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The ARRL Contest Update
April 4, 2018
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
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IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS -- THINGS TO DO

With a number of QSO parties and the Florida and Texas Parks On The Air activities, overall activity is going to be varied and spread out across the open HF bands. The 4-hour SSB Sprint on April 8 is much different from a typical contest, so give it a try after reviewing some of the tips and techniques on the SSB Sprint website. It's important to follow the protocol for the proper exchange format, depending on whether you're the calling or called station. Here's a tip from Ed, W0YK, on how to approach a RTTY Sprint, but the advice applies to all modes, and could make a first Sprint event easier.

On April 15, the ARRL Rookie Roundup, SSB is an opportunity to compete with others that have been licensed within the last 3 years, using up to 100 W of power. Rookies can contact anyone, and the exchange includes call sign, name, last two digits of the year you were first licensed, and state for US amateurs. Non-US operators use their Canadian province, Mexican call area, or "DX". Entry categories include single and multi-operator classes, and single operators can also form teams. See the rules for details.

BUSTED QSOS

The author of the "FT8 Hinson Tips for HF DXers" (PDF) mentioned in the March 7 Contest Update is Gary, ZL2IFB. His document has also been translated into German and Czech, courtesy of Ekkehard, DJ5EJ, and Zdenek, OK2PAD.

Chuck, W1HIS, thought the description in the last issue of the Zepp antenna was imprecise, subject to misinterpretation, and I agree. Here are his comments: "I suspect that the Zeppelin antenna and its feed line were configured as shown by the following drawing:

Zepp antenna configuration, courtesy of Chuck, W1HIS.

In this scheme, no high voltage appears near the metal frame of the Zeppelin. High voltage appears between the two parallel wires near the open end of the wl/4 wire, and there is high voltage near the open end of the 3wl/4 wire."

CONTEST SUMMARY

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section.

5 Apr - 18 Apr 2018

April 5

April 6

April 7

April 8

April 9

April 11

April 12

April 13

April 14

April 15

April 16

April 17

April 18

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NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

The Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) is starting to incorporate FT8 spots. According to a post by Pete, N4ZR, "We have three Skimmers running an experimental Aggregator that receives UDP messages from WSJT-X and forwards FT8 spots to the RBN...many rare DX stations never explicitly repeat (their) CQs. To get around this, Dick, W3OA, has programmed the Aggregator to respond to a unique standard FT8 message format that is always associated with stations being called, rather than those calling them. We label these as CQ spots, though we're aware it's a misnomer." (via Skimmertalk reflector)

The Central States VHF Society is proud to sponsor and announce the dates and times for the 2018 run of the VHF and up Spring Sprints!

  • 144 MHz: Monday, April 9, 2018 from 7 - 11 PM local, Exchange: 4-character grid
  • 222 MHz: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 from 7 - 11 PM local, Exchange: 4-character grid
  • 432 MHz: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 from 7 - 11 PM local, Exchange: 4-character grid
  • Microwave, 902 MHz and up: Saturday, May 5, 2018 from 8 AM - 2 PM local, Exchange: 6-character grid
  • 50 MHz: Saturday, May 12, 2018 from 2300Z until 0300Z Sunday, May 13, 2018, Exchange: 4-character grid

The Central States VHF Society, Inc. is soliciting both authors for the "Proceedings of the Central States VHF Society" and presenters for the technical sessions at its 2018 Conference to be held in Wichita, Kansas, July 26 through 29, 2018. Topics for both papers and presentations include all topics related to CW, SSB, and Digital VHF and above Amateur Radio activities, including:

  • Antennas: including Modeling, Design, Arrays, and Control
  • Test Equipment: including Homebrew, Commercial, and Measurement Techniques & Tips
  • Construction of equipment: such as Transmitters, Receivers, and Transverters
  • Operating: including Contesting, Roving, and DXpeditions
  • RF power amps: including Single and Multi-band Vacuum Tube, Solid-state, and Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers (TWTA)
  • Propagation: including Ducting, Sporadic E, Tropospheric, Meteor Scatter, etc.
  • Pre-amplifiers (low noise)
  • Digital Modes: such as WSJT, JT65, FT8, JT6M, ISCAT, etc.
  • Regulatory topics
  • Moonbounce (EME)
  • Software-defined Radio (SDR)
  • Digital Signal Processing (DSP)

Further information for both authors and presenters may be found on the 2018 Conference website.

