ON5ZO – OQ5M

Time for EUHFC – my yearly appointment with Europe. A twelve hour rate fest with only EU. Not having to worry about countries, zones, points-per-QSO etc. Keep the antenna fixed at 90°.

EUHFC 2018

Last year I claimed my personal best in this contest, resulting in #10 EU and #1 in z14. This year I had no targets. Propagation is a joke and QRN might be a problem. So I told myself to just have some fun and try to reach 1200 QSO over 12h. I decided to play along with the real time score website(s) which is a great motivator. And indeed it was!

I did not want to start weak so I started on 20m. My guess was that there would be no rate on 15m and not even a signal on 10m. I logged 130 Q in the first hour: 80 on 20m and the rest between 15m and 10m. Yeah I couldn’t resist.

The third hour was the best: 150 QSO, almost all on 20m. I could keep the rate and fun up, as well as maintain a top position on the scoreboard. Yeah, I still got it! Halfway I took a ten minute break: stretch legs, empty bladder, take snack. I knew two things would happen later on: the rate would inevitably slow down and I would not be able to be on top of the scoreboard as soon as 80m and especially 160m would be exploited by the more easterly guys.

And so it happened but not before I managed to be #1 on the scoreboard two times. Yay. I should put that on my resume.

Top Band proved to be hard, as predicted. The band was noisy and the signals were weak. Some extremely weak and some very strong. But my antenna for 160 combined with summer propagation is not ideal.

The scoreboard showed that I had more QSO but lesser points than those above me. With all contacts being worth one point, the reason is simple: multipliers. I did a lot of S&P yet I just couldn’t find more multipliers. I claim 295 mults but top ten guys on 3830 claim well over 300.

Eventually the rate slowed down but I had accumulated enough to end at 1379 contacts. So I met my personal target of 100Q/hr averaged over the contest. I would be more than happy with another z14 best.

This is a killer contest year after year. I had a ball on the bands, for the first time in many months.

 

RRTC 2019

This yearly  ‘Russian domestic WRTC’ is a nice interlude for the laid back contester. I still had the tower up one level after the short playtime in the IARU contest the weekend before. I used the silent 500W Elecraft amp for this event. The shack was hot enough already. The big-yet-legal tube amp driven at 1300W adds five degrees to the room temperature when doing high rate contesting. It makes the heating obsolete in winter (really!) but is a nuisance during the hot summer.

I did not plan to be on for the full eight hours. Just now and then to support the contest scene. The ten and fifteen meters band were awful. And plain daylight in the midst of summer is not really helping me to log stations on 7 MHz. Place to be: 20m. Like always when the solar cycle lets us down. So boring.

The signals from our Russian friends in the tents weren’t too strong on 20m either. Some were stronger, some were just weak. I got plenty of QSY requests. I always granted the request as I was S&P most of the time and I was in it to support these Russian competitors. Oh yeah it seems the Bulgarians (LZ) run the same event at the same time. Super!

A QSY from 20 to 15 was sometimes a success. Moving to 28 MHz was useless in all cases. I made zero QSO on that band. I listened and tried though. Nothing heard and only two Belgian skimmers heard me. Later on the guys were asking me to drop down to 40m. That didn’t work either. It’s way too early. The contest runs until 1500 utc, which is almost five hours before sunset. That makes me hear only weak signals. The real problem with that, as opposed to winter, is the terrible thunderstorm QRN. Yes, thunderstorms.

The lightning maps showed thunderstorms all over EU. It was manageable at first. It was to the west of me, with the antenna pointing east. And on 14 MHz. Then a local thunderstorm passed over and forced me to QRT for 90 minutes. And unplug / reconnect everything. Later on it was to the east of me, from the Baltics over DL down to the Mediterranean. QRN from hell, rendering 7 MHz useless.

I ended up with 257 contacts of which 230 on 20m, 10 on 40m and 17 on 15m.

I haven’t been really active in 2019 but still: support the contest scene and get on the air!

 

Still not being in a ham radio mood and with the current solar affairs, I didn’t have plans for this year’s IARU contest. However my daily check of the DX cluster on Friday revealed EU-NA QSO on 10m CW. Aaahhh, that made me curious.

I had to attend a family event on Saturday. I agreed to join my parents and siblings as I had decided to skip the contest weeks ago. I came home late in the afternoon and raised the tower just one level. Nothing serious in the works so the tribander at 15m AGL would do. I wasn’t too motivated to bunk into a hot shack so I waited until the sun dived behind the horizon and a cool breeze provided at least a feeling of coolness. At 2056 utc –pretty late– NR4M was the first of ten US contacts on 10m in a row.

My last previous 10m contact with USA was KC1XX on August 4, 2018. Then N4YDU (Hi Nate!) on November 24, 2017. Two contacts in two years. Imagine my excitement now! I was a little late to the party though because after YV5AM and three EU HQ stations, it was down to 15m. A bunch of W/VE contacts there too this late in the evening. I decided to call it a day around UTC midnight which translates to 2AM local time.

I started the day late on 40m: 6AM utc. DX signals were hard to find and I only managed to work five Americans. I played a little more but got limited to 20m. The propagation on Sunday did not offer something beyond EU on 21/28 MHz. It seemed to have been nothing but a short lived burst of enhanced propagation the days before.

I quit with 344 QSO on the counter; half of them on 14 MHz and the other half balanced between 40/15/10. It was good to see everything in and around the station still seems to work and I still have enough skills to copy 40 WPM callsigns even with months of not copying a single dit or dah.

 

Regular readers may have noticed: it’s been a long time since my previous post. It’s been even longer since I was active on the radio. Over the last week three people have commented on the absence of blog posts and my signal on the air.

In short: I haven’t had the time nor the energy for the hobby over the last few months. Sometimes other things need to be taken care of. Things that are even more important than the important hobby.

The only two contests I did so far in 2019 were UBA CW and ARRL DX CW, both in February.

I did a time consuming welding job for a friend in late March and early April.

I went to a ham fair with ON4BHQ and ON3MDW on Easter Monday. I bought some SMA-to-various plugs (N, PL, BNC). Because I bought an RSP1A. Haven’t gotten around to actually do something with it.

At the fair I talked to the guys organizing OP0HQ. We agreed I’d be doing 20m CW just like in 2018. I decided to bail out of the team a few weeks later. I assumed I wouldn’t be into the hobby with enough motivation by now to go all out and I didn’t want to compromise the team’s score or cancel my participation last minute. This early cancellation gave the organizers enough time to find a potent replacement. I hope to be back in 2019…

I finished checking the logs for the UBA SSB contest. The CW part is done too, I just need to manually look for busted calls versus uniques and then run the scoring and UBN modules.

I had no interest in WPX CW either. That weekend I went out for a walk with the dog and the kids when I noticed my farmer-neighbor installed a bunch of new giant fans with speed control. Speed control = switching semiconductors = possible major PITA (RFI and noise anyone?). So back home I decided to fire up the rig and see if these fans caused problems. So far they seem not to bother my HF RX. I haven’t listened below 7 MHz though.

Maybe I should combine the RSP1A and RFI-sniffing? Maybe later…

Every time I checked the online cluster I saw little or no propagation and almost exclusive FT-8 spots. This is not what it takes to overcome my current ham radio state of mind. Last week though I noticed EU-USA spots on 10m CW. Now that’s what might do the trick to get me on the air…