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Contest Update Issues

The ARRL Contest Update
January 8, 2020
Editor: Paul Bourque, N1SFE

Terry, N6RY, gave a comprehensive presentation to the Sun City Grand Hams, entitled "HF PROPAGATION & SPACE WEATHER," which is also available in the January 2020 newsletter. It starts with a good overview of the various layers of ionization in the ionosphere, and ends with a number of resources for further study.

The North American QSO Parties are coming up ("both kinds, Phone and CW") over the next two weekends! One hundred watts maximum power for all entrants during the 12-hour contest interval, the ability to put together a team where a number of operators combine their scores, and per band multipliers add up to a bunch of fun. This contest does include 160 meters, where band conditions have been great lately.


The Louisiana QSO Party date and time were incorrect in the last issue. The correct contest period is 1400 UTC April 4, 2020 to 0200 UTC April 5, 2020. (Scott, W5WZ)


Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

9 Jan - 23 Jan 2020

January 9

January 10

January 11

January 12

January 13

January 14

January 15

January 16

January 17

January 18

January 19

January 20

January 22


Jeff, WK6I, is looking for photos, stories, anecdotes, etc. from last weekend's ARRL RTTY Roundup. You should send them to him directly via email. "Of particular interest is your operating mix. Did you find FT4 and/or FT8 helped you make a better score? Or did you have issues with one mode or the other? Where were the mults? How was the rate?"

It looks like aurora, but it's really... Steve. "Steve" is a phenomenon that can sometimes be observed in the sky at the same time as Aurora, but is characterized by occurring at a higher altitude, and usually is purple instead of green or blue. It's thought that Steve is not caused by charged particles, but perhaps instead by very hot ionized gases. (Bill, AI5I)

DX Engineering's blog has a recent article by Ward, N0AX, entitled Station Improvements: Inside During the Winter. Ergonomics and record keeping are front and center in his suggestions.

The January ARRL VHF Contest is the weekend of January 18, 2020. For FT8/FT4 operators, this is another opportunity to participate in a contest! Don't forget that other modes can be used on the same band. It can be an easy way to pick up additional points and grids.

Don't forget to cheer on those college and universities that compete in the North American Collegiate Challenge while you're making contacts in the NAQP Phone Contest. If you don't see your alma mater listed in the competitor pre-registration, you should encourage the radio club to sign up!

In 2020, you'll need 84 sections to get a clean sweep in the ARRL Sweepstakes! "The Radio Amateurs of Canada announced a new section," so Prince Edward Island gets its own section starting on April 1. Also on April 1, some amateurs currently in the ONS section will find themselves in the GTA section.

When entering one of the assisted classes in a contest, you'll probably be receiving spots from a telnet cluster. Finding one that meets your needs for availability and reliability is a task to do before a contest. Tim, N3QE, suggested a number of CC Cluster sites that "...are active and have spots" in a recent message to the N1MM Logger+ group. The 46 (and counting) message topic has a number of suggestions which may help you use spots more effectively in various situations.

The 31st Annual Dayton Top Band Dinner will be Friday, May 15, 2020, and registrations are being accepted on the website. While you're registering for that, check out the website, which has been updated for 2020.

KB6NU's recent blog entry describes LadderSnaps, a ladder line insulator that converts "home center" 14 AWG THHN wire into feedline for your antennas. KB6NU also talks about some Anderson Powerpole distribution blocks by K9JEB. Powerpole connectors are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors - K9ZW's blog entry in December described the variations.

Inexpensive software defined radio hardware arguably started a few years ago with the availability of DVB-T USB "dongles." These were devices that were originally designed to receive over the air digital TV broadcasts using a PC as the decoder and display. But these devices had the ability to receive arbitrary swaths of spectrum. The RTL-SDR project was born to tune the devices and grab raw samples for other software to process. A Hackaday article by Tom Nardi describes how these devices and RTL-SDR have evolved, and how an ecosystem of tools and software have grown around them.

