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The ARRL Contest Update
April 17, 2019
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
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IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

Some experienced operators find that managing a single radio in a RTTY contest is boring, so they infamously do other activities at the same time, like read a book, or watch TV. Another more "contesty" way is to fully immerse in RTTY by adding more RTTY. For example, RTTY is a great mode for dipping your toe into SO2R operation. By first working out all of the station details like radios, antennas, rig switching, and audio issues with SO2R RTTY, you'll also be in a good position to try SO2R with other modes.

A way to increase the RTTY adrenaline level without going SO2R is to try RTTY at a faster baud rate. Conventional Amateur RTTY is 45.5 Baud, but the upcoming BARTG 75 Sprint Contest spices things up by using a faster 75 Baud rate, and makes exchanges even shorter by omitting the R-S-T component. The result is that you'll want to make sure your transmit hang time is minimal, and you're a fast clicker or typist to enter the exchange information. This Sprint contest is only four hours long. If it turns out that you enjoy the faster 75 Baud rate, you can also try the same contest again in September.

CONTEST SUMMARY

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

April 18

April 19

April 20

April 21

April 22

April 24

April 25

April 26

April 27

April 28

April 29

April 30

May 1

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NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

Tim, K3LR, has posted an information page about the recently completed "Team Exuberance" operation for CQ WW WPX Phone contest. It appears that youth and exuberance has bested old age and treachery, at least this time. The all-youth team has likely managed a new W3 call area record in addition to besting all other multi-two scores in North America.

In past issues of the ARRL Contest Update the issue of physical exercise as a way to help improve contest performance has been mentioned. It turns out that another population of people that spend a lot of time with their butts-in-chairs has also discovered that exercise and fitness improves performance: serious gamers. Some e-sports teams have hard data that shows that they perform better at sedentary computer tasks after they participate in fitness and yoga classes. One team even makes their members use bicycles in the days leading up to a tournament.

"Can I use FT8 for digital in the <INSERT CONTEST NAME HERE> contest?" - FT8 has only recently gained the ability to support the exchanges for contest operation, and only for some contests. The answer to whether FT8, or more specifically WSJT-X, supports any particular contest boils down to whether the exchange information can be sent using the FT8 software and current protocol. As of this writing, WSJT-X can support grid exchanges such as the type that occur in UHF/VHF and FT8-specific contests, the ARRL RTTY Roundup exchange, and ARRL Field Day exchanges. If the contest sponsor uses something other than grid exchange and does NOT specifically mention particular frequencies for FT8 operation, it's probable that they are not anticipating FT8 use during a contest. If you are a contest sponsor that expects or anticipates FT8 usage, you should clearly specify FT8 frequencies to use for the contest that are different from the normal FT8 frequencies, as well as how to configure other FT8 protocol options (e.g. "NA VHF Contest Mode") necessary to make contacts with other stations in the contest.

Flex Radio Systems has released version 3 of SmartSDR for the Flex series of radios. In addition to bug fixes, this new release includes the new MultiFLEX feature enabling the connection of more than one client (e.g. Maestro or SmartSDR for Windows) simultaneously. According to Flex documentation, MultiFLEX can support various multi-operator contesting scenarios with a single radio.

FT8 spots are available from a number of different Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) nodes, such as dxc.w9pa.net on port 7374. The latest node to announce support for them is VE7CC.net on port 23. For VE7CC, the set/ft8 and set/noft8 commands turn on an off FT8 spots, respectively.

QRP Labs QCX Transceivers were designed for and built by the Youngster On The Air (YOTA) event in 2017. The inexpensive yet well-featured five watt single-band QRP kit has been built by thousands of people since! The QCX Challenge is a "monthly operating event to encourage operators to get on the air with their QCX (or other) radios and enjoy the pleasures and benefits of CW." You don't need a QCX to get on the air, but you'll probably hear plenty! The first version of this monthly event happened in February; you can catch the 2nd multi-session event on April 29.

