This last weekend saw the annual CQ World Wide WPX RTTY Contest and it was one for the record books (at least here at ARS KL8DX). I was a bit concerned with how the weekend would play out with all the solar activity but I was hopeful that with a SFI (Solar Flux Index) in the Mid 90's, the upper bands would play well. I was hoping that an increase in solar wind would not blow propagation into another part of the world as it normally can at 63 Degrees North. I kept a very close eye on HAARP and Spaceweather.com not to mention Solar Cycle 24 dot com. It can also make my propagation path over the North Pole challenging, assuming it does not knock it out all together due to absorption. As it turned out, it was amazingly exciting but it took some planning once I got a feel for the bands at the start of the contest.
I normally don't get started on Friday's until late due to my work schedule but I got going right away in this contest. I began on 15 meters due to propagation there and knowing 20 is always my strongest band, I wanted to play a bit on the less open bands for me (15 & 10 meters). I made just over 80 contacts on 15 before the band finally fell out and I then moved onto 20 meters on Friday afternoon.
I worked 20 meters until the path to the lower 48 fell out. I always enjoy working the tail end of 20 as the propagation window fades west. I am always looking for contacts into Japan to China and then listening for our neighbors in the South Pacific from New Zealand and Australia. I have to admit, I have a very large mountain in my path to ZL and VK land called Denali (Mt.McKinley) all of which is 20,320 foot tall. Working the South Pacific is not as easy for me as working the North Pacific, but it's do-able. With that said, I have to thank those hams in Australia and New Zealand for shouting up my way and getting my attention while I was working into Asia. It takes some tweaking of my beam to get ZL's and VK's in but with patience, I can normally find em.
I ended up finishing up Friday evening working Asian contacts and I waited for Europe which normally begins to show up as early as 0630z. By 0700z signals were starting to show promise and I tried to work several in Europe but I was not having any luck! The signals were strong coming over the North Pole but I could just get my signal to be heard even with close to 1500 watts. I have experienced this before so I threw in the towel until around 1300z.
I got up early Saturday morning and my prediction was correct, I had a better path and I was being heard much easier into Europe. I worked Europe until that path gave way to propagation into the lower 48. Once again, 15 meters did produce some activity in the afternoon but 20 meters was my strong band. I did start listening and playing around on 40 meters especially when I saw those 6 point contacts outside of North America! Now, 40 is not a strong band for me but this is where our friends in Japan and China come in. I don't have anything between them and me but open ocean so I can normally be heard that way. As luck would have it, I snagged a few good points on 40 meters. My main focus was 20 meters to get my numbers up but also taking advantage of 15 meters. 15 opened into Central and South American nicely as it did to the lower 48. Saturday night played out like Friday night exactly, and I once again decided an early rise would yield more logged QSO's for me.
Sunday morning's opening into Europe turned out to be even better than Saturday. I found lots of great contacts and several multipliers. As with most of the weekend, polar flutter was present and made it a bit tougher with the weaker signals but all in all, the path was very good. I made contacts into Europe pretty late Sunday morning before it fell to the wayside and the lower 48 came bouncing back in (but not that well until the very end of the contest actually).
The hard to time make contacts is that time between Europe and the lower 48 when the lower 48 guys and gals are still working Europe and having their antennas pointed from 90 to 30 degrees. Often times, I just can't get their attention. I normally have to VFO onward in hopes of catching them later. On a side not, you can sure tell the guys who have fixed beams or SteppIR antenna's as they will hit that switch and go from 519 to well over 599! Eventually propagation moves west and everyone's antenna follows and it becomes much easier to work the East Coast lower 48 crowd. I found 15 extremely challenging on Sunday due to very heavy QSB! Signals would start out very strong and by the time they were half way through their macro, it would fade to nothing. Crazy fun!
As the weekend was coming to a close, I saw my score creep closer to the million mark. As the clock ticked and the contacts rolled in, I thought that for once, I may be able to score more than a million points in this contest! Those last 100,000 were rough bouncing back and forth between 20, 15 and 40 but contact number 887 of 902 was the one that put me over the 1 million point mark thanks to VE2XAA! That was a 2 point QSO AND a multiplier! I opted to spend the last 20 minutes or so of the contest doing Search & Pounce looking for any last minute multipliers. That paid off for a few more multipliers and I wrapped up CQ WPX RTTY 2010 with my last contact logging VA3TTU at 23:59z.
Having a small station, many of my successful contacts often rely on the other stations ability to hear my weak signal. Hats off to those stations, wow! Some were very weak but I opted to give it a shot and several times they came back with my callsign and we easily exchanged the necessary information. I adjusted my macros as needed depending on the band. If I started to get repeats for my QSO number, I increased my macro sending it three times rather than two. That seemed to work well. There is always lots of conversations about macros and I saw a bit over everything this weekend but in the end, I don't care as I would like to have a QSO even if you have to hand type the exchange slow. Macros can get you into trouble as it did for me near the end of the contest. I sent two wrong macros at once to KI6VC but thankfully he was understanding, laughed it off after I sent the proper exchange knowing full well it was late in the contest and we all by that time or experiencing RTTY burnout!
Many highlights include catching several of my Alaskan neighbors on the bands. Caught many old friends and new ones it's always a pleasure to add them once again to the KL8DX contest log! Now mind you, I would much rather be operating with W8AV down at PJ2T, but Alaska ain't half bad even during the winter time. I have always been able to take the cold much better than the heat.
Again, thanks for all those that called in and helped me reach this new point in my CQ WW WPX RTTY operating career. Log has been submitted and of course will be reviewed and once log checking is done, approximately one year from now, I should know how well I did. Alaska appeared well represented in this contest and it's an honor to be part of the Alaska DX & Contesting group up here! See ya next year, God willing!
CQ WW RTTY WPX Contest
Class: SOAB HP
Operating Time (hrs): 28.62
Band QSOs Pts
40: 55 256
20: 695 1659
15: 148 338
Total: 898 2253 Prefixes = 457 Total Score = 1,029,621