Boston area amateurs - if you've ever used MIT's 70 cm repeater, the great coverage you enjoyed is possible because of the prime location atop the Green Building on the MIT Campus. That location also houses the VHF/UHF/Microwave contest and research station, W1XM. The building rooftop is being renovated and the rooftop station in jeopardy unless funds are raised to renew the space. Daniel, KC1EPN, the station manager for the MIT Radio Society, notes that anyone can make a donation.

The most recent CQ WW DX Contest blog entry describes the analysis by Doug, KR2Q, of the logging software demographics for the 2019 CQ WW SSB Contest. It's probably not a surprise that N1MM Logger+ is the clear winner with usage by nearly 50% of all contest entries. No other software even comes close.



"Greatest of All Time" -- If you want to hang with the cool kids, you have to know the lingo. This one does not involve mountaintop operating. The term may originally have come from the sports arena, but is now seeing wider use. "Stew Perry - now he certainly has GOAT status on 160."


The MIT Radio Society, in conjunction with the MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department is hosting "Lectures on Radio Technology, History, and Applications" during the month of January. Six lectures, including "Antennas," "Next Generation of Weather Radar," "Lightning Interferometry," "Radio Noises From the Sky," "EDGES: Measuring the Early Universe," and "Chip-Scale THz Circuits and Sensors." You can attend in person, or stream the lectures from 2019 this month, and wait for the 2020 lectures to be posted in the future.

Bob, K0NR, "found" an Alexa skill related to Amateur Radio.


Raw Scores from the WW Digi DX Contest are available. Though the log deadline has passed, logs are still wanted. Logs received after the deadline aren't eligible for awards, but if received before the log checking deadline will be included in the published results.

Tree, N6TR, writes: "The final report on the 2018 Big Stew is now online. You will find it under the Results tab at" (the Big Stew is the Stew Perry Top Band Distance Contest -- Ed.) "Great to receive over 1000 logs for this contest."

Preliminary results from the Scandinavian Activity Contest (CW) are available.


Choosing Your FTx Transmit and Receive Frequencies in Crowded Contests

Summary: choose an audio offset frequency greater than 500 Hz, and less than the suggested frequency intervals (e.g. 2000 Hz). In crowded band conditions, the "base" transmit frequencies for FT4 or FT8 are suggested to be at 2 kHz intervals. For example, some stations may be set their rig frequencies to 14.130 MHz, while others are at 14.132 or 14.134 MHz. Under these conditions, it makes sense to choose a transmit frequency offset of greater than 500 Hz, but LESS than 2 kHz. Here's the reasoning: If the CQing station chooses 14130.0 with an offset of 2400 Hz, then a listening station tuned to the rig frequency of 14132.0 will "see" that station at 400 Hz. Many radios have audio passbands of between 500 Hz and 3000 Hz - frequencies outside that range are not received as well. A reduced sensitivity at 400 Hz can make the difference for a successful decode. The station answering the CQ (rig at 14132.0) should likely pick a frequency at or near the CQ frequency, since they don't know whether or not the CQing rig's frequency is at 14130 or 14132. If they choose, say, 1500 Hz, this would be at 14133.5. The CQing station set to 14130 may not be decoding all the way to 3500 Hz from the rig offset frequency.


A follow-on version to the original NanoVNA is closer to reality. This link has some pictures, and also describes the development of the original NanoVNA, variations, and the differences between them. There's also controversy, since the "Version 2" isn't designed by the original creator, yet has the name...

Dana Ernst from Northern Arizona University maintains a list of Free and Open Source Textbooks primarily focused on mathematics. Calculus, Diff Eq, Linear Algebra -- they're all there.

Razvan's, M0HZH 600 watt HF/6m amplifier (his entry into the 2019 NXP Homebrew RF Design Challenge) using a couple of NXP MRF300 transistors now has a companion output filtering board. It seems like a mini-golden-age for amplifier building, with the availability of modules that make amplifier construction more a mechanical task than electrical.

Justin, K5EM, uses an Airspy SDR to monitor his FTx transmissions from his ICOM 7300. You can follow the saga of why he did this via his tweet.