Version 2.002 of Win4K3Suite is now available. "Win4K3Suite is a full featured control program for the Elecraft K3/S, KX3 and KX2" developed by VA2FSQ. New in this version are user customizable skins, which "that can change the look and feel of Win4K3Suite."

In response to last issue's note about using spectrum display tools to check your signal, Bob, N7WY, notes "When the signal is displayed on a spectrum waterfall on a PC, clicking on the display window and pressing CTRL-ALT-PRTSC will quickly capture the displayed image to the clipboard. It can then be pasted into Paint or PhotoShop, annotated with time, date and call; and saved for e-mail forwarding to the station producing the signal." He further notes: "N1MM Logger's Bandmap window shows the expected bandwidth of a clean SSB signal. If the Bandmap window shows your sidebands will be outside of the phone band segment, don't call the running station, and if you are running, QSY.

Radioworld reported on a test of consumer ability to tune Digital Audio Broadcast stations on auto radios by touch screen versus by voice sponsored by Digital Radio UK and Radioplayer, a United Kingdom nonprofit partnership between the British Broadcasting Corporation and commercial radio. In their tests, the found that consumers representing a broad demographic range had an easier time using voice commands in a mobile environment than using touch screens.

Kurt Andress, K7NV, announces the Andress Technologies line of mast clamps for Yaesu 800, 1000, 2800, M2 OR2800, Prosistel 61, 71, 110 rotators. They are direct bolt-on replacements for the original mast clamps, and are said to offer more clamping force than OEM. They are available right now from DX Engineering.

Do you have contest-related news, or a product that contesters should know about? Send the details to contest-update@arrl.org.

WORD TO THE WISE

Kovar

Kovar is a brand name of a nickel-cobalt iron alloy that exhibits the same physical thermal expansion properties of borosilicate glass. Glass tubes of the sort that might be found in high power amplifiers have metal pins that transition from inside the tube to outside the tube. This transition is tricky, since it's important that atmosphere and vacuum stay separated. Alloys like Kovar are used to ensure that the glass and pins expand and contract together to maintain the integrity of the tube.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Well-known contester and bon vivant Jim, K9YC, attended the International DX Convention in Visalia, California to deliver a presentation on the "Conceptual Treatment of Inter-Station Interference."

You may find his technical work on his website extremely helpful in eliminating electrical noise in an Amateur radio station.

Eric, WA6HHQ, one of the principals of Elecraft, discusses panadapters in a recent Ham Radio Workbench podcast. (Jeff, KE9V, via Twitter)

One of the benefits of attending contest-related conferences and presentations in person is you often have the opportunity to ask your question or discuss a topic afterwards. After the recent Contest Forum, Tim, K3LR, Bob, N6TV, Bob, N6TV , Dan, N6MJ, and Scott, K0MD, chat with some of the conference attendees.

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RESULTS AND RECORDS

Mark ,WA0MHJ, writes: "The 2019 Minnesota QSO Party results are posted." 266 logs were submitted, all of the Minnesota counties were activated, and over 2600 unique calls were found in the logs submitted. The MnQP results article includes a diverse collection of participant profiles.

OPERATING TIP

Send the Log in Before you Forget

This one is a paraphrased anecdote from Scott, K0MD, Editor of NCJ: Send in your log immediately after the contest. That way you won't travel to a DX location, earn over 6 million points in a contest, but not see that performance show up in the contest results.

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

Changes are being made by Microsoft to the Microsoft Windows 10 update mechanism, starting in May. Getting an update just before or even during a contest can sometimes change configurations and break things. With the new update settings, home users will have the opportunity to pause any potential updates for up to 35 days.

Tracking down re-radiated IMD products generated by rectification in small power supplies or other electronics can be difficult, but is essential to have a top performing multi-transmitter station. Detecting non-linear junctions is part of the solution. This article's introduction describes some of the characteristics of this type of IMD, the theory behind Non-Linear Junction Detectors, and some ways to find them using an NLJD, including the advice of "If you've located a suspect area with your NLJD and hear crackling noises as you lighty pound around the area with a rubber mallet - you can be pretty sure it's just a dissimilar metal junction."

