The station at N5XU:
This was my first ever serious attempt at an all-band HF contest as a single operator. I've done many multi-operator efforts, and I've dabbled in a few single-band efforts, but this was my first 24-hour single-op on multiple bands. I think it was a huge learning experience for me.
The station I used was the club station at the University of Texas Amateur Radio Club. It's an SO1R setup in a penthouse on top of an engineering building in the middle of campus. The air conditioner in the window couldn't quite keep up with the equipment heat in the middle of the afternoon, and the nearest bathroom is 350' and one flight of stairs away. It's a true tribander and wires setup on phone, as the Force 12 C-4's 40-meter element is tuned for CW. It's noisy, too, as we are across the street from an electrical generation power plant, surrounded by engineering research buildings, and there are probably 50,000 computers in a half-mile radius of the shack. There's no way to use listening antennas on the low bands, as the building is surrounded by parking lots, sidewalks, and streets.
I probably wouldn't have done quite as well as I did, for a first-timer, had it not been for pre-contest advice from George K5TR. I know I missed out on a lot during this contest, but his advice regarding 40 meters and the low bands was helpful - I probably wouldn't have worked any Europeans on 40 had I not gotten there as early as I did. I think I still missed out on a lot of low-band opportunities by not being at the right band at the right time. On the high bands, I think I missed out on a lot of 10 meter contacts. I spent a significant amount of time there on Saturday, but everytime I checked on K5TR, about 35 miles west of me, he was working station after station that I could not hear. Having operated 10 meters from his place before, I am beginning to think that the tribander at N5XU is too high off the ground for 10 meters. It seems like there is a "sweet spot" for single-yagi antenna systems of 1.5-2 wavelengths above ground, which is where the K5TR antennas all are. At N5XU, the tribander is 3 wavelengths above ground at 10 meters, which is probably too high in general, and is definitely too high for Eskip. I felt like 20 meters (where the antenna is 1.5 wavelengths above ground) was the best band at N5XU, all other things being equal.
The worst part of the contest happened at 0415, when someone turned on some piece of equipment nearby on campus. It sounded like the busines end of a belt sander was directly attached to the antenna feedpoint. It was S9+40 on all bands from 10 meters to at least 6 meters. So, I spent some less than fully productive time on 40 and 80, and eventually decided that I had to try to work the loud stuff through the noise on 20. After an even longer time, I figured out that by pointing the tribander at about 105 degrees, I could null out a lot of the noise and hear things. So, I went back to CQing and started to work people, but of course the band was open to Europe, but I was pointed at South Africa! From this, it seems likely that the noise was across the street in the new digital sciences building. Probably a cheap floor buffer or something. The noise stopped around 0734, after the opening to Europe had just about ended. It was literally the worst QRM I have ever heard up there. Right after it ended, my rate took right off.
I made a few other mistakes, as well. I spent nearly ten minutes cursing ZL1ANJ up and down and sideways because he couldn't hear me on 40. Eventually, I gave up on him and decided to go to 20, only to discover that the antenna jumper was already on the tribander. Oops. I guess I was tired. I moved it back to the 40 meter dipole and worked Martin on the first call.... Thankfully, nothing blew up. The only equipment difficulty I had all weekend was with the voice keyer. It would sometimes play memory three right after memory two, which was annoying.
I never heard a Japanese station on any band other than 20 meters. I tried and tried and tried to raise a JA on 40 by CQing and listening split at various times over about two hours right before JA sunrise, but I never did work a station split when calling CQ, JA or otherwise. I never heard a JA calling CQ on 40. It was also very frustrating to hear so many DX stations with big signals into Texas on 40 that were calling CQ over and over with no takers, but were not listening up. I never heard JA on 15, but did work YB0A and DU1UGZ around 0840 on 15, when I was looking hard for a JA station on that band.
NU1AW was very loud on all of the bands, and I probably could have worked them on topband had they spent any time there. I heard W1AW/6 on just three bands (they were loudest on 80) but couldn't work them on 40, because just as I found them around 1055, someone told them that they were on a net frequency and were going to be interfering with the net (never mind that they weren't _yet_ interfering with the net, or that it would really have been the net interfering with the W1AW/6 operation...) So, it sounded to me like instead of moving to a new frequency (of which there were plenty at that time of day) or suggesting to the net that they could move to a new frequency, they just packed up and left the band an hour early. I certainly never heard them again on 40. It was very frustrating. I don't know why I never heard them on 15 or 10, as I have plenty of California stations on both bands in the log.
There are certain aspects of the headquarters stations in this contest that I really don't like. Besides the obvious, which is that it greatly tilts the scoring in favor of the Europeans and the east-coast/midwest USA stations, it seems to bring out generally bad behavior in Europe. I listened to DA0HQ being heavily jammed (I'm guessing by other Europeans) for hours. I heard at least four European HQ stations just start calling CQ on top of non-HQ stations and ignore their complaints. Plus, out of some sense of national pride, I'm sure a lot of them are running way high power. One European HQ station in particular could be heard for an hour before the band opened up enough for them to hear me.
I had a few interesting DX stations call in. OJ0U on 20 might even be a new country for me. UQ1D was pretty cool, as was P29IO, both of which were also on 20. The vast majority of my QSOs, though, were to W/VE stations.
I had a really good time.
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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 29 November 2018