The plan was SB40. Last week PA/K7GK told me he was trying to do SB80 from PI4COM and asked for a shootout. Initially I agreed but afterwards I took a turn. QSO count on forty is double of what I can do on 80. I was looking for maximum fun (i.e. max QSO and max DX and max rate) so I declined the battle.
With last year’s result in mind, I told myself that 2500 QSO would be a result I don’t have to be ashamed about. The Belgian record for SB40(A)HP is a bit high and set with a four element yagi in 2009. Not impossible to break but the pieces of the puzzle have to fall in place for that.
From the CQ WW Records website; SB40(A)HP for Belgium.
1 OT4A 2009 716,975 2,646 39z 136 cty 39.7 hrs 2 OQ5M 2017 651,456 2,278 37z 137 cty 32.0 hrs
Setting up was done last week for LZ DX so I had no work in advance. The days leading up to CQ WW a cold and flu-ish feeling developed. It peaked on Wednesday, got better by Thursday but was worse on Friday. I really felt ill. Sore limbs, pressure building in my head and feeling cold yet glowing. I spent the day on the couch under a warm blanket and took a few hours of sleep in the evening. It wasn’t completely over but it certainly wasn’t worse. So I could start the contest. Yay!
I was in doubt on whether to enter the online scores or not. I decided to do so and again this was a bonus throughout the weekend.
It soon became clear that there was something wrong with the ether. Signals on 7 MHz were weak. Even the usual suspects from the East Coast were only tickling the S-meter and not rocking it like they usually do. As the first two hours progressed I knew I had to abandon the idea of setting a new ON record. Even the proposed QSO count would have to be adjusted downwards. C’est la vie. The online scores for SB40 told me this was not a dipole man’s game. The pecking order was set and I just had to maintain a spot in the top ten. The leaders clearly had good stuff to spray their RF around. Their mult count was high and they seemed to run at high rates. And exactly that was my big frustration: I wasn’t logging enough contacts. A dipole at 23m and 1200W didn’t cut it under the given circumstances. Soon the average points per QSO dropped below 2 and then even lower. Bummer. I was having fun though especially since I came to terms with a laid back effort to support the scene and do what a contester does.
The night turned into day and around 10utc I decided to take a break.
Back in the shack around 1300utc. Say what? Japan on 40 just after lunch? And not ‘might that be a JA station modulating the noise somewhat?’ – no: solid copy. And not just one. Plenty! 9M2? Good! BY? Woohoo! Back into the game.
Saturday evening I took another break and a nap. Then I dove into the night. Around 1AM I decided to take a break because things were too slow and I didn’t find fresh meat for S&P. Those three hours of quality sleep in a warm bed really made the difference for the rest of the contest. I had abandoned the competitiveness for the ON record.
Sunday morning was OK but not more than that. Try to run, skim the band. Run again. S&P again. Around 10AM I decided to take a break again and a nap. I wasn’t really tired though and I thought that the warmth of the living room would do more harm than good. So I took the dog out for a good walk in the fresh (cold!) air. One hour and a few kilometer later the warmth of the pellet stove and a fresh homemade pizza (yes even the dough) nearly floored me. I took a shower and wanted to materialize the early opening to the Far East. It was there, and even better than the day before.
Later on Sunday afternoon I experienced a moment of nice long path propagation to z3. I know: with a dipole it’s hard to tell SP from LP but common wisdom and ham radio romantics dictate it had to be LP. Their SR, my SS, gray line… When doing SOAB this is the time you run USA on 20 or 15 like crazy and don’t bother about LP gray line. I wonder if this works on 80 too – with my simple low band stuff that is.
Sunday late in the evening the rate improved and much to my surprise so did the signals. I had a good run with mainly USA with some Far East in the mix. Sweet. Suddenly that ON record came in sight. How much was I exactly? 717k? If things continue for another few hours… The problem is there aren’t many hours left. But the rate remained reasonable with enough three point call in the log. And so I crossed the line. 2105 utc: bingo! Now I need to build some leeway so my record score can hold after log checking.
The above graph (courtesy of K7GK) compares the total score for 2018 in red to 2017 in green. The breaks more or less coincide. The magic happens in the last eight hours.
Late in the contest a ZP mult was spotted. I remember last year’s issue with that. It was tempting but I didn’t want to stop my final run. So you can imagine the euphoria when ZP5SNA calls me! I remembered that from the 2017 episode where I wrote: “Yes! In the last hour ZP5WYC calls me. Again YES!”. History repeating.
Multipliers: red 2018 versus green 2017. Notice the mult-count bump in the last four hours (RC by K7GK).
