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The ARRL Contest Update
July 26, 2017
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG

The Phone Fray celebrated surpassing 100 sessions as of last week. The event every Tuesday evening (US timezones) is of short duration and a good low-pressure way to get in some Phone practice for upcoming events like the NAQP SSB contest.


A very limited supply of 2017 ARRL International DX Contest pins is available from the ARRL Contest Branch. To qualify for the International DX Contest pin, you must have completed 100 contacts in either the CW or 'phone contest weekends -- the pin is the same for either mode (contacts with the same station on different bands count toward the total). E-mail the Contest Branch to confirm pin availability. The cost is $7 (US) in the US, its possessions, and Canada, and $10 everywhere else (postage included). If availability is confirmed, send a copy of the first page of your Cabrillo log file with payment to DX Contest Pins, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington CT 06111. Allow 4 weeks for delivery after your order is received.


Rick, WW1ME, busted me on these from last time: "Scott Redd's call sign is K0DQ, and the Maker Faire event at Friedrichshafen is not part of Ham Radio but a separate, concurrent event at the fairground."


27 Jul - 9 Aug 2017

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

July 27

July 28

July 29

July 30

August 2

August 3

August 4

August 5

August 6

August 8

August 9


Don't forget the new ARRL 222 MHz and Up Distance Contest debuting on August 5-6, 2017. This 24-hour contest has a wide range of entry categories, and there will likely be plenty of FM, CW, SSB, and digital modes like MSK144 and FT8 in use. Contacts on higher frequencies in general earn bigger points, so there will be plenty of activity from height-advantaged locations. Check the rules for Club and Team competitions, and requirements to register Teams before the contest. Log deadline is 14 days following the contest.

WRTC 2018 has announced that Honda Power Equipment is a Platinum Sponsor of the 2018 World Radiosport Team Championship. According to Chris, DL1MGB: "Without mobile power a radio world championship would not be possible. We are pleased to have found a supporter with Honda Power Equipment, whose technology stands for reliability and quality." Honda EU20i generators will be used for the sixty-five WRTC stations.

The Thursday evening (in the US) NS RTTY events are now supported by the real-time scoreboard According to Ken, K6MR: "The contest name is NCCC NA RTTY SPRINT from the website pull down menu. The Help selection on the menu bar at the site will bring up a PDF file that will take you through the setup."

Real-time contest scoreboards are being embraced by more contesters, and are being integrated into various contest logging programs. An evolving consequence is that the viewing of detailed scoreboard information such as per-band statistics, calculated rates, and so on by contest participants could be viewed as assistance, and not allowed in certain categories. For example, if a competitor is increasing the number of contacts they have on 10 meters, it may be a hint to others that the band is open. Mark, K6UFO, the NAQP RTTY Contest Manager, published guidance for scoreboard use to the CQ-Contest reflector: "During the NAQP Contests, viewing an on-line scoreboard that shows total QSOs, Multipliers and claimed score per entrant is acceptable in the Single-operator category. If the on-line scoreboard includes per-band QSO breakdowns, that information is prohibited [for use by operators] in the Single-operator category and would move the entry to the Multioperator Two-Transmitter category. The relevant NAQP Contest Rules are 5.a)ii) and 5.a)v)." Victor, VA2WA/VA2WDQ, notes that contests supported by can be configured to omit the display of this information.

Larry, K8UT, and Wayne, N6KR, sent this via email:

Is a Flash Mob a contest?

Several weeks ago, Wayne, N6KR, of Elecraft noticed a band opening on 10 meters and posted a message on the Elecraft reflector proclaiming a "Flash Mob experiment, right now, on 28.050!" Many - I counted dozens - of the Elecraft faithful converged on 10 CW for something akin to an instant contest. No scoring. No rules. But what a cool idea!

In a hobby that is struggling to attract young members and compete with the Internet, instant gratification, and spontaneous participation, I think Wayne's experiment demonstrated a clever connection between the Internet and a ham radio activity.

Wayne, N6KR, chimed in: "The flash mob idea went over very well with our customers and I plan to do these roughly on a weekly basis, just when everyone thinks the sunspots have taken their toys and gone home :)

I wasn't looking at the flash mob was as a contest, but just as an excuse to get people on the air in a time of protracted RF drought."

VEC tests to obtain a US Amateur Radio license will be administered at the RSGB Convention at 1pm on Sunday, 15 October 2017. Candidates should contact Martin, G3ZAY beforehand to arrange the details. Reasons to sit for a US License examination include the potential to obtain reciprocal licenses in countries that offer such to US licensees, and that US citizens without a FCC-issued Amateur Radio license living outside the US need a US license to operate when they are in the US. US Citizens may not use a non-US license to operate in the US. (via RSGB)

WWV's 25 MHz signal has changed. A circularly polarized turnstile antenna is now being used instead of the previous vertical antenna. The change was made in advance of next month's total solar eclipse. Comments and reports on the 25MHz signal are invited via email.

