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The ARRL Contest Update
July 8, 2020
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
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IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS -- THINGS TO DO

The IARU HF World Championship contest is this coming weekend. It's a popular Phone and CW contest that in some years is also the "host" for the WRTC competitions. Multipliers include ITU zones, IARU Headquarters stations, and IARU committee personnel. Multipliers are per band but not per mode, but contacts count per mode per band.

The next weekend is the CQ WW VHF Contest - yes, not an "HF" thing - but with the way that the 6- and 2-meter bands have been behaving lately, it could be a very fun one. During the ARRL VHF Contest a couple of weeks ago, comments were made along the lines of "6 meters was open nearly the entire contest" and "I don't know if I've ever experienced conditions this good during a VHF contest -- EVER!" For HF fare, the North American QSO Party, RTTY, will be warming up the ether. If you plan to enter that one, make sure you test any recently upgraded Microsoft Windows-based systems well in advance of the contest, as reports continue of driver shuffling due to the OS update.

CONTEST SUMMARY

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

9 Jul - 23 Jul 2020

July 9

July 10

July 11

July 12

July 13

July 14

July 15

July 16

July 17

July 18

July 19

July 21

July 22

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NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

Dave, N8SBE, wrote in response to a method to use a "swapped" paddle in the last Contest Update: "I discovered this issue with an MFJ keyer I purchased many years ago. I made a short cable with a 1/4" stereo plug on one end and an inline 1/4" stereo jack on the other. Wired the tip/ring from one end to the other end swapped. Voila! Instant re-swapped paddle! This has always been a part of my kit when I take my paddle someplace, so I can get it to work, no matter the wiring on the keyer or radio."

The IARU HF World Championship is coming up this weekend. Bob, N6TV, and Joe, OZ0J, are updating and distributing a "call history" file of all of the IARU Headquarters stations. "Download itu.zip from https://bit.ly/itudtb, which is updated frequently. Installation instructions and test procedure are documented in the Readme.txt file inside the zip. Send HQ station corrections/updates to contest@oz0j.dk."

Watch for stations that don't have an "HQ" suffix to also hand out IARU multipliers in the upcoming IARU HF World Championship. For example, The Daily DX reports in its July 2, 2020 issue that Executive Committee members for Region 2 will be dispensing the R2 multiplier. So far, it's known that Georg,e VE3YV; Jay, K0QB; Gustavo, PT2ADM, and Ramon, XE1KK will be using their own call signs.

The WSJT-X development team released version 2.2.2 of the popular software a few days before ARRL Field Day to address some bugs, and "adds PE to the list of allowable sections for the contest mode messages." (Dennis, W1UE)

Proper grounding and bonding can be designed to handle lightning, but if the energy levels are unusually high, protection could be overwhelmed. Extreme lightning bursts, aka "megaflashes," were observed in record sizes in Argentina and other areas in 2019, according to the UN's weather agency WMO. Imagine a flash lasting over 16 seconds, or a single flash that traverses a distance of 400 miles. Oklahoma held the longest-distance flash of 199 miles set in 2007 up until Brazil's distance-record flash in October 31, 2019.

After the last issue's discussion of contest scoreboards, Scott, N3FJP, wrote that "using the two major online scoreboards is nearly frictionless with my software as well. All the information is prefilled for each contest (another advantage of contest specific software). Users only need to check one check box to enable the on line scoreboards for upload to both cqcontest.net and contestonlinescores.com via WA7BNM's score distributor. Other sites can also be added and served simultaneously."

