ARRL 10 meter contest 2014

Still high on the CQ WW CW adrenalin rush I planned to hit hard in this one. Mixed mode, tower all up and use a lower second antenna to cover EU and Middle East. I had two weeks to make a simple two element yagi out of the parts I had from the three element. This antenna has been idling disassembled on the garage roof for a few years. It would be easy to mount it on the small aluminium mast with the tilt over system I made for June’s field day. I found an easy 50Ω direct fed design. I knew that the week leading up to this contest I would have quite some spare time to assemble the antenna and put it up. Finally some action for the power splitter I made a few years ago. I would squeeze every contact out of the band. It’s now or never for Cycle 24 and Ten Meter.

A rock solid plan. Except for the weather. It rained a lot after WW CW. The lawn is a giant mud pool on the dogs’ postman chasing trajectory. And the week leading up to the contest the wind speed picked up considerably. Even worse: Thursday and Friday the forecast mentioned gusts up to 90 km/hr. Some sources talked about more. Apart from the rain, which only came in periods and showers, these gales aren’t exactly the WX you want to put a yagi on a short pole to tune and match it. And then put it up a long aluminium pole on a plate anchored in the wet soil.

Thursday evening the gales showed up. Come Friday morning the wind was blowing really hard. Adapt to the situation. No second antenna then. Friday night the wind had gone completely. Strange how it can go from stormy to absolutely not even a breeze in just a few hours. But I don’t want to crank up the tower in the dark. You need to keep an eye on things. I’ll do it at dawn on Saturday then. Ten meters isn’t bound to be wide open from here right after sunrise.

Last year we had one storm after another. Somewhere end December 2013 I wrote: “Alas when checking the antennas in daylight this morning I immediately noticed the 40m rotary dipole had shifted a bit on the mast compared to the yagi.” I didn’t bother to realign it since the shift was visible but not like it was 45°. I really hate tilting over the tower and work on the antennas hovering a few meters above the lawn, while standing on a shaky ladder. I bring this up because I have the impression that Friday’s gusts have blown the 40m dipole back into its original position. My first reaction was: Good! Now I don’t have to tackle this problem anymore. But then it dawned on me: if the antenna shifts easily back and forth, it’s bound to either come totally loose or it will turn even more away from its desired position. Because the storm that caused the misalignment was a few levels worse than what we had on Friday. So if a lesser strong wind can push it back, I need to tighten it. Or modify the original mounting all together. It is not up to my own mechanical standards. I modified the yagi’s boom-to-mast system which is really strong. Anyway I put this job back on the to do list for this summer. Who knows what nature will throw at us the coming months.

Saturday morning, sunrise. I decided to forget about a massive raid on the ten meter band. I cranked up the tower just one level. This makes the yagi sit at 1.5λ on 28 MHz. Should be good for some casual fun. Back in the shack I heard CW signals. I went to SSB and that made me decide to stick to CW only. I don’t like SSB. Although the original plan was mixed mode. Just yet another change of the plan. The propagation didn’t seem fantastic but I had fun and after a few hours I logged 630 contacts. USA was well present but not many W6/7. Then the band died. Quite early but that gave me the time to play with the kids before bedtime.

Sunday morning. Signals sounded better. DX came in from the Far East. Plenty JA. Plenty means more than one. In fact I logged eighteen. A few Chinese and the usual ZL, VK, HS, VU. Not much but always fun. Even a ZB. Not DX from here but all the rarer. I don’t think I worked as many ZS in a single contest on a single band. Six to be exact and all on the back of the beam. I don’t think it was LP though.

Frequency fight! I was looking for a QRG to run. I halted on a spot for TM0R. I wanted to work him but he wasn’t there anymore. The place was silent. Two unanswered QRL? later I launched a few CQ and then TM0R returned. And claimed the frequency by suddenly CQing on top of me. It doesn’t work like that guys. I decided to sweat it out and no to fold. Soon after the QRG was mine. Or at least until I’d leave it.

By 10AM I decided to quit my run and prepare lunch. The XYL took the kids outside for some fresh air and I wanted to surprise here when they returned. After all she’s always alone with two little kids whenever I’m contesting. And since I was only in it for fun, these two hours before the hoped for opening to the USA wouldn’t make much difference.

After lunch I turned the yagi to 300°. The signals were stronger. I ran most of the time and only did a few short S&P sessions. After the two adjustments of the initial operating plan, I had lowered the estimation to 1200 QSO. Anything above 1000 contacts would not be a shame. With the counter showing about 1250 real contacts, I did more S&P since the band was really dying. An hour later than the day before but I knew it would fade away fast. When the counter showed 1300 real counting contacts and a score of 650000, I decided to shut down the shack and call it a day.

To conclude this posting I wrote a rather spicy rant about a Belgian clown that once again (!) displayed blatant abuse of self spotting on the DX cluster. I counted almost thirty occasions this weekend that I labelled ‘self spot’ from this cluster cowboy. But I deleted the paragraph because A) I have written about Belgians abusing cluster spots in the past and it always brought some less friendly mail into the inbox. “Who the hell you think you are” 👿  and stuff like that. And B) I know, I should not make a fuss of this. Probably no one else notices this, let alone has a problem with it.

