I wasn't sure I was going to be able to operate in this contest. I had neglected to secure a station in my local area for a guest operation before I discovered that the contest was so popular that all of the usual contest stations were already claimed. About a week before the contest I found out that I'd be able to operate at W5KFT after all, as K5OT had to cancel.
The W5KFT station is mostly the same as it was the last time I operated a phone contest from there. Some of the Ameritron AL-1500 amplifiers were on the blink, though, so one of the radios was hooked up to K5OT's Dentron Clipperton L amplifier. Larry was generous enough to leave the amplifier there for me to use.
I arrived at the station Friday night, and had plenty of time to set up the software, adjust the 80M sloping dipoles to phone length, and tune up both amplifiers on all the bands. I was actually asleep by 10PM and got a full eight hours of rest before the start.
This is the first HF operating I've done since the ARRL International DX Contest, Phone, back in March. I don't have much of a station at home yet, and I rarely get on the air from home, so I had no real idea what band conditions would be like approaching the bottom of the cycle in the middle of summer. My operating guides were really my rate sheet from IARU 2003 (my previous personal best in the contest) and K5TR's rate sheet from 2004 (when he won W/VE and was #10 world.) I was hoping to do much, much better than 2003, and looked upon K5TR's 2004 performance as my stretch goal.
Starting the contest, I put the left Kenwood TS-850 (with the Ameritron AL-1500) on 20 meters, and the right Kenwood TS-850 (with the Dentron Clipperton L) on 15 meters. I don't know that I even consciously thought about my choice, but the AL-1500 is a louder amplifier, and the left-hand radio is slightly less convenient to tune, so I guess it made sense to use that radio on the run band where slightly more power might make more sense and where I wouldn't be tuning a lot. This decision would really affect my score.
When the contest started, I couldn't hear anything at all on 15 or 10 meters, which didn't really surprise me - after all, it was just past dawn and it's summer and it's near the bottom of the solar cycle. I figured things would pick up, and in the meanwhile concentrated on my run on 20 meters. I only began hearing a few stations on 15 meters in the 1300 UTC hour, and even though I had no trouble working them at all, they were weak and few and far between. Again, not having been on the air for four months, and not really knowing any better, I figured 15 meters was just dead. So, I was working 20 meters as hard as I could.
After the contest, when we compared our numbers on 3765 kHz, K5TR diagnosed the situation for me. The right-hand radio is deaf on the high bands. It otherwise performs normally, and I made a lot of QSOs with it on 40, 80, and 160, but on 10 and 15 it couldn't hear anything but the very loudest stations. George had this happen to him once with a Kenwood TS-850 at HC8, and from what he described of his experience, I'm confident that the exact same thing happened to my radio this weekend. I wish I had thought about that possibility during the contest, but the left-hand radio (which does work just fine on 15 and 10 as far as I know) was on 20 meters for the first 18 hours of the contest, so there was no way I would discover the problem by happenstance. And, aside from the fact that it couldn't hear well on 15 and 10, absolutely everything else about the radio was working normally.
So, the end result is that I have fewer than 40 QSOs on 15 meters, only a few of which were from my mostly unproductive attempts at calling CQ. In retrospect, I feel terrible about the CQs, as I almost certainly stepped on someone I couldn't hear when I fired up on a frequency I thought for certain was empty. I only worked two stations all contest on 10 meters, both local guys. If I wasn't so dense, I could have switched radios and my score would have been very different, but I honestly didn't think at the time that there was anything wrong (aside from poor conditions.) I know that sounds lame, but what else can I say? I worked 20 meters really hard.
I am very pleased with my final QSO total - I had set that as a specific goal for this year, as my QSO totals in past years have been too low. The TR Log rate meter peaked at 192 in the 1200 UTC hour, and later peaked at 168 during a short burst in the 2300 UTC hour, but my best rate was in the 0200 UTC hour when the rate meter peaked at 216. I'm sure I've never had that kind of rate in the IARU contest before. If I hadn't "lost" two bands, I'm sure my final QSO total would have been 100 QSOs higher, or maybe more, than it was. I am especially happy that I had better QSO totals than K5TR in three of the last six hours of the contest. I still have too many hours with rates in the 50s and 60s that I need to turn into 70s and 80s, but it's much better than it was two years ago when the 2003 IARU was one of my first single operator contest efforts.
I really need to improve my multiplier performance, though. Even on the bands where I didn't have equipment problems, my multiplier totals are well below my local competition. I know that I'm still missing out on some things by not being on the right band at the right times - I didn't work any Europeans on 80 meters, for example, because I think I got there too late. I'm also clearly not hitting the Caribbean and South America as well as I could be.
One thing that was frustrating was around 1455 UTC when VR2HK fired up right on my 20 meter frequency, totally destroying my run, but then couldn't hear me call them at all. They were a serious alligator, and were calling CQ a lot despite many, many stateside callers. I never did get that multiplier.
I worked a lot of dupes - almost 100 - and they were almost all on 20 meters. Two stations worked me four times each, and four stations worked me three times each.
Station: http://www.kkn.net/~w5kft/ 160 - Inverted V @ 145' 80 - Sloping dipoles - NE, NW from 150', SE from 135' 40 - Cushcraft 40-2CD @ 150', rotatable Cushcraft 40-2CD @ 70', fixed NE 20 - Hy-Gain 204BA @ 157', rotatable Hy-Gain 204BA @ 105', fixed NE Hy-Gain 204BA @ 53', fixed NE 15 - Hy-Gain 155CA @ 135', rotatable Hy-Gain 155CA @ 90', fixed NE Hy-Gain 155CA @ 45', fixed NE 10 - Hy-Gain 105CA @ 140', rotatable Hy-Gain 105CA @ 100', fixed NE Hy-Gain 105CA @ 60', fixed NE Hy-Gain 105CA @ 30', fixed NE Radio 1: Kenwood TS-850SAT, Ameritron AL-1500 Radio 2: Kenwood TS-850SAT, Centron Clipperton L Headset: Heil Proset DVK: W9XT Contest Card Software: TR Log 6.79 Other: WX0B SixPak and StackMatches, Ameritron RCS-8V switches, ICE bandpass filters, Top Ten Devices Band Decoders, Top Ten Devices DXDoubler
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Contest Logging was done with TR LOG contest logging software. The following reports and log were created using TR LOG's post-contest processor.
Last Updated 14 April 2016