WORD TO THE WISE

Call History

A call history file is a database of call signs and associated exchange information gleaned from a previous contest to be used by a logging program. While entering a contact, information from the call history can be pre-filled to save typing and provide additional confidence to the operator that they've copied everything correctly. Over time, the sources of call history information have increased to encompass publicly available logs, announcements of intended contest operations, and so on. The use of a call history lookup is not viewed as assistance in most contests. Some stations may change their exchange information from year to year to stymie the use of call history files by stations they contact, but in doing so also have to accept that they'll be asked to repeat their exchange more often.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Good news! While you've been paying attention to other things for the past 10 years, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has been consistently taking pictures of the sun -- one every three-quarters of a second -- across a number of different wavelengths. Images of the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 17.1 nanometers reveals the sun's corona, and hourly corona pictures have been combined into a time-lapse movie of the last decade of solar activity, condensed into about 60 minutes. Use the video playback controls to flip between the starting and later portions to visualize how activity has diminished between 2010 and now. (Bill, AI5I, and Ward, N0AX)

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RESULTS AND RECORDS

The expanded results writeup for the ARRL January 2020 VHF contest is now available.(Duffey, KK6MC)

6E2T won #1 in the world in the Multi-2 category of the ARRL DX CW Contest in 1995. Here is N6NC's telling of the story and pictures of the Southern California Contest Club's operation that took place in Ensenada, Baja, Mexico. (Dennis, N6KI)

The 2020 DRCG WW RTTY Contest results are now online. For those who qualify, certificates are available for downloading. (Goetz, DJ3IW)

OPERATING TIP

Record QSOs and Review Mistakes To Get Better

To reduce your error rate, you need to know what errors you are making, and try to figure out why you're making them. That starts with reviewing busted contacts indicated by Log Checking Reports (LCRs) in conjunction with listening to a recording of the contact. If you're not recording your contest QSOs, take a look at this presentation from the 2019 International DX Convention by Bob, N6TV, entitled "How to Record an Entire Contest and Learn From Your Mistakes." His methods are very detailed, and can scale to record SO2R contests. Once you have recordings, you can find out if you are miscopying certain letters, whether noise was a factor, or whether you just blew the contact at 3 am on 40 meters because you were fatigued.

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

Loftur, TF3LJ/VE2LJX, has been working on an automatically tuned loop antenna. It uses band data from a wide variety of radios to control a vacuum variable capacitor via a stepper motor, in either a stored-setting mode, or with appropriate additional hardware, tuning by minimizing SWR. He's shared his hardware and software design via his web page.

User-space applications that send and receive IP packets are made easy by the TAP/TUN interface that exists in Linux. This means that link-layer transports can be written without the overhead of managing a device driver. Here's a project by VK5DGR to send/receive IP packets over VHF/UHF frequencies using the native hardware capabilities of the Raspberry Pi in conjunction with an RTL-SDR. The stated goal is to enable low-cost, low-speed links for areas that don't have connectivity.

Tom, N1MM, found this gem for Microsoft Windows users: "Did you know you can rename sound card inputs and outputs? If you only have one sound device, there is no need, but if you have many, it may be confusing which is which. Once you figure it out, use this link to see how to rename the sound card to something more meaningful. (via N1MM Logger+ group)

If you have an SDRPlay RSP1A SDR in a plastic case in a high-RF environment, you might appreciate a metal case to help with shielding. According to the RTL-SDR website they are back in stock, but this batch will be the last.

F1ATB's blog describes a complete system of using inexpensive RTL-SDR hardware with a small Linux computer to serve streams to WebSDR clients specifically for the reception of SSB. The SSB signal chain is realized using GNU Radio, where changing the receiver is as easy as moving functional blocks in a diagram. (via the RTL-SDR website)

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CONVERSATION

More Motivation For A Solitary Activity

Here's a quote from 2019 CQ Contest Hall Of Famer WA7BNM's Score Distributor website:

"Contesting has traditionally been a very lonely sport. You sit in your shack, make QSOs, and then find out how you did at the end. That requires a lot of self-motivation to keep going, particularly when conditions are poor. By watching an online scoreboard while operating, it gives an idea of how you're doing compared to others. You don't have to be in contention for a top-ten score to benefit from watching a scoreboard during a contest. Contesters with very simple stations have been motivated by seeing how they're doing against another club member or buddy with a similar station."

