Keeping your competition on a distance

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 14.00.23This is a grim example how to keep your competition on a distance! I won’t mention calls, but this screenshot is from the IARU HF contest this past weekend and this is a HQ station. If you look closely to the waterfall display you notice the splatter lines at least 30 kHz down.

Yes, he is strong but others are too without splattering. The result is that other nearby stations keep their distance and the splatter-maker has a very clear and clean place on the dial. Good for him, bad for others trying to work the weaker DX stations around him.

Looking at cluster spots from the weekend I notice that others also complained about their splatter. Even on other bands!

You draw your own conclusions.

Multi-One Low Power in WPX SSB

WPX SSB a year ago, in 2014, was a success for SE0X. Propagation was fabulous and we where able to set a new SM record in the Multi-Two category. This year we wanted to try something new and decided to enter in Multi-One Low Power where there presently is no Swedish record. Reaching the current EU record would be a stretch with the current propagation, but we like a challenge so we chose this as our goal. Read more ›

QRP action in CQ-160 SSB!

Working a 160 meter contest QRP is much more fun than you might think! A few weeks ago I worked the CQ-160 SSB contest using 5 watt QRP power. I logged more than 200 QSOs and the claimed score is almost half the number of my SM Low Power record and more than a third of my High Power and High Power Assisted records.

Don’t get me wrong, QRP in an SSB contest is not easy. Especially not on 160 meter! Mostly its hard work and slow rates, but I was surprised how well some operators heard me in the QRM. Even DX stations like CR3L and RA9Y picked me out with ease. On the other hand there where some really strong stations that definitely lacked in the RX antenna department.

Most of the 18 hours of operating I was doing S&P, Search and Pounce. The Meothod I used was to sweep the bands for stations to work. As soon as i found a ‘hole’ I tried a run. Two or three times I was lucky and got spotted, but most of the time the runs did not produce much action. This cycle of S&P sweeps and runs where repeated over and over again during the contest.

SunSDR2

SunSDR2 at SE0X in CQ-160 SSB 2015

The main radio used  was a SunSDR2, a physically small but loaded Russian SDR, Software Defined Radio, from Expert Electronics. Having the band scope made a big difference for S&P but also made it simple to quickly locate “holes” in the QRM to run in. Being QRP means constantly being stepped on and squeezed away from your run frequency. Picking a fight with those big bastards is hopeless, since they simply don’t hear a QRP signal. Using the SDR band scope really spends up the task of finding a new run frequency.

SunSDR2 screen shot

SunSDR2 screen shot at SE0X in CQ-160 SSB 2015.

My overall impression of the SunSDR2 is very positive. Its has a good RX, easy to use software and quite a few features and functions making  it a very good SDR for contesting. The optional control pad for the SunSDR2 is useful for tuning and controlling the radio while letting the logging software retain its focus so its ready for the operator to input the next call.

SunSDR Controller

SunSDR controller for SunSDR2.

The SunSDR controller allows for extensive customisation. I preprogrammed buttons to zoom the band cope in an out. I put IF Shift and Width on adjustment knobs to make filter changes a breeze, and I put ANF (automatic notch filer) on another button. As my FCP vertical easily easily detunes in rain and humidity I put TONE on one button to be able to generate a carrier to quickly retune the amplifier when needed.

In preparation for the contest I added an extra tap on the loading coil of the vertical. My top loaded vertical with its FCP (Folded Counter Poise) is rather narrow in bandwidth. To make use of the low power portion above 1850 kHz I wanted to be able to retune the antenna from the shack. A relay to switch between two taps on the loading coil was added to shorten the coil for resonance in the higher part of the band. The relay is controlled ny a simple ON/OFF switch placed at the operating desk. SWR is still high in the edges, but the tuner in the SPE amplifier is able to tune enough SWR giving me a usable range from 1810 to 1970 kHz.

