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In the meantime at ON5ZO’s

First of all: I changed to the default WP theme. I don’t like this color scheme but my old theme generating software is no longer compatible with the new WP code. Stuff gets broken and I’ve run out of energy to find patches and workarounds. Maybe it’s time to admit the commercial (=paid for) theme generator has run its course and just forget about it. It hasn’t been updated by the company since 2014 and my last paid upgrade is also a few years old. Time to move on and forget about it. I’ll pick up the theme thing when I have the time. Yeah right.

EDIT: I fiddled with the color scheme from the default theme. It should now be less reddish and more blueish. Yay!

I have been doing plenty of stuff for the hobby lately. But I haven’t been posting anything here.

It’s various stuff in the ‘this and that’ department. Things that generally spoken are not blog material. I sort of had it with blogging. I still like to write and publish stuff. Even if hardly anyone reads it. But I feel like am repeating myself. That is because I always do the same in the hobby. Doing that doesn’t get boring to me. I still am very passionate about the way I enjoy the hobby. Writing about it does feel like saying the same things over and over again.

Add to that that I have been using Instagram a lot for the last fifteen months. I like the fact I can put just about anything there and interact with the outside world. There is much more interaction there than here. Plus my blog has been strictly about ham radio. On IG I also post various other things.

Check it out here: https://www.instagram.com/on5zo/

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CQ WW SSB 2020

I did SB80 four times in a row (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018) so last year (2019) I decided it was enough and did SB20. That was a huge disappointment. It didn’t meet my expectations, not by far. Too much stations on the band. No place to run and you couldn’t receive who was answering. Three layers of loud signals from all over the globe.

The 40m band is even worse. And I am not in the mood for an all band effort in SSB (yet?). SB80 again? I talked my plan over with Denis K7GK whose opinion I respect and he thought it wasn’t a bad idea. So SB80 this year again.

Just a thought: 40m is my best CW band but the worst in SSB. Same setup, same operator. So it really is the mode.

The plan was to set up the tower on Wednesday. But the wind blew hard and the gusts were strong. I even had to put the RX loop’s pole back down again after having it put up for winter only a few days before. Stinking winds! So I did all that Thursday after work. It really shows the days are getting shorter. But I got ready with all the work even shortening the 80m CW wire to 75m sideband.

This contest starts at 2AM local time so I tried to get some sleep. I almost fell asleep at 9PM on the couch so I went to bed. But of course once there, I couldn’t catch sleep. The alarm rang at 01.15 AM and I wondered why on earth I would get up. For an SSB contest? Usually that feeling pops up after 30 hours or so. I had a bad temper and managed to get everything up and going in time, including myself.

Keeping a blog is good for looking back. Just like last year’s WW SSB (2019), the sun threw some dirt at us. Read here.

For this year (2020) SJ2W posted an aurora picture (link) and the A and K indices were too high to be good. K was 4… Could be worse, right?

The start was slow. Very slow. You need to get a packet spot if you want rate. Finally someone threw me on the DX cluster. I was able to run two fast hours. I finished the first night with 750 QSO. Of which about 160 Americans. That was not too bad but I was low on mults. There wasn’t much DX and the handful of usual suspects was weak. I can manage to work my way through the big guns in CW but on phone I don’t want to waste my time in the pile ups. So I was glad that later on ZW8T and XE2X called me for two double mults. My moto ‘run and the mults will come’ once again turned out to be true. Shout out to the other nice DX multipliers that called me (A4, A6, C3, FY, KP2, TF…).

The second night included only three good hours, good for about 350 contacts. From then on it was slow. VERY slow.

What can I say? If you pick a category like SB80 with only 1200W and a single wire, you know what you can expect. Lots of EU, not too much DX. But at least it is expected. Last year, I made only 1250 contacts with a yagi on 20m. That was an unexpected disappointment! The band was just too crowded. It never fails to amaze me how big the difference is with CW. Same operator, same setup, total different game.

My dual RX loops (USA and Far East) worked great. I had to switch many times to make a QSO just to suppress a blasting adjacent signal from the opposite side. Bu it helped and it worked. I don’t know how yet, but there might be room for improvement here. On the TX side, I am at the limit of what this QTH supports.

After doing contest write-ups for nearly a decade and a half, I feel I’ve run out of things to say. I keep on repeating myself. Because the contests repeat themselves. So QRU for this one. Already thinking about the next one…

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A permanent 30m solution

A permanent 30m solution? At least: I hope so.

