CQWW SSB 2014

It was time again for CQWW SSB. However, this year was going to pose a potential problem, as I had just started a full time job in Aberdeen in September. Normally, I travel to Stirling and contest with the Stirling & DARS, but I was quite busy and it seemed doubtful whether I would make the contest at all.

However, a few months back, I approached Stewart GM4AFF and explained that I would be living and working full time in Aberdeen, now that I had graduated university and was now in full-time employment. Contesting from the Stirling Club would become difficult and time-consuming to get to, so I enquired as to what contest opportunities were available in the North-East of Scotland. Stewart confessed that there was little interest or activity in HF contesting in this part of the world, but he was happy to see I was interested and ultimately offered to host me at his shack for CQWW SSB, operating as GM3F Multi-One High Power Assisted. I was very grateful to Stewart for the opportunity and accepted his offer. This was not going to be a serious effort; having only 2 ops for Multi-One operation is close to suicide, as Colin MM0OPX and I found out at CQWPX SSB earlier this year. Additionally, Stewart explained that he was in the process of revamping his antenna system and so capabilities would be somewhat reduced, especially on 20m, where we would only have use of a vertical. Stewart also explained that due to the topography of the local area, we couldn’t be a serious contender, but I reassured him that I would be using the contest as an experience builder and to gain more confidence running long shifts in a contest.

Due to work commitments, I couldn’t make the contest start on Saturday morning, so Stewart began the contest just after midnight. I took the train from Aberdeen to Montrose early on Saturday morning and arrived in Montrose at around 7:30am. Stewart picked me up and drove me to his house, around 10 minutes from Montrose train station. When we arrived, I was given a quick tour of the shack and then it was time to get to work. Conditions seemed good and the morning and afternoon flew by. It was then time for dinner and I was very appreciative of Stewart’s family for allowing me to join them. Stewart then spent some of the evening operating, before I took over again to do some more operation on 15/20m until around midnight. I then decided to head to bed and Stewart offered to do a small shift into the early hours.

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Stewart operating on 40m late on the Saturday night

Sunday morning and it was another early start. I began by clearing up some multipliers on 40/20m, whilst waiting on 15 and 10 to open up. It was just after lunch (approx. 12pm) when 10m exploded. US, South America, Europe and even some African stations were booming in. Although I have only been licensed for just over 3 years, so I can’t say what the days of old were like on 10m, it was truly incredible. 28.300 to 28.800 were wall-to-wall with signals, with only a few spaces here and there that were truly QRM free. It was unprecedented seeing so much bandwidth filled with stations! I worked a large pile of US stations, but found that there was just so much activity on the band, that it was hard to stand out from the crowd unless you were spotted. The afternoon continued with some good pile ups, as well as a frantic hunt for more multipliers.

Before long, it was late afternoon and I wanted to get back to Aberdeen before dinner, as I had some work stuff to do before Monday morning. I thanked Stewart’s wife for her hospitality and Stewart ran me to Montrose train station. We had a chat about the contest on the way there, commenting on the good conditions during the contest. The train was on time and after around 40 minutes, I was back in Aberdeen.

Reflecting on the weekend, it was great to have the opportunity to contest from another location other than the Stirling Club and I was privileged to have operated alongside Stewart, given his impressive DXpedition and contesting history, most recently when he was a referee at WRTC 2014. I was very humbled with Stewart and his wife’s hospitality and I hope to contest with Stewart again very soon. In terms of the contest, the bands were in great condition and I was really impressed with the condition of 10m, something which I’m sure I’m unlikely to hear again until the next sunspot cycle! The contest was a great experience in a multitude of ways, including the fact that we had to operate some very long shifts as there were only 2 of us. I look forward to taking the skills I’ve learned into next year and utilising them in the WRTC 2018 qualifying contests.

EDIT – July 22nd 2015: A few months ago, the final results of the CQWW SSB 2014 contest were announced. On the 22nd July, Stewart received a certificate awarding us with #1 in GM within the Multi-One High Power Assisted category with 2,645,050 points. A very good achievement, given the antenna set-up, having only 2 operators and only operating for around 30 of the 48 hours!

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Some nice shack wallpaper!

An Update – DXCC, 144MHZ UKAC and More

Since my last update on the 16th May, I have now completed my studies at The University of Aberdeen. I’ll be starting a graduate job on the 1st September, which I’m very much looking forward to. It will be nice to start earning some real money, albeit, I’m not sure I will have enough time to spend it!

