ON5ZO – OQ5M

I didn’t do much on-the-air radio in May. I got some antenna work done to get a second antenna on 15/20m again for SO2R. In anticipation of this contest.

 

I wondered how I would do compared to the SSB part a month ago. I landed just over 4 million points just shy of 2000 QSO. I targeted 3000 QSO in the CW part, just to prove that CW beats SSB any day.

The day before the contest, I installed some extra antennas:

I had a slow start. A  *V.E.R.Y.* slow start. The 40m band was full. I wanted to run bout found no place to park. I got on 7061 and then started a slow run with some 80m QSO on the second radio. The first hour went by with just passing the psychological barrier of 100 Q: 103 contacts is a slow start. Luckily I could keep this up for a few hours. The 80m was just OK. After sunrise I went to 28 MHz right away because that band was whopping. I scraped 9 contacts from the noise floor last month in SSB. I easily logged more than hundred early in the morning. That’s probably more than what I logged on 10 meters in all the contests of the three past years combined. This sun takes but it gave some this weekend too. I admit: it was mostly EU but it’s TEN and there were tons of prefixes. After that I had a good run on 15m too. Same feeling: 79 hard fought contacts in SSB and an easy +100 run this time. Thanks to the sun. Saturday afternoon I attacked the 20m band yielding the best hour of the contest: 130 Q/hr. That is not really a lot but it is what it is. I stayed on 14 MHz until late in the evening. I was surprised that the band was open this late supporting DX propagation. After that I went to 160m. This is not an important band in the WPX contest but the ‘fresh meat’ experience boosts the rate and there are some prefixed there that can’t be found elsewhere because of the SB160 guys. I didn’t stay long and spent the rest of the second night on 40m. That band gave rate, prefixes and 6-point contacts. What more can you ask for?

During the first part of the contest the K index had risen to 3. That was felt in the propagation! Typical situation: low K and good conditions the weak leading up to the contest. Right at the start the sun spits some garbage towards Earth that affects propagation. The ionosphere recovered slowly during the contest which was felt too later on Sunday. The sun gives, the sun takes…

I took the last long break on Sunday morning. The plan was to do the last twelve hours of the contest in one stretch. Extrapolation told me that 3000 QSO was possible if nothing went wrong. In the mean time I looked up the Belgian record for this contest in my category: 6.9 million points.

Set in 2002 (lots of sunspots) by DL2CC (German!) from the ON4UN station (big antennas). Beating this score was not really impossible but I would have to go after it with only ten hours to go. Challenge accepted!

A couple of decent runs on 10m and 15m followed. The decreasing K-index had some surprises in store: a few stations from California on 15m. Never expected: East coast was troublesome in the recent past, West Coast virtually impossible. And KH6TU heard me and we exchanged numbers. Booyaa! All this boosted the score and the 7 million mark was in reach. I had to build a good margin for the record to stand after log checking… That margin came in the form of a sustained 20m run to the USA. Finally some action! Three point contacts and a wealthy dose of new prefixes.

To finish the contest I sat on 40m for the double points. I grabbed a few stations on 160m and 80m with the second radio but decided not to spend more time there.

When the closing bell rang I was quite happy with a new claimed Belgian record. Especially since this had been set with BIG antennas way higher than mine (see it here), in a year when the solar cycle facilitated DX propagation. I have a small tribander, ineffective low band wires and only one small tower. Not to mention SFI=70 at best…

I had good fun on the radio in my preferred mode and heard lots of friends from all over the globe.

To John AE5X: your signal was just fine but each S7 DX signal is sandwiched between S9++ local signals here… Good to hear you!

 

It’s been almost seven weeks since the Corona / COVID-19 confinement. Apart from nature walks with family and dog, and some gardening, there is not much left to do but ham radio. You won’t be hearing any complaints from me about that. Here’s an image from one of the long walks:

 

 
 
 
 
 
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be like: But I would walk 500 miles And I would walk 500 more Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles To fall down at your door #wandelenmetdehond #coronawandeling #komuituwkot #coronawalk

Een bericht gedeeld door Franki – ON5ZO – OQ5M (@on5zo) op

So what did I do?

The red thread running through this month is that I left up the tower and low band antennas after RDXC and WPX SSB. Since I am at home all the time (Corona confinement!) and WX is not too windy… Actually the wind was strong enough on two occasions. Not a storm but très gusty. Everything held up. With the antenna up and nowhere to go, I participated in some events I usually skip.