The 30m band has always been my favorite. It supports DX all year round, all through the solar cycle and most hours of the day. I like that fluttery polar path sound of W6/W7 at my winter sunset. Or winter sunrise: a full hour of my best JA pileups time after time. I wish I had those in the contests. I once tried RTTY on 30m on a summer evening when the sun was indeed rising in the land named thereafter. They went nuts. Not many Belgians really CQ’ing on 10.1 MHz it seems…

I spend many weekends on the regular contest bands. But I also like to work some casual DX. So I try not to call CQ on the contest bands but revert to WARC. Especially 30m.

In 2004 I started with a 12+17+30m triband dipole on top of the tower. It brought me lots of DX pleasure for its size and simplicity. Too bad the trap got blown almost ten years ago.

The Toasted Trap

 

I removed this dipole and replaced it with a 40m rotary dipole. This antenna is so kick-ass good that 7 MHz is my best band, especially since the higher bands are worked with a yagi. So this antenna can never go.

After that I have been trying various things for 30m. It all works but never as good as the flat top dipole on top of the mast, even if it was trapped.

A monoband vertical.

30m GP v2018

A monoband sloping dipole.

A delta loop.

A triband WARC wire dipole.

A triband WARC vertical.

A permanent WARC antenna

 

These are all antennas that work. Especially if you don’t have anything else. But they need to be put up when there is no contest and taken down when there is a contest. Because they eat up real estate, or use a pulley that is needed for 80/160 low band contesting etc.

I was looking for something that can be installed permanently without interfering with my contest setup. So I was looking at the OptiBeam (link) or DXAvenue (link) dual band dipole. Or upgrade / modify my OptiBeam 40m dipole to include 30m. This can easily be done but the major issue was hooking up the 30m parts to the 40m loading coil.

But in Spring there was this OptiBeam 30+40m dipole for sale on the second hand classifieds. The price was right so I did not hesitate and bought it. I went to pick it up and installed it this week.

I could keep the feed point assembly on the mast as it is the same size and length. That made installing it easy. Moreover I could use a friend’s scaffold which made the one man install job quite easy.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CEH2m07Dd_-/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

 

Is it a permanent 30m solution? That is now under evaluation. I’m sure it’ll work on 30m and bring me DX pleasure. And work better than any of my 30m solutions. The big question is: will it have any negative influence on my 40m contest results? If so, I will probably revert to 40m monoband operation. Let’s hope not…

 

 

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WAE CW 2020

Another contest you say? Yes, another contest I say!

This time: WAE CW. Yes: Worked All Europe. But Europeans don’t work Europe. We work DX. Yes: DX. That means: far away. Which makes it hard. We like things hard. If it’s easy anyone could do it. Actually anyone can do it. But not everyone is crazy enough to do so.

From the archives:

For the record: WAE CW

WAE CW is a bit of a stinker. WAE CW is one of my favorite contests. There you go, once again I exhibit a bipolar disorder.

WAE CW is one of my favorite contests because:

  • It is CW.
  • It is only DX and some nice one.
  • QTC! QTC? Yes, QTC. If you like CW and unpredictable exchanges, this is it.

WAE CW is a bit of a stinker because:

  • It’s almost always hot with a chance of thunderstorms that more often than never come to life.
  • It is not a rate contest and there is a very big imbalance between DX (not much) and EU (a lot of).
  • It can get slow and boring at times. “Slow like WAE on Sunday” is an expression.

 

What’s up with QTC?

Setup HF – SSB and CW Contests

Want to train copying QTC?

QTC Training Sound Files

 

This year it was just too hot. Ridiculously hot. A heat wave ramped up on Thursday with outside temperatures of 37°C and more. I knew this would be a problem in the shack. It would make for some very uncomfortable hours. I even contemplated not playing at all. In the end I decided to settle for a low key casual participation. After the contest I can say that the shack’s temperature was always over 30°C peaking over 32°C on Sunday. That’s inside, where I operate.

 

Another reason why I wasn’t tempted: N1MMLogger. The QTC part is the programmers’ nightmare and I suspected a few bugs this year too. I knew I had to test in advance but I just couldn’t get myself to do that. Also: I don’t like the dedicated QTC window that got introduced a few years ago. Under pressure of the RTTY crowd? Clearly mouse driven operating. YUK. I was very fond of the classic interface using the Entry Window to log QTC. No mouse needed! Never a problem. A few days before the contest I saw a few mails passing from the German contest reflector: QTC logging problems. There you go. I did a quick test of the latest update when I booted the computer late Friday evening. It seemed to work. But you never know…

I knew that I was making a tactical mistake by starting late and sleep the night from Friday to Saturday but I just couldn’t be bothered. First QSO at 0540 utc on 7001.85. Pretty low in the band. That’s 7 MHz real estate reserved for the big gun hotshot contest folks. And me. First reply: NO6T with that distinctive fluttery sound of a more polar propagation path. California Über Alles! Next up: W9RE and let’s shake the tree with a batch of QTC – success! The logger worked and I still could copy CW. The run didn’t last long. After such a late start the band closed for DX so I tried 20m to the east. That kinda worked too: a lot of UA9, a bunch of JA, a VK and I QSY’ed for KL7SB with QTC to boot. I got bored around 0700 utc and took a loooong break. I even took a beauty sleep after lunch. Unplanned and it was longer than it should have been.

