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Contest Update Issues

The ARRL Contest Update
February 5, 2020
Editor: Paul Bourque, N1SFE

The delightfully digital CQ WPX RTTY Contest is the weekend of February 8. According to the website, over 20,000 operators typically participate in this one. Thirty hours of operating counts toward your score as a single operator, and the scoring system is more generous for out-of-country contacts than CW and SSB WPX.

The weekend of February 15 sees 48 hours of the ARRL International DX Contest, CW. DX stations will be sending signal reports and power. The power indicator could be sent with digits, for example, "100." Some stations send "K" for 1000. Some operators think they go faster by sending cut numbers like "att" but maybe not so much if they're asked for repeats. Just be ready. More about this below.


Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

5 Feb - 19 Feb 2020

February 6

February 7

February 8

February 9

February 10

February 11

February 12

February 13

February 14

February 15

February 17

February 19


The ARRL International DX Contest CW is the weekend of February 15. DX stations will be sending a power indicator, which seems to be a creative outlet for some Amateurs. You might hear "K" for 1000, or maybe "1K", or maybe "1000" being sent. Cut numbers are "Letter abbreviations for Morse numerals, such as N for 9 A for 1, T for zero, and so forth." Most importantly, what do you log? From a past Contest Update issue:

What happens if you enter "cut numbers" in QSO lines of a Cabrillo-formatted log? You'll be hearing lots of them in the upcoming ARRL DX CW Contest, so here's the straight scoop. First, the character string is read from the submitted log. Then...

Any instance of W or WATTS are removed from the string.

If the string is one character long containing K, it is transformed to 1000

Similarly, 1K and KILO become 1000

All characters are removed which are not a numeral (0-9), A, E, N, T, or O

Replacements are then made: 'A' with '1', 'E' with '5', 'N' with '9', 'T' with '0', and 'O' with '0'

If the result is 000, it is replaced with 1000

Finally, the resulting set of characters are converted to an integer value for checking against other logs.

The Spring ARRL School Club Roundup is happening 1300 UTC Monday February 10 to 2359 UTC Friday February 14. While the focus is on increasing participation by school clubs, anyone can get on with additional categories for non-school clubs and individuals. The results from last October's contest are available.

Win4K3Suite is a "full featured control program for the K3/S, KX3 and KX2." In addition to the six virtualized radios that allow sharing between various PC applications, it has a built in panadapter that works with LP-PAN and a sound card, as well as the SDRPlay SDRs. Version 2.018 of Win4K3Suite is available, which "improves entity lookup from ClubLog as well as other minor items." According to the program's author, VA2FSQ, "you must download this before the end of February," with details of the release available here.

Scott, N3FJP, has just released updates for all of his contest software, with some great new features for 2020! Complete details are available on his website.

Mark, K6UFO, writes: A "great" [As in size - Ed.] space weather super-storm large enough to cause significant disruption to our electronic and networked systems occurred on average once in every 25 years, according to a new study. "Space super-storm likelihood estimated from longest period of magnetic field observations."

You're probably keeping records of your contacts in a general computer logger running on a PC. If you're not near that logging PC, you can't easily access your logging data. Cloudlog, a web-based logging application, aims to make it easy to access your logs from a "desktop, tablet or mobile phone" that's convenient for you, via the web. It's available as open-source on Github to run it yourself, you'll just need to be able to host your own MySQL and PHP webserver. Or, you can purchase a subscription to Cloudlog's servers.

The QRP Labs QCX Transceiver now has a mono-band companion 50 watt amplifier kit. This amp is ONLY for the QCX CW Transceiver, since it's class C design. When used with the QCX, it's capable of QSK operation. There's an attractive case available for it, as well!

For small but beefy power supplies, some amateurs are using blade or server power supplies that they're finding on eBay. Be aware that additional work and expense to add RFI filtering might be necessary with these switchers.

Practicing for the next CW contest is getting easier with an improved integration between N1MM Logger+ and MorseRunner. The improvement's author, Steve, N2IC, noted: "This new version is much simpler than previous versions. After you check the "MorseRunner Mode" box in the Configurer-->Other tab, it should all magically work. No AHK [Auto Hot Key - Ed.] scripts are needed. No need to separately download and start MorseRunner prior to starting N1MM Logger+." This is built in to N1MM Logger+ starting with version 1.0.8131. Steve requests that all feedback be sent to him.