I decide to fight until the closing bell rings. Of course it slows down. With only twelve minutes to go I decide that since I need to make ten QSO to make up for one multiplier, I go and chase 5U9AMO which soon becomes DXCC 139. Another ten minutes until the curtain falls and I decide to S&P as if there was no tomorrow. In contesting, there is no tomorrow. I should put that on a T-shirt!
I switch everything off, ZIP the database and mail it to myself to have a backup in the cloud. I give myself a virtual pat on the back for another contest well done. Remember: it’s just a dipole and 1200W.
Monday morning 6AM local time. I need to get up and go to work. I feel like sh… When’s the next one?
Cluster frenzy for mults!
I stayed away from cluster pile ups as much as possible. JT1DX was a pain but I worked him in the end. There were other situations too but I didn’t take notes. By the end of the contest, as usual, the rate slows down and each spot gathers a fierce impatient crowd. I abandoned the KL2R pile up because it was ferocious. Later Sunday night, I was trying once more but the usual suspects were at it again. WHY? WHY WHY WHY? In essence it’s simple: let’s all call once or twice at the same time, preferably a few tens of Hertz apart and then WAIT IN SILENCE and listen what the DX comes up with. Then ONLY ‘the chosen one’ gets to reply. Why on earth do stations keep calling and calling? Again and again. So frustrating. Egoism? Ego-tripping? A total lack of ham spirit for sure. And most of all: very bad operating. You can buy big yagis, 12k$ radios and 4kW amps but you can’t buy style and class.
It was so bad KL2R pulled the plug on his own pile up. Not without reprimanding the bullies (as if they‘d listen!) and who can blame him? My hope was, as usual, that if I kept on running I could get at least that one Alaskan multiplier in the log. And as usual my hope was not in vain. KL2R called me and operator N1TX was so kind as to spot my on the cluster. Thanks OM!
What’s up with my RX loops?
Something must have been different with propagation and the way signals arrived at my place. I have been using these two RX loops for two years now and I never heard them being so directive and helpful. I had diversity RX on all the time between the TX dipole and the RX loops. Both loops are fed into a remotely switched stackmatch so I can listen A/A+B/B. A is towards USA short path and B is at 40° favoring ZL and JA. Many times a station was hard copy and then it popped up when I changed the RX loop. For weaker and far away stations this clearly was an asset. On a few occasions I had troubles copying a JA and noticed the USA indication bulb was lit. Toggling to the 40° loop made the Japanese signal stand out. I don’t think I have ever benefit so much from these loops as this time. They offer some help on 80 and 160 but I never heard it so pronounced their as I heard it now on 40.
20 BY 7 HS 55 JA 588 K 3 KH6
15 VK 5 VU 9 YB 7 ZL
And dozens of one-shot rare DX.
Another CQ WW CW chapter written. I hope I get the ON record to show for it. At least for one year. This CW contesting game really never gets boring.
More than three months passed since my last CW contest so LZ DX Contest vintage 2018 came just in time. No goals, no targets, no stress. Just one radio. Go with the flow and (try to) have fun.
As is the case with these contests: the first few hours are fast and then it slows down. There is no ten meters and fifteen was an Rf-desert which makes it worse. I tried fifteen meters for as many minutes and logged only a dozen contacts so down to 14 MHz. That made more sense but the rate wasn’t really spectacular. I was having fun though.
Since I wasn’t going to be competitive I unchecked the ‘post score to server’ box in N1MMLogger. But after a while I decided to check cqcontest.net and lo and behold: I was doing fine. To hell with ‘not competitive’. I checked the box and joined the fun. In hindsight this was the best decision I made in this contest. Seeing your real time score makes you take less breaks and work harder. It’s a major motivator and adds fun to this already fun packed game. At least that’s how I see it.
And so the contest progressed and I was on top of the game. At least among those who posted their scores. I had to be realistic: 65% of what I log is worth 1 point (EU). RT9S works the same stations but gets 3 points credit because for him it’s another continent. So don’t compare to RT9S. Then suddenly D41CV joins the game. Other continent and ‘callsign gain’. So my target is being above UC7A, DL6KVA and SP1NY. The other posters didn’t seem to move as much as these stations.
At a given point I even turned on the second radio! I took down the 10-15-20 vertical a few years ago so I can only do SO2R with the antennas for 40 and 80 and the yagi. Which is no problem given where we are in the sunspot cycle. I run either 40m and 20m and look for QSO on the other band. I even did ‘alternating CQ’ on two bands. Fun stuff in such a modest contest. It keeps you busy, increases the rate and the live score board is a motivator.
As the evening made way for the night things were getting slow. I was well ahead of SP1NY which had become ‘the guy to beat’. Around 0utc (1AM local) I decided to take a break and get some sleep. I had the easy mults on 80 (USA and VE) and there isn’t much to do when EU goes to bed. The usual American suspects were already logged. My guess was that SP1NY would also go to bed or won’t log that many goodies. And if so: who cares (is what I tried to tell myself).
