Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 ARRL RTTY Roundup Overview

Spectrum Scope after RTTY Contest Sleep Deprivation %-)
This past weekend was the annual ARRL RTTY Roundup Contest. This is a 30 hour long contest (operators can operate no more than 24 hours) and in my opinion, the perfect length. Locally, that started the contest at 9 AM Alaska time on Saturday and ended up at 3 PM Alaska time on Sunday. It's one of those "Everyone Can Work Everyone" kinda contests, which is awesome as well. And, the other neat part about this contest is, multipliers only get worked credit once, regardless of band. So now we fall into even more strategy especially if a multi-band assault is on hand. When I did a bit of research on my previous year efforts, I realized I had not officially submitted a score for this contest since 2009. I did however make several contacts in 2010, a handful in 2011 and none in 2012. 

KL8DX RTTY - Keyboarding On The Move
One of the things I wanted to do differently this year was in setting up N1MM a bit differently. I was going to take the plunge and utilize the "Logthenpop" macro. I waited to just hours before the contest to take this plunge (yeah, I know) and I watched THIS great video by Larry, K8UT. Now mind you, I'm in contests to have fun as I don't have a station that is truly competitive. For that, I need many more antennas and much more height, and a little extra horsepower would not hurt either. I send my callsign after every QSO and my run macro has the callsign of the station I'm going back to listed twice. The exchange or my report is sent 2-3 times, depending on band conditions. Often times (IMHO) it wastes less time sending an exchange one more time rather than a full exchange a second time. I adjust this on band conditions. I also send "TU" and maybe a 73 before calling CQ once again. But anyhow, I wanted to be able to stack callsigns using the "Logthenpop" macro. More on that experience in a bit. 

KL8DX N1MM Macros from the ARRL RTTY Contest
I squeeze my run and S&P macros in the first twelve F-key assignments. Macros are always a controversial subject and I'm not going to hit that bees nest. I made several mistakes getting used to the Enter Sends Message (ESM) mode with N1MM. I've been an F-key abuser for years but now I need to retrain myself to use the Enter key and trust the software. As I found out, Enter does in fact send the message but at times, not the message I wanted it to send! I set up the program but what I failed to realize was that if I started to stack calls, what was the best way to clear a call from the stack and move on to an awaiting callsign? This is what caused me to send KT6D and K7TQ (sorry, as it's a perfect example of operator error on my part) a macro (my F8 which is shown above cleared out) that sent something to the effect, "Alaska is DX in this contest but if you want it, my state is Alaska." I had this macro because some people don't read the contest rules prior to the start of a contest. Alaska is not considered a state in this contest but a DX country! And for that very reason, our report includes a serial number and not "AK" for Alaska. I was getting asked enough that I created a macro to address that very question. 

Anyhow, I experimented on the fly with call stacking and for the most part, it was successful. I have more reading to do before the next contest to see how I need to handle changes to my call stack as I previously mentioned. The other issue I discovered is that call stacking is a great feature but you need callsigns to stack! Not that I'm anything special, but I can normally get a few people calling me at the same time when I'm running stations. The issue with RTTY is, when everyone calls, they call at the same time and unless they purposefully call off frequency a bit, you end up with a jumbled mass of letters and numbers that don't mean squat! At the very best, you might get a partial callsign. So, the problem I had, when I decided to wait an extra few seconds in an attempt to decode another station to "stack", others would get impatient and start calling and I'm back to square one. But, when I was able to decode more than one callsign, I found this hugely efficient at keeping rate. I'm sold on it's use, I just need to perfect it.

CBS Stats for ARS KL8DX
There were many highlights during this contest and I'm pretty happy with my result. I'm not sure how the other Alaskan stations did outside of our local contesting group here. I know my Alaska low power effort beat the  previous Alaska low power effort held by AL7BB from 2002. I also know that this year, Rich, KL7RA beat AL7BB's high power effort, which he held from way back in 1999. My effort is far from plaque worthy but some of that new ARRL redesigned wallpaper would make a nice addition to my shack! I know there were several Alaskan stations operating so I just will have to wait and find out. I'll let you know in about 12 months, hopefully less. 

What really helped my score was the good conditions into Europe on 20 meters during Sunday morning. Our beagle had me up a few hours earlier than expected (I had the alarm set for 0500 local but I ended up at 0300 local) and that worked to my advantage for those juicy European multipliers! I snagged my first EU contact at 1201z and I worked Europe steady until shortly after 1700z. No rate to speak of, just some good steady contacts that inflated my log by 100 QSO's and 15k points or so. Well worth dragging my butt out of bed early and that's all part of the strategy. Taking advantage of propagation and the bands when they yield the best potential for contacts to certain parts of the world. 