Finding information on the internet is easier than keeping it up to date! Larry, K8UT, is spearheading an effort to keep the telnet cluster list in N1MM Logger+ up to date. Inaccuracy is a big issue today with most lists of telnet clusters; many are no longer in operation, and in the middle of a contest the last thing one wants to do is search for a new cluster to use. To address this issue and collect real statistics on active clusters, the version of N1MM Logger+ being released on February 4 will contain experimental code that will "report a station's Packet Settings to an N1MM Logger+ website database." It will do so for only one week, it's "date-limited to run for one week, ending on February 11." To allay privacy concerns, this version will collect minimal data: "The cluster packet contains five data elements: the name of the packet site; the URL/IP address of the packet site; the result of your attempt to connect (succeed? or fail?); your geographic Continent; and your CQ Zone (as listed in the Station Information settings). Aside from Continent and Zone, no personal or user-identifiable information is collected on the server." For more information, see the announcement and associated thread on the N1MM Logger+


Precipitation Static

A buildup of charge on metal antenna elements from strong atmospheric electric fields, thought to be related to the conditions that cause the phenomenon known as St. Elmo's fire. Potentials generated can be great enough to cause arcing and destroy improperly protected circuits.


Tom, N1MM, made a video on how to set up the Spectrum Window in N1MM Logger+ fed from an SDRPlay SDR.

This came from Mike, W4RN: "Paul Carlson (VE7ZWZ) conducts a YouTube channel called "Mr. Carlson's Lab." The productions are very technically sound and, a good portion are ham-radio related. In his latest production he explores high voltage created by snowflakes striking antennas." The potentials generated are enough to make a fairly powerful arc. [Ed. Note: The actual cause of the high voltage may not necessarily be caused by the snowflakes themselves.]


Jay, W3MMM, collects QSL cards, and when he works a school club station, he makes an extra effort to request a card. Jay worked K9IU in both Sweepstakes contests in 2019, sent off a QSL card, and received this in return. K9IU was champion of the 2019 Society of Midwest Contester NA Collegiate Championship. Jay also tweeted about it. [Jay Horman, W3MMM, photo]


Use Call History and Super Check Partial

A call history file is just that - a database of call signs that have been used in previous contests. Historically, use of them has been seen more of a typing or memory aid than outright assistance, and their use in most contests does not count as assistance. Sometimes call history information is augmented with exchange information for a specific contest. For example, for the ARRL Sweepstakes, most call history files have a call sign, ARRL Section, and "check" information sent by a station. Note that some operators realize others use call history files, and will change their exchange information year to year to keep everyone on their toes. Sometimes contest clubs will aggregate contest logs of club members from past contests to create their club's own private call history files (another benefit of being a member of a contest club). Call history files are also available from the websites of some logging programs.

Super Check Partial is a specialized call history file, constructed to make lookups of partial callsigns easier for logging programs. SCP also only includes calls that are reasonably active in contests. Most logging programs use SCP with a "check" window feature that is populated with possible call signs as they are typed in an entry window. In rough conditions, pieces of call signs can be entered, possible callsigns are shown, and that may help the correlation facility in your brain when you hear the repeat.


Moving the audio streams from your remote site to the operating point via internet can a be a challenge due to variable network latency, traversal of firewalls, etc. Borrowing from PC gamers, some have used Mumble with their transceivers, others use more comprehensive solutions like RCForb, and there are a few ham-specific ones like RemAud, and now RemoteAudio by DH1TW. According to the author: "it's cross platform, supports multiple users and has a very low latency." It's also open-source and on Github.

This article highlights how to use inexpensive RTL-SDRs to make a passive radar, which, yes, you can do at home. There's also a contest-relevant gem in it is the description of the 4-channel phase-coherent RTL-SDR hardware that's now available that could be used for, say, beamforming/beam steering, like the kind that K1LT talks about he uses on 160 meters. Phase-coherent sources of I/Q data removes the "work" of extensive switching and phasing and replaces it with math and processing. The quad-channel RTL-SDR hardware's frequency coverage begins at 24 MHz, so an upconverter would be needed for the bands below that frequency.

Continuing with a "phased array" theme, how about one for 60 GHz for $10? Transmit and receive capability, with antennas, on a single chip, $10. The linked article points to some data about this chip, which is available as a sub-assembly originally incorporated in TVs and laptops. It was originally supposed to support streaming video, but the standard never caught on.