When communication with spacecraft is your mission, the ionosphere is NOT your friend. This Arstechnica.com article provides an overview of NASA's communication challenges and how they've met them.

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CONVERSATION

It's Not About the Radio

The contest forum at the International DX Conference last weekend had Bob, N6TV, moderating a panel consisting of Craig, K9CT; Tim, K3LR; Scott, K0MD; Dan, N6MJ; and John, W2GD. The session posed a number of contest-related question in turn to panel members, moderated and closed by N6TV. The tone was heavy on humor, but also earnest in providing good information. I've lightly edited the comments for length and clarity. Among the questions running the gamut from logging programs to strategy, N6TV asked this one:

"What's the best contest radio? The answer obviously depends on many personal factors including your budget, whether you need a great CW rig, phone, or a small lightweight rig for DXpeditions, a big 200 watt radio to drive a big amplifier, a big waterfall display band scope... but what is the most important rig for a contester? What advice would you give a contester who asks you what radio to buy?"

K3LR: "For me, it's about ergonomics. It's very simple. The HF radios, not the radios that do HF and VHF, but the HF radios that have been manufactured in the last 25 years -- they're all good enough. They have fine receivers. The radios that have come out in the last five or six years might challenge lab equipment, but when it comes down to radios in the last twenty five years, they are all good enough to be contest radios. I think we could give a (Kenwood) TS-930 to N6MJ and he'd do just as well as he does with an Icom IC-7851. It comes down to the operator. It comes down to ergonomics. To me, ergonomics is the single most important thing. Do I feel like I have control of the radio? Do I feel like I know the radio? Do I feel like I have mastered whatever menus are involved? So, I'm a big proponent of ergonomics. Those of you that know me well know that I could probably have any radio I want. Icom doesn't give me radios. I've purchased every one of my radios. I like the ergonomics of Icom. That's me, it fits, and it fits our operating. Many of the operators at K3LR go home to K3 and Flex and Yaesu radios, but when they come to K3LR they use an Icom radio, and it takes them about five or six minutes to figure out where the controls are and how to make it go. Many of you know that three weeks ago I had six teenagers come over to operate at K3LR. Many of them had never seen an Icom radio before. They sat down, they hit the PTT switch, and they made QSOs. To me, if it's a science experiment, or you have to reboot it, or you have to have eight menus deep, that's not for us, we want to be making QSOs. So when you can sit a 14 year old down in front of an Icom radio and within 10 minutes they are making QSOs, then that's a success for me.

K0MD: I think it's kind of like what kind of car you drive. There are terrific models all around. I've done my best with Icom radios my entire life. I current have in my shack I four Icom radios. I have more than I can use. I have a 7800, 7851, 7610, and 7300. The 7300 I take overseas to use for travel related operating. I am torn in contests between using my 7851 or the 7610 because I like the CW filtering and control on the 7610. I don't think you can go wrong with either their top end or their 7610 in terms of operating. I've had a K3 but I didn't have a chance to use it in a contest before I sold it, but I really like the CW filtering. I've never used a Flex in contest so I can't comment on that. But again it's I think its less about brand and more about what fits you. I personally like the noise reduction that's built in to Icom -- it suits my hearing best.

W2GD: I use a K3S radio. I'm proud to use a K3S radio. One of my most important criteria is I can pack it in my suitcase, I can get through TSA, I can get to my destination, and the thing weighs 8 pounds. It's not a table radio. A 7851 is not appropriate for my trips to Aruba. I think that the K3S is like a Porsche Speedster car, it's a slick competition radio, it's built to do that. I use three controls during a contest: The RIT, the RF gain, and the AF gain. What else do you need? If your ears do the work... Now, the K3 and K3S's audio is not like a Kenwood TS-930. I still have one of those radios in my closet. I love that radio. I love the way it sounds. Great sound. Great QSK. QSK is important. Those who know me know that I tend to send by hand about 90% of the time. I use QSK all the time. It's amazing that people don't get in sync. They don't come back to you at the right times, so using QSK avoids a lot of missed QSOs. I think that K3 radios can't be beat for DXpeditions.