Just a few notes from this contest. It was great getting the RTTY heavy hitters in the log, Don, AA5AU and Phil, GU0SUP! Anyone who has been researching anything about RTTY has seen these callsigns before! I had several people sending my callsign before they sent theirs, when I was running stations. This takes up lots of time and I had one station send his callsign at least 5 times before stopping. I had a zero station work me twice on 15 meters and then tell me I was a dupe when I called him on 20. For the record, I work dupes! He now lost one QSO (not that it will or will not break the bank). I had one station even send, with his callsign, his grid square and state when calling me after my CQ. But you know what, in the end, I appreciate every QSO so I really don't care how you call me, just call me. It would be nice if a few would streamline their macros though. I'm saying this after I had such a macro challenged weekend, which I'm sorry to the handful of stations I sent extra bandwidth to. Oh, and one pet peeve I will admit to, are those stations who call me when I'm running and then ask me for my callsign before sending me their information! Excuse me, but why call me if you don't know who I am? It's almost as if they joined the pile-up and were hoping to find out who I was before they were called but managed me on the first call. 

Conditions were above average and other than some horrible QSB, the bands ended strong. 15 & 20 meters reminded me of stadium bathrooms during the halftime show. Standing room only and everyone was to close for comfort. I could not image running AFSK with such crowded bands! 20 meters alone was full from just above the PSK31 frequencies to 14.140!! 15 meters, just as bad! 10 meters never produced the many Central & South American contacts that it's known for up here. But, I managed a few for sure. And oddly enough, I managed a few last minute state multipliers on 10 that I could find anywhere else!

KL8DX's Score Summary for ARRL RTTY RU 2013
In the end I was still missing North Dakota for my Worked All States in this contest. Of course, I always get skunked on the Canadian Provinces. A clean sweep is just out of my reach with my station. After medication and therapy, I've come to terms with that. "Small tower, low power leaves my contesting fate in the hands of a higher power."

Our weather has been unseasonably warm due to wind so I experienced yet again more QRN which made the weak (599 :0) signals harder to copy at times. 

I had fun chatting on Twitter (as I will normally due during slower portions of contests without breaking any self spotting contest rules, etc) with many friends and several of those went from my timeline to my contest log, by chance.  Also, congratulations to Sean, VA5LF for his potential VE5 SO/HP new record! 

I also enjoy (and do not promote) listening to music while I'm working a RTTY contest! I love music and have a pretty broad playlist. My play list from this past weekend consisted of the following bands (this from a guy who is still stuck in the 80's);

  • Daughtry
  • Fireflight
  • Halestorm
  • Nickelback
  • Sick Puppies
  • Theory Of A Deadman
  • Skillet

KL8DX's Tweet After Surviving Another Year
So the ARRL RTTY Roundup ushers in a new year and the current contest season is about half over. I'm excited to see what 2013 brings and I myself, am suffering from acute cabin fever. I'm looking forward to camping and the return of the midnight sun! I want to wish all of those reading here a very healthy and DX filled new year! I hope DX falls easily into your logbooks and you achieve all you want to achieve this year. Like I mentioned before, I think this will be a year of change for me and my family. We welcomed a new grand daughter in 2012 as our grandson turned 1. Thanks for reading and for those following, I appreciate it. I'm just a small station living the BIG dream in Alaska, which I enjoy sharing with friends and family. You won't find an Alaskan reality TV show with me in it but you will find me on the bands enjoying one of the greatest hobbies in the world! 


  1. Hello Phil, I actually read your post a few times already. It contains so much usefull info on RTTY setup. So, thanks very much for pointing to the K8UT, I always wondered how they did it. I really need to setup my N1MM macro's again. This saves a lot of time in a pile-up. Although I'm not really a ESM fan, I think that is at the end the ultimate key to work RTTY. I'm now listening to the bands you had in your play list. Some I've never heard of, some I did. Good idea listening to music when do digital modes/RTTY. I'll shure will setup my audio equipment again (stored a good Pioneer multiple set for 10 years now) and listen some of my music. Can't wait till my new radio (mancave) shack is ready to use. Good luck in 2013 contesting, 73, Bas

  2. Bas, and I hope 2013 sends plenty of DX your way my friend! Yea, I could do better if I shortened mine up a bit and became more "serious" about my effort. I send my call after each QSO so people get my call right (not KL7DX) and I think it's just good contesting. ESM is okay and it will make things run a bit quicker and it saves me reaching for the F-KEYs all the time. I enjoy music as much as I enjoy radio. It's calming and I have to credit my daughters for getting me started on most of those bands. I love the bands of the 70's and 80's, back when I was getting into music. Both CW and those bands I listed are just music to my ears! :)