CubeSats are small, standardized size satellites that have been embraced by universities and Amateur Radio purposes. Now, businesses are taking interest. According to the Bloomberg article, in the single year of 2015 $1.8 billion was invested by venture capital companies in space startups, nearly doubling the total amount spent in the 15 years before. AMSAT's Fox-1B is a Cubesat, and is due to be launched sometime this fall. You can get involved in AMSAT CubeSat activities by volunteering your technical and non-technical skills and time.

If you use a smartphone or tablet, please check to see if there's a software update from your carrier or vendor, and install it. A newfound vulnerability involving a particular Wi-Fi chipset is considered serious, since vulnerable devices can be hacked just by being within range of a Wi-Fi access point with malicious intent. Patches are available for Apple iPhones and some Android-based phones.

Pat, W5THT, wanted a more detailed explanation on how to use X-QSO with a log. Using X-QSO tells the contest scorer program to ignore the QSO for my score. Here's a line from the Cabrillo-format file for a recent RTTY contest:

QSO: 21093 RY 2017-07-15 1828 N9ADG Brian WA W6SX HANK CA

Let's say for some reason, I messed up, and didn't think I copied the exchange correctly. I can change the log to this (change in boldface):

X-QSO: 21093 RY 2017-07-15 1828 N9ADG Brian WA W6SX HANK CA

Flex Radio owners are busy this week with a new software release for their rigs. The SmartSDR 2.0 release is available on the Flex Radio Systems website, and contains the new SmartLink feature that "does not require additional hardware, complicated VPNs or remote desktop software" to provide remote rig access. It also supports a new N1MM feature for spectrum display.

Rules changes are in the offing for the CQ WW Contest. See the recent article on the ARRL website for more detailed information. Areas impacted include definitions of the "Multi-Single" class and "US vs DX Clubs", 40 meter and 160 meter band usage, and clarification on audio recording and log checking rules.


In this diagram of the Arrow Antennas Alaskan Arrow, the 2 meter elements are orthogonal to the 440 MHz elements. [Photo courtesy of Tim Chapman]

Orthogonal: A description of the spatial relationship of one object to another when the objects are at right angles. For example, some hand-held Yagi antennas for satellite operation have orthogonal 2 meter and 440 MHz elements


Ward, N0AX, participated in a July 4 parade by sending the Gettysburg address via Morse code. He emphasizes that it was an "event, not a contest." [Photo by Doug Coners, AE0DC]

M0JCQ visited the US and activated New Hampshire's Mt. Washington as W1/M0JCQ/P for 10 SOTA points. You can read about his adventure, and view some great New England mountain pictures on his blog. Though he wasn't able to notify SOTA chasers of his intended operation, he picked a time when there was a contest going on 20 meters, and was able to complete the minimum number of contacts to earn the 10 SOTA points for his activation.

Operators of UN1HQ at the station of UP2L during the IARU. Pictured standing L-R: UN9LAB, UN7LAN, UN7LZ, UN9LG, sitting L-R: UN6LN, UN9LES. [Photo courtesy of UN9LG]


The WSJT-X team's new FT8 mode was used by a number of stations in the recent CQ WW VHF Contest. Though a Coronal Mass Ejection wiped out the bands for many on the second day of the contest, soapbox comments were filled mainly with praise for the mode, which was only a week old at the time of the contest! Mike, K7ULS, responded to my request for observations on using FT8 in the CQ WW VHF Contest with:

"Here's how it went:

50 MHz FT8 79 Qs

50 MHz MSK144 3 Qs

144 MHz MSK144 3 Qs

144MHz CW 1 q

50 MHz SSB 47 Qs

I would have rather had more SSB contacts because of the higher rate when it's hopping but it just wasn't there this year so the alternative was FT8 and it's release couldn't have come any closer and it really saved a very boring and monotonous contest using jt65. What I liked was the ability to see multiple callers at once or sometimes they would call a few Hz away and it still would decode in red so you wouldn't get confused by the band activity. With a contest situation it got pretty hectic with the 15 sec sequences but this being the most proficient mode for conditions at least here in Utah made it fun nonetheless."

Some US operators who qualified for WRTC 2018 traveled to Germany for the 2017 IARU to get a feel for the propagation they might experience, and to just practice.

Accuracy statistics have been posted for the 2017 CW ARRL International DX Contest, to go along with the Full Results, searchable scores database, LCRs, and QST Article on the website.