Marty, W8AKS, suggests checking out the synthesized voice keyer of OK1FIG's HamRacer software. "The software also does CW, has self contained logging and duping. Check it out on Google or YouTube."

China's Tiangong-1 Space Station re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and burned up over the Pacific Ocean on April 1. VHF/UHF operators in the Pacific Northwest were standing by to take advantage of any propagation that might be created by the ionization trail. Unfortunately, the re-entry location didn't favor any path between amateurs on any land mass. Objects transiting the ionosphere have an effect on propagation, even for frequencies that are normally not associated with ionospheric interaction. Last year, a launch of a rocket caused perturbations in GPS reception for a number of hours, which could have increased GPS inaccuracy slightly. A circular "shock acoustic wave" was detected, and a hole in the ionosphere's plasma was created from the rocket's exhaust.

WORD TO THE WISE

Multipath

When a single transmitted signal is received by an antenna via more than one path, the signal is said to be multipath. Different paths can exist due to many reasons including signal reflections from objects, and changes in the ionosphere. With HF signals received with omnidirectional antennas, multipath signals can be indicated by echo characteristics of the audio due to the different signal arrival times.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Dennis, N6KI, sends along a link to a video showing LimeSDR hardware being used with two antennas to detect the direction of arrival of a signal from a handheld transceiver. At one point in the video, it appears that multipath is being received as the indicator swings wildly from one direction to another. Victor, K1LT, has been using beam steering on 160 meters for a number of years as the basis of his directional receiving antenna.

A presentation from 2014 entitled "Exploring the Mysteries of Long and Skewed Path DXing" contains a number of audio examples of long-path propagation, as well as hints on when to find these nontraditional multiplier paths if operating near Southern California. The panel discussion by W6YA, K6NA, and W6YI was part of the January 2016 San Diego DX Club meeting.

Bengt, K7ADD, and Justin, K5EM, were operators along with Grant, KZ1W, at KZ1W during the recent CQ WW WPX SSB. These guys appear to have had perhaps a little too much fun and a lot too much coffee. [Photo courtesy of K5EM]

Tim, K3LR, interviewed contester Dave, KM3T, when he stopped by DX Engineering in November 2017. They discuss how Dave got into contesting, and how he maintains his interest in contesting.

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RESULTS AND RECORDS

The preliminary results for the North American RTTY Sprint have been posted on the National Contest Journal (NCJ) website. The final results will be published in the May/June issue of NCJ. Contest participants can ask for their Log Checking Reports (LCRs) from the contest sponsors. According to Ed, W0YK, there were 10 logs that contained no errors.(Ed, W0YK)

OPERATING TIP

Adapt Messages During a Contest

When running, higher rates can be obtained by changing your messages in response to a deepening pileup. In phone contests, you can just change what you say. For CW and RTTY contests, by setting up your messages appropriately in your logging program or you can shorten them on the fly by pressing the "stop sending" key in your logging program. This is usually the ESCape key. For example, here's a sample contact, starting with the CQ.

My CQ message: CQ N9ADG

I hear: W0XXX ...(weaker) Y

This indicates to me that there's likely at least one other station is calling. I don't have the full call of the second caller, just one letter.