Some of the best summits for amateur radio communication are already being used for radio communication by commercial transmitters on VHF frequencies. Powerful signals on nearby frequencies can overload the front-ends of many ham band transceivers, making them useless for communications. SOTABeams has a new 2 meter band-pass filter specifically made for handhelds that can help with this problem. It's also getting good reviews on the SOTA Reflector.


WARC Contesting?

Perhaps you missed it. I certainly did. In the rules of the 2020 Vermont QSO Party, is the complete section on how FT4 and FT8 contacts can be made for the VT QSO Party. There are a bunch of rules related to FTx mode contacts for the VT QSO party listed, including how the standard exchange of grid square is to be used, and this, rule 6:

"6. FT8/FT4 contacts can be made on the recognized FT8 frequencies of 10.136/10.140, 18.110/18.104 and 24.920/24.919 MHz upper side band. No other modes are allowed on 30, 17 and 12 meters."

The potential problem is that the frequencies cited in rule 6 are WARC bands. There's been a gentleman's agreement among... I guess, "gentlemen," that the WARC bands won't be used for contesting. Certainly you won't find any ARRL Contests using the WARC bands. CQ Magazine and WWROF sponsored contests also disallow usage of WARC bands for their events. The verbiage in the ARRL Contesting Guidelines is the most explicit, stating the rules as well as the rationale: "WARC bands are not used for contests, therefore moving to these bands during contest weekends is an option for casual operators and rag chewers."

Hams are a self-regulating sort, by and large. It would be pretty obvious in other modes if someone were contesting on the WARC bands, since they might have the tells of sending "CQ TEST." Or if someone was soliciting a contest QSO without being obvious about it, they'd be taking their chances in getting someone that wanted to have a genuine conversation beyond "59" and their state. That kind of stuff really ruins the rate.

But with the FT modes, the "regular" non-contest exchange is basically the same as the contest exchange. You really can't tell whether someone calling CQ from a particular grid is trying to use the band for a contest contact, or just wants a regular FTx contact.

I've made some FT4 and FT8 contacts both outside of contests and as part of the WW Digi DX and ARRL RTTY Roundup. Outside of a contest period, I've decoded people doing directional CQs, probably to work on their WAS awards...or maybe they just like one of that state's sports teams. But in the future, I might wonder if another QSO Party changed their rules to allow contacts on the WARC bands as well.

In my opinion, allowing FTx contacts to count for the VT QSO Party may not have been thought all the way through. Intended to spur greater participation, it's not breaking any regulations but runs counter to worldwide consensus that the WARC bands of 30, 17, and 12 meters should be contest-free to give non-contesters some breathing room on busy weekends. This has worked very, very well for more than 30 years. While one of the smaller state QSO parties will not be too disruptive, there's no reason to open the door to bigger events that certainly will cause problems.

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


5 Feb - 19 Feb 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, Feb 5, 1300z to Feb 5, 1400z and, Feb 5, 1900z to Feb 5, 2000z and, Feb 6, 0300z to Feb 6, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 8.

NRAU 10m Activity Contest, Feb 6, 1800z to Feb 6, 1900z (cw) and, Feb 6, 1900z to Feb 6, 2000z (ssb) and, Feb 6, 2000z to Feb 6, 2100z (fm) and, Feb 6, 2100z to Feb 6, 2200z (dig); CW, SSB, FM, Digital; Bands: 10m Only; RS(T) + 6-character grid square; Logs due: February 20.

SKCC Sprint Europe, Feb 6, 2000z to Feb 6, 2200z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: February 13.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Feb 7, 0145z to Feb 7, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 9.

QRP Fox Hunt, Feb 7, 0200z to Feb 7, 0330z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: February 13.

NCCC Sprint, Feb 7, 0230z to Feb 7, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 9.

CQ WW RTTY WPX Contest, Feb 8, 0000z to Feb 9, 2359z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 14.

SARL Field Day Contest, Feb 8, 1000z to Feb 9, 1000z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RS(T) + Number of transmitters + Category (see rules) + Province (or "DX"); Logs due: February 17.

Asia-Pacific Spring Sprint, CW, Feb 8, 1100z to Feb 8, 1300z; CW; Bands: 40, 20m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 15.

Dutch PACC Contest, Feb 8, 1200z to Feb 9, 1200z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; PA: RS(T) + province, non-PA: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: March 1.