I participated in a local 6m contest. But I have no 6m antenna. So for that I hung up the WARC dipole. It exhibits reasonable SWR on 50 MHz. Any antenna beats no antenna so I logged 13 CW and 25 SSB QSO. Of which one DX: a DL.

I worked 51 Japanese stations in their JIDX CW. All on 20m, none of them loud. Some pretty weak and marginal.

Gagarin Memorial Cup. That was fun. I logged 516 CW QSO on 40m only. Lots of stations to work. Confinement is a bliss for our hobby.

Manchester  Mineira a/k/a CQMM. My plan was to work a dozen Brazilians on 15m. That turned out quite… well:

  Band     QSOs    
   3,5      99
     7     357
    14     391
    21      22
 Total     869

A lot of people to work from all over the world. Again: confinement is boosting on the air activity.

During the week there was stuff to work. World Amateur Radio Day SES stations (***WARD). Especially the Spanish: AM*WARD. Spain is not always easy from here but I think I’m up to 30 now.

Never waste a good crisis and any occasion can serve a Special Event Station purpose. STAYHOME, STAYSAFE, HOPE, ANGELS and other variations on the theme. At first I wasn’t really in to this. But then my club opted for OT4HOPE and since I was on the license… I made 1100 QSO so far, mostly CW. Of course.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Someone is trying to convey a message on the amateur radio frequencies… QSL ABT QTH! #amateurradio #hamradio #qrz #qsl #radioaficionado #specialeventstation #stayhome

Een bericht gedeeld door Franki – ON5ZO – OQ5M (@on5zo) op

Another red thread though all of this is the absolute abysmal conditions on HF. There is DX but it’s few and far between. Openings are short lived and moreover: during weekdays there seems to be no one around even of a band shows signs of life. I’m talking about classic CW and SSB. Don’t care for anything else.

My conclusion: if there is no award to chase or online ‘leaderboard’, people don’t care. And CW contesting during the weekends is currently alive and well, even in small unknown contests.

73 and stay safe – stay home!

 

This contest is always low priority for me and most of the time I just skip it. It usually comes right after a series of contests (both UBA DX, both ARRL DX and RDXC), it’s only SSB and it usually falls on a weekend that has social commitments. None of this in 2020. I missed all contests in February and early March because of the storms. Social commitments in the Covid-19 era are non-existent. So I let the antennas up in the air after RDXC and decided to play in CQ WW WPX anno 2020.

My initial plan: SB20 with an auxiliary 20m antenna to spray RF in two directions with the stack-match. I had played with this idea in the past and it would be useful in other contests too. So my youngest son and I started building a 20m dipole. Not a wire inverted V but a real flattop dipole. I would use the field day mast to get it up about ten meters high. This plan was a follow up of my 2018 plans and ideas (read here)

I started collecting all parts from the scrap bin. This antenna needn’t be pretty, it needs to work and be ready in a few days. Soon I had to give up. There was one size of aluminum tubing missing to make the tapering and I was missing some bolts of the right size and diameter. This is not a problem under normal circumstances. But now all stores are closed. So I gave up on the antenna. And the SB20 effort. I would just do a SOAB(A) HP entry for fun. No goals, no targets, no stress, no real time scoreboard. Just run a band that is open and when it’s no longer fun: take a break.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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CQ WPX SSB Contest With off the premises activities strictly limited, I suspect -no: fear- my radio shack being invaded by my boys (8 & 10 y/o). With phone activities there can be zero verbal interaction as opposed to telegraphy. So I decided to turn them into SWL. I installed my headphones distribution amplifier and hooked up two extra headphones. I gave a quick lesson on the NATO spelling alphabet and tested for EMC / RFI when running QRO. Seems fine. Look for OQ5M trolling the bands. Just for fun, nothing competitive this time. #cqcontest #hamradio #amateurradio #swl #cqwpx #cqwpxssb #behringer #behringerpowerplay #hamradioshack