Motivation during a solitary activity is not limited to radio contesting. During the current pandemic, traditional gyms are closed, and some states require that people not go outside at all during self-quarantine. This can make exercising a challenge.

My preferred mode of aerobic exercise, prior to social distancing restrictions, was a group spin class a few times a week at the local gym. With the right trainers, some good music, and other people sharing the misery, it was something to look forward to.

Like everything else, spin classes have gone online - I'm sure you've seen the ads for Peloton, it's just one of the options for spinning at home in conjunction with a human trainer communicating via the internet. I already have a road bicycle, so the solution for me was a variable resistance trainer that I can use in conjunction with whatever device I have on hand (PC, phone, tablet) to use with a virtual reality cycling app. The application that I've grown to like is called Zwift. I ride my road bicycle in place on the trainer. The pedaling effort corresponds to the scene displayed on my iPad, which is mounted on my handlebars, and I can listen to sounds like crowds cheering, the wind blowing, birds tweeting, and the sound of wheels on pavement. I can see metrics on how many miles I've cycled, calories expended, current cadence and heart rate, and so on. There are also other people in the game. Through the app, any time I'm pedaling I can see other cyclists' avatars and see them participating in their "solitary" endeavors.

An aspect that really helps to make this a compelling experience are scheduled group events. At any time of day or night - there are international users crossing all time zones - different cycling organizations can sponsor events online, everything from training and casual rides to serious races. During group events, each competitor can see their own metrics and the status of those around them. Spectators and other participants can "thumbs up" any participant. Cyclists in an event can post messages that can be observed by other participants. Somehow this doesn't seem to get abused. After a race, results are calculated and displayed, and anomalies in performance can be flagged automatically. Results are published within minutes, providing immediate reinforcement and reward.

How does this cycling stuff relate to radio contesting? Zwift hasn't changed the fundamentals of riding a bicycle. They have done as much as possible to reduce the solitary nature of the activity. Assuming we can get a number of radio contesters to report scores online during contests, we could build on and around that in conjunction with resources that we already use like 3830scores.com to have a more immersive experience during and outside contests:

  • Show the current competitive position in real time in logging programs
  • During a contest, have a means to communicate "thumbs-up" types of encouragement messages to contesters from others
  • Close the months-long open loop between reported scores, and the eventual "official" scores calculated by the contest sponsors, so that both can be displayed in one place
  • In addition to final standings, be able to show rates, multipliers, and so on as time series information
  • Keep statistics for each station's performance over time
  • Have a low-overhead way for sponsors to schedule contest-like events so they can be advertised online and within logging programs, along with a one-click method to upload logs from the logging program after the event
  • Provide a "radio contest lobby" where anyone looking for a radio activity at any particular moment can find something of interest. Today the closest thing to this is the FT8 segment on a band that is open. While calling CQ might have worked in the past, an internet-coordinated quest like "find at least 5 out of 20 participating stations on 20 meters between 14.030 and 14.045 in the next 30 minutes" might provide a more satisfying experience

Everything I've described enhances or makes it easier to participate in the activity of using a radio to make contacts over the air. Could it also encourage more contest activity?

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

9 Jul - 23 Jul 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.

HF CONTESTS

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 9, 0300z to Jul 9, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 11.

RTTYOPS Weeksprint, Jul 9, 1700z to Jul 9, 1900z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20 m; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name]; Logs due: July 14.

QRP Fox Hunt, Jul 10, 0100z to Jul 10, 0230z; CW; Bands: 20 m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: July 11.

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

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

FISTS Summer Unlimited Sprint, Jul 11, 0000z to Jul 11, 0400z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 m; FISTS: RST + (state/province/country) + first name + FISTS No., non-FISTS: RST + (state/province/country) + first name + power; Logs due: July 25.