N6MJ: I think Tim had a really good point - all of the recent radios are good enough, so it really comes down to personal preference. For me, I've been using Icoms for quite a while. My wife and I have taken the 7851s down to the Cayman islands on a plane with us, a couple of times. I don't recommend doing that. Last year, instead of taking the 7851s we took down the 7610s. It's not quite as good a radio as the 7851 but it's definitely good enough, it does what you need to do, it's much smaller in size, and the price is nicer. The 7610 is a great option versus trying to do the big bang with the 7851s. The receiver is definitely better in the 7851 especially with the big pileups. The 7610 does handle it well enough, but I feel that with the 7851 you can pick out calls a little bit easier and when you have a big pileup calling you that's kind of a big deal. That's why I like the 7851 but it's not always practical to bring with you. This is for both modes, CW and Phone.

K3LR (interjecting): When I was in Moscow in 2010 with N2NT, he was an Elecraft guy, and he was the team leader for the team I was on for WRTC. I said "Andy, what about an Icom" and he said "We're going to use these K3s. We can get them in the suitcase, we can get them through TSA." And I remember seeing Krassy (K1LZ) and K1ZM hauling 7800s up the stairs, and saying "That could have been me." And so the K3s worked very well, they were good enough, and we had a great score there and I was very happy with Andy's decision.

N6TV: I've used both the 7851s at Tim's and I've got two K3s at home. For me QSK is really important, QSK amplifiers are really important they're silent and don't click. As a CW guy, I'm a K3 convert, er, fan, but I do love the audio and I respect the audio of the Icom radios and do see what you guys are saying about that.

Although these well-known contesters had an opinion about radio type, they also mostly agreed that it's not really about the radio, it's really more about the operator.

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 contest-update@arrl.org

73, Brian N9ADG

CONTESTS

18 Apr - 1 May 2019

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

HF CONTESTS

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Apr 17, 1300z to Apr 17, 1400z and, Apr 17, 1900z to Apr 17, 2000z and, Apr 18, 0300z to Apr 18, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 20.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Apr 19, 0145z to Apr 19, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 21.

NCCC Sprint, Apr 19, 0230z to Apr 19, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 21.

Holyland DX Contest, Apr 19, 2100z to Apr 20, 2100z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; 4X: RS(T) + area, non-4X: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: May 31.

ES Open HF Championship, Apr 20, 0500z to Apr 20, 0559z and, Apr 20, 0600z to Apr 20, 0659z and, Apr 20, 0700z to Apr 20, 0759z and, Apr 20, 0800z to Apr 20, 0859z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40m; RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: May 1.

Worked All Provinces of China DX Contest, Apr 20, 0600z to Apr 21, 0559z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; BY: RS(T) + 2-character province, non-BY: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: April 28.

YU DX Contest, Apr 20, 0700z to Apr 21, 0659z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; YU/YT: RS(T) + County, non-YU/YT: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: May 1.

QRP to the Field, Apr 20, 0800 (local) to Apr 20, 1800 (local); CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15m; RST + (state/province/country) + name/SOTA; Logs due: May 10.

CQMM DX Contest, Apr 20, 0900z to Apr 21, 2359z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; All: RST+continent abbreviation, CWJF members: RST + continent + "M", QRP: RST + continent + "Q", YL: RST + continent + "Y", Multi-Op,Clubs,Groups: RST + continent + "C"; Logs due: May 30.

Michigan QSO Party, Apr 20, 1600z to Apr 21, 0400z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; MI: Serial No. + county, non-MI: Serial No. + (state/province/"DX"); Logs due: May 20.