If you like kits, here's an all digital transceiver for FTx modes. It's described as "single-board, 4-watt SSB radio specifically designed for using digital modes with computers running WSJT-X and FLDIGI applications." QRP aficionados will recognize the kit's designer: Dave, K1SWL. (K7AGE via Twitter)


In It To...

We're all familiar with the phrase "in it to win it," but most of the time in contesting, we know we're not going to win. In that case, what are we "in it" for? To have fun! That's the easy but incomplete answer. I had a few hours of time to reflect as I drove to and from the K7RU multi-op for last weekend's ARRL RTTY Roundup. It's more complicated than just having fun. I think everyone in our group shares the same expectation of us not "winning" our category overall. Simply, there are other stations that are better equipped, and have locations that capitalize on lower noise and better propagation. Every year leading up to the contest we find a few "not-fun" parts and "not that much fun" parts. But when we're all together and the bands are open, the rates are high, and some new techniques seem to work, even the challenging episodes turn into tales of "that time we left the whole second station at home" or "that time we melted the roller inductor CQing" that we (now) proudly tell. The old maxim "it wasn't that funny at the time" applies.

Going into this year's contest, RTTY faced a second year of "mode contention" with FT4 and FT8. Setup for this contest was already complicated by having two stations with multiple on-screen RTTY decoders and dedicated FSK keying hardware per VFO. Add in setting up the FTx mode software and making sure it works with the logging programs... and it's easy to overlook something, despite multiple hours of verifying proper operation.

We planned on mainly using RTTY to make contacts, since we know we can sustain hourly rates in the triple digits if conditions support it. We suspected we could use FT4 and FT8 to help with multipliers, especially to EU.

That strategy was working great on Sunday morning. Despite 20 meters not really being open enough for good RTTY rates, we were able to work a few EU and soon not-to-be-EU stations. Overall rates weren't too bad either, in the mid-double digits as we also worked US stations. But disaster was lurking! After an hour or so of this, I happened to notice that I'd neglected to configure WSJT-X with the contest call. It was still set with the station call sign, and the last hour's contacts were made with the station call sign. Like I said, it's easy to overlook something.

It'll probably be at least a few days before we'll be able to laugh while telling the story about "that time we used the wrong call sign in the software."

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


9 Jan - 23 Jan 2020

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.


CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jan 8, 1300z to Jan 8, 1400z and, Jan 8, 1900z to Jan 8, 2000z and, Jan 9, 0300z to Jan 9, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: January 11.

AWA Linc Cundall Memorial CW Contest, Jan 8, 2300z to Jan 9, 2300z and, Jan 11, 2300z to Jan 12, 2300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40m; RST + Eqpt Year + Input Power (see rules for format); Logs due: February 1.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jan 10, 0145z to Jan 10, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: January 12.

QRP Fox Hunt, Jan 10, 0200z to Jan 10, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: January 16.

NCCC Sprint, Jan 10, 0230z to Jan 10, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: January 12.

YB DX Contest, Jan 11, 0000z to Jan 11, 2359z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: January 18.

Old New Year Contest, Jan 11, 0500z to Jan 11, 0900z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + sum of operator age and years on the air; Logs due: January 26.

UBA PSK63 Prefix Contest, Jan 11, 1200z to Jan 12, 1200z; BPSK63; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; ON: RSQ + UBA Section, non-ON: RSQ + Serial No. (starting with 001); Logs due: January 19.

SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, Jan 11, 1200z to Jan 13, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./"NONE"); Logs due: January 19.

North American QSO Party, CW, Jan 11, 1800z to Jan 12, 0559z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; NA: Name + (state/DC/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: January 17.

NRAU-Baltic Contest, SSB, Jan 12, 0630z to Jan 12, 0830z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40m; RST + Serial No. + 2-letter Fylke/Lan/Province/Region; Logs due: January 19.

NRAU-Baltic Contest, CW, Jan 12, 0900z to Jan 12, 1100z; CW; Bands: 80, 40m; RST + Serial No. + 2-letter Fylke/Lan/Province/Region; Logs due: January 19.

