to the contest sponsor.

Dave G4BUO writes with the news that he is cancelling the EU Sprint contests. "It was a great idea of Paolo's (I2UIY - SK), but even while he was alive we struggled to get anything like the level of interest from European operators (enjoyed) in the NA events." Perhaps someone or some group will step up to re-animate this contest - if so, you'll read about it here in the Contest Update.

Web Site of the Week - How did all this "electrical engineering" stuff get started? Some claim it was Tesla's multi-phase ac machines, others the telephone system, but there is a good story in a fried undersea cable and the race to understand and fix the problem.

WORD TO THE WISE

As log checking reports start appearing from the fall contests, the term Unique+1 sometimes comes up. A unique+1 is a call that is (a) "one off" from a unique call and (b) is a call of someone who was active in the contest. If you claimed contact with N9RU, and no one else in the contest worked N9RU, it is a unique. If N9RV was active in the contest, that is a unique+1. N9RD could also be considered a U+1 if active. (From the Contest University Glossary by Pat N9RV)

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SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

I know we've all watched the nightly news weather report and thought, "How about a weather report for the ionosphere?" Thanks to Dr. Tamitha Mulligan Skov and Spaceweather TV, our wishes have been granted! (Thanks, Tim K3LR)

Two fine training courses have been made available by Tech Online. A 40-minute video on the "Fundamentals of Circuit Protection" is available from Arrow Electronics and Littlefuse. The PDF course "Introduction to RF Design" from Rohde & Schwarz is available for downloading, as well.

More familiar calls were spotted at the KP4 State Convention. Of this pair of Carlos', at left is WP4U, host of the NP3U contest station, accompanied by WP4N. (Photo by NØAX)

This YouTube video by Mike WB6DJI shows how a noise-canceling system can make a big improvement when properly configured and used. He uses the NCC-1 Noise Canceling Controller with a TS-990S transceiver. The main antenna is a Hex Beam and the noise sensing antenna is a short piece of wire. The waterfall display adds a strong visual element to the presentation. He uses the system to knock down power-line noise and RFI from a nearby plasma TV.

Climbing a woodpecker? In a way. This 20-minute video captures the view as the climber summits the famous Chernobyl antenna of the Over-The-Horizon "woodpecker" radar. (Thanks, Kirk K4RO)

Dave WA8AXF reports a smartphone discovery on his Samsung Galaxy. "The settings menu slows the user to customize the vibration pattern for the ring tone when the phone is set to vibrate. You customize the pattern by tapping on the screen and immediately I thought, "Morse code!" and my vibrate ring tone is now "CQ CQ CQ"!"

RESULTS AND RECORDS

From the ARRL Contest Branch comes news of awards flying out the door! Envelopes with the 2014 January VHF Contest certificates and 2013 EME Contest certificates along with boxes containing the Club Gavels through the 2014 August UHF Contest have all left the building. ARRL DX Participation pins for 2015 are also available again this year.

Three more calls you'll want in your log - taking in a Contest University presentation are (L-R), Luis NP4KB, Mauricio KP4LE, and Rode WP3EF. (Photo by NØAX)

The ARRL DX Contests are upon us and there are plaques available for sponsoring - check out the lists for the ARRL DX CW and ARRL DX Phone competitions. If you are interested, drop an email to Contest Branch Manager, Matt Wilhelm W1MSW.

Chris N6WM, chairman of the California QSO Party, announces the posting of results for the 2014 contest. Many new records were set with participation at near-record levels. Special thanks are extended to John K6MM and Tom NS6T for a fantastic results page and to the entire NCCC/CQP scoring team for their hard work producing results behind the scenes! The next running of CQP will be a special 50th anniversary edition!

The list of logs received for the 2014 RAC Canada Winter Contest has now been posted. (Thanks, RAC Canada Winter Contest Chairman, Sam VE5SF)

OPERATING TIP

The ARRL's Contest Advisory Committee has been asked to evaluate HF mobile operation in ARRL HF Contests. Specifically, should ARRL's Contest Program add a category(ies) for mobile operations and, if yes, which ARRL HF contest(s) would be the most appropriate for a mobile category? Contact your CAC rep and weigh in!

