The N1FD Team operated from the our station (AB1QB/AB1OC).
Many of the club members who joined us had not previously had the opportunity to operate in a major DX contest. Our approach to the contest included a significant amount of time spent to help folks learn how to operate in a major DX contest such as CQ WW DX. All of the members of the N1FD Operator Team did a great job and we worked a lot of DX given the relatively poor band conditions throughout the contest period.
We entered the contest as N1FD in the Multi-Op, One Transmitter category and we operated in the High Power, Assisted class. This category allowed us to have two transmitters on the air on different bands simultaneously. One transmitter was the “run” station from which we could call CQ and contact any new callsigns on a given band. The other transmitter was a multiplier only station which was only allowed to work new multipliers (new DXCCs and CQ Zones) on a given band. We had both stations on the air simultaneously for a good portion of the contest period.
We operated on all of the contest bands from 160m through 10m during the contest. We mostly operated in Search and Pouncemode to focus on maximizing the number of DXCCs and CQ Zones worked. Search and Pounce mode also made it easier for the less experienced folks on our team to learn about contesting. We used a mix of data from the spotting cluster and tuning the bands to find and work stations. We did a bit of operating in Run mode (calling CQ) as well to help put additional QSOs in our log to boost our final score and to learn how to operate by calling CQ in a contest.
We used the N1MM+ logger in a multi-op, networked configuration during the contest. This allowed us to share a single log between our two stations and to keep track of the multipliers (DXCCs and CQ Zones) that the combination of the two stations worked during the contest.
We worked a total of 108 countries in the contest and brought the total DXCCs worked by the N1FD callsign to 121. This means that we worked a complete DXCC during a single weekend! We added 40 new DXCCs worked as a result of our contest operation. Before the contest, our club call had 62 confirmed countries. We will need 38 more confirmations to qualify for the ARRL DXCC Award. We have received a total of 16 of the needed 38 new DXCC confirmations via LoTW as of the end of today!
We also gave our club a good start toward earning future 5-Band DXCC and DXCC Challenge Awards as we worked at total of 283 band-points during the contest.
We made a total of 607 QSOs during the contest for a claimed score of 588,208. The actual score may be lower than this after the contest adjudication process completes in several months as deductions will be taken for any incorrect calls or exchanges. You can also see our results at the 3830 Score Rumor website.
Everyone involved had a lot of fun and learned some new skills. We are thinking about operating again as N1FD in the ARRL Sweepstakes Contest in November (Nov. 19-21). Please let us know if you’d be interested in joining the N1FD Team for this contest.
As I sit here watching the N1FD team work the CQ Worldwide DX contest, it got me thinking about what contesting is really about and why we contest.
Let me try to answer the second question first. There are lots of different reasons to operate in contests. Many folks do this to work new countries, states, zones, islands, grids, etc. It seems that you can find a contest that is designed to create opportunities to work just about anything that you can think of on the bands. Others work contests to try to test out their stations and to improve their skills as operators. Of course, many folks compete to win the contest or to place better than they did the last time. Some may even compete to set a record.
Perhaps the best reason to contest is that it provides one of the best opportunities to be a better operator. You may say, aren’t contesters just QRM on the bands on weekends when we want to use them for other stuff? I can see why some feel this way. I wish that more amateurs who feel this way would take some time to listen more closely to what is going on during the contest.
There is nothing quite like listening to a skilled operator work a pileup from a rare place during a worldwide contest like CQ Worldwide DX. Such an operator will make 100’s of calls in a row. They will accurately get each caller’s information into their logs and the really great ones will also use their skills and energy to ensure that each of their callers gets the contest station’s information correct in their logs as well.
This requires great skill in many areas. First, you need to really learn to listen and to pick out weak and fading callers in the presence of a great deal of QRM. It’s often necessary to piece together a good callsign using several rounds of a QSO. Good contest operators know perhaps 500 or more of the most common calls used in their contest and this information helps them to recognize calls and avoid making errors. The great ones also know how to work with each caller to ensure that they get the correct information to complete the contact and that the other operator does the same.
I like to think of this as getting in the head of the other person during the QSO. Did they get my call right or do I need to slow down and say my call again? Did I hear their callsign and exchange correctly or do I need to give them a chance to ask me to correct something for them? While I am doing all of this, I need to be as fast and efficient as possible. These skills take a great deal of practice to develop. You can get there with less time in the chair during contests if you take some time to listen and pay close attention to the great operators that you will hear during contests. First and foremost, great contesters are great listeners and they can accurately pick out call signs on the first try without making mistakes.
What, you say that any operator will do great when they are sitting at a big contest station with lot of power and big antennas? It is true that having a well-built station and good hardware and computers helps make contacts easier. Computers and modern software like N1MM+ also play an important role in making the mechanics of finding and making contacts accurately more efficient. The contest community makes their software available free of change to everyone. I strongly encourage anyone who contests to set up and learn to use modern contest software. While these tools help, they are just like construction tools in the hands of a carpenter. The master carpenter can create a work of art with a hand saw, a hammer and some basic hand tools while an apprentice can struggle to get good results from the best shop and tools available.