Een bericht gedeeld door Franki – ON5ZO – OQ5M (@on5zo) op

The closer the contest came, the less I was tempted. SSB… Closed upper bands… Phone on 40? Oh boy. I went to bed on Friday and set the alarm for 4AM local time which meant the contest would be in full swing for about three hours when I would finally land in the chair. Not so. I snoozed and snoozed. Then I got up. But I didn’t go into the shack yet. In fact I was looking for excuses not to start. I got a message from K7GK/6 who had a very unproductive period from the SF area. W6 is not z14 but anyway…

I took a late start and decided it would be on 80m. Signals were good even from the USA. A worked quite a few of those: 38 in total. It’s a phone contest and I missed prime time for this band. After about 150 QSO I moved to 40. Ouch – forty on phone. I. Hate. That. Nevertheless I had two hours of about 125 QSO each. Then a three hour break.

Back some 20m and pathetic efforts to work someone on 15m. That’s how I spent Saturday afternoon: slow runs on 20, desperately looking for life on 15. In the evening I did 40 but not much success. I did 160 but that wasn’t a hotspot either. I did work two fast hours on 80 then, about 240 QSO in total. The wee hours of the night were slow and uninteresting. So I took a break for a nap and answering a call from nature. QRX 180…

I knew from my SB80-efforts in CQ WW SSB that 3656 is a good place for both EU and USA. This once again turned out well. Maybe I should keep this to myself? Around 0630utc a local French net claimed the frequency with the usual contest mockery and profanity. It doesn’t always have to be a German invasion or a G-tea party.

By that time I had taken a look in the cqcontest.net scoreboard. With my ‘just for fun’ attitude in a phone contest I was way down in the list. Über-nice-guy Anton ON6NL was there (below me) and OR3A way ahead of me. That upset my contest-ego and triggered my competitive drive. Suddenly I went from ‘laid back – no goals’ to ‘not on my watch!’. The target was simple: get over OR3A. It’s nothing personal Marc. You’re a good operator and a very nice guy, I know that. But I have my small sides. This is one of them. The problem was that OR3A had a big deal of score advantage. Furthermore he worked way more 6-pointers on 40 where I focused on 3-pointers on 20. How does he do that? I will ask later on. I don’t think he has a big 40m antenna (but I might be wrong).

During the day it was obvious that everyone is on 20m. There was no free spot to call CQ. If you run barefoot and have a multiband vertical, this SSB contest obviously is not for you. US1Q had an awful signal and he decided the RS report 59 is optional. UB7K was even worse. From here there was more than 7 kHz of spectrum around him that masked everything else below S9. There were many stations not giving the mandatory 59 report, just the serial…

The afternoon was uneventful. Runs on 14 MHz were not spectacular, it was hard to work something on 21 MHz. The good thing is that I caught up with OR3A and by the time the contest was coming to an end, I had a good margin to beat him. Which I did, at least judging from the real time scoreboard.

I had a few good hours and a few boring hours. SSB is hard on the ears and not nearly as much fun as CW. I hope I can do SOAB in the WPX CW in two months.

Support the contest scene!

 

I’m not really in a writing mood so I’ll keep it short. I have adopted Instagram (ON5ZO)  for my quick dose of BS-publishing.

Just for the archives.

Note to future self:

  1. This was the Corona / COVID-19 edition. The one with the toilet paper craze.
  2. Finally a CW contest after three months. I had to skip both ARRL DX and also UBA DX CW because of a couple of storms weekend after weekend. Ciara, Dennis – remember them?
  3. You had to work on the tower once again after these storms. You did this the week before the contest. You had plenty of time. Because you were not allowed to go to work. Schools closed. See note 1.

About the contest:

It was fun. As always the first half was good. Then it slowed down. Ten meters was utterly dead. Just ON5JT. He proposed to move there after he called me. Fifteen meters was very very poor. I hoped for an opening in some form on Sunday. The opening came but it wasn’t much of an opening.

Online scores on cqcontest.net were a motivator. I didn’t go to sleep but I slipped away for half an hour in the chair around 5AM utc. Too slow to keep me going I guess.

I was glad to log over 2k QSO CW only. That was my only goal (apart from relief from the contest blues).

Imagine this contest with 10+15 wide open. No more wasted time. Let’s hope for a massive amount of sunspots. SOON.

Sometimes you need to do something you don’t really like just because it’s a moral duty. I’m not talking about marriage but about a small SSB contest under marginal HF propagation. Coinciding with two CW (REF and CQ160) and one RTTY contests. If I get invited to play along with the special UBA callsigns, it’s only normal that I participate in the SSB contest. It also helps me in the log checking process, to know who was around.

