WPX SSB 2011

Let’s do a casual SB15. Daytime propagation only. Band closes early, if open at all – a gamble. Either way lots of sleep at night and family time in the evening. Honey, I’ve got some explaining to do. The band didn’t really close as early as anticipated…

In short: B I G   F U N, the best SSB action I had in many years. Where to start? Band wide open, lots of DX, many JA, tons of W/VE. Impossible to work within a 1500km range, everything outside of that booming in S9+++. As a result of that only a handful of EU prefixes in the log. The JA’s kept coming and coming, the next one even louder than the previous. Obscure 2×3 Chinese callsigns galore. ZL’s stretching the S-meter. On Saturday K1AR called me BEFORE lunchtime (and I like to have my lunch early).

Sometimes it was CQing for five minutes or longer before someone came back. The best rate sustained over an hour was about 75-80. The most remarkable thing was the signals from the USA Sunday night. Even California was pounding in around my local midnight. I remember contests in the recent past where you would be scraping the noise floor for a single K1 around 15m ‘peak’ time. Cycle 24? Yeehaa! I worked a lot of 2×3 USA calls with funky prefixes. A lot of those aren’t even in the super check database. I’ve reached the mythical ‘third layer of callers’. Cool!

Of course it’s an SSB contest with the usual downsides. QRZ? Modulation that is a textbook example of how not to do it. QRZ? The continuous chirping splatter. QRZ? And of course the stations ID’ing by a simple QRZ? Frequency fights? Only one. But I made notes for the first time in a long while. Like when I was being crushed between a rock (RM3F) and a hard place (R3CM). Both were loud and slightly wider then they should have been. Bye bye run. ST2AR is on the list three times. Always 1500Hz or less away from me. The problem with him was not his own signal but the resulting pile up as soon as he got spotted. And he soon gets spotted. Bye bye run. Add to that a couple of other inconsiderate passers-by, and the camel’s back broke when PW7T fired away 600Hz from me. I lost my cool and slightly overdid by jumping on him and rudely made him aware of my presence. By rude I mean demanding/ordering him to QSY. He said it was his frequency – true but why so close to someone else’s? I overheard the 15m op at NR5M fix this smoother. Someone was apparently telling him that the frequency was in use, and he simply replied: “That’s true and I’m afraid that I’m the one who’s using it. QRZ NR5M”. Brevity is the soul of wit!

For the first time in ten years of contesting I used VOX. I hate a footswitch because it moves further away under the desk with each QSO. To overcome this I made a hand switch a long time ago. I press this between index and thumb. That has always worked great even when typing but the microswitch seems to be at the end of its lifecycle. After a couple of PTT hiccups I was ready to try VOX. I always thought this was something to mess with in the microHAM SO2R box’s software but OQ4B told me it wasn’t. At least not in his case. I needed to consult the K3 manual (PDF always on the PC’s desktop) and VOX was working right away after I adjusted the VOX gain. I then needed to adjust the VOX release delay time and did a short on the air test with OQ4B (keep the frequency occupied!). All my letters came out and I didn’t miss any of the callers. Great – I’m hooked on VOX! I only need to quit swearing and cursing in between QSO’s now. Old habbits die hard so please excuse me.

What about the special power splitter/combiner setup? That’s what I ask myself now. It didn’t do what it should have done. Maybe the skip on 15m was just too long to get the concept working? Maybe the antenna is too high at 7m to achieve what I had in mind? There was a noticeable difference though for stations about 2000 km away, in a specific scenario. If the tribander is at 22m pointing to USA, going from this antenna only to a split / combine situation with the moxon make stations like SV, LZ and UT climb up a couple of S-points. On a pure RF / impedance / dB level, this thing works. Period. But maybe it’s something for the really big boys with multiple towers and stacked monobanders?

A direct result for WPX is that this experiment pulls me away from the ‘tribander/single element’ sub-class and puts me in the Major League. I was thinking I did well until of course, I start browsing 3830. Here’s a Big Boy: UZ2M has enough radiating toys to split power between, as seen on his website. RK4FF probably a similar setup. DF9ZP was assisted but still I don’t know where all those QSOs come from. OG5B proves my point: “Old 6 over 6 stack of monobanders“. ‘Nuff said.

Once again my thesis is proven: a small tribander at only 20m high provided a lot of fun and contesting pleasure, but it does not win plaques from Belgium. I enjoyed the race on between PP1CZ, N7RQ, N8BJQ and myself. PP1CZ had the advantage of the location, and the band was closed for me while these guys kept running. I’m happy that I crept up to second position there. It’s been a long time since I used but I just might give it a shot next time.

I’m glad that there is a long break in between contests now. UBA SSB, UBA CW, ARRL DX CW, RDXC and this one make 5 contest weekends in 8 weeks. That means that there are a lot of items on the to do list. And Mother Nature just kickstarted her way into spring so time for some gardening…

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