I send my exchange message: W0XXX 5NN WA

The other station sends: 5NN MO

My thank you message is "TU N9ADG CQ." Because I know there's another caller waiting, I log the contact with W0XXX and start sending the "thank you" message, but I hit ESC just after I hear "TU" sent in my headphones. I don't need to send my call, because the other person calling likely copied my call, and doesn't need it again. Even better, I could send "Y ?" after the TU, so that ideally only that one station would respond. Furthermore, if I thought conditions were excellent and callers were well behaved, I might risk sending "Y ? 5NN WA," trusting that the other operator would send his/her call, realizing I didn't have it. But that is risking the chance that I would need a fill if they don't send their call. Fills are rate killers, and can scare off any other callers that are waiting.

You could avoid having to time ESC keypresses by setting up additional macros to address multiple situations.

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

The ARRL CW Sweepstakes contest is in November, but perhaps you'd consider forming a team and practicing to submit an entry in the Multi-operator class. K3NG has added tx_inhibit and tx_pause features to his Arduino-based CW keyer project that could be combined with some lockout circuitry to make it easier to configure a station that complies with the "only one transmitted signal at a time" rule of this contest.

The WSJTX FT8 DXpedition mode will have its second official on-the-air test on April 7. Despite the program authors' warnings not to use the new mode except in test configurations, and not to use it in the existing FT8 or other digital mode segments, some have found the potential for reasonable rates under poor band conditions too tempting. Disruption and hard feelings among other band users ensued. WSJTX's DXpedition mode requires the latest software and proper configuration on both ends, and the public test is an opportunity to try the latest pre-release software in a setting that attempts to minimize disruption and maximize the chances for knowledge transfer and success.

The upcoming VHF and up Spring Sprints allow all modes including digital for valid contacts, and the exchange is the grid square for each station. WSJTX Version 1.9.0 and later can help rover operators using it by accepting current grid location updates via UDP from an external program attached to a GPS device.

The Club Log API (Application Program Interface) changed to HTTPS-only access as of April 1. Requests via the HTTP protocol will be redirected to the HTTPS version of the same URL.

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CONVERSATION

Virtual Tower Raising

Our radio club is trying to be more competitive with other clubs from the Pacific Northwest in contest standings. One way to increase club point totals is to get a greater percentage of our members on the air in each contest, and another is to expand the capabilities of member stations to include modes or bands that aren't currently used. Many of our members have antennas, towers, computer-attached radios, and so on, but just have never set up RTTY or digital modes. Since computer rig control is inherent in today's contest operation, adding RTTY or other digital modes to a CW and SSB station can just be a matter of configuration and a cable or two.

Contest software configuration and troubleshooting issues via email or phone can be time consuming and frustrating. It seems like more than 1000 words are needed to describe a single configuration dialog in some packages. It's much better to see it than just hear about it. Over the last couple of months, rather than spend much time talking or emailing about a particular issue that someone is having, I have suggested we set aside some quality time to do a live 'remote help' session, where the Microsoft Windows built in Remote Assistance facility, or even the non-commercial, free use of TeamViewer can usually get a knotty problem tamed in no time. Using tools like these is not as effective as being able to touch the computer and radio equipment directly, but it's very close. It certainly eliminates the need to coordinate schedules, travel, etc. I find it a huge time saver versus back and forth email or even phone conversations.

As more members of our club become familiar with these tools, it raises the overall base of club knowledge, and expands the options for how club members can support one another. We're also finding that for some operating activities, a station can be operated remotely from anywhere using these same tools. The next thing for us to try is getting club members that want to operate but don't have access to a station any longer back on the air by operating remotely. That will also translate into more contacts and more points.

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

73, Brian N9ADG

CONTESTS

5 Apr - 18 Apr 2018

An expanded, downloadable version of QST's Contest Corral is available as a PDF. Check the sponsor's website for information on operating time restrictions and other instructions.

HF CONTESTS

NRAU 10 meter Activity Contest, Apr 5, 1700z to Apr 5, 1800z (CW), Apr 5, 1800z to Apr 5, 1900z (SSB), Apr 5, 1900z to Apr 5, 2000z (FM), Apr 5, 2000z to Apr 5, 2100z (Dig); CW, SSB, FM, Digital; Bands: 10 meters Only; RS(T) + 6-character grid square; Logs due: April 19.

