Posts Tagged ‘CW contesting’
Another CW contest is in the books and this is the first time that Murphy stayed far away from me. I spent the longest time I ever have sitting in the contest chair, one reason could have been it was rainy and cold outside. I took one-hour sessions at a time with about a 10-minute break and lunch and dinner. I found this worked very well and allowed me to focus better when I was on the radio. I spent most of my time in running mode ( calling CQ contest and listening for callers) I will be honest there were times I did have issues and most likely ticked off some contesters with my failing to get their call, but oh well we all have to learn.
Some of my highlights were contacting a fellow blogger Bas PE4BAS on 2 different bands and also I contacted John AE5X another fellow blogger at the time the call sounded familiar but I could not place it. Later after reading Bas's blog post it clicked that it was John I had contacted.
With calling CQ or running I found the time just flew past and before I knew it I was coming up on my 1-hour break mark. Having said that at times when someone spots you on the cluster (thanks Bas) it can get jam-packed. At one point I answered and logged 136 QSO's in 1 hour! My theory is, keep my CW speed at a moderate level (around 29-27 WPM) and I figure I may get more callers. I could go faster but I feel I limit my prospects. Having said that while going at 29wpm I did get over and over stations coming back to me at 32-39 wpm, could be those I have worked in my weekly CWops mini contest and know the speed can be picked up a notch. But it does throw you off to all of a sudden get a call out of the blue at 36 wpm.
It was nice to see 10m open and I was able to make some DX contacts. On Sunday afternoon 15m opened to South America and Hawaii which allowed me to get some nice multiplier contacts.
I was very happy with how the new Hustler 4BTV performed as this was the first major contest I was able to use it in. My dream goal was to double last year's score and I went way beyond that!
As a side note: This morning was the weekly Monday running of the ICWC MST (medium speed 1-hour contest) I gave the morning session a go and what a DISASTER it was! Not sure if there is such a thing as day after major CW contest brain fog but I sure did have it. A half-hour into the hour session I was ready to pull the plug but I hung on and ate humble pie. I was hearing the correct call but typing differently, hearing letters that just were not there, logging a contact before I received their full exchange and as a call was being sent to me I was like a deer in headlights. I could not send or receive S.O.S. if my life depended on it. Oh well, water under the bridge and just for the heck of it I am going to jump back in the operating chair for the afternoon MST session. What could go wrong eh?
If you were on the radio this weekend and are a CW buff then you know some QSO parties were in full swing along with the WAG (worked all Germany) contest were on. Since my blog title has changed to "The world of CW" you may have guessed that I was involved in something by the way of CW this weekend.
I decided to join in on the WAG contest, it's always very well attended, starts Saturday noon my time and ends Sunday noon. The German ops are great at CW and it gives me more practice at running in a CW contest. For the first time, I had no Murphy moments, no RF getting into anything to cause me side issues it sure was a nice change. I will be blogging in the near future as to what I ended up doing to get rid of my what seemed never ending surprise RF issues.
In the picture above it shows how I use the Icom 7610 in contests.
- I have 2 band scopes up (VFO A and VFO B) at the same time the operating band (top slice) and the is it open yet band (bottom slice)
- On the left-hand side tabs you will see "BK-IN FULL" or full break-in turned on. This allows me while calling CQ contest to hear the receive for very short times while transmitting. If a station starts to call me I can hear them and stop my transmitting. It takes some time to get used to but is a great tool.
- On the band, I am operating (15m in this case VFO A) I have the band edges set to 21.000-21.020 in a contest it can get very busy with signals and this visually spaces them out so when searching and pouncing you can click and tune easy.
- The bottom slice (VFO B) the band edges are very wide so I can see the full picture of the band to see if it has opened up.
- On VFO A the 15m band I am calling CQ contest or running as its called. I have the bandwidth set to 400hz. (seen at top BW 400) I do this as some ops come back off frequency and I have no issues hearing them. If I get spotted on a cluster and all hell breaks loose with stations calling me that BW goes to 200hz. if not you just hear a big mess of calls.
-Some time ago I read a piece about the Icom 7610 contest radio settings. It was stated to use your audio peak filter (APF) set to mid-range, put the noise reduction on (NR), CW filters to either 600, 400 or 200hz and set to sharp not soft and to keep the internal ATU on as they said it can act as a filter. I do all but the last part regarding the ATU. My SWR on all bands is from 1.1 to 1.5. Anyway, I was shocked by just having the APF and NR turned on and how much of a difference it made. At one point in the contest not sure how it happened but the APF and NR were turned off. I was calling CQ contest and stations were coming back to me but they were right at the noise floor and many repeats were needed to make the contact. I then noticed after about 10 very difficult contacts the APF and NF were off. I put them back on and what a joy again.