Also, most contests are designed with categories to group contesters with their peers who have setups similar to theirs. Station hardware differences also does not account for the contester who goes to an island in the Caribbean with a 100W radio and a simple antenna and wins an award in a contest.
We also saw this clearly during the WRTC competition here in New England a few years ago. We had the best operators in the world competing using the exact same towers and similar antennas that we use for our annual Field Day operation and they made 2,000 or more contacts in a 24 hour period using 100W radios. Many of these operators did this while making almost no mistakes!
So what else makes a great contest operator besides working fast and efficiently to complete and log lots of contacts accurately? For one, these folks know a great deal about propagation and how to take best advantage of the conditions at hand. They know when its time to run on 20m into Europe, when to look for Japan on 15m for those multiples, what time of day and segment in the contest to focus on contacts in the Caribbean and South America, etc. They learn when they ned to change bands and when its time to work multipliers or tune the band that they are on with their second radio or VFO. They can quickly determine the band and propagation conditions on the contest weekend and adjust their strategy to take best advantage of the conditions at hand.
A great operator also learns to make the best use of their station and antennas. They understand where their stations work well and they adapt their approach to a contest based upon this. They also spend lots of time looking at and comparing their performance from contest to contest and against other competitors in the same contests to see where they can improve.
So what if you don’t really want to win contests? Why would you bother with this. The most important reason is that contesting will make you a better operator. You’ll learn to hear that really weak DX and get them into your log accurately. When you get on the air, you’ll be an operator that others want to work because they know you will help them complete a contact that they want. You will find and work stations that most others will miss. In sort, a bit of dedication to contesting will make you a great operator.
As the CQ Worldwide DX Contest weekend draws to a close, I’d also like to add that I am proud of the job that the operators in our club did at our station. Most of them had almost no DX contest experience before this weekend. They worked the contest hard and have made contacts to over 100 counties in about 40 hours of operating. They have all improved their skills greatly and I look forward to working all of them at any time.
Our Fall Technician and General License classes held on September 24-25 and October 22-23 were a great success! We had a total of 10 new hams from our Technician class – 8 received their Technician License and 2 received their General Class License.
7 people received upgrades during our General class – 6 Generals and 1 Extra.
Congratulations to the following club members who received a license or upgrade through our classes!
Thanks to the instructors and VEs who helped out in the License Class and VE Session!!
The Fall Extra Class will be held on December 2-4 at Dartmouth Hitchcock Nashua. There are still slots available in the class. If you are interested in the class, contact Anita, AB1QB at email@example.com
The biggest category subject in Ham Radio publications and on-air discussions is Antennas. Here is a very interesting excerpt on Antenna impedance from Onno, VK6FLAB’s podcast called Foundations of Amateur Radio, October 23, 2016 episode.
Foundations of Amateur Radio by Onno VK6FLAB
One of the recurring topics in on-air discussion is that of antennas and if we were to graph the topics of conversations, antennas would be the clear winner in any line-up. From the mouths of babes…
I’ve mentioned in the past that Amateur Radio is to a very large degree magic. Another way of expressing that is to say that there is an Art to being an Amateur and antennas play a big part.
A friend of mine loaned me his antenna kit called a Buddipole. It’s a portable set-up that is akin to Meccano or Lego in that you can build up an antenna from parts and make a large range of antennas from the same basic parts, two coils, a feed point, a balun, two telescopic whips and some extension pieces. Until that moment I’d always thought of the Buddipole as a dipole on a stand and expected like any traditional dipole it would have both legs at the same length.
What if you could move the feed point along the length of your dipole, what would happen? Previously I’ve mentioned that the height of a dipole, the wire thickness, the ends, the angle and so on all affect the feed point impedance. Turns out, that where you place the feed point also affects this.
If you recall basic antenna theory, you might recall that the middle of a dipole is the lowest impedance and that the end of a dipole is the highest impedance. If you have a balun, you can use this to get a great match for your antenna by tweaking these values.
Another example of this continuum is a loop antenna. If you make it twice as high as wide, the feed point impedance is 50 Ohm, but if you use the same loop and squash it flat, the impedance is 300 Ohm. Varying the shape changes the impedance.
In essence this means that there is an infinite number of antennas that can be made just as a dipole and another infinite number of antennas that can be made as a loop.
So, just two antenna types alone already gives you a lifetime supply of options and that’s ignoring the height, soil or wire.
Now you understand why antennas are tricky and why we talk about them so much. Next time you hear an Amateur going on about their antenna, perhaps there’s something to take away. I know I won’t be anywhere as impatient listening to others talking about their contraptions.
Final thought: You can change the length of either, or both, but you can also feed the antenna in a different location.—I’m Onno VK6FLAB