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The ARRL Contest Update
June 13, 2018
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
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IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

Your best bets for HF activity this weekend include the West Virginia QSO Party, All-Asia DX Contest, and ARRL Kids Day. If you have a 160 meter antenna, the Summer Stew Perry Topband Challenge is an opportunity to exchange grid squares on HF in a format that isn't FT8. The weekend of June 23 will be consumed by ARRL Field Day activity. If you haven't committed to a Field Day operation, you can find one near you using the ARRL Field Day Site Locator, or call around to radio clubs in your area to see about joining in.

CONTEST SUMMARY

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

14 Jun - 27 Jun 2018

June 14

June 15

June 16

June 17

June 18

June 20

June 21

June 22

June 23

June 27

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NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

Sharing a multi-band Yagi antenna between two or three stations can make sense to make setup easier and potentially less complicated. Diplexer or Triplexers allow the simultaneous use of different bands on the same antenna. While high power versions of these devices for HF traditionally were a make-your-own project, over the past few years commercial models have become more prevalent such as the Low Band Systems units available from DX Engineering, VA6AM's designs, and 4O3A's combiner.

FT8 and <INSERT YOUR CONTEST HERE>: FT8 is coming up on its first anniversary as a mode, and everyone is still trying to figure out how much of a juggernaut it is. In the recent ARRL June VHF Contest, for some operators it provided opportunities for contacts where none would have likely occurred, while others found that stations were kept from completing contacts by a setting and single checkbox in the software. During the upcoming ARRL Field Day, people will try to use the new mode to make Field Day points, but will be faced with the challenge of fitting the Field Day exchange into the confines of software that in its current version has limited flexibility for arbitrary information exchange. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Only contacts containing the complete Field Day exchange information can count toward Field Day scores
  • Many FT8 operators on the bands during Field Day weekend will not be participating in Field Day

In FT8 software, QSO partners will have to use "Free form" messages to exchange the necessary Field Day information of Transmitter #, Class, and Section. QSOs will have to be moved forward manually by operators on each end. This could be a lot to ask of Field Day operators. Field Day is also about having fun, so perhaps consider having a non-scoring FT8 station on hand for those that want to try the mode in its current form.

A July IARU HF Championship contest-specific call history file compatible with multiple loggers will be made available by Bob, N6TV and Joe, OZ0J before the contest, as has been done in past years. You can watch the OZ0K website for the announcement of availability as the contest draws closer. If you're planning on using a special call just for this contest, Bob and Joe ask that you email them so that it may be included. Your logger might be able to use the Super Check Partial database files that contain the calls of active contesters derived from the logs of past contests. As always, when operating during the contest, log what was sent.

Gerry, W1VE, found that some operators prefer the N3FJP Field Day logging program's simplicity over N1MM Logger+ for ARRL Field Day, but that it would be nice if those operators could also see the contacts being logged from N1MM. So he wrote a program to listen to N1MM Logger's UDP broadcasts and get those contacts into N3FJP. Perhaps this will solve a problem for your Field Day operation.

Contest sponsors have a lot to do to run a successful contest. Besides making sure contest dates are well known (marketing), rules have to be up to date (administration), resources allocated to accept and process logs (IT), and awards determined (more administration). Someone's got to publish the results, send out any plaques, and get ready to do it again the next time. Sponsors of popular contests do get asked on a fairly regular basis to include additional categories or awards for particular operating conditions. But contest sponsors, generally, are tapped out as far as categories go. Why not sponsor your own category as a Contest Within A Contest (CWAC)? In the simplest case, just sponsor an award (plaque, certificate, trophy, stained-glass window...) in the contest for the type of operation you want to highlight. If necessary, offer to review the entries that might qualify for the award. Or you can announce a separate effort entirely, using the published scores to determine winners. As long as the contacts made for your CWAC are valid for the host contest, everybody benefits. You can help the contest and promote your category at the same time! (Ward, N0AX)

Since we all can't have an AMD Threadripper CPUs in our desktop computers to help process spots during major contests, we need to make the most of the CPUs that we have. Make sure your computer's vents are not caked with dust, and that CPU heatsinks are clean. You might also be able to increase the performance of your computer by adding more memory, or upgrading your hard drive to a solid-state drive (SSD).