KCJ Topband Contest, Feb 8, 1200z to Feb 9, 1200z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; JA: RST + Prefecture/District Code, non-JA: RST + Continent Code (AF,AS,EU,NA,OC,SA); Logs due: February 29.

SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, Feb 8, 1200z to Feb 10, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./"NONE"); Logs due: February 16.

YLRL YL-OM Contest, Feb 8, 1400z to Feb 10, 0200z; CW/Digital, SSB; Bands: All; QSO No. + RS(T) + (section/province/country); Logs due: March 11.

OMISS QSO Party, Feb 8, 1500z to Feb 9, 1500z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RS + (state/province/DX) + (OMISS No. if member); Logs due: March 1.

FISTS Winter Unlimited Sprint, Feb 8, 1700z to Feb 8, 2100z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; FISTS: RST + (state/province/country) + first name + FISTS No., non-FISTS: RST + (state/province/country) + first name + power; Logs due: February 22.

RSGB 1.8 MHz Contest, Feb 8, 1900z to Feb 8, 2300z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; UK: RST + Serial No. + District Code, non-UK: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 9.

Balkan HF Contest, Feb 9, 1300z to Feb 9, 1700z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40m; RS(T) + QSO No.; Logs due: February 16.

Classic Exchange, Phone, Feb 9, 1400z to Feb 10, 0800z and, Feb 11, 1400z to Feb 12, 0800z; AM, SSB, FM; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; Name + RS + (state/province/country) + rcvr/xmtr manuf/model; Logs due: March 18.

4 States QRP Group Second Sunday Sprint, Feb 10, 0100z to Feb 10, 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: February 12.

CQC Winter QSO Party, Feb 10, 0100z to Feb 10, 0259z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + (state/province/country); Logs due: March 11.

ARRL School Club Roundup, Feb 10, 1300z to Feb 14, 2359z; CW, Phone, RTTY/Digital; Bands: All, except 60, 30, 17, 12m; RS(T) + Class (I/C/S) + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 29.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Feb 12, 0130z to Feb 12, 0330z; CW; Bands: ; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: February 15.

QRP Fox Hunt, Feb 12, 0200z to Feb 12, 0330z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: February 13.

Phone Fray, Feb 12, 0230z to Feb 12, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: February 14.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Feb 12, 1300z to Feb 12, 1400z and, Feb 12, 1900z to Feb 12, 2000z and, Feb 13, 0300z to Feb 13, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 15.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, Data, Feb 12, 2000z to Feb 12, 2130z; RTTY, PSK; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 13.

PODXS 070 Club Valentine Sprint, Feb 14, 0000z to Feb 14, 2359z; PSK31; Bands: 160, 80, 40m; Name + (OM/YL) + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 21.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Feb 14, 0145z to Feb 14, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 16.

QRP Fox Hunt, Feb 14, 0200z to Feb 14, 0330z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: February 20.

NCCC Sprint, Feb 14, 0230z to Feb 14, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 16.

ARRL International DX Contest, CW, Feb 15, 0000z to Feb 17, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; W/VE: RST + (state/province), non-W/VE: RST + power; Logs due: February 23.

Russian PSK WW Contest, Feb 15, 1200z to Feb 16, 1159z; BPSK31, BPSK63, BPSK125; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RU: RST + 2-letter oblast, non-RU: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 21.

Feld Hell Sprint, Feb 15, 1900z to Feb 15, 2059z; Feld Hell; Bands: ; (see rules); Logs due: February 19.

AWA Amplitude Modulation QSO Party, Feb 15, 2300z to Feb 16, 2300z; AM; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20m; Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: March 13.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Feb 17, 0200z to Feb 17, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: February 23.

QRP Fox Hunt, Feb 19, 0200z to Feb 19, 0330z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: February 20.

Phone Fray, Feb 19, 0230z to Feb 19, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: February 21.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Feb 19, 1300z to Feb 19, 1400z and, Feb 19, 1900z to Feb 19, 2000z and, Feb 20, 0300z to Feb 20, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 22.

AGCW Semi-Automatic Key Evening, Feb 19, 1900z to Feb 19, 2030z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No. + "/" + 2-digit year first used a bug; Logs due: March 14.


See SKCC Sprint Europe, SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, above.


5 Feb - 19 Feb 2020

February 6, 2020

February 7, 2020

February 8, 2020

February 9, 2020

February 11, 2020

February 12, 2020

February 13, 2020

February 14, 2020

February 15, 2020

February 16, 2020

February 17, 2020

February 19, 2020

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