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TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

The business end of K4RO's halyard-and-pulley system showing the spring between the pulley and the tree attachment point. (Photo by K4RO)

Kirk K4RO has learned some rope tricks when it comes to keeping his 40 meter wire Yagi in the air. "Several years ago I started using the rope anchoring method pictured in these photos. There is a continuous loop to a pulley at the top of each tree. The antenna rope is attached to the loop via a third pulley, which provides even more flexibility. The springs are strong enough to hold the antenna in shape, but have enough stretch to survive wind storms. The ropes ride effortlessly along the pulleys. No repairs have been necessary since using this system. The expense was well worth it to me, as it's has eliminated many hours of frustrating repair work every season."

Why is it always the one-of-a-kind mechanical component which breaks? Plastic gears can be quite a problem to repair but this Instructables project shows how to replace the missing section with a little epoxy and the mating gear. As long as you're on the site, check out how to salvage electronic components from a CFL light bulb!

An effective mobile station can't afford to waste a single volt of battery power so as this EDN Magazine blog entry points out, don't neglect the humble battery connector! Also on the EDN website, this article mulls the effects of laundry detergent and cat litter on the propagation of WiFi signals.

If you want some serious reading on the Beverage low-band receiving antenna, there is a great list of references at the bottom of the antenna's Wikipedia page. This reference has also provided a number of measurements. (Thanks, David K1TTT)

Oscar KP4RF (L) was discussing his university's rocket launch capabilities to folks at the KP4 convention's ARRL booth when Juan WP3DN brought over his 20 meter SSB conversion of a Uniden CB SSB transceiver. Digitally tuned, inexpensive, and easy to modify - nice work! (Photo by NØAX)

Manfred XQ6FOD takes some of the bright edge off the LED replacements for his pilot lights with a little sandpaper. "I sand (the LED lenses) using coarse sandpaper, creating a surface that scatters the light broadly in the desired direction. If I want omnidirectional radiation, I sand the LED body into a conical shape. If I want the light mostly coming out one side of the LED, I sand a flat 45-degree surface onto it. Leaving the surface very rough...helps in obtaining excellent light distribution.

Super low-power sensors are now available which can glean their power from ambient RF energy. No word about whether they can handle be supplied by the near field of a big multi-multi station!

Myron WVØH found a concentrated tutorial on impedance matching showing that you can reduce your antenna system to an impedance which can then be matched using basic design tools.

Self-repairing, reconfigurable electronic circuits take a step closer to reality as described in this Gizmag article. But what will we do on our workbenches? (Thanks, Dennis N6KI)

Technical Web Site of the Week - If you want to make precise and accurate measurements of resistance, inductance, and capacitance, you'll want to read this Impedance Measurement Handbook from Agilent. (Thanks, Clemens DL4RAJ)

CONVERSATION

Spring Is On the Air

I am sure I just lost my New England readership with that title! Les N1LF posted an evocative musing on how being a VHF+ operator is a lot like being a baseball fan called "The Boys of Summer." That got me thinking and today I notice that the 2015 ARRL Field Day packet is available for downloading - could the coming of the new season be any clearer? I can still hear the muttering of W1s shoveling another load of picturesque out of the driveway.

On the observing end of the Arecibo radio telescope, you need some sophisticated receivers which are shown in these racks along with the temporary experimental setup in the foreground. Can you hear the world turning now? Yes! (Photo by NØAX)

Well, anyway, pitchers and catchers are packing and heading south to Arizona, Florida, Texas - wherever the crack of the bat and the smack of brand-new horsehide into a newly-oiled mitt resounds. We are already seeing longer daytime openings on the high bands as we move farther from the winter solstice. Along with baseball on the MF bands, come the first inklings of summertime VHF operating fun.

Every day, I can turn on the radio and listen to our old orb spinning under the warming glow of our not-too-distant Sun. Bands open, bands close, and I chase the DX across them like the proverbial pot of gold at rainbow's end. Sometimes, I catch it! And while I'm busy every day, I also notice the slower shifts with the seasons. Twenty meters starts to edge a little closer to those nighttime over-the-pole openings. The southern hemisphere low-banders come in stronger and hear us better as the noise levels and absorption balance out. Not to be left out, the VHF bands join the fun on 6 meters.

From not so cold and snowy Alabama, Les relates, "For me, [the coming spring] means the confident voice of August, K5HCT. Nothing heralds the arrival of the season like those first faint signals and the familiar refrain..."Here Comes Texas!" (His) is nearly always the first call I hear in the season and the last remaining on the band at its end."

