CQWW CW Contest 2007 Results – Top Ten!

August 24, 2008

I’m thrilled to have made it into the international “top ten” in the single operator, all band, low power category of the CQWW CW Contest 2007. I placed tenth in the world, and second in Africa.

My congratulations to the other stations that placed in the international Top Ten (SOAB LP): V26K, HK1AR, H7/K9NW, CT6A, UA9BA, J88DR, C6AQQ, OM5XX and EA8CN.

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CQWW CW 2007 UBN Report

August 24, 2008

How’s that for a post title that’s completely meaningless except to other contesters? The UBN report is produced by the contest adjudicator and lists the stations who are Unique to my log (no-one else in the contest worked them so there is some doubt as to whether my contact with them was valid), Broken callsigns (where I logged a callsign incorrectly) and Not In Log (I claimed to have worked a station, but the other station did not log me). It’s an error report on my contest log, and is used to calculate my final score, after deductions for Broken calls and not in logs (Unique calls are noted but not penalised).

My UBN for the 2007 CQWW CW shows a total score reduction of 10.7%, which is pretty bad. According to Scott Robbin’s blog, “5% is considered excellent, 6% good, 7% or lower is deficient”. Scott W4PA is a world-class contester with a string of first places in major contests, so I’ll take his word for it! However delving a bit deeper, the actual opertor error stats are 1.5% of calls copied incorrectly, 0.5% “not-in-log” and 0.4% unique calls. This compares to Scott’s 1.5% copied incorrectly, 0.2% not-in-log and 0.5% unique. The only significant difference is that I was NIL’d more often than Scott, probably indicating that he makes more effort to be 100% sure that the other station is happy with the QSO before logging it. A good lesson to learn, especially for a low power station located far away from the major ham populations in NA, Europe and Japan.

The other reason for a higher percentage score reduction is simply that I worked fewer stations than Scott (2717 good QSOs as opposed to Scott’s 5268), so my errors were more likely to lose me a country or zone multiplier – I lost 8 multipliers, while Scott lost only two. So I guess I must just try to work more stations! Note that this comparison is based on Scott’s CQWW SSB UBN, as he hasn’t posted his CW UBN yet.

The good news is that even with the score reduction, my final score still places me within the top 10 SOAB LP based on the 3830 claimed scores, so I’m holding thumbs for the final result. If you have a copy of the September 2008 CQ Magazine where the results appear then please drop me an email (andrew dot roos at mweb dot co dot za) and let me know how I did as CQ magazine is not sold in South Africa.

I support the call for open logs to deter cheating in contests, so if you would like to see my full UBN report then it is available here with user name “zs6aa” and password 509-827.

Contest:    CQCW07
Call:       ZS6AA
Category:   Single Op All Band Low Power

************************** Summary ***************************

    2775 Claimed QSO before checking (does not include duplicates)
    2717 Final   QSO after  checking reductions

    8211 Claimed QSO points
    7523 Final   QSO points

     248 Claimed countries
     241 Final   countries

      74 Claimed zones
      73 Final   zones

     322 Claimed mults
     314 Final   mults

 2643942 Claimed score
 2362222 Final   score
  -10.7% Score reduction

      47 (1.7%) duplicates
      43 (1.5%) calls copied incorrectly
       0 (0.0%) band change violations
      15 (0.5%) not in log
      11 (0.4%) calls unique to this log only (not removed)

2008 ARRL DX CW Contest Results

July 19, 2008

I received the August 2008 edition of QST this week, with the official results of the 2008 ARRL International DX CW Contest. I came nineth overall in the single operator, all band, low power (SOAB LP) DX category. This also makes me the top SOAB LP entrant from outside North and South America, with the top European being EI/W5GN in eleventh place. This is my first “top ten” finish in an international contest, so I’m most pleased!

IARU HF World Championships 2008

July 12, 2008

Call: ZS6AA
Class: SO CW LP
QTH: Johannesburg
Operating Time (hrs): 20

Summary:
Band CW Qs Ph Qs Zones HQ Mults
————————————-
160:
80: 6 3
40: 210 16
20: 325 23
15: 166 11
10:
————————————-
Total: 707 0 53 65 Total Score = 409,216

Club:

Comments:

Conditions are usually difficult in our winter, especially near the bottom of the sunspot cycle. However propagation seemed better during the contest than it has been for the past couple of weeks – or maybe it’s just the number of stations on air and my determination to dig them out! Propagation wasn’t good enough for much SO2R as it was rare to have two bands open with one runnable, so I concentrated on trying to improve my S&P, and run for short occasions when possible.

I was updating the getscores.org live scoring, and had a bit of a tussle going with Herman PA3BFH who was close to my score for most of the contest. I’m not sure whether he was watching the scores but I was, especially near the end when he was catching up with me…

TS-850S / TS-930S
Force 12 C-31XR @ 18m, Optibeam OB2-40 @ 20m, 80m dipole.