IARU HF World Championship, Jul 11, 1200z to Jul 12, 1200z; CW, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 m; IARU HQ: RS(T) + IARU Society, Non-HQ: RS(T) + ITU Zone No.; Logs due: July 17.

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

QRP ARCI Summer Homebrew Sprint, Jul 12, 2000z to Jul 12, 2300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 m; RST + (state/province/country) + (ARCI no./power); Logs due: July 26.

4 States QRP Group Second Sunday Sprint, Jul 13, 0000z to Jul 13, 0200z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 m; Member: RS(T) + (State/Province/Country) + Member No., Non-member: RS(T) + (State/Province/Country) + Power; Logs due: July 15.

Worldwide Sideband Activity Contest, Jul 14, 0100z to Jul 14, 0159z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6 m; RS + age group (OM, YL, Youth YL or Youth); Logs due: July 15.

RTTYOPS Weeksprint, Jul 14, 1700z to Jul 14, 1900z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20 m; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name]; Logs due: July 14.

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

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 15, 1300z to Jul 15, 1400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 18.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 15, 1900z to Jul 15, 2000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 18.

RSGB 80 m Club Championship, SSB, Jul 15, 1900z to Jul 15, 2030z; SSB; Bands: 80 m Only; RS + Serial No.; Logs due: July 16.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Jul 16, 0030z to Jul 16, 0230z; CW; Bands: ; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: July 20.

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

RTTYOPS Weeksprint, Jul 16, 1700z to Jul 16, 1900z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20 m; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name]; Logs due: July 21.

QRP Fox Hunt, Jul 17, 0100z to Jul 17, 0230z; CW; Bands: 20 m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: July 18.

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

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

Russian Radio Team Championship, Jul 18, 0700z to Jul 18, 1459z; CW, SSB; Bands: 40, 20, 15, 10 m; RRTC: RS(T) + three-character code, Non-RRTC: RS(T) + ITU Zone No.; Logs due: July 18.

Trans-Tasman Low-Bands Challenge, Jul 18, 0800z to Jul 18, 1400z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40 m; RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: July 25.

Feld Hell Sprint, Jul 18, 1200z to Jul 18, 1359z; Feld Hell; Bands: ; (see rules); Logs due: July 21.

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

RSGB Low Power Contest, Jul 19, 0900z to Jul 19, 1200z, Jul 19, 1300z to Jul 19, 1600z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20 m; RST + Serial No. + Power; Logs due: July 20.

RTTYOPS Weekend Sprint, Jul 19, 1600z to Jul 19, 1959z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name] + [6-character grid locator]; Logs due: July 26.

CQC Great Colorado Gold Rush, Jul 19, 2000z to Jul 19, 2159z; CW; Bands: 20 m Only; RST + (state/province/country); Logs due: August 18.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Jul 19, 2300z to Jul 20, 0100z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: July 26.

Worldwide Sideband Activity Contest, Jul 21, 0100z to Jul 21, 0159z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6 m; RS + age group (OM, YL, Youth YL or Youth); Logs due: July 22.

RTTYOPS Weeksprint, Jul 21, 1700z to Jul 21, 1900z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20 m; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name]; Logs due: July 21.

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

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

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 22, 1300z to Jul 22, 1400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 25.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 22, 1900z to Jul 22, 2000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10 m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 25.

VHF+ CONTESTS

CQ Worldwide VHF Contest, Jul 18, 1800z to Jul 19, 2100z; Any; Bands: 6, 2 m; four-character grid square; Logs due: July 24.

Also, see SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, Worldwide Sideband Activity Contest, above.

LOG DUE DATES

9 Jul - 23 Jul 2020

July 9, 2020

July 10, 2020

July 11, 2020

July 12, 2020

July 13, 2020

July 14, 2020

July 15, 2020

July 16, 2020

July 17, 2020

July 18, 2020

July 19, 2020

July 20, 2020

July 21, 2020

July 22, 2020

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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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