Stay Abreast of Contest Rule Changes

It's always prudent to read the rules before the start of every contest, since contest sponsors are apt to make changes in response to new technology, new operating techniques, or even the contesting population. You can often get a hint of rules changes to come and the reasoning behind the changes by reading contest sponsor blogs, posts by contest directors, and so on.


Skimming with the Red Pitaya Hardware continues to improve. According to Bob, N6TV: "Nathaniel, W2NAF, and Bob, N6TV have updated the document that details everything you need to know to turn a Red Pitaya device into a six-band 14-bit SDR Receiver compatible with VE3NEA's CW Skimmer Server and RTTY Skimmer Server. The document steps through the procedure required to skim CW and RTTY signals simultaneously. The Red Pitaya hardware device is available from Mouser for less than $400 new. Order the STEMlab 125-14 Starter Kit with the add-on plastic enclosure. A 30mm 5V DC cooling fan is recommended for continuous skimming."

Astron power supplies have been in production for decades. In the rare event that you need to troubleshoot one, you might find this website of Astron Power Supply Schematics and troubleshooting information helpful, in addition to contacting the manufacturer. (via ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative Facebook Page)

A recent article in Electronic Design News (EDN) reminds of the technique of using incandescent light bulbs as current limiters. Use cases include testing that new power supply for the first time, plugging in a hamfest find, as a relay-switched inrush current limiter, or even in a receiver front-end protector.

You may know the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) through its WWV broadcasts, or time synchronization services delivered by Internet, but it's involved in a wide range of activities related to science and industry. One such offering is an Internet-delivered beacon service: the NIST Randomness Beacon. Quality randomness is difficult, and the history and development of the beacon offers an interesting and geeky read. By providing an infrastructure to securely deliver random information in a standardized format, keeping a record of past generated random information, and ensuring the quality of the information, the beacon finds application across a wide range of industry and science. In its current state, the NIST beacon uses two earth-based commercial entropy sources. For some physics experiments relating to quantum entanglement, this may not be adequate. For future randomness needs, researchers are literally looking to the stars to find non-earthbound sources.

"Modeling Bent Dipole (and Conventional) 4-Squares, with Feed Systems" has been published by Dan, AC6LA. According to Dan: "The page is intended for anyone thinking about building a 4-square array or anyone who would like to do a more thorough job of analyzing an existing array. Several sample models are available in AutoEZ format." Dan is the author of AutoEZ, an application that works with EZ-NEC to ease variational parameter modeling of antennas.


Operating from an IARU Headquarters Station - S50HQ

One of the entry categories for the IARU contest is "IARU Member Society HQ Station" - these are some of the multipliers that the rest of us are looking for during the contest. These 'stations' can have one signal per band-mode. With six bands, and two modes, up to 12 signals can be active at once. Many HQ stations use multiple physically separate stations, coordinated through a network. With the big score posted by S50HQ, I asked Robert, S57AW, to share some details of the operation. An operation of this scale requires teamwork, so another team member, Jure, S57XX provided these details:


The year 2016 was quite successful for the S50HQ Team. We achieved our best results in IARU HFC so far: the official results showed us at 5th place among the HQ stations and the fourth place was less than 5000 points away. 2016 was one of the rare years when the weather was in our favor, in contrast to the others, when some locations had troubles because of the severe summer storms with wind and lightning.

The S50HQ Team began with preparation for the IARU HFC 2017 even before the 2016 official results were announced. The team was aware that the working conditions on the higher bands were going to be worse than year before. The solar activity was low this year, and there were also problems with the unstable summer weather. We had storms before and during the contest, which caused some damage on some locations just before the contest.

Over the past few years, the team has learned that even though Slovenia is small, the band conditions can vary a lot between different locations on the edges of the country; therefore, the team tried to find two most distant locations for every band/mode combination. One of the locations represented the RUN station and the other the S&P in-band station. In the case of bad weather conditions or technical problems, the stations would change their roles.

Further, the team tested different options of the networking over the internet. It also made a few interlock devices that enabled the lockout of the one station when the other station was transmitting on the same band/mode. After some testing, a VPN network worked perfectly for the entire contest. One server took care of six independent band networks, all stations used N1MM Logger+, there was an interlock enabled between the stations on the same band/mode.

For up-to-date information and the exchange of operator opinions an e-mail reflector was planned, and the team met twice in order to solve the problems and dilemmas easily. There was a final analysis planned as well as an internal award ceremony for stations that made a certain number of contacts with the S50HQ station. During the weeks before the contest, the technology was proven, especially concerning updates to N1MM Logger+. The team wanted to make sure that the new version worked as it should and that nothing had been broken with updates.

