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The ARRL Contest Update
February 7, 2018
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG

The 'big' contests over the next two weeks include the 48-hour CQ RTTY WPX contest, and the ARRL International DX CW contest.

The CQ RTTY WPX contest offers the chance to work a lot of stations and earn high scores since call sign prefixes are multipliers. That's one of the aspects that make the WPX contests so popular. Another is the wide range of choices for operating conditions - there are even three choices for multi-operator! Make sure you read the rules carefully, as different band change rules and operating hour restrictions apply based on entry category. Take advantage of the ROOKIE or TB-WIRES single operator overlay categories if you qualify, so that you're competing against your peers.

The ARRL International DX CW Contest is coming up the weekend of February 17. This contest was first held in 1927. DX stations work continental US states and Canadian provinces and territories. Hawaii, Alaska, St. Paul Island and Sable Island are DX for the purposes of this contest. The 48-hour contest includes multiple single op and multi-op categories. One can even choose to submit a Single Operator Single Band (SOSB) entry. Ten meters may not be a good choice for SOSB this year.

If you're on the air February 12 to 16, hand out a few contacts to the schools competing in the ARRL School Club Roundup. Schools for elementary age on up will be on the air. Should you come across KD8NOM, N4SMS, K9SOU, W8EDU, KR8ZE, or DL0ESA, congratulate them for their category wins in the October 2017 contest. Second thought, better not. Just give them the exchange, since it's all about the rate.


The Montana QSO Party was cancelled for 2018. According to the sponsors, it will be back next year. (Bob, AB4VT)


8 Feb - 21 Feb 2018

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

February 8

February 9

February 10

February 11

February 12

February 14

February 15

February 16

February 17

February 18

February 19

February 20

February 21


The Minnesota QSO Party allowed FT8 contacts as a response to the increasing popularity of the mode. I asked Mark, WA0MHJ, what changed as a result of incorporating this mode:

"This is still an on-going experiment... Because of the difficulty in modifying exchanges in WSJT-X (i.e. not sending county or section), we just used two recommended CQ macros. They were:

For non-Minnesota stations: CQ MN W1XYZ

For Minnesota stations: CQ MQP WB0AAA

Because the FT-8 logs are separate from the regular logs submitted, we chose to not give QSO or multiplier credit, but just the bonus points. They will count for the word challenge that we had, and there are several who are working on programs to tally the number of letters achieved from the 1x1 calls from both types of logs. I have processed through 170 entrants so far. In those 170, we have 22 who have also sent ADIF files for FT-8 contacts. Two of the 22 are non-Minnesota stations, who both made the minimum requirements for bonus points. When all of the logs are in, I will tally the total number of participants and QSOs made.

As reported in the ARRL Letter and here and here and elsewhere, Scott, VE7TIL, also an amateur astronomer, was recently searching for a newly launched satellite. Instead, he found an older satellite, one that was left for dead after an on-board power failure in late 2005. He was the first to observe that it had come back to life, as indicated by radio signals it was emitting! The satellite known as IMAGE has now been confirmed by NASA to potentially still "be in good shape." The far-reaching reporting of this story may yield other benefits such as inspiring others to look to the skies, observe, and experiment.

Attention CW Skimmer 2.0 software users! You'll want to download and update your configuration with a new 'patt3ch.lst' file to be able to recognize the Z6 (Kosovo) prefix. VE3NEA Skimmer Server users are also getting an update - CW Skimmer Server 1.6 and RTTY Skimmer Server 1.3 have been released, both including the capability to spot non-ITU-assigned prefixes. Visit the VE3NEA website for the updates.

Anyone who spent time in a Radio Shack store during the 1970s and early 1980s likely recalls seeing a rack or two of Tandy / Radio Shack published books. Forrest Mims was a featured author for many electronics-related project books, and by the 1980s many publications had 'TRS-80' in the title. The Internet Archive website is a good place to find familiar Tandy titles for reading and reminiscence.

Sean, WA1TE, operated as K1SIG/R in the January ARRL VHF Contest. One of his highlights of the contest: 'When speaking with WB2VVV on 2m FM, his comment of "you're really strong!" was followed by our reply of "well, we better be, we're in your driveway!' (via February 2018 Mt. Airy VHF Society Cheese Bits)

Obtaining high scores on 'period' cabinet video games is still popular in some circles. Unfortunately, suspicions of cheating have arisen related to a recent world-record high score claim for Donkey Kong. An analysis of a video recording of the suspect game play was performed, along with statistical analysis of the score progression. The analysis showed enough deviation from normal Donkey Kong game operation to nullify a recent record. Serious attempts at record high scores are now made before a large number of witnesses, or are video recorded to show both the game play and the person playing the game. Game emulators are allowed to assist in training, but only a real, original, unmodified cabinet game may be used for record attempts.