In terms of radio activities, I have been very inactive the last few months. Apart from the odd QSO on 40m on the LIDS net, I have not been active on HF at all. I’ve also been led to believe that conditions have been poor as of late, so I don’t think I’ve missed much.

DXCC

Late last month, I successfully hit 100 confirmed DXCC on LoTW. I’m currently sitting at 157 worked and 101 confirmed and hope to apply for the mixed DXCC award from the ARRL soon. It’s now going to get much tougher. My target is to work 170 DXCC in total by the end of the year, but if this fails, I will instead concentrate on increasing my confirmed count.

144MHz UKAC – June 3rd 2014

On Tuesday, June 3rd, myself and Colin, MM0OPX, participated in the UKAC 144MHz contest. We were active from the East Lomond Hill car park, which is around 350m ASL and located in Io86JF. This location is actually in the same grid as my QTH and is around a 5 minute drive away, which is ideal. We were using a 9 element Yagi, 4m AGL, which had been donated by Paul, MM0ZBH at the GMDX convention in April (thanks Paul) along with my Yaesu FT-857d, running 50w. The antenna was mounted on 2 sections of aluminium pole, which were supported with a drive on antenna base, which was placed under the rear wheel of my car. A big thanks to John, GM1BSG, for lending us the aluminium poles, drive on base, antenna mounting bracket and some low loss coax.

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Operating as MM0KFX/P from East Lomond car park, 350m ASL, in Io86JF

The contest ran from 20:00 to 22:30 local time and in this time, we made 31 QSOs, with an ODX of 558kms to M0BRA, which we were pleased with. Our location has a great take-off; from the North-east through to the South-west, so we are confident this is a good location for future VHF work. Our score was considerably down compared to others in IO86 and surrounding squares, but we learned a lot and we are pleased with our first VHF contest performance, despite only running 50w with the antenna at 4m AGL and with no mast-head pre-amp.

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A map showing all of our QSO’s

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My Yaesu FT-857d, running 50w

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A closer look at the 9 element Yagi, 4m AGL

We were quite impressed with our performance and we enjoyed the experience, despite no “lift” or sporadic E around! VHF contesting is definitely something I would like to pursue, as well as being more active on VHF generally. I’m hoping to make an entry in the 50MHz UKAC on the 17th June, but this will depend on whether I can get a beam organised in time.

GA14CG – Commonwealth Games Special Event Station

As some of you might be aware, I am currently organising a Special Event station for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I’m still waiting for Ofcom to confirm that we will be using the callsign GA14CG (Golf Alpha One Four Commonwealth Games). The event will be held at the Stirling and District Amateur Radio Society (GM6NX) from the 21st of July to the 3rd August inclusive. The plan is to have 3 HF stations on the air simultaneously, as well as a VHF station on 50 and 144MHz.

The GA14CG website is still under construction and I am actively advertising the event through local media, GB2RS news and other Amateur Radio related news outlets. All local clubs are being invited to take part, as well as Amateurs from around the UK and beyond. If you would like to take part in the operation of the station, please get in touch. You can find my details under the “Contact Me” tab at the top of this page. All that is needed is for you to show up with a copy of your licence!

Stay Tuned!

Over the next month, I’m hoping to become a bit more radio-active!

It’s becoming harder to get my DXCC count up, especially when poor conditions are prevalent and when you are limited to 100w and an OCFD, so I may focus on some other goals throughout the summer. This includes getting more active on VHF, as I have already mentioned, as well as trying some construction.

I’ll be participating at the YOTA event in Finland in July (more on this soon) as well as joining members of the Stirling & DARS (GM6NX) for International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend in August, at the Rattray Head lighthouse, in the North-east of Scotland.

Finally, I’m also hoping to make a few YouTube videos, under my new dedicated Amateur Radio channel, which you can find here. Videos will include tutorials, demonstrations, some discussions and also some on-air activities. Stay tuned for those when they appear!

CQWPX SSB 2014 – How did it go?

First of all, allow me to apologise for this late update. The CQWPX contest finished nearly 2 weeks ago and I promised I would do a post-contest review, so here it is!

Colin started the contest at the stroke of midnight on Saturday morning and quickly found he wasn’t being heard very well on 20m or even on 40m. A few hours later and he decided to pack it in for the night. A wise choice!

