It seems that I’ve been doing more RTTY contesting lately, and on Saturday, I spent about 8 1/2 hours participating in the SCC (Slovenia Contest Club) RTTY Championship contest. This was a 24 hour contest, running from 8AM Saturday to 8AM Sunday (local time), and it’s one of the contests where anybody can work anybody. I like those, because even if propagation isn’t cooperating, I can usually work someone in the US. This is a good thing, because propagation wasn’t all that great, and as it turns out, just about 50% of my contacts were with US stations.
There are some interesting scoring rules in this contest that I haven’t seen before. In many DX contests, you get more points for working DX which favors certain parts of the world where there are literally dozens of countries in an area the size of the US. However, for this contest the rules are set up so that within “big” counties (like the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, Argentina, and others) you get extra points for working stations within that country but who are in different call areas, provinces, or oblasts. I wish that some of the other DX contests would use this system which seems to level the playing field a bit. One other scoring rule that is fun is that the multipliers are the year that you were first licensed. I worked a few stations who were first licensed in 2010 (all of which were, I believe, specially issued callsigns), but it was fun working stations who were licensed in the 1940s and even in the 1930s. I worked a couple of stations who were licensed in the 40s, but both of them turned out to be using club callsigns, which of course were issued when the club was originally founded. (Still quite impressive to be sure). The oldest non-club call that I worked was Charles, W0HW, who was first licensed in 1937. According to the information on qrz.com, he was born in 1922, so Charles, who is now 88 (and obviously still active on the air) got his first license at age 15. I’m sure he’s got a lot of interesting stories to tell.
As with a lot of my contesting, I tend to fit it into the “space available” on a weekend. For this contest, I didn’t get started until around 3:30PM (local time), at which point I configured my contest logging program for this contest and got on the air. I listened briefly on 15m but since I only heard one very weak signal, I decided to start off on 20m. For about the first half hour, I ran in Search & Pounce (S&P) mode, working just under 20 stations. As I was tuning, I found an open frequency right at the lower end of the 20m RTTY sub-band (14.084Mhz), and I figured that I’d try to see if I could switch to Run mode. As I’ve mentioned previously, being able to run stations really improves you rate and it’s also a lot more fun. It’s usually difficult for a low-power station like mine to hold a run frequency for long (because usually a higher-power station will just sort of take over, despite the fact that it’s poor operating practice, at best, so do so; it’s arguably illegal as well), but I was thrilled to be able to stay on that same frequency for around 4 hours. I can’t say that I had huge numbers of stations calling me the entire time, but there were periods where I was working about 2 stations per minute continuously for several minutes. For this contest, it seems that 2 per minute was about the maximum achievable because the rate of information exchanged is fixed (a characteristic of RTTY), and the amount of information that had to be exchanged was of a certain length. Unlike a CW or Phone contest, you simply can’t go much faster. (Yes, there are some shortcuts, but they don’t make that much difference, especially when you don’t have a continuous pileup.) I was very pleased to be able to continue my run for that amount of time.
I took a break and went out to dinner with Sharon (who, as usual, was being very understanding about the contest), and got back to the radio at around 9:30PM, worked a few stations on 20m, then moved down to 40m. The conditions on 40m seemed to be surprisingly good, and I was able to work a good number of European stations first running S&P and then later when I had a run frequency. (That run wasn’t nearly as good as the 20m run, but it was still quite productive). After a while, I seemed to have run out of stations on 40m, so I moved down to 80m to see what I could find. During the summer, 80m isn’t great for DX because it’s noisy due to the thunderstorms that are common during that time of the year. After a while, including a period where I had a rather unsuccessful attempt and running station (plenty of frequencies were available, but apparently nobody could hear me), I moved back to 40m again. Somewhat to my surprise, the propagation had improved, and by that time, some of the early-risers in Europe were awake to work the night-owls in North America. (It was around 1AM at that point.) I continued to work stations on 40m, but at 2AM, I finally threw in the towel and finished up with 207 (non-duplicate) QSOs in the log. As it turns out, I was up for over an hour after that acting as the family “IT guy”, fixing a problem with Sharon’s BlackBerry. Needless to say, I didn’t get up early enough to put a few more QSOs in the log the next morning, so that was my final total.
Here’s my detailed score summary for the contest:
Band QSOs Pts Sec
3.5 29 57 25
7 67 168 42
14 111 268 50
Total 207 493 117
Score : 57,681
This was my first effort in this contest, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I was very happy with the results.