I set the alarm for 5utc (6AM) but woke up twenty minutes earlier. I immediately took a look at the live score. Still ahead of the game (i.e. SP1NY). Yes! D41CV and RT9S either went QRT or didn’t post their score. And so I found myself on top of the game. I knew this was just a snapshot so I took one:
Later on RT9A and D41CV updated their scores and I was even out of the top five! I stayed on 40 and 80 as long as possible with both radios, even running both bands. And then the same routine on 40/20. I checked ten meters. The RBN picked up a few LZ but I didn’t hear a thing. Fifteen was poor too. I tried running and got answered by a few Far East calls: HS, YB and even a JA and a VK.
Then suddenly SP1NY took a big leap forward. I was well ahead in QSO numbers but in half an hour he accumulated almost twenty extra multipliers. HUH? Where did that come from? My guess is that he was in the skip zone on 15 and I wasn’t. Everything over 2500km from here was loud. Everything under 2000km was inaudible. Let’s see:
Warsaw – Sofia = 1100km on a pure N-S path versus Brussels – Sofia = 1800 from here SE (111°).
I couldn’t work a thing under 2000km. Many red spots and unworked LZ stations but I could not hear them. Maybe my antenna is too high on 15m for this range? Must be as the UA and UA9 were loud and even those JA, HS, YB and VK were not weak… Bummer!
A few hours to go and I hoped that 15m would open up a bit for the more local stuff especially LZ. It more or less happened but it wasn’t a big success. I did manage to jump over SP1NY again. I tried 10m again in a pathetic effort to work more multipliers. A Dutchman, a German and a Belgian. Not even easy! Then fifteen again: a slow run and calling everything I could on 40m.
I wanted to know how many ‘second radio QSO’ I made but the above table doesn’t tell the story anymore because I also made run QSO and not only S&P. I forgot and just realized that all QSO on 80m were made with radio #2 which means with the small 500W amp. I left the Big Amp (1200W) on 40. The last hour I settled on 20m and stayed there. It seemed the most sane thing to do.
I’m happy with the result and what’s even better: I had a good time. I can’t wait to have 15 and 10 back though. And a second antenna for those bands.
The link to the construction details of this antenna:
If you did a google query for such a specific antenna, that is the link that’ll probably drew your attention.
ON4BAI disappeared from the ham radio scene almost a decade and a half ago. Since you don’t find an email address to contact him, your second go to was probably me. Understandable.
Once or twice a year someone sends me an email about this antenna project. I decided to make my life simple and just refer to this here from now on. So read along.
About this antenna:
I guess that for ON4BAI it was an exercise in engineering, calculating and building. The object was to figure out a way to make a relatively small antenna work on a relatively large wavelength with relatively acceptable efficiency.
The process is:
- Determine how high you are willing to go above the ground compared to full size (i.e. no loading).
- Determine how much space you want to sacrifice for the capacitance spokes.
- Add loading coils at feed point for more loading when capacitance spokes are not big enough.
- Figure out hairpin to match all this to 50Ω as lossless as possible.
As a result: no it is not multi band. Everything is calculated for a single frequency. Bandwidth is not too wide either.
My opinion (nutshell)
- If you want an engineering challenge and a complex antenna, this is the way to go.
- If you want a SIMPLE and LIGHT antenna that works EQUALLY WELL or better, there are other options.
Elaborating on the subject…
At my first employer I got to know ham radio because of some co-workers that were either hams or studying for their test. That tickled my interest. Later on I started working for another company early 1999. One of my co-workers there was ON4BAI. He was very passionate about the hobby and his enthusiasm was contagious. I too passed the test and he was my elmer when I took my first steps in ham radio.
More ON5ZO history?
ON4BAI preferred the technical side of the hobby: designing and building. My XYL and I just bought a house and this OM was in need of some antennas. So Kurt designed and built this antenna and we put it in my garden. I used it from Spring 2003 to somewhere early 2006. I was very grateful for that as it brought me a good antenna for a nice band.
For some reason we never got the SWR acceptable: 3:1 if memory serves me well. It seemed OK at his place but not at mine. Ground conductivity? Interaction with my sheet metal garage a few meters away? I used the TS-850’s internal ATU to ‘fix’ this. I was running 100W only so no problem. It brought me DX so why bother.
My second problem with this antenna was actually that it took up quite some real estate and made lawn mowing difficult. Not only the capacity spokes were a danger to get poked in the eye. This antenna needs guying. The center is quite heavy: mounting plate, coils, balun and a coax attached.