Icom Amateur Sales Manager, Ray N9JA spotted one of the Icom receivers in the rack at left above. Proud poppa! (Photo by NØAX)

Back in Washington state, the violet-green swallows would always return around my birthday and so it is on the radio. Regardless of where the sunspot count may be - up, down, or sideways - those of us who have been through a cycle or two can almost smell propagation changing at this time of year. True, on the radio leaves don't fall and the geese don't cruise overhead in honking vees, but we experience a unique changing of the seasons unknown to non-hams.

Take a little time this week: Before jumping right in to those DXpedition pileups or cranking out a contest exchange, look over your log and savor what the signals sound like - feel like - as if raising your finger to the winds and looking at the clouds to sense a coming change. Spring is, indeed, on the air.

73, Ward NØAX

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CONTESTS

11 February through 24 February

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 Int'l CW DX Contest--CW, from Feb 21, 0000Z to Feb 22, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST, state/province or power. Logs due: Mar 24. Rules

NAQCC Monthly QRP Sprint--CW, from Feb 11, 0130Z to Feb 11, 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

PODXS 070 Club Valentine Sprint--Digital, from Feb 14, 8 PM to Feb 15, 2 AM. Bands (MHz): 1.8-7. 1.807,3.580,7.070/7.035 EU/7.028 JA (MHz). Exchange: Name, OM or YL, S/P/C. Logs due: Feb 28. Rules

CQ WW RTTY WPX--Digital, from Feb 14, 0000Z to Feb 15, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST and serial. Logs due: 5 days. Rules

Asia-Pacific Sprint--CW, from Feb 14, 1100Z to Feb 14, 1300Z. Bands (MHz): 7,14. Exchange: RST and serial. Logs due: 7 days. Rules

Dutch PACC Contest--Phone,CW, from Feb 14, 1200Z to Feb 15, 1200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RS(T) and Dutch province or serial. Logs due: Mar 15. Rules

OMISS QSO Party--Phone, from Feb 14, 1500Z to Feb 15, 1500Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RS, S/P/C and OMISS nr or "DX". Logs due: Mar 30. Rules

New Hampshire QSO Party--Phone,CW,Digital, from Feb 14, 1600Z to Feb 15, 0400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. CW - 1.815 and band edge + 45kHz; Phone - 1.875, 3.935, 3.950, 7.235, 14.280, 21.380, 28.390 MHz. Exchange: RS(T) and NH county or S/P or "DX". Logs due: Mar 31. Rules

FISTS CW Winter Sprint--CW, from Feb 14, 1700Z to Feb 14, 2100Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, first name, FISTS nr or power. Logs due: 30 days. Rules

RSGB - First 1.8 MHz Contest--Phone,CW, from Feb 14, 2100Z to Feb 15, 0100Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8. Exchange: RST, serial, UK district. Logs due: 16 days. Rules

Run For the Bacon--CW, from Feb 16, 0200Z to Feb 16, 0400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Monthly on 3rd Sunday night (local). Exchange: RST, S/P/C, Flying Pig nr or power. Rules

Semi-Automatic Key Evening--CW, from Feb 18, 1900Z to Feb 18, 2030Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5. Exchange: RST, serial, first year of bug use. Logs due: Mar 15. Rules

Russian WW PSK Contest--Digital, from Feb 20, 2100Z to Feb 21, 2100Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST and oblast code or serial. Logs due: 15 days. Rules

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

SARL Youth Day Sprint--Phone, from Feb 21, 0800Z to Feb 21, 1000Z. Bands (MHz): 7. Exchange: RS and age. Logs due: 7 days. Rules

Feld-Hell Bingo Sprint--Digital, from Feb 21, 2000Z to Feb 21, 2200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50, Monthly on 3rd Saturday. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, Feld-Hell member nr. Logs due: 7 days. Rules

CQC Winter QSO Party--Phone,CW, from Feb 22, 0100Z to Feb 22, 0259Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-14. 3.560, 7.040, 14.060 MHz. Exchange: RS(T), S/P/C, name, CQC nr or power. Logs due: 30 days. Rules

VHF+ CONTESTS

Maine 2m FM Simplex Challenge--Phone, from Feb 15, 12 PM to Feb 15, 4 PM. Bands (MHz): 144, FM simplex frequencies only. Exchange: Call sign, power, city name. Logs due: 15 days. Rules

Feld-Hell Bingo Sprint--Digital, from Feb 21, 2000Z to Feb 21, 2200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50, Monthly on 3rd Saturday. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, Feld-Hell member nr. Logs due: 7 days. Rules

LOG DUE DATES

11 February through 24 February

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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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