Well below is my score and I have to say that before the contest I had sugar plums dancing in my head with a high score but it turned out it was more like roasted chestnuts. Nothing wrong with that and I did have a blast.
Now that fall is just around the corner and summer vacations, lazy days in the sun and let's not forget the yard work comes to an end it makes more time for radio. Over the summer I have found the bands are a bit more on the quiet side, blog posts slow down and for the most part, we are preoccupied with summer.
For those of you who are into CW and the key has gathered some dust over the summer break a great way to slide back into the CW groove is to take part in some 1 hour "mini-contests"
The event runs twice a week Friday 2000-2100 UTC
Monday 0000-0100 UTC which is Sunday eve but Monday according to UTC time....always threw me off when I first got into contesting.....anyways...
This 1-hour mini contest max's out at 20 wpm and I have done many of these and sent at 16-18 WPM and had many contacts. If you are rusty and want to pick up the dit dah pace a bit this contest is a great place to be. If you are a veteran op it's a great place to slow the pace down and donate an hour.
The exchange is your call sign, name and your State or Province. The contest program N1MM+ supports this contest also if the call sign you are working on is in N1MM+ database the op's name and State/Provence is auto filled if you want. This way you can start by just having to copy the op's call sign.
Mondays 1300-1400 and 1900-2000
In this 1 hour mini contest the CW speed picks up the pace a bit to 20-25 WPM BUT on request will slow down. This contest is also supported by N1MM+ but under the UDC section (user-defined contest) I'm not going into the UDC format here but use the ICWC link above and they provide a link to the N1MM site to set this contest up. The exchange in this one is your call sign, name and QSO number (serial number as it's called)
This event runs 4 times a week. Wednesdays 1300-1400 UTC and 1900-2000 UTC
Thursdays 0300-0400 UTC and 0700-0800 UTC
In this 1-hour mini contest, one has to put their seat belt on and realize your hair (if you still have any) will be blowing in the wind with the CW speeds. This contest is looked at as a high-speed mini-contest. The speed starts at 25 wpm and goes up from there. When I say up.... speeds into the 40's wpm....mind-boggling. Anyway, N1MM+ does support this contest. In my humble opinion if you are in the 20ish wpm range give this contest a listen only. Search and pounce just listening to the calls and see what you can pick out. The average speed is mid 20's to mid 30's wpm. The exchange your call, name and CWops member number or if not a member your State or Province.
I do take part in this contest but I am not as yet a member of the CWops so my exchange is NB for New Brunswick. Membership details can be found at the site from the link above.
So there you have it if you are interested this fall and winter and have some time on your hands give the 1-hour mini tests a go. Here is the way I look at it....I busted my hump learning CW (it was not an option when I went for my ticket) and I just did not want to throw that away. I had done what most did to get my ticket I learned the code just to get past the exam and I planned to forget about it.
I did leave the code and radio alone as I had a young family like most of you did. I then started to have time on my hands and the love for radio was alive again. I listened to CW and to be honest I was a few code letters short of a full load if you know what I mean. Slowly started to pick it up again and have never looked back.
Above is me stepping down off my soapbox....I hope you found some useful information from the above.
The Islands on the air contest is sponsored by the Radio Society of Great Britain or RSGB for short. This contest is only 24 hours long and hosts some very nice DX from sometimes remote and DXpedition Islands. If memory serves me correctly I found this year to be more work to pull stations out. The QSB at this end was very deep. At one moment England was there at S5 and then gone. I'm not thinking it was just me as many stations I listened to were asking for report repeats. Oh well, it's all part and parcel of the contesting dream.
I entered the CW-only category at 100 watts and it was the first time using my new Hustler 4BTV vertical antenna. As everyone has told me and it is true the vertical antenna is a bit noisier than my horizontal End Fed BUT I had better results with the Hustler 4BTV. The very small extra noise with the vertical was taken care of with the noise reduction on the Icom 7610.
For me, this was not a contest where I was running (calling CQ contest) it was 99% search and pounce. The reason for this was Island stations gave you 15 points compared to 2 points for all other contacts. The Island stations for the most part were running calling CQ contest. With this contest I found it harder to move up the band and bang off contacts and the reason for this was island contacts are big points and they are limited in numbers and that equals pile-ups.