Early 2006 I bought an amplifier which could not handle this antenna because we couldn’t get it matched to 50 ohm. This was more serious than the lawn mowing issue so I decided to take it down. I replaced it with a simple wire vertical on a fiber glass pole with two elevated radials in gull-wing configuration. This worked equally well but was much simpler to build and took almost no space. I put the fiber glass mast against the hedge and used the trees to suspend both radials in. Later on I replaced the fiber glass pole with the copper wire by some tapered aluminum tubes.
In summer 2006 I decided that maybe there was a better option when I had the telescopic tower cranked up. For WAECW 2006 I suspended a full size wire vertical dipole slightly sloping away from the 21m high tower. While not a three element yagi this antenna seemed even better than the ground plane. But yet again a simple, cheap and lightweight high efficiency antenna that didn’t take up real estate. Clearly a winner again.
Later on a made an A/B relay switch and put up two of these. One towards USA and one towards JA with respect to the tower. They were not phased but I always thought of being able to ‘sense’ a subtle better performance in the favored direction. No measurements or tests to back up that hunch though.
I used this setup on 40m with much success until 2011. Then I installed a coil loaded rotary dipole which sits at 23m AGL when the tower is cranked up all the way. This is a KILLER antenna and can’t be beaten for its size, weight and simplicity.
Unlike Dan KB6NU my first project was successful. Must be a case of Beginner’s Luck.
After summer I started a new job. I’m still teaching though. But new school, new subjects: mostly back to classic electronics and new stuff like Arduino. And my first hands on experience with 3D printing. And a link with ham radio to boot!
To keep my classroom tidy I was looking for a cable rack. Teenage students wouldn’t mind turning a few dozen test leads into a pile of spaghetti but I hate that. Furthermore when the cables are nicely arranged I immediately can look for test leads gone MIA and summon the troops to recover the missing items.
I was looking for a fast DYI solution with either wood or metal since I know how to obtain and work with these materials. But Google suggested another solution. From an amateur radio operator nonetheless! WA0UWH made a nice cable rack with a 3D printer. And he was so kind as to make the design available online.
Since we also teach the basics of 3D design and printing to our students, we have everything available to edit WA0UWS’s design and have it 3D-printed. The original design was too wide to fit onto our printer’s bed so we removed a few of the branches making it narrower. We did not scale it down, we sliced away some of the fingers. My colleague showed me how stuff works and soon after I had the 3D printer going.
I now have a bunch of cable racks I can put up on the wall to keep the different types and colors nicely separated and untangled. Yay! To keep the number of holes in the wall to a bare minimum I screwed a length of plywood to the wall. I painted it white first to blend with the painted wall. Then I screwed the cable racks to the wood. Four screws in a brick wall is far less than 5×3 screws.
A quick search engine query reveals a lot of 3D designs for ham radio gizmos are ready to download and get 3D-printed.
I have a lot to learn (see also my Arduino affair). But just like when I got back into programming twelve years ago, this new knowledge can also be used in DYI projects. Read: HAM RADIO!
Status 04/11: I processed all cards in my possession for OQ5M and ON5ZO/P. I still have a bunch of cards for ON5ZO that need to be addressed. These are mainly for older QSO’s that I sent out cards for already.
There still is a very old shoe box full of ON5ZO cards. I wrote on top of the box: “ON5ZO cards – checked OK’. So I will take a few sample cards to see if I really already processed them. I surely hope so.
The last batch of QSL cards showed a big stack of QSL cards from WRTC 2014 (MA, USA).
I now need to send out about 700 cards for OQ5M. I decided to print labels and stick them on paper cards. That way I can get rid of the stock of cards I had printed in 2006. I don’t like them too much and the picture doesn’t reflect my actual antennas anymore. Good riddance!
The good thing of waiting a few years to reply to incoming QSL cards is that you can answer three different cards confirming each one QSO with only one card.
Old skool QSLing is not for the impatient. After being OQ5ZO (late 2001) I sent out a QSL card for ALL contacts. Rookie mistake. I made a QSO with a W6 station on 20/11/2001. I sent my card on 12/02/2002. I marked the contact as confirmed on 03/11/2018. That’s seventeen years after the contact. Oh my. OQ5ZO – my first encounter with calling CQ and running high rate (to my standards back then). Has that really been s-e-v-e-n-t-e-e-n years already? Time flies too fast, really!
Sometimes people make the QSL process more complicated than needed. There’s this JA station I have worked seven times on 15 CW. I confirmed four of those in 2015. Yet still there is another card for the same band/mode.
Or what to think of the station sending me a card with ‘PSE QSL’. So I sent my card. Then a few years later I receive another card for the same contact saying ‘TNX QSL’. A case of confirming the confirmation.
And so the QSL saga comes to an end. For now at least. ON4BHQ warns me that he has a considerable amount of buro cards waiting for me already – again…