The competition took place from 19 different locations in Slovenia (picture). There were 46 different operators who participated in different teams. Beside RUN and S&P locations, there were two locations for filling band map on the SSB locations. The conditions were bad. There were storms that caused problems with the reception and high QRN. A couple of locations had problems with the internet, but overall, despite these conditions the contest was successful.

Our team's reported score is 3.4 million points less than the previous year; however, the team will have to wait for the final result of the committee. The participants agreed that the approach, which was used this year, works. In the future, there should be more suitable locations, more antennas and more testing before the beginning of the contest. The team has gained a lot of useful knowledge, also what needs to be improved until the next year.

Thank for all QSOs with S50HQ!

For S50HQ Team: Jure Vranicar, S57XX

That's all for this time. Remember to send contesting related stories, book reviews, tips, techniques, press releases, errata, schematics, club information, pictures, stories, blog links, and predictions to

73, Brian N9ADG


27 Jul - 9 Aug 2017

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.


CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 26, 1300z to Jul 26, 1400z, Jul 26, 1900z to Jul 26, 2000z, Jul 27, 0300z to Jul 27, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 29.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, Data, Jul 27, 1900z to Jul 27, 2030z; RTTY, PSK; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: July 28.

QRP Fox Hunt, Jul 28, 0100z to Jul 28, 0230z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: July 29.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jul 28, 0145z to Jul 28, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 30.

NCCC Sprint, Jul 28, 0230z to Jul 28, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 30.

Feld Hell Sprint, Jul 29, 0000z to Jul 29, 2359z; Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; (see rules); Logs due: August 2.

RSGB IOTA Contest, Jul 29, 1200z to Jul 30, 1200z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RS(T) + Serial No. + IOTA No.(if applicable); Logs due: August 4.

ARS Flight of the Bumblebees, Jul 30, 1700z to Jul 30, 2100z; CW; Bands: 40, 20, 15, 10m; Home: RST + (state/province/country) + Power, Bumblebee: RST + (state/province/country) + Bumblebee no.; Logs due: August 13.

Phone Fray, Aug 2, 0230z to Aug 2, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: July 28.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Aug 2, 1300z to Aug 2, 1400z, Aug 2, 1900z to Aug 2, 2000z, Aug 3, 0300z to Aug 3, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 29.

NRAU 10m Activity Contest, Aug 3, 1700z to Aug 3, 1800z (CW), Aug 3, 1800z to Aug 3, 1900z (SSB), Aug 3, 1900z to Aug 3, 2000z (FM), Aug 3, 2000z to Aug 3, 2100z (Dig); CW, SSB, FM, Digital; Bands: 10m Only; RS(T) + 6-character grid square; Logs due: August 17.

QRP Fox Hunt, Aug 4, 0100z to Aug 4, 0230z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: July 29.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Aug 4, 0145z to Aug 4, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 30.

NCCC Sprint, Aug 4, 0230z to Aug 4, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 30.

10-10 Int. Summer Contest, SSB, Aug 5, 0001z to Aug 6, 2359z; SSB; Bands: 10m Only; 10-10 Member: Name + 10-10 number + (state/province/country), Non-Member: Name + 0 + (state/province/country); Logs due: August 14.

European HF Championship, Aug 5, 1200z to Aug 5, 2359z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RS(T) + 2-digit year first licensed; Logs due: August 7.

North American QSO Party, CW, Aug 5, 1800z to Aug 6, 0559z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; NA: Name + (state/DC/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: August 11.

SARL HF Phone Contest, Aug 6, 1300z to Aug 6, 1630z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: August 13.

ARS Spartan Sprint, Aug 8, 0100z to Aug 8, 0300z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Power; Logs due: August 10.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Aug 9, 0030z to Aug 9, 0230z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: August 13.

Phone Fray, Aug 9, 0230z to Aug 9, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: July 28.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Aug 9, 1300z to Aug 9, 1400z, Aug 9, 1900z to Aug 9, 2000z, Aug 10, 0300z to Aug 10, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 29.


WAB 144 MHz Low Power Phone, Aug 5, 1400z to Aug 5, 1800z; Phone; Bands: 2m Only; British Isles: RS + serial no. + WAB square, Other: RS + serial no. + country; Logs due: August 26.

ARRL 222 MHz and Up Distance Contest, Aug 5, 1800z to Aug 6, 1800z; Any; Bands: 222 MHz and up; 6-character grid square; Logs due: August 20.


27 Jul - 9 Aug 2017

July 28, 2017

July 29, 2017

July 30, 2017

July 31, 2017

August 6, 2017

August 7, 2017

August 8, 2017

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