Below is the score summary:
Here are some takeaways of mine from the contest:
- My CW is improving so the twice-daily practice time is helping.
- Keeping my butt in the chair even during slow times helped my score.
- Getting my backside out of bed early on the final day of the contest gave me the rewards of contacting New Zealand, Austria and Hawaii, along with the 15 bonus points for each.
Contesting with a vertical compared to my End Fed antenna:
- Most all the time if I could hear them I could work them.
- Omni directional was nice compared to End Fed horizontal directional characteristics.
-Using the Icom 7610 second receiver to its full potential. I was able to listen to another band with the second receiver. I was not able to do this with the End Fed as I needed the tuner for all bands. I found without using the tuner the receive was very poor with the End Fed.
Way back in high school one of my classes was band class, now this was not brass band but strings and wood wind. I was a cello player and very much enjoyed it but when it was time to sign it out to practice at home I had wished I picked the flute....I digress....What does the cello have to do with ham radio? Well back when I was in band class part of our testing was to listen to a recording of an orchestra playing and identify as many individual instruments as we could. Simple with violin, double bass, cello and clarinet. But the Oboe, Bass and E-flat Clarinet, Bassoon, Contrabassoon and then the Viola. Our teacher told us to close our eyes as we listened and it would make things much easier and over time it did.
So you ask again what does this have to do with radio? For the past 6 months I have been on a mission to build up my copy speed of Morse code. I really did not like the code and had to learn it and I say "had too" because when I first went for my ham ticket the code was a requirement. I learned the code back then to later forget it once I obtained my ticket.
I have come full circle to respecting and admiring the skill of Morse code. I worked very hard to learn the code and it's very true if you don't use it you loose it. I had lost it over time but in my mid 50's I started again to learn it and wanted to master it....have not got there yet but the challenge keeps me sharp.
I am focusing on contest Morse code and my next challenge will be a higher speed QSO Morse code. I am at the point now (35-38 wpm contest code) that as my practice contest code programs spill the code at me I find myself typing the letter or number and looking at the screen on the PC to see if it's correct and then listen for the next letter. At 36-38 wpm looking at the letter to confirm is not an option I end up missing letters and not getting the call sign or exchange correct.
Now at this speed of code I strongly recommend proper home row touch keyboarding and not hunt and peck the letters and numbers. As mentioned in a past post thank goodness in school I took typing and am able to touch type. As I struggled to hit the 35-38 wpm mark I remembered my music teacher...."close your eyes and listen" I did just that and my rate of copy went from 70% up to the 90's. I don't keep my eyes closed all the time and I feel it's just really helping me to concentrate on the rhythm of the letters and numbers.
To close your eyes and listen sure does the trick for me.
|Intentionally left upside down as this was how things turned out. |
Well here we are it's Monday and as I look back to Friday and the dreams of contest sugar cookies dancing in my head and how things can change! The contest was the CQ WPX CW contest and as of Friday evening I was all ready to give it a decent go. The propagation numbers were not in our favour as the Kp index rolled up to 5 and thus lots of signal QSB.
It was Saturday morning and I was just beginning to call CQ TEST when my dear wife came in and announced "I think I hear water running come and have a listen". Those words are any given day are not what you want to hear. The contest came to a grinding halt and it was taken over by contractors, plumbers and various odds and ends. I was able to get in and out of the contest but only for very short times. The outcome was a poor showing but a better and upgraded plumbing!
For the limited time I was in the contest here are some of my take a ways from it:
As said the conditions on Saturday were poor and I found myself calling CQ TEST and as time past with no answer my mind began to wonder. Looking around the shack, looking at the operating desk and icons on the desktop. Then all of a sudden an answer came and I was not at all ready for it. Thus repeats and some frustration.
I really wanted to work in the contest at improving my run abilities and it was just not happening as I was calling CQ TEST sometime for over 10 minutes with no answer. I then went to search and pounce and did up my score that way. Lesson learned....go to search and pounce when calling CQ TEST is just not happening.
Murphy did hit me with the plumbing issue as well my own carelessness...for example when I setup my CW macros and tested them before the contest I turned the power out to zero. Well this ham radio guy forgot to turn the power back up to 100 watts and for about 20 minutes I was calling CQ TEST with ZERO output!! To boot the radio have a LARGE meter showing zero out and my LDG tuner has the same. Lesson learned to pay attention and not to wonder.
Not much else and since this is not a home repair blog I will skip the very expensive plumbing repairs.
Below is the final score.