Tree, N6TR, reminds that Stew Perry Topband Distance Challenge now features the Stew Perry Quatre Seasons Award. "This special award - which will likely consist of a plaque - will be presented to the single-op participant who accumulates the highest total of points over the four events for a given year. The Summer event this weekend is the second event for 2018 - so you can add to your score from March. Your points will be counted regardless of which power category you enter. Note that a low power entry has a 1.5X multiplier and the QRP one has a 3X multiplier. You figure out which category will help your overall total at the end of the year." (N6TR)

K0NR relates FT8 adoption to classic technology adoption paradigms in a recent blog entry. The big takeaway is that it reinforces his opinion and observation from 2011 that "Amateur Radio is not for Talking." Because of FT8's fixed, relatively inflexible format, everyone knows what they are in for -- there's no opportunity to get involved in a ragchew, and that's the way many people like it.

WORD TO THE WISE

Temperature Coefficient

The relationship between a change in a quantity such as resistance to a change in temperature. Resistors usually exhibit a positive temperature coefficient - resistance increases as temperatures rise. Semiconductors can exhibit negative temperature coefficients. Electronic components can vary enough to adversely affect circuit operation if care is not taken to account for these effects, for example in high power solid state amplifiers.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Summer! A good time to make or buy radial plates and add more radials to your vertical antennas.

The slide presentations from the Dayton 2018 Contest University have been posted. According to the presentation by Tim, K3LR, over the past 12 years that the Dayton Contest University has been held, over 6000 students have attended. As an aside, Icom has supported the Dayton CTU every single year since its inception.

KB6NU is out with a new podcast "No Nonsense Amateur Radio", the first episode of which is focused on "What's killing Amateur Radio." Spoiler: a better way to describe today's situation could be "What's killing Amateur Radio ... for you."

Charlie, ZL2CTM, is publishing a series of YouTube videos around building a "Homebrew SDR SSB Rig." In nine parts, Charlie goes from talking about the radio's design decisions to making a contact with the completed rig. Part 10 adds an HF amplifier. (Jeff, KE9V via Twitter)

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RESULTS AND RECORDS

Your experience in the VHF Contest was probably all about your "Location, Location, Location." From the reports rolling in, it appears that the eastern and southern portions of the U.S. benefitted from Sporadic E propagation. Craig, K9CT, entering as a Single Op, HP, noted in his 3830scores.com comments: "I was anxious about the effect of FT8 to the contest. Best part was working stations when the band would not support CW or phone. Low point was all the stations that were not in the VHF Contest Mode. It made the QSOs longer and then some stations just didn't finish. When signals got stronger, I would quickly QSY to CW and phone. I did make 183 FT8 Qs, so I guess I made additional Qs that I might not have made otherwise." Paul, K7CW, located in the Pacific Northwest, has a well-equipped station for 6 meters. His experience was much different: "This one was brutal. No E-skip on Saturday for us. E-skip was weak on Sunday and we had to rely on FT8 to get us Qs. Oh, it was tough - and I won't go into all the reasons why. I'm not going to whine, though, as contest conditions are going to change with time. I did love having a few CW QSOs and enough SSB ones to keep the pleasure level up."

The Arkansas QSO Party results and summary article are available on the ARKQP website.

The raw scores for the CQ WPX Contest have been posted. Checklogs are not included in this listing. The contest sponsors ask that you report any errors as they are found. (Terry, N4TZ, via CQ-Contest)

ARRL Contributing Editor Ward, N0AX, announced a slate of new authors for the Top Band and Magic Band contests: Mark Beckwith, N5OT, will author the ARRL 160 Meter Contest results, while Phil, K3UA, will be the new author of the ARRL June VHF Contest results. "Phil is a regular participant in the June VHF contest and will deliver an interesting and informative article." Ralph "Gator" Bowen N5RZ will be taking over from Jeff Klein K1TEO for the ARRL September VHF Contest.

OPERATING TIP

Search and Pounce from the Bottom of the Band

You may achieve greater success searching and pouncing if you start from the bottom of the band. Stations running at the bottom of the band in general have bigger signals and may be easier to work. The reason that the bigger signals congregate in the lower portion of the band is that they know S&P operators tend to start at the bottom of the band...

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

The N1MM Logger+ Spectrum Display Window has the capability to use AirSpy HF+ SDR hardware as the source of spectral information, augmented by the call signs of stations obtained by manual entry in the bandmap, or via packet spots. Here's a display of weekday activity as seen at N1MM's location. Click on the graphic for a larger version.