EA-QRP CW Contest, Apr 20, 1700z to Apr 20, 2000z (10-20m) and, Apr 20, 2000z to Apr 20, 2300z (40-80m) and, Apr 21, 0700z to Apr 21, 0900z (40m) and, Apr 21, 0900z to Apr 21, 1200z (20-10m); CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + 1-letter category + "M" (if EA-QRP member); Logs due: May 21.

Ontario QSO Party, Apr 20, 1800z to Apr 21, 0500z and, Apr 21, 1200z to Apr 21, 1800z; CW, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; ON: RS(T) + county, non-ON: RST + (state/province/country); Logs due: May 22.

Feld Hell Sprint, Apr 20, 1800z to Apr 20, 2159z; Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; (see rules); Logs due: April 23.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Apr 22, 0100z to Apr 22, 0300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: April 28.

SKCC Sprint, Apr 24, 0000z to Apr 24, 0200z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: April 26.

Phone Fray, Apr 24, 0230z to Apr 24, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: April 26.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Apr 24, 1300z to Apr 24, 1400z and, Apr 24, 1900z to Apr 24, 2000z and, Apr 25, 0300z to Apr 25, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 27.

UKEICC 80m Contest, Apr 24, 2000z to Apr 24, 2100z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; 4-Character grid square; Logs due: April 24.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, Data, Apr 25, 1900z to Apr 25, 2030z; RTTY, PSK; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: April 26.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Apr 26, 0145z to Apr 26, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 28.

NCCC Sprint, Apr 26, 0230z to Apr 26, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: April 28.

10-10 Int. Spring Contest, Digital, Apr 27, 0001z to Apr 28, 2359z; Digital; Bands: 10m Only; 10-10 Member: Name + 10-10 number + (state/province/country), Non-Member: Name + 0 + (state/province/country); Logs due: May 6.

SP DX RTTY Contest, Apr 27, 1200z to Apr 28, 1200z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; SP: RST + 1-letter province, Non-SP: RST + QSO No.; Logs due: May 12.

Helvetia Contest, Apr 27, 1300z to Apr 28, 1259z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; HB: RS(T) + 2-letter canton, non-HB: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: May 6.

Florida QSO Party, Apr 27, 1600z to Apr 28, 0159z and, Apr 28, 1200z to Apr 28, 2159z; CW, Phone; Bands: 40, 20, 15, 10m; FL: RS(T) + county, W/VE: RS(T) + (state/province), DX: RS(T) + DXCC prefix; Logs due: May 12.

BARTG Sprint 75, Apr 28, 1700z to Apr 28, 2059z; 75 Baud RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Serial No.; Logs due: May 5.

QCX Challenge, Apr 29, 1300z to Apr 29, 1400z and, Apr 29, 1900z to Apr 29, 2000z and, Apr 30, 0300z to Apr 30, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Name + (state/province/country) + Rig; Logs due: May 7.

Phone Fray, May 1, 0230z to May 1, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: April 19.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, May 1, 1300z to May 1, 1400z and, May 1, 1900z to May 1, 2000z and, May 2, 0300z to May 2, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 20.

AGCW QRP/QRP Party, May 1, 1300z to May 1, 1900z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + QSO No. + "/" + Class ID (A/B); Logs due: May 20.

VHF+ CONTESTS

432 MHz Spring Sprint, Apr 24, 1900z to Apr 24, 2300z; (not specified); Bands: 432 Only; 4-character grid square; Logs due: May 8.

Also see Ontario QSO Party, Feld Hell Sprint, above

LOG DUE DATES

April 18, 2019

April 19, 2019

April 20, 2019

April 21, 2019

April 22, 2019

April 23, 2019

April 24, 2019

April 26, 2019

April 27, 2019

April 28, 2019

April 29, 2019

April 30, 2019

May 1, 2019

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

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