SARL 80 meter QSO Party, Apr 5, 1700z to Apr 5, 2000z; SSB; Bands: 80 meters Only; RS + Serial No. + Grid Locator or QTH; Logs due: April 12.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Apr 6, 0145z to Apr 6, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 8.

NCCC Sprint, Apr 6, 0230z to Apr 6, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 8.

LZ Open 40 meter Sprint Contest, Apr 7, 0400z to Apr 7, 0800z; CW; Bands: 40 meters Only; 3-Digit Serial No. + 3-Digit Serial No. received from last QSO; Logs due: April 17.

PODXS 070 Club PSK 31 Flavors Contest, Apr 7, 1000z to Apr 8, 0400z; BPSK31, QPSK31, BPSK63, QPSK63, BPSK125, QPSK125; Bands: 20 meters Only; 070 members: (state/province/country) + member no., Non-members: (state/province/country) + name; Logs due: April 15.

SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, Apr 7, 1200z to Apr 9, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6 meters; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./"NONE"); Logs due: April 15.

Florida State Parks on the Air, Apr 7, 1400z to Apr 7, 2200z, Apr 8, 1400z to Apr 8, 2200z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meters; FL Park: park ID), non-FL Park: (state/province), DX: RS(T) + "DX"; Logs due: April 21.

Texas State Parks on the Air, Apr 7, 1400z to Apr 8, 0200z, Apr 8, 1400z to Apr 8, 2000z; All; Bands: All, except WARC; TX Park: RS(T) + park abbreviation), W/VE: RS(T) + (state/province), DX: RS(T) + "DX"; Logs due: May 31.

Mississippi QSO Party, Apr 7, 1400z to Apr 8, 0200z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, VHF/UHF; MS: RS(T) + county, non-MS: RS(T) + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 30.

Missouri QSO Party, Apr 7, 1400z to Apr 8, 0400z, Apr 8, 1400z to Apr 8, 2000z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, VHF/UHF; MO: RS(T) + county, non-MO W/VE: RS(T) + (state/province/territory), DX: RS(T) + "DX"; Logs due: May 8.

SP DX Contest, Apr 7, 1500z to Apr 8, 1500z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meters; SP: RS(T) + 1-character province, non-SP: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: April 30.

EA RTTY Contest, Apr 7, 1600z to Apr 8, 1600z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meters; EA: RSQ + province, non-EA: RSQ + Serial No.; Logs due: April 23.

North American SSB Sprint Contest, Apr 8, 0000z to Apr 8, 0400z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20 meters; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name] + [your state/province/country]; Logs due: April 15.

4 States QRP Group Second Sunday Sprint, Apr 9, 0000z to Apr 9, 0200z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meters; Member: RS(T) + (State/Province/Country) + Member No., Non-member: RS(T) + (State/Province/Country) + Power; Logs due: April 11.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Apr 11, 0030z to Apr 11, 0230z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20 meters; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: April 14.

Phone Fray, Apr 11, 0230z to Apr 11, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15 meters; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: April 13.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Apr 11, 1300z to Apr 11, 1400z, Apr 11, 1900z to Apr 11, 2000z, Apr 12, 0300z to Apr 12, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meters; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 14.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, SSB, Apr 11, 1900z to Apr 11, 2030z; SSB; Bands: 80 meters Only; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: April 12.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Apr 13, 0145z to Apr 13, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 15.

NCCC Sprint, Apr 13, 0230z to Apr 13, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 15.

QRP ARCI Spring QSO Party, Apr 14, 0000z to Apr 14, 2359z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meters; RS + (state/province/country) + (ARCI number/power); Logs due: April 28.

JIDX CW Contest, Apr 14, 0700z to Apr 15, 1300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meters; JA: RST + Prefecture No., non-JA: RST + CQ Zone No.; Logs due: May 15.