DARC 10-Meter Contest, Jan 12, 0900z to Jan 12, 1059z; CW, SSB; Bands: 10m Only; DL: RS(T) + QSO No. + DOK, non-DL: RS(T) + QSO No.; Logs due: January 19.

Midwinter Contest, Jan 12, 1000z to Jan 12, 1400z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; YLs: RST + Serial No. (beginning with 2001), OMs: RST + Serial No. (beginning with 001); Logs due: see rules.

RSGB AFS Contest, Data, Jan 12, 1300z to Jan 12, 1700z; RTTY, PSK; Bands: 80, 40m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: January 13.

Classic Exchange, CW, Jan 12, 1400z to Jan 13, 0800z and, Jan 14, 1400z to Jan 15, 0800z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; Name + RST + (state/province/country) + rcvr/xmtr manuf/model; Logs due: March 18.

4 States QRP Group Second Sunday Sprint, Jan 13, 0100z to Jan 13, 0300z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: RS(T) + (State/Province/Country) + Member No., Non-member: RS(T) + (State/Province/Country) + Power; Logs due: January 15.

QRP Fox Hunt, Jan 15, 0200z to Jan 15, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: January 16.

Phone Fray, Jan 15, 0230z to Jan 15, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: January 17.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jan 15, 1300z to Jan 15, 1400z and, Jan 15, 1900z to Jan 15, 2000z and, Jan 16, 0300z to Jan 16, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: January 18.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Jan 16, 0130z to Jan 16, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: January 19.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jan 17, 0145z to Jan 17, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: January 19.

QRP Fox Hunt, Jan 17, 0200z to Jan 17, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: January 23.

NCCC Sprint, Jan 17, 0230z to Jan 17, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: January 19.

LZ Open Contest, Jan 17, 1800z to Jan 17, 2200z; CW; Bands: 80, 40m; 3-Digit Serial No. + 3-Digit Serial No. received from last QSO; Logs due: January 27.

Hungarian DX Contest, Jan 18, 1200z to Jan 19, 1159z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; HA: RS(T) + 2-letter county, non-HA: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: January 24.

RSGB AFS Contest, SSB, Jan 18, 1300z to Jan 18, 1700z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40m; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: January 19.

North American QSO Party, SSB, Jan 18, 1800z to Jan 19, 0559z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; NA: Name + (state/DC/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: January 24.

NA Collegiate Championship, SSB, Jan 18, 1800z to Jan 19, 0559z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; NA: Name + (state/DC/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: January 24.

WAB 1.8 MHz Phone/CW, Jan 18, 1900z to Jan 18, 2300z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160m Only; British Isles: RS + serial no. + WAB square, Other: RS + serial no. + country; Logs due: February 8.

Feld Hell Sprint, Jan 18, 2000z to Jan 18, 2359z (EU-AF) and, Jan 18, 2300z to Jan 19, 0259z (ENA-ESA) and, Jan 19, 0200z to Jan 19, 0559z (WNA-OC-AS); Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; (see rules); Logs due: January 23.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Jan 20, 0200z to Jan 20, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: January 26.

SKCC Sprint, Jan 22, 0000z to Jan 22, 0200z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: January 24.

QRP Fox Hunt, Jan 22, 0200z to Jan 22, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: January 23.

Phone Fray, Jan 22, 0230z to Jan 22, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: January 24.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jan 22, 1300z to Jan 22, 1400z and, Jan 22, 1900z to Jan 22, 2000z and, Jan 23, 0300z to Jan 23, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: January 25.


ARRL January VHF Contest, Jan 18, 1900z to Jan 20, 0359z; Any; Bands: 50 MHz and up; 4-character grid square; Logs due: January 30.

See SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, Classic Exchange, CW, above.


9 Jan - 23 Jan 2020

January 9, 2020

January 10, 2020

January 11, 2020

January 12, 2020

January 13, 2020

January 14, 2020

January 15, 2020

January 16, 2020

January 17, 2020

January 18, 2020

January 19, 2020

January 22, 2020

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