I removed the rest of this already censored rant. Be the bigger man. Lead by example 😀

4 replies on “ARRL 10 meter contest 2014”

Hello Franki, well done. Even multi operator contest stations would be jealous on your score 😛 No contact this year. Not much backscatter QSOs either. As CW is not my favorite I only did SSB. You’re in the same situation as me with family and kids. But you manage to spend more time on the radio it seems. Besides that my daughter visits me a lot in the shack and does want to know everything about what dad is doing. She even tried to imitate the radio. And she’s almost able to yell my call. I told her when she’s able to do that she’s ready for contesting 😆 Deleting the last part of you post about the abuse of the cluster is a wise decision. No one really cares. There are some dutch stations as well with this habit. If they feel happy about it….73, Bas

Hi there Bas. Well, I manage to do a lot of contests because of careful planning and a VERY supportive XYL. Almost all my radio activity is in contests as these have a fixed date and can be planned years ahead. I don’t do much casual DX operating anymore. You have to find a balance between the hobby and all the rest.
I try, or at least the XYL tries to keep the kids out of the shack. They’re 5 and 3 and they love to be around me so they don’t understand why daddy is home but doesn’t want to play or eat together. They won’t be yelling my call soon, but maybe I’ll teach them to send their names in Morse code 😀

No need for a rant. You can always just point out facts (like callsigns and a few examples).

If no one points these things out, then you are saying it is OK. It is not true that others do not have a problem with it. We just don’t know the locals like you (or others) do.

Hi Randy. Thanks for your appreciated comment. I think you raised the same point on a similar matter a few years ago. Either about self spotting or unclaimed assistance or obnoxious SSB modulation. But like I said: I’ve done this in the past and only get annoyed or angry reactions. My statement wasn’t even opinionated. Just the facts. Against my nature I remained polite 🙂 I posted a filtered list of DXSummit spots with links to spotter and spottee’s QRZ pages showing it’s one and the same person. As it was the case this weekend, too.
In the end, nothing changes. These guys keep on doing the same. The only thing that changes is that I’m being left with a bitter feeling because of the reactions. Not that I lose sleep over it or that it dominates my mood. I think there are two cultural elements at play here.

First off: you have contesters, and people who operate contests. In my mind a contester is a ham radio operator who enters a competition and thus follows the rules laid out by the contest sponsor and also displays good operating practice, fair play and ham spirit. The contest is almost a religious service and sacrilege and profanity must be avoided by all means. Only by following the rules, written in ink or just a gentlemen’s agreement, the outcome will display who was the best. And being second or lower in the ranking, is not bad since the opponent just was the better man. Then you have people who just like to play around. Work some DX, have a short run, hand out some points and mults. GREAT! Welcome! Please work me. More fun for everyone. There is no need for everyone to be as nuts as we are. Except maybe these guys just don’t care as much about the contest ritual as ‘we’ do.
Closer to home, I guess it’s safe to say there aren’t many people in Belgium as devoted to the Cult of Contesting. Not that there aren’t contesters here. Not that there is no pool of skilled and passionate operators. I just need to keep in mind that most people aren’t as crazy and serious about contesting as I am. That’s fine. But maybe their more relaxed approach to the contest might lead to a different view on what’s OK and what’s not done. Note that I might be serious about contesting, but I don’t take myself too seriously. And I do know that it’s just a silly hobby in the grand scheme of the universe.

The second cultural aspect of this issue, as I see it, is that Belgians have a natural tendency to stretch and bend the rules in all aspects of life. Traffic laws, tax laws, local rules and regulations – we (yes myself included) try to find loopholes and exploit them. Or just ignore them altogether. Breaking the law. So if a speeding limit on the highway is a joke, if dodging taxes is a natural sport and anarchy is in our genome, what the hell should we care about the rules and common practice in a stupid ham radio contest! Watcha gonna do? DQ me?

BTW I found an article that pretty accurately describes the Belgians:
A quote:

During its history of over 2000 years, the region has almost continuously been occupied by foreign powers: from the Romans to the Spanish, the Austrians, the French, the Dutch and the Germans. This has made the Belgians critical of any form of authority, and laws, rules and regulations are not taken very seriously (tax evasion is one of the national sports).

A side effect of the above is that Belgians don’t like to be told what to do. If you would address someone about his on the air behaviour and offer some advice, this would immediately label you as a smartass and know it all. The reaction will most likely be ‘who the hell you think you are’. Either in a more profane form, or polite, but the tone is set. Ask me how I know. Some guy even told me that my job might be teaching but that he is not a student.
There are no contesting clubs here either. There is no elmering culture. I am self-taught when it comes to contesting. By listening on the air and sucking up everything the Internet offered about contesting from 2000 on. Local clubs focus on helping people pass the licensing test and that’s it. Maybe some homebrew left and right. Play a DXpedition DVD once in a while. But no word on the actual operating. Let alone being specific about contesting. You got the ticket, you bought a radio, you put up the dipole – now just go ahead. Send out QSL cards!

Maybe we should install something like the Official Observer Program? I’ve thought about that in the past. Mark ON4WW has written some guidelines. Even a dedicated paragraph: ‘things not to do on a DX cluster’

I always comfort myself that most cowboys don’t seem to do much in CW contests.

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