Hans, G0UPL, the designer of the QCX QRP Transceiver originally intended for the 2017 Youngsters On The Air (YOTA) Buildathon, has published his presentation "Modern QRP Rigs and the Development of the QCX CW Transceiver Kit" that he made at the May, 2018 Four Days in May (FDIM) event in Ohio. His paper discusses how the design of QRP radios has evolved with the advent of newer parts and newer techniques, and walks through each section of the QCX rig. He even goes into great detail of how the Si5351A synthesizer chip's can be programmed to provide the correct quadrature (90 degree phase offset) outputs necessary. According to the figures on the QRP Labs website, there are over four thousand of these kits in existence to date.

The uBitX transceiver is a 10 watt HF CW/SSB transceiver semi-kit that requires packaging into a case to get on the air. Some Amateurs are getting these radios working with FT8 and other sound-based digital modes, which could provide a fun way for those that don't have a radio to utilize popular modes on HF.

Traditional ferrite material, whether it's in the form of beads, toroids, or rods, all looks the same, but can exhibit vastly different characteristics. Keeping ferrite on hand for projects has meant carefully labeling. DX Engineering has made working with ferrites less error prone with a simple idea: color-coding all ferrite materials available from them. They've also put together assortments of ferrite applicable to particular tasks, such as "general RF suppression" versus "linear amplifier RF suppression." Check the DX Engineering website for more information.

Elecraft CTO N6KR posted an important note for K3 owners. Using VOX on CW, the default TX Delay setting of 008 may be too short for some linear amplifiers, with the measured transmit delay being closer to 6 ms rather than 8 ms, especially on the K3S or K3 with KSYN3A upgrade. This could cause hot-switching of the amplifier relay, or key clicks. Increasing the TX Delay will fix the problem, but also cause keying elements to be truncated, making the first element too short (semi break-in), or all elements too light (full break-in QSK). To restore proper CW timing for external keying with VOX, N6TV recommends using the "Keying Compensation" or "1st Dit Extension" settings of a WinKey or similar. No compensation is needed if the PTT IN line is held closed by the WinKey during all transmissions. (Bob, N6TV)

For WSJT-X users that want to send arbitrary information using FT8:

K1JT & Team deem that reading the "WSJT-X User Guide" is essential. The separate "FT8 Operating Tips" document that describes in section 9.24 that the final sequence TX5 (up to 13 free text characters) ending in 73 can be custom tailored to whatever text you wish - so while early TX1-TX2... exchanges might be grid square based, the final TX5 exchange can include within up to 13 characters the "Class and Section" to get the job done (eg TX5, "3A WVA 73"). See page 15 of the "FT8 Operating Tips" document for more information.
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CONVERSATION

The Not-A-Contest Contest

It's been said that Field Day is an operating event, not a contest. But many take Field Day very seriously, in whatever dimension they find most interesting, such as most transmitters on the air, best BBQ, fastest setup time, highest ratio of potato salad to contacts made. Deciding on what your Field Day adventure is going to be is part of the fun. In the traditional contesting sense, it's all about making a high score. I spoke with Rob, N7QT, who along with Brian, N7RVD, placed fourth overall in the 1B2 category for in 2014 operating portable from Table Mountain in Eastern Washington. They had a K3, CrankIR vertical, wire antennas and a Cushcraft 3 element Yagi. Rob and Brian had operated ARRL Field Day from that location, which provides over 6000 feet of elevation, and a low-noise environment.

"Our operation was casual - we had an enjoyable camping experience, and we also operated Field Day. The camping experience included preparing and eating meals together, and enjoying our beautiful Pacific Northwest location. As a result we didn't score as highly in the results as we would have liked, so we decided to analyze how we could have done better in preparation for the 2015 FD contest. We decided to approach Field Day as we'd approach any regular contest. It was all about keeping the radio busy making contacts that earned the most points. We made the following changes in 2015:

  1. We prepared our meals ahead of time and ate separately, agreeing that we would not let the radio be idle
  2. We changed location to one that gave us better coverage of the entire US
  3. While we both prefer CW, but when we'd run out of CW contacts in the middle of the night, we'd switch to SSB. It's like fishing - when nothing is happening, try something different
  4. Brian and I complemented each other; I am more a night person, and he can just crank out the Qs during the day, so we operated to our strengths during the contest.

We came in first place in the 1B2 category in 2015 as a result of our operating changes."

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

14 Jun - 27 Jun 2018

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

HF CONTESTS

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jun 13, 1300z to Jun 13, 1400z, Jun 13, 1900z to Jun 13, 2000z, Jun 14, 0300z to Jun 14, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: June 16.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jun 15, 0145z to Jun 15, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 17.