OK/OM DX Contest, SSB, Apr 14, 1200z to Apr 15, 1200z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meters; OK/OM: RS + 3-letter county code, non-OK/OM: RS + Serial No.; Logs due: April 22.

F9AA Cup, PSK, Apr 14, 1200z to Apr 15, 1200z; PSK; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 2 meters; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: May 15.

New Mexico QSO Party, Apr 14, 1400z to Apr 15, 0200z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6 meters; NM: Name + county, non-NM: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 28.

North Dakota QSO Party, Apr 15, 1800z to Apr 16, 1800z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2 meters; ND: RS(T) + County, non-ND: RS(T) + (state/province/country); Logs due: May 15.

Georgia QSO Party, Apr 14, 1800z to Apr 15, 0359z, Apr 15, 1400z to Apr 15, 2359z; CW/Digital, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6 meters; GA: RST + county, non-GA: RST + (state/province/"DX"); Logs due: April 29.

Yuri Gagarin International DX Contest, Apr 14, 2100z to Apr 15, 2100z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, Satellites; RST + ITU Zone No.; Logs due: May 15.

WAB 3.5/7/14 MHz Data Modes, Apr 15, 1200z to Apr 15, 1400z (RTTY), Apr 15, 1400z to Apr 15, 1600z (PSK), Apr 15, 1800z to Apr 15, 2000z (RTTY), Apr 15, 2000z to Apr 15, 2200z (PSK); RTTY, PSK31; Bands: 80, 40, 20 meters; British Isles: RS + serial no. + WAB square, Other: RS + serial no. + country; Logs due: May 6.

International Vintage Contest HF, Apr 15, 1200z to Apr 15, 1800z; CW, SSB, AM; Bands: 80, 40, 20 meters; RS(T) + 4-character grid square; Logs due: April 25.

Hungarian Straight Key Contest, Apr 15, 1500z to Apr 15, 1700z; CW; Bands: 80 meters Only; RST + Serial No. + Power Code; Logs due: April 30.

ARRL Rookie Roundup, SSB, Apr 15, 1800z to Apr 15, 2359z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6 meters; Name + 2-digit year first licensed + (state/province/XE area/DX); Logs due: April 18.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Apr 16, 0100z to Apr 16, 0300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meters; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: April 22.

Phone Fray, Apr 18, 0230z to Apr 18, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15 meters; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: April 20.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Apr 18, 1300z to Apr 18, 1400z, Apr 18, 1900z to Apr 18, 2000z, Apr 19, 0300z to Apr 19, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 meters; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 21.

VHF+ CONTESTS

SARL VHF/UHF Digital Contest, Apr 7, 1000z to Apr 8, 1000z; Digital; Bands: 50 MHz, 70 MHz, 144 MHz, 432 MHz, 1296 MHz; RST + 6-character grid locator; Logs due: April 30.

144 MHz Spring Sprint, Apr 9, 1900z to Apr 9, 2300z; (not specified); Bands: 2 meters Only; 4-character grid square; Logs due: April 23.

222 MHz Spring Sprint, Apr 17, 1900z to Apr 17, 2300z; (not specified); Bands: 222 MHz; 4-character grid square; Logs due: May 1.

Also, See ARRL Rookie Roundup, SSB, SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, Georgia QSO Party, Yuri Gagarin International DX Contest, North Dakota QSO Party, New Mexico QSO Party, F9AA Cup, PSK, Missouri QSO Party, Mississippi QSO Party, Texas State Parks on the Air, above

LOG DUE DATES

5 APR - 18 APR 2018

April 5, 2018

April 6, 2018

April 7, 2018

April 8, 2018

April 9, 2018

April 10, 2018

April 11, 2018

April 12, 2018

April 13, 2018

April 14, 2018

April 15, 2018

April 17, 2018

April 18, 2018

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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

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