"You hear 'tomato', the computer hears 'format C:'" - Nicholas Carlini, a Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley recently demonstrated that computer voice recognition can be fooled by a skillful adversary. By manipulating the qualities of a recorded conversation, voice recognizers 'hear' something completely different than what the human voice is saying. In the audio samples on the website, the adversarial recordings sound like there's just a slightly higher level of background noise.

If you're still thinking about attending the Top Band Dinner as part of the International DX Conference in Visalia, California, it's time to turn those thoughts into ACTION. The event is over 70% sold out. The program will include a presentation by Lee, KY7M, "Overview of the N5IA 160m 8-Circle Antenna", and another presentation TBD, as the previously schedules presentation on "Top Band from Bouvet, 3Y0Z" must now be rescheduled.


Triboelectric Effect

After you walk across a carpet wearing socks or shoes in a low-humidity environment, you might experience a static electricity shock when you touch a wall switch or another human. The charge that you accumulated during your carpet walk was due to the triboelectric effect, which is the gain or loss of electrons between dissimilar materials when those materials physically move against one another. Increasing the frictional forces by shuffling can intensify the effect, as most siblings are aware. Lord Kelvin built one type of electrostatic generator that uses water drops to develop potential differences. Dust or sand particles hitting wire antennas in strong wind can cause static electricity to accumulate.


OH1LFX posted a 10-minute snapshot of band activity during the 2018 CQWW 160 Meter CW contest. His video highlights the density of signals when operating near the EU.

Sergey, RM6AA made a video fly-by documenting the extensive antenna system used by R7AB in the mostly M/S contest category. With the 8 squares on 80 meters and 160 meters, and Yagi beams that are raised into position on band-specific towers using elevators, it's apparent a lot of thought and effort is going into this station.


The 2017 ARRL September VHF Contest full results and line scores are now available on the ARRL contest results website.

Preliminary results for the ARRL 160 Meter contests have also been posted to the contest results website. According to Gary, K9AY, author of the 160 Meter contest results, "The 2017 event had 1212 US/VE logs submitted, plus 182 DX entries. This is more than any of the previous five years." The final results will be published online and in the June 2018 QST magazine.

Remember our old friend, 10 Meters? Haven't seen him in a while. The 2017 ARRL 10-Meter Contest preliminary results just published on the contest results website reflect ol' Sol's lack of activity. In 2014, over 2 million QSOs were reported during the contest weekend. In 2017? Just over 98k. So, what's that, a 95% drop in the number of QSOs? Crazy.

The Final Results of the 2017 Scandinavian Activity Contest have been posted. All of the winners from North America were located in the eastern part of the continent.

The Texas QSO Party results for 2017 have been posted. Contest sponsors report that event participation was negatively affected by Hurricane Harvey's occurrence two weeks before the contest, since many coastal areas of Texas were still involved in storm recovery efforts.

Preliminary Sweepstakes results for both kinds, CW and Phone, have been posted. You'll recognize many repeat winners in the list of category winners for both contests.


Take your Headphones Off to Copy Weak CW Signals

The next time you're struggling to copy a CW signal buried in noise, try taking off your headphones and holding them at arms length, using the earpieces as speakers. Sometimes it's enough to make the CW signal pop out of the noise, enabling copy. The same effect can sometimes be experienced by listening to a larger external speaker from several feet, or a room, away. (Fred, K6DGW, via the Elecraft email reflector)


The BNC wrench, made by Mathews Engineering. It's a specialty tool made to hold BNC female chassis connectors in place while the rear nut is tightened. [ Photo courtesy of Mathews Engineering ]

This item is courtesy of the Mt. Airy "Packrats" VHF Radio Club, and appears in their February 2018 Cheese Bits newsletter: 'BNC Wrench - A Useful Tool: Many builders who use BNC jacks on the projects are faced with the problem of how to tighten the nut on the back of the connector without having the connector spin in the hole. Now if you are able to cut D-holes in the chassis the problem is solved as the shape of the hole prevents the connector from turning when you tighten the nut. I, as I suppose is the case with most hobbyists, don't a have punch to make D-holes but I have discovered and received as a Christmas present a solution to the BNC jack tightening problem. It is a BNC Connector Wrench made by Mathews Engineering of Indianapolis, IN. The wrench works by sliding over the female BNC connector. There are slots machined into the side of the wrench to hold onto the two nubs that protrude from the barrel of the connector. Tom, KA3FQS'

Minimodem, an open-source audio FSK modem by Kamal, KA6MAL, that already supports RTTY and other protocols, could be a fun place to start to experiment with your own ideas for CODEC performance over atmospheric channels. Or you could put it on a Raspberry Pi to build a Terminal Unit (TU) that talks to mechanical hardware. Or...