Thanks to all the fine ops out there. I’m sure I will have enjoyed it once I’ve
rested 🙂

Active Whip Antenna

June 29, 2008

I’ve been playing a bit with this active LF/MF/HF whip antenna which I borrowed from work for an “operational evaluation”. I designed the high-impedance preamplifier that is mounted in the base of the antenna and the matching power supply, which uses a bias tee to supply power of the coaxial cable. That’s useful since there’s a 50m cable run from my shack to the antenna, which is mounted on the other side of the house to minimize interference from my transmit antennas.

I haven’t had much chance to evaluate it yet, but it seems to perform well for it’s size, and I don’t receive any interference or de-sensing from my own transmissions unless the receiver connected to the whip is tuned to (or near) a harmonic of the transmit frequency. Plus it looks good in black (although I’m not sure that my wife is thrilled by the “temporary” addition). I think I’ll use it to hunt around on 160m, where I don’t currently have an antenna.

In the longer term, it might be a nice receive antenna for a CW Skimmer setup. I’m opposed to the use of skimmer in single operator unassisted contest classes, but think it is an excellent tool for propagation study – have a look at the online skimmers at skimmer.dxwatch.com. Of course that’s if the company will let me keep it for a while, or forget that I have it!

CQWW WPX CW Contest (ZS0HQ)

May 26, 2008

I operated as a single-operator, all-band, low-power (100W) entry in the CQ Magazine Worked All Prefixes (WPX) CW contest using the call sign ZS0HQ.

Propagation, although better this weekend than for the past month or so, was still scratchy. This is typical of our winter months, especially at the bottom end of the sunspot cycle. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suspect that it is the combination of less ionisation (because the sun has gone North) limiting the high bands, while thunderstorms around the equator limit trans-equatorial propagation on the low bands. This is more noticable to operators in the Southern hemisphere, because we have to cross the equator to work the major ham populations in North America, Europe and Japan! I’d be interested in your comments on this.

As a result, most of the contest was search and pounce for me. Probably good practise, since this really isn’t my strong suit. Scratch, scratch, scratch was the name of the game for most of the 34 hours. However at least this did give me an opportunity to use one of my strengths – sheer bloody mindedness, continuing to eke out the QSOs when any sensible mortal would have found something better to do with the weekend!

I used the W1VE live scoreboard (www.getscores.org) for the first time. I think it’s an excellent innovation, although the WriteLog score updater (also by W1VE) had a couple of teething problems. It’s certainly motivating to see how close you are to other stations (and vice versa) when deciding whether to take a break!

Speaking of breaks, I really like the WPX contest’s rule that single ops can’t operate for more than 36 out of the 48 hours of the contest. It is such a luxury to be able to sleep during a contest without feeling guilty about it! In the end I worked 34 of the maximum 36 hours, stopping two hours before the end at midnight local time as I had to go to work the next day and, to be honest, there was no longer much to motivate me – I was pretty sure that I have thoroughly trounced the local competition (I heard ZS6C, ZS6CCW, ZS9Z, ZS6/DL2RMC and my friend Csaba ZS6/HA3LN who kindly came up to give some points), and in the WPX format I didn’t have much of a chance against the North African stations (EA8 etc) who are so much closer to Europe and within the beamwidth of the NA yagis. I had met my target score (1.5 M points) but with 904 QSOs and 2 hours left, I knew that I couldn’;t make the target of 1000 QSOs. So I went to bed instead.

My 3830 summary follows. You can see how I’m doing compared with other “contest score rumours” on the DX Watch contest scoreboard – just look for ZS0HQ.

Call: ZS0HQ
Operator(s): ZS6AA
Station: ZS6AA

Class: SOAB LP
QTH: Johannesburg
Operating Time (hrs): 34

Summary:
Band QSOs
————
160:
80: 1
40: 275
20: 360
15: 268
10: 0
————
Total: 904 Prefixes = 468 Total Score = 1,625,364

Antennas: Force 12 C-31XR tribander @18m (60 ft), Optibeam OB2-40 2-el 40m beam @ 20m (66 ft), 80m dipole.

ZS0HQ in CQWW WPX CW Contest 2008

May 22, 2008

I’ll be using the South African Radio League contest callsign ZS0HQ for the upcoming CQWW Worked All Prefixes (WPX) CW contest over the weekend of 24-25 May. I thought I would get with the spirit of the contest and use a rarer ZS0 prefix than my usual ZS6. QSL via the Bureau or Logbook of the World. My target for the contest is 1,000 QSOs and 1,500,000 points so please work me on as many bands as possible!

