Tuesday, July 18, 2017

WQ6X joins NX6T to make a nice appearance in IARU

The IARU HF Championship radiosport contest happens on the 2nd weekend of July each year. Similar to the Olympics, every 4 years top operators from around the world converge on a eographically-related location to compete amongst themselves for the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in this contest.

For 2018, that convergence will occur at select locations in Germany; the 2020 QTH (to my knowledge) has yet to be determined. Stations qualify to compete every 4 years by accumulating enough points from operations in contests such as the CQ WW DX, WAE and ARRL DX contests, among others.
In 2014, 44 teams converged on the hills outside of Boston, each with an identical operator tent and yagi antennas.

Because operators perform better with their radio of choice, each team brought their
own radio equipment - running 100 watts,
no amplifiers were allowed.

Describing the competition outside of
Boston was the focus of J.K. George's book "Contact Sport". In this book, George gives us an hour by hour account of the 44 teams progress.

While I am not necessarily a fan of George's writing style, for die-hard contesters the story is very compelling; especially if
you operated in the 2014 IARU GiG.

For the 2014 event I teamed up with N6GEO (George), putting together a last minute operation from his HOA-restricted QTH in Brentwood, N. California. [CLICK HERE] to read that WQ6X BLOG entry about our operation. We worked 22 of the above mentioned 44 stations; as evidenced by the QSL cards I received months after the contest ended.

For the 2017 IARU GiG, a business trip to So. California never materialized relegating me to run remotely from the SF bay area. Because running SSB requires a higher quality internet connection on BOTH ends, I chose
to run only CW. Altho I started the contest promptly at 12:00z, business commitments kept me away from
the computer most of the day.
Luckily we had a team of operators
to keep the dayshift well manned.

Beginning at 12:00z, after briefly S&P'ing I settled in on 7031.31, working over 100 callers before
I finally had to leave. K6AM remoted in on STN-#2 putting 126 20-meter CW QSOs in the log, in time for 16 years young KK6NON to fire-up on 20-meter SSB at 18:00z. At 20:34z 15-meter contacts finally made it into the log. At 02:00z the evening CW crew took over keeping 20-meters hopping.

At 03:15 I received the call to work the dinner shift, as I usually do. 40 meters was wide open so I S&P'ed for nearly
30 minutes before settling in to run 7050.50, adding another 100 QSOs
to the log. Because QRM surrounded 7.050 on all sides, running the Autek QF-1A audio filter on the laptop receive audio made ALL the difference.
Using the PEAK & LP filters, the desired signal could be peaked above other signals, while those other signals were attenuated somewhat.

Overall, the Elecraft K3 radio deployment into a pair of 1.3kw amplifiers put a potent wallop into the yagi's atop the two towers at Nashville. The 80-meter inverted vee managed to put 72 QSOs into the log.

After a brief nap, N6KI rousted me at 08:30z for the night shift to finish off the IARU contest. Noticing no
80-meter contacts operations began there, putting
58 QSOs in the log before switching back to 40-meters. Throughout the early morning 7.035 and 3.535 were alternate run frequencies until the final log entry @ 11:58z.

Something I like about N1MM+ and WinTest is the ability to produce after-contest statistics and graphs.

Each of these two programs detail different information and in a different way. Nevertheless after-information gives me an overview of what happened in the last 24 hours.

In this bar graph, there 4 time periods which PEAKed above the rest; 2 of which occurred while I was operating (predictably during the 12:00z start
and 04:00z during the dinner hour.

The other peaks occurred while KK6NON ran SSB on 20-meters (19:00z); with the biggest peak occurring at midnight, local time (07:00z) as N6KI fell into a zone and kept them coming
on 40-meters.

It's also interesting to note which continents produced the most QSOs. Because of our location on the Waste Coast, not surprisingly North America produced the most QSOs.

Unfortunately it also produced the greatest number of Zone confusions. Remember that the IARU contest requires us to report our IARU zone, NOT the CQ Zone.

For W6 stations that means we report
as IARU Zone-6, NOT CQ Zone-3.

While it was clear that some stations reported their zone incorrectly, I decided to "Log whut I Hear"; second-guessing can result in even more mistakes. Or as Ge'ldine! used to say "Whatchew see is whatchew git"; from which we get the computer term WYSIWYG.

Oh what a difference a day makes; or should I say 8 hours. You've heard me grumble about how space WX storms happen ONLY on contest weekends, or JUST BE-4 those weekends.
Statistically of course, it more likely doesn't happen as much as I claim it does.

The 2017 IARU weekend was somewhere in the middle. If was quiet Saturday afternoon (22:36z),
yet by 08:00z the ionosphere became noisier and noisier. The noise was more evident on 80 meters;
way more than on 40. Using the Low Pass setting on the QF-1A dulled the noise as good as any NR-DSP circuit I've ever used. I guess my $7 investment in this unit was well worth it.

Space WX storms statistically mean more noise to contend with while copying marginal signals; something we all deplore. For me, the promise of NR DSP circuits in most radios has been a
promise largely unfulfilled; one of the reasons I spend so much time with outboard audio noise
filters (like the MFJ 752, NIR-12 & QF-1A) or the MFJ-1026 antenna noise reduction phasing unit.

For this IARU contest, the QF-1A filter was an AMAZING addition to the
remote operation.

I originally intended it to become a
SUB-Rx (VFO-B) DSP-style filter for the
FT-1000mp; which has no eDSP-filtering (as well as no shift/width/notch circuitry). 

For portable operation, the QF-1A did
a HORRIBLE job. While intended for filtering audio going to the right ear, it added an artifact of reduced audio (by comparison) in the left ear - go figure.

However when used to process laptop audio monourally, it performs INCREDIBLY.

Who would have guessed that 40 year-old audio filtering technology could equal or surpass
the "magic" of today's DSP circuits?

At 12:05z I analyzed the resultant stats. Of the 1,059 total QSOs, 417 were made on SSB and 638 on CW; along with 78 HQ (IARU Headquarters) stations in a combined 86 ITU zones, yielding a score of over 500K points - not bad considering what we had to work with.

[Click here] to read the NX6T IARU score.

Did YOU work the IARU HF Championship?

Is NX6T in YOUR Log?

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