It's no secret that automotive electronics are becoming more complicated and feature-filled. Automotive electronics engineers solve some of the same issues that Amateurs do with combining and separating RF and power signals. While building some bias-T devices, aka Power Injectors for HF receiving antennas, I was struck by the wide variety of surface-mount chokes that are now available through parts distributors for tasks like putting Ethernet and power signals on the same physical cable. Most of the 'Power over Coax' components I've found so far are suitable for higher-frequency usage, for example 10 MHz and up, and some certainly appear usable at VHF and UHF frequencies.

The XXY Oscilloscope web page can display audio signals captured from a computer microphone, with an excellent simulation of CRT phosphor persistence.

The "XXY Oscilloscope" is a web page that provides basic cathode ray tube oscilloscope functionality, including phosphor persistence. You can choose input sources from among microphone, signal file, or mathematical equation inputs. It's fun to play with, and might even be useful as a tool in a pinch.

Researchers in Germany demonstrated a new way to keep multiple optical channels separate under real atmospheric conditions recently. The new modulation technique is called Orbital Angular Momentum Division Multiplexing. Two channels, sent as one beam via an air path over Erlangen, Germany, were recovered and decoded by a receiver. Though such a transmission had been demonstrated through an optical fiber a few years before, it had been thought that dispersion of the signal over an atmospheric path would change the quantum angular momentum states. The experimental results indicated that different orbital angular momentum states were degraded by the atmosphere in different ways but were still recoverable.

Mike, VE3GFN, responded to my suggestion last time that it might always be a good time to 'add radials' to a vertical antenna:

You mentioned, in the most recent Contest Update, that folks should add radials to any vertical antenna. Can't agree more! However, not only vertical antennas can benefit from the addition of radials! Some years ago, I put down 3000 feet of radials, a variety of 1/4 wavelength radials for bands 160M through 20M. My QTH is on old lakebed sand, and boy, did they make a difference! My antenna analyzer told me that impedances had changed for several of my antennas. On 80M and 40M, where I use an Inverted Vee fed with open line, my signal reports, on the average, over the ensuing years, went up several S-units, both incoming and outgoing. My Butternut vertical on 160M sure started being heard better, and I finished off my DXCC Honor Roll, using paper QSLs and only 100 Watts. My technique, as advised by Bert, VE3NR, was to lay down the radials in the spring, "nailing" them to the lawns with long pins made from coat hangers, and when the grass began to grow (and be mowed), they vanished. Years later, they are down 3 inches or more in the sod, and can only be seen where grass doesn't grow. I live on a smallish corner lot in suburbia, so of course, there are many bends in the radials! ...

73 - Mike VE3GFN



The plan was audacious, taking Amateur Radio to one of the most hostile places on Earth. In most gatherings of hams, "Do you need Bouvet?" has been the opener to discussions of DX, terrible propagation, and what it might take to work the crew using ships, helicopters, and ice axes to put a rare one on the air. New gear was ordered and installed, receiving antennas built, schedules blocked off to work this strange place that might not ever 'be' on the air again. "They left port" came in via text message. We all tracked the ship via satellite and computers, watching dots progress across the blue for 11 days. "We have arrived" was received with a heightened level of preparation. "How many days to unload?" "Visibility and wind is keeping them off the island." The weather at -54.42, 3.44 became more important than what was outside our windows. "Heard from them today?" Then, bad news. Forecasted continued bad weather, and problems with the mother ship force an abort. Mother Nature and Murphy are a powerful team. A collective letdown, partially lifted by news that everyone was well, and plans were being made to try again in the future.

You've already planned to spend hours or even days trying to work Bouvet, so why not still use some of that time to improve your station, fix some gear, get caught up on QSLs, try a new mode, get rid of that pesky audio hum, or figure out why the amp gets squirrely on that one part of 15 meters? How about putting some quarters in the karmic piggy bank by tackling that project your significant other wanted you to do... it will come in handy when they try to "Bouvet" again. You could at least put in another radial or two.

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


8 Feb - 21 Feb 2018

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


CWops Mini-CWT Test, Feb 7, 1300z to Feb 7, 1400z, Feb 7, 1900z to Feb 7, 2000z, Feb 8, 0300z to Feb 8, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 10.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Feb 9, 0145z to Feb 9, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 11.

QRP Fox Hunt, Feb 9, 0200z to Feb 9, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: February 15.

NCCC Sprint, Feb 9, 0230z to Feb 9, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 11.