NCCC Sprint, Jun 15, 0230z to Jun 15, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 17.

All Asian DX Contest, CW, Jun 16, 0000z to Jun 18, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + 2-digit age; Logs due: July 18.

ARR BPSK63 Contest, Jun 16, 1200z to Jun 17, 1200z; BPSK63; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: July 17.

Ukrainian DX Classic RTTY Contest, Jun 16, 1200z to Jun 17, 1159z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Ukraine: RST + 2-letter oblast, non-Ukraine: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: July 2.

Stew Perry Topband Challenge, Jun 16, 1500z to Jun 17, 1500z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; 4-Character grid square; Logs due: July 2.

West Virginia QSO Party, Jun 16, 1600z to Jun 17, 0200z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; WV: RS(T) + county, non-WV: RS(T) + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 4.

Feld Hell Sprint, Jun 16, 1800z to Jun 16, 1959z; Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; (see rules); Logs due: June 20.

ARRL Kids Day, Jun 16, 1800z to Jun 16, 2359z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 17, 15, 12, 10, 2m repeaters; name + age + QTH + favorite color; Logs due: July 16.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Jun 18, 0100z to Jun 18, 0300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: June 24.

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

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jun 20, 1300z to Jun 20, 1400z, Jun 20, 1900z to Jun 20, 2000z, Jun 21, 0300z to Jun 21, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: June 23.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Jun 21, 0030z to Jun 21, 0230z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: June 23.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jun 22, 0145z to Jun 22, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 24.

NCCC Sprint, Jun 22, 0230z to Jun 22, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: June 24.

Battle of Carabobo International Contest, Jun 23, 0000z to Jun 25, 0000z; CW, Phone; Bands: 40, 20, 15, 10m; YV: RS(T) + state, Non-YV: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: July 31.

UFT QRP Contest, Jun 23, 0600z to Jun 23, 0900z, Jun 23, 1400z to Jun 23, 1700z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: RST + QRP/QRO + UFT member no., non-member: RST + QRP/QRO + "NM"; Logs due: July 23.

His Maj. King of Spain Contest, SSB, Jun 23, 1200z to Jun 24, 1200z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; EA: RS + province, non-EA: RS + Serial No.; Logs due: July 9.

Ukrainian DX DIGI Contest, Jun 23, 1200z to Jun 24, 1200z; RTTY, PSK63; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; UR: RST + 2-letter Oblast, non-UR: RST + QSO No.; Logs due: July 24.

ARRL Field Day, Jun 23, 1800z to Jun 24, 2100z; All; Bands: All, except 30, 17, 12m; W/VE: Number of transmitters (see rules) + Operating class + ARRL/RAC section, DX: Number of transmitters (see rules) + Operating class + "DX"; Logs due: July 24.

SKCC Sprint, Jun 27, 0000z to Jun 27, 0200z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: July 1.

Phone Fray, Jun 27, 0230z to Jun 27, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: June 29.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jun 27, 1300z to Jun 27, 1400z, Jun 27, 1900z to Jun 27, 2000z, Jun 28, 0300z to Jun 28, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: June 30.

VHF+ CONTESTS

SMIRK Contest, Jun 16, 0000z to Jun 18, 0000z; CW, Phone; Bands: 6m Only; SMIRK No. (optional) + 4-character grid square; Logs due: August 18.

IARU Region 1 50 MHz Contest, Jun 16, 1400z to Jun 17, 1400z; CW, SSB; Bands: 6m Only; RS(T) + QSO No. + locator; Logs due: July 1.

AGCW VHF/UHF Contest, Jun 16, 1400z to Jun 16, 1700z (144), Jun 16, 1700z to Jun 16, 1800z (432); CW; Bands: 144 MHz, 432 MHz; RST + "/" + Serial No. + "/" Power class + "/" + 6-character grid locator; Logs due: July 2.

WAB 50 MHz Phone, Jun 17, 0900z to Jun 17, 1500z; SSB; Bands: 6m Only; British Isles: RS + serial no. + WAB square, Other: RS + serial no. + country; Logs due: July 8.

Also, see Feld Hell Sprint and ARRL Kids Day above.

LOG DUE DATES

13 Jun - 27 Jun 2018

June 14, 2018

June 15, 2018

June 16, 2018

June 16, 2018

June 17, 2018

June 18, 2018

June 20, 2018

June 21, 2018

June 22, 2018

June 23, 2018

June 24, 2018

June 26, 2018

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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

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