The good thing is that there is also the CQ 160 CW contest. I don’t operate that one seriously but while the tower is up, I might as well see what Top Band has in store for me.

Preparation was easy. WX was dry and calm and everything went smooth. Even retuning the 80m GP for SSB.  I did that a few days before the contest.

I decided not to get out of bed early on Saturday. In retrospect I should have done that because 160m and its contest could have been very productive. N5DX (NY) and K1LZ (ME) were easily workable more than 90 minutes after my SR. I only made a handful of Top Band QSO and decided to rest.

The SSB contests starts at 1300 utc. It was a slow 20m start. With not much participation. This was prime time and there were gaps of two or three minutes between answers to my CQ. Go figure. Cluster spots pointed out a lot of EU activity was on 40m already but I decided that I could work these later on. I focused on USA which was more points per QSO and it was a case of ‘now or never’.

With the antenna to USA I had some RF into my headphone. I wondered if it was only in my ears or also on the RF side. I solicited an audio report and the USA operator confirmed the audio was OK. But a few contacts later N1RR said in wasn’t. He stood by my side for a moment while I fiddled with the cables. He said it got better but not completely resolved. There was plenty of time between the answering calls to reroute a few of the cables which made the problem disappear. N1RR called in a few minutes later to confirm the audio was clean. No idea what it was but moving the headset’s cables and twisting a few plugs did the trick. QRO RF, it’s always something…

The initial plan was to play in the 12h category but I took too much breaks between slow periods that I would have to operate either through the night, which is useless in this contest or fill the remaining eight (!) hours on Sunday morning which is no fun either with only 20m open and no one around. So I quit late in the evening and decided to go for 6h only. Chances are slim to win that one but who cares. Nothing to prove in SSB. My contest ego is only CW-sensitive.

I did some S&P on a jam-packed 160m. I couldn’t resist to call CQ and worked 150 QSO in one clock hour. That’s more like it. The band was full between 1810 and 1900 kHz. I decided to get some sleep at 0030 utc and set the alarm to be QRV on 160m at 0530 utc.

The band was in pretty good shape. And tons of stations to be worked, even DX. K5ZD writes the following on 3830:

Called lots of guys with no response. Must have been crowded in EU because was very difficult to find a clear frequency enough to get answers.

That is exactly what I noticed from my side. There was DX from LU over CX and XE to W7 and KL7. With S7-S9 signals. That would have been easily worked if they weren’t sandwiched between S9+20dB EUs 150 Hz away or nasty clicks from the crust of the sandwich. The good thing is I finally worked XE2X for a new country on Top Band.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Een bericht gedeeld door Franki – ON5ZO – OQ5M (@on5zo) op

Actually it wasn’t an ATNO. I just checked if the QSO was confirmed on LotW (now = Wednesday after the contest) and it wasn’t but there was a XE2X confirmation for a QSO made the end of December 2019. I forgot I worked that Top Band ATNO a few weeks ago. That’s how much I keep track. EDIT: last weekend’s QSO is also on LotW now, the log was still being processed from the upload queue.

Also cool: working Steve N2IC in NM for a new (?) state on Top Band. Just checked: also not new. I worked N2IC in the same contest two years ago. Yep, not really keeping track of DXCC/WAS progress. But I do know how much QSO I made in a random contest ten years ago.  😁

I could have done more on 160 but I was happy with 477 QSO. And 61% of 160m DXCC. I still had to work two hours in UBA SSB. Mostly spent on 20m of course. Being called there by a couple of VK and ZL was nice. I never went to 28 MHz but I did try 15m. Not much around but the band was more open than activity would suggest. I tried to raise awareness by spotting the three stations I worked there and called CQ myself. This resulted in a bunch of EU mults and a loud VK3. I said this already last month: 21 MHz is not as dead as you’d think. I always work a VK or a JA or some Far East multiplier with a decent signal. We just need to try and don’t think the worst.

I reeled in the low band wires and lowered the tower on Sunday afternoon. There is a gusty period on the WX maps for the coming week.

Next up: ARRL DX CW. I hope for calm weather and good propagation. Don’t forget to try 21 MHz you Americans!

 

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