ZS6AA Gets Wired

May 20, 2008

I’ve had Internet access at home for severl years now, using iBurst from my wife’s PC. Up until now I’ve resisted the temptation to link it to the shack PC, though, out of fear that a virus, worm or other malware might affect my logging software during a contest. However I’ve finally given in, largely because I wanted to try the live contesting scoreboard at http://www.getscores.org for the CQWW WPX CW contest next weekend.

So I’ve installed a LinkSys WRT54GL router. The setup was simple, other than the standard installation wizard I only had to set the MTU and the domain (iburst.co.za) to get my iBurst
Internet connection working through the router. I’ve used wired Ethernet connections for my wife’s PC and the shack PC, since they are in the same room and I wanted maximum immunity from RFI. But the (secured) wireless access point will be useful with our work laptops.

So now I’m investigating what else I can do with a “wired” shack.

  • The Windows Internet time server picked up the connection automatically and synchronised my clock, which saves me having to dial the “speaking clock” before contests.
  • I enabled DX cluster spots on Logger32, which I use for casual logging (but not on WriteLog, which I use for contesting, as I enter the unassisted category). Last night while working a few Europeans on 40m it was quite interesting to see when I had been spotted, and by whom.
  • I’ve downloaded Ham Radio Deluxe with a view to investigating remote control of the station.
  • I would like to provide a live audio stream from one of my receivers so you can hear what it sounds like on my side of the pileup. However I’m not sure this will be possible with my current Internet connection speed and 700 MB per month cap; also my XYL might not be thrilled if I use up all the bandwidth! Still I’ll see what I can do.
  • A CW skimmer reverse beacon is a lower-bandwidth possibility, although it would require a broadband receiver.

Anyway I hope the endless possibilities will keep me amused for a while.

ZS6AA/4 QRP in the Drakensberg Mountains

May 2, 2008

This week I was fortunate to get away with my family to the Golden Gate Highlands national park in the scenic Drakensberg mountains. Our home for four nights was a log cabin perched on a mountainside at an altitude of 2,200m (7,200 ft) ASL. Of course I took my recently repaired Elecraft K1 four-band QRP rig, as well as a hurridly constructed prototype of a new portable/field wire antenna that I am working on.

The antenna was suspended from a 5m “roach pole” set up on the porch (deck) of the cabin, with the wires anchored with tent pegs on either side. The antenna was fairly low since I did not have space in the car for my 12m spider pole; but I figured that the spectacular drop-off to the east would make up for that, at least on the Asia path.

Drakensberg View with Antenna Wires

The view from the log cabin, with antenna wires in foreground

Since this was a family holiday not a DX-pedition, my operating time was limited to the odd moment when we weren’t doing anything else. My first QSO, made minutes after setting up the antenna, was with Al ZS1AAX, who was one of the examiners for my 12 w.p.m. Morse test in 2001. It is thanks to Al and Bud ZS1B (SK) that I am able to share in the skill and pleasure of CW operating.

Propagation wasn’t great, and I didn’t hear anything on 15m. However I was pleased to work some Japanese stations with about 3 Watts out on 30m. (The K1 struggles to give full output when running off 1.2 V NiMH cells, since the total battery voltage is only 9.6 V with 8 cells in the internal battery holder – you can get 5-6 Watts with a 12-13.8 V supply). I operated as ZS6AA/4 since the park is in the Free State, which has the prefix ZS4. Thanks to those who came back to my QRP CQ!

Elecraft K1 Excessive Current on Transmit

April 20, 2008

Inside the K1

My K1 with the top cover removed

Several years I had a great time building an Elecraft K1, which I later took on honeymoon to the Drakensberg mountains. Last year I offered to lend it to my good friend Vidi ZS1EL to take with him on a visit to the USA. However while I was checking it out, it started drawing excessive current on transmit, so I wasn’t able to lend it to him after all. Fortunately Vidi borrowed an Elecraft K2 in the USA which he later purchased and brought back with him, so i guess things worked out after all. Since then fixing my K1 has been sitting on my “to do” list.

Last night I was calling CQ on 40m when Vidi called me with his K2. During our chat, he asked whether I had fixed the K1 yet, and very kindly offered me a spare 2SC1969 final transistor if necessary, as he has one left over after a repair to his K2. Now it just so happens that my wife and I are going on holiday to the Drakensberg later this month, and I had been idly thinking that I really should take a look at the K1, but hadn’t got around to it. So Vidi shook me out of my complacency, and this morning I retrieved the K1 from a box in the store room and had a look at it.

Thanks to this post by OZ9AEC I soon located the problem. Diode D19, a 1N4753 Zener which protects the final Q7 from excessive collector voltage caused by high VSWR, had blown, and was now acting like a 1.4 Ohm resistor, not a 36 V Zener. I replaced it this evening, and made a couple of test QSOs on 40m to Russia and the Ukraine on 5W, so I think the final transistor has survived.