I then arrived around 8.30am to kick things off for the day. I worked into Europe to begin with and then swung the beam to NA as the morning progressed into the afternoon. I used the search and pounce method mostly, as I couldn’t hold a run frequency. I took a break and went home at around 1:30pm, whilst Colin continued throughout the afternoon.  Again, Colin was working mostly into NA with some Europeans thrown in. I then returned and operated from around 7:30pm until 11pm, at which point we decided to shut down for the evening. The reason being, the loop for 40 and 80 was very restricted in terms of how much power we could put into it and that the bandwidth on 80m was not very effective. We had no 160m antenna either, so didn’t want to waste a good night’s sleep in preparation for the following day by working 10 or 15 QSO’s an hour!

Colin then started things up again late the following morning at around 11am and managed to grab a spot on 10m, working a string of Americans and getting the QSO rate above 90 p/h for the first time. I didn’t turn up until around 7:30pm in the evening as it was my 22nd birthday, so I had to pay a visit to friends and family and was too busy having fun and eating cake! Sunday night proved to be great in terms of DX, with me working all over from JA to CE. 10m was still open late, well past 9pm. Many stations in the final hours were happy to get MM0 in the log, so Sunday night proved successful with the QSO rate staying above 60 p/h for the most part.

Overall, throughout the contest, we managed to do some running, but the majority of the contest was search and pounce, as was to be expected from a smaller station such as ours.

After around 26 or so hours of operating and at the end of the contest, we had worked 803 QSO’s and about 350 or so unique prefixes. We learned a lot from the experience. With little operating on the low bands, we missed out on a lot of points and multipliers, so for future contests, we learned it is crucial to get on the low bands and soon, in order to get a spot! All in all, it was great fun and a chance to use Win-Test for the first time, which we quickly discovered was vital if you want a good score in a contest!

I’m already looking forward to CQWW SSB in October, but hopefully I can brush up on my CW for CQWPX CW in May!

CQWPX SSB 2014

Well, it’s that time of the year again!

For those that live under a rock, or don’t have an antenna in the air, you probably don’t know what’s about to hit you this weekend!

It’s the CQ WPX SSB contest weekend!

The CQWPX SSB contest is one of the biggest contests in the HF contest calendar and is a lot of fun. Everyone works everyone and multipliers are gathered from working as many unique prefixes as possible. More points are awarded per QSO when you work a station out with your continent. For example, if I was to work a station in the US, it would count for 3 points on the higher bands (20,15,10) and even more on the lower bands (160,80,40).

The contest runs from midnight tonight (Saturday 00:00 UTC) until Sunday night (Sunday 00:00 UTC). Expect all contest bands (160,80,40,20,15 and 10) to be extremely busy in the SSB portion. If you’re predominantly a CW or Digital Modes operator, expect the SSB QRM to creep into the narrowband areas of the band and into your territory. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable!

Whilst there are many that don’t like contests, for a variety of reasons, this contest does bring in a large amount of exotic DX that you are unlikely to hear any other time of the year. For this simple reason, the contest allows modest stations to chase DX and fill the log book with new ones. It also gives your station an opportunity to test itself. Just how far can your signal go, given the current propagation? Are there areas of the world which are easily workable and others that aren’t?

For me, the big contests (CQWPX SSB and CQWW SSB) are fun. They allow me to operate pile ups, which develop my RX skill and my patience and bring in a competitive element, which I love.

Normally, I am active from my club – The Stirling & District Amateur Radio Society (GM6NX). However, this year, my friend Colin (MM0OPX) and I thought it would be a good idea to operate from his station and enter the contest as Multi-One (Multi-Single) High Power as MM0OPX. This means we will be running the UK limit of 400w on all bands for 48 hours. I still have no idea how two people are going to man a station for 48 hours, but time will tell!

Colin has a great set-up, with an Acom 1000 amplifier that will comfortably run 400w along with a Kenwood Ts-590s and a 6 band Hexbeam by SP7IDX (20-6m) at around 30-40 feet. He also has a horizontal delta loop for 80 and 40.

If you’re going to be taking part in the contest, look out for us. If you aren’t into contests, I urge you, give this one a go.

I will report back on Monday if I’m still alive with a full contest report. In the meantime, I will be active on my Twitter account throughout the contest (@MM0KFX). Be sure to follow me!