No One in the Shack as Station Logs 4200+ Contacts in ARRL DX CW Contest
The group of six operators operating as K3TN in the recent ARRL International DX Contest (CW) may have made Amateur Radio history by mounting the first completely remote-controlled multioperator contest effort. The scattered K3TN team worked via the Internet through the station of Jack Hammett, K4VV, on Catoctin Ridge in Northern Virginia. All of K4VV’s operating positions were vacant over the February 21-22 weekend, because the operators were elsewhere, and one participant even managed to operate during the contest from two states — Maryland and Florida.
“No one was in the K4VV shack for the entire contest!” said Mike Lonneke, W0YR, who took part in the contest via K4VV from his own shack in Virginia. Two other operators were in North Carolina. “Perhaps this is a new category — Totally Remote (TR).” Lonneke said 3-minute timers at the remote-capable positions allow FCC requirements to be met.
The “Team K4VV” contingent made 4224 contacts and logged 556 multipliers for a claimed score of more than 7 million points — not a Top 10 score but respectable. For comparison, the top-scoring multi-multi operation, K3LR, has claimed 18.85 million points.
K4VV boasts two Telrex “Big Bertha” rotating masts that support 17 wide-spaced Yagi arrays for 10, 15, and 20 meters and a two-stack of 4 element OWA Yagis on 40, plus wire antennas for 80 and 160 meters. This is not the sort of antenna farm likely found in the typical suburban neighborhoods from which the K3TN participants operated.
Despite the vagaries of winter weather, the station performed well. “We had a foot of wet snowfall Saturday afternoon/evening, and the station was totally inaccessible,” said John Pescatore, K3TN, in a 3830 website log post. “The ops fairly winced as they watched the on-screen direction indicators for K4VV’s Big Berthas turn at a tortoise’s pace in the near zero-degree cold. But, turn they did. The station played great, and band conditions were across the board, good.”
Lonneke said one member of the ARRL DX CW team, Bill Rogers, W3UL, started the contest from his home in Maryland, before taking the auto train to Florida and rushing to his condo to finish up.
Team K4VV, a group of more than 20 operators, helps to maintain and operate the station, which has become a real-world laboratory in the to-date niche field of remotely controlled contesting. “Jack’s [K4VV] health is not the best,” Lonneke noted, “but he is happy to see his station — an outstanding facility — used and maintained by a group of his Amateur Radio friends.”
Three of K4VV’s well-equipped operating positions can be operated either from within the shack or via remote control from anywhere in the world. In 2013 ARRL November Sweepstakes (CW), Tom Morton, CX7TT, who lives in near Montevideo, Uruguay, logged into one of the K4VV operating positions. Operating as W4YY at a distance of nearly 5200 miles, he managed a clean sweep. Lonneke has said that the operating experience from the remote end “is transparent.”
Until recently contacts made during such operations were ineligible for DXCC credit for either station. Changes to the DXCC Rules now allow a control operator to be outside the DXCC entity in which the radio transmitter/receiver is located. For DXCC purposes transmitter location continues to define a station’s location. CQ Magazine recently began sponsoring an award for working 100 countries while using remote control.
In addition to Pescatore, Lonneke, and Rogers, the K3TN operators for the ARRL International DX CW were Rick Miller, N1RM, in Virginia; Jim Gulvin, W4TMO, in North Carolina, and Rowland Archer, K4XD, in North Carolina. The K3TN log was submitted under the Potomac Valley Radio Club banner.
Pescatore now is hoping to gather a team of phone operators to mount a similar multi-multi effort in the ARRL International DX Contest SSB event in March.