The rest of the day (late afternoon, evening and early night) was spent on 20m and 40m. Running, begging for QTC and S&P for multipliers. I did a quick scan of the still unexplored 80m band and went to bed between 1AM and 4AM utc. The bed was empty: the XYL moved downstairs to sleep on the couch. It was much somewhat cooler in the living room than upstairs under the roof. I took a portable fan from the shack to the bedroom to create at least the illusion of a draft and exorcising the devilish heat. Nevertheless I slept deeply and even hit swiped the snooze button too often.

I was QRV for sunrise and found a noisy and deserted 3.5 MHz band. Not much to work and no replies to my CQ. A bit of a shame because the RBN showed my signal all over the globe. It wasn’t much better on 40. That is: the band was good but not many folks to work me. Break(fast). An hour later: back to 20 and 15. Fifteen was very quiet. No propagation. I squeezed out a signal and 10 QTC on 28 MHz: 4Z4AK. This weekend was Cycle 24 at its best in bringing out the worst: closed bands. Don’t care: another cool-down break and another excessive nap.

In the meantime a few threatening clouds tried to cramp my contest style:

 

It was very hot outside and relatively hotter in the shack. I got a peak of 32.5°C in the shack. I did my best to find the fun and I managed to find some consolation: I was working DX, chasing multipliers and getting QTC. I was not putting down a big score but it is what it is. Namely: HOT!

Shout out to my RX loops. They were invaluable for easy listening in diversity mode on 80+40m. And sometimes they were the difference between not making a contact or logging it in the end. The difference when switching between both directions was stunning this time.

Bottom line: WAE CW 2020 is done. Except for the heat is was a good one. No stress, lots of DX and of 1000 QTC logged. Hell yeah!

 

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EUHFC 2020

My 15th participation in this contest. One of my favorite contests. And I seem to do quite well: #12 in the top 100 of all times.

 

Statistics here:   http://scc.hamradio.si/euhf/statistics_top_100_all_time.php

I left the tower up after IARU. That’s three weeks. Make it easy on myself. Come Friday: 39°C heat, thunderstorms predicted – with possible heavy gusts exceeding 80 km/hr. Better safe than sorry so I lowered the tower on Friday in the scorching heat. Needless to say: no thunderstorm, no rain, no wind over my QTH.

Setting up again on Saturday, with low band wires and additional RX loop. Luckily my youngest son is becoming more handy and interested so I got a pair of little helping hands. His support is becoming more valuable instead of just symbolic.

Sweat all over the place while doing the antenna preparation. My T-shirt got soaked but everything got ready well in time and a shower washed away the sweat and body odor.

I had big fun chasing SJ2W for a z14 win. Check out his site ( http://www.sj2w.se/contest/ ) and IG account ( https://www.instagram.com/sm2wmv_sj2w/  ). Mike and I go way back since the good ol’ days of WWYC. We were young then, but we’re still kicking butt on the bands today!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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That was a lot of fun! Extra fun to fight with buddy Franki, OQ5M @on5zo #euhfc2020 #euhfc #radiosport #sj2w

Een bericht gedeeld door Mikael Larsmark (@sm2wmv_sj2w) op

BTW: Real time scores are a hit! Check it out: http://cqcontest.net/

You can’t beat the guys in S-E EU but at least we kept the Germans off. Of course: SJ2W is a BIG GUN station. He’s got a bunch of HIGH towers and more monobander yagis than my small tribander counts elements. His ‘in band antenna site’ on the side is even bigger than my station. But the race was a thrill and I enjoyed every moment of it!

It was very hot in the shack. Over 26°C before I switched on rigs and the amp. It got up to 30.1°C when running in the heat of the battle – pun intended.

Shout out to rookie OT5Z who did his first full time contest. Welcome to the scene and make yourself heard! Thanks for the ‘15’ multiplier!

 

The rate was fine and in the end I claim my biggest score ever: most QSO, most multipliers, highest score.

It does NOT get any better than this. Or does it?