YLRL YL-OM Contest, Feb 9, 1400z to Feb 11, 0200z; CW/Digital, SSB; Bands: All; QSO No. + RS(T) + (section/province/country); Logs due: March 12.

CQ WW RTTY WPX Contest, Feb 10, 0000z to Feb 11, 2359z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 16.

SARL Field Day Contest, Feb 10, 1000z to Feb 11, 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 18.

Asia-Pacific Spring Sprint, CW, Feb 10, 1100z to Feb 10, 1300z; CW; Bands: 40, 20m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 17.

Dutch PACC Contest, Feb 10, 1200z to Feb 11, 1200z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; PA: RS(T) + province, non-PA: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: March 15.

KCJ Topband Contest, Feb 10, 1200z to Feb 11, 1200z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; JA: RST + Prefecture/District Code, non-JA: RST + Continent Code (AF,AS,EU,NA,OC,SA); Logs due: March 12.

SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, Feb 10, 1200z to Feb 12, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./"NONE"); Logs due: February 18.

OMISS QSO Party, Feb 10, 1500z to Feb 11, 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 10, 1700z to Feb 10, 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: March 12.

RSGB 1st 1.8 MHz Contest, Feb 10, 1900z to Feb 10, 2300z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; UK: RST + Serial No. + District Code, non-UK: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 11.

Balkan HF Contest, Feb 11, 1200z to Feb 11, 1800z; CW, SSB; Bands: 80, 40m; RS(T) + QSO No.; Logs due: February 18.

4 States QRP Group Second Sunday Sprint, Feb 12, 0100z to Feb 12, 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 14.

CQC Winter QSO Party, Feb 12, 0100z to Feb 12, 0259z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + (state/province/country); Logs due: March 14.

ARRL School Club Roundup, Feb 12, 1300z to Feb 16, 2359z; CW, Phone, RTTY/Digital; Bands: All, except 60, 30, 17, 12m; RS(T) + Class (I/C/S) + (state/province/country); Logs due: March 3.

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 28.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Feb 14, 0130z to Feb 14, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: February 17.

QRP Fox Hunt, Feb 14, 0200z to Feb 14, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: February 15.

Phone Fray, Feb 14, 0230z to Feb 14, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: February 16.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Feb 14, 1300z to Feb 14, 1400z, Feb 14, 1900z to Feb 14, 2000z, Feb 15, 0300z to Feb 15, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 17.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, Data, Feb 14, 2000z to Feb 14, 2130z; RTTY, PSK; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 15.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Feb 16, 0145z to Feb 16, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 18.

QRP Fox Hunt, Feb 16, 0200z to Feb 16, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: February 22.

NCCC Sprint, Feb 16, 0230z to Feb 16, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 18.

ARRL International DX Contest, CW, Feb 17, 0000z to Feb 19, 0000z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; W/VE: RST + (state/province), non-W/VE: RST + power; Logs due: February 23.

SARL Youth Day Sprint, Feb 17, 0800z to Feb 17, 1000z; SSB; Bands: 40m Only; RS + age; Logs due: February 24.

Russian PSK WW Contest, Feb 17, 1200z to Feb 18, 1159z; BPSK31, BPSK63, BPSK125; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RU: RST + 2-letter oblast, non-RU: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 23.

Feld Hell Sprint, Feb 17, 1900z to Feb 17, 2059z; Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; (see rules); Logs due: February 21.

AWA Amplitude Modulation QSO Party, Feb 17, 2300z to Feb 18, 2300z; AM; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20m; Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: March 7.

Classic Exchange, Phone, Feb 18, 1400z to Feb 19, 0800z, Feb 20, 1400z to Feb 21, 0800z; AM, SSB, FM; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; Name + RS + (state/province/country) + rcvr/xmtr manuf/model; Logs due: April 30.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Feb 19, 0200z to Feb 19, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: February 25.

QRP Fox Hunt, Feb 21, 0200z to Feb 21, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: February 22.

Phone Fray, Feb 21, 0230z to Feb 21, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: February 23.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Feb 21, 1300z to Feb 21, 1400z, Feb 21, 1900z to Feb 21, 2000z, Feb 22, 0300z to Feb 22, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 24.

AGCW Semi-Automatic Key Evening, Feb 21, 1900z to Feb 21, 2030z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No. + "/" + 2-digit year first used a bug; Logs due: March 15.


See the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon, and Classic Exchange, Phone, above.


8 Feb - 21 Feb 2018

February 8, 2018

February 9, 2018

February 10, 2018

February 11, 2018

February 12, 2018

February 14, 2018

February 15, 2018

February 16, 2018

February 17, 2018

February 18, 2018

February 21, 2018

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