I am very satisfied with the result. When the contest was over I had 203 unique contacts logged in 18 hours. I logged a total of 34 DXCCs and 99% of the calls 2 where obviously in EU with DL and SP in the top. The only DX worked where CR3L and RA9Y mentioned above. Many more where heard, but there is just so much 5 watt can do. The claimed score is 34.442 with a #5 world rank. Pretty good for a QRP effort in a 160 meter SSB Contest!

Equipment
SunSDR2 with controller
Top loaded vertical, 20 meter
Pennants in NE and NW
Clifton Labs active vertical

Update September 10, 2015: This effort is a new SM record!

CQ-160 CW2015 Award

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The SunSDR2 was provided by Pileup Communications. For more information on SunSDR2 in Europe please contact info@pileupdx.com.

8Q7BM Photos

Spending two weeks in the Maldives in January was an unforgettable experience. Not only because of the blue ocean, white sand and warm sun. 160 meter contesting and DX’ing barefoot with a compromise antenna posed a challenge very different from the usual big signal-work-them-all experience from home.

Below are a few photos from 8Q7BM.

8Q7BM Pose

SM0MDG posing in front of the 8Q7BM Topband vertical.

8Q7BM Pelicase

8Q7BM Pelicase used to transport the radio and accessories.

8Q7BM Topband Vertical

8Q7BM Topband Top Loaded Vertical 1/4 wave from the indian ocean.

8Q7BM TB Loading

8Q7BM loading coil for the Topband vertical.

8Q7BM Antennas

8Q7BM Antennas, in the foreground the Topband vertical and in the background the 10 meter loop.

8Q7BM Shack

8Q7BM Shack with the barefoot Kenwood TS-590S

Land Survey Mark

Land Survey Marker at Meedhupparu Island.

8Q7BM Transport

The transport bringing us from Male to Meedhupparu Island (and back).

See also 8Q7BM in CQ-160 @ Raa Atoll.

Amazing Propagation in WPX SSB

DD1MAT and TF3ZA operates SE0X in WPX SSB 2014

DD1MAT and TF3ZA operates SE0X in WPX SSB 2014

A multi operator effort with international operators have become a tradition at SE0X in WPX SSB. This year the team consisted of four nationalities, DD1MAT from Germany, SM0MDG and SM0MLZ from Sweden, TF1ZA from Iceland and W1UE from USA. The team set its target at beating the 2011 SM record in the Multi-Two category, a record set by a previous team effort from SE0X in 2011 (7S0X).

SE0X is a “small station” but with a great location. We have only a fraction of the aluminium compared to some of the local super stations. But at SE0X we have the benefit of being close to the sea, our antennas are surrounded by brackish water. Good propagation is also helpful, we need the stateside runs on higher bands to be able to build competitive scores. Our 5 element OP-DES mono-band Yagi really gets the job done in most situations, but when 10 meter opens big things really gets interesting and almost anything is possible.

This year we invited W1UE Dennis to participate in the team via remote. Dennis already had the necessary hardware, a K3/0 and a Remoterig interface which is the system SE0X uses for remote control of the station. After a little testing we decided the transatlantic connection was good enough, and we scheduled Dennis for several shifts on station one.

SE0X have been remotely controlled in contests for three years, but never done before with an operator physically outside SM. We wanted to see how the bigger latency and logistics with a mixed local and remote team would work out. Dennis logged 876 contacts from his home QTH in Marlborough, Massachusetts. N1MM’s ‘Talk’ feature and a Skype chat was used to communicate between Dennis and the operator on Radio 2 when needed. Dennis was also able to follow the contest by listening in to the other operators working their shifts on the remote controlled K3. Except for some intermittent dropouts, the transatlantic internet connection was reliable and the remote operation part of the contest very successful.

WPX this year will go into the SE0X history book. Propagation was great, higher bands where in excellent shape. 15 meter really dominated the log on Saturday while 10 meter took over and rocked on Sunday. 20 meter was the goto high band for NA runs overnight. Lower bands where not as good this time, probably because most operators where busy on higher bands even during dark hours.

The result of the team effort in WPX SSB 2014 is amazing!  The band breakdown shows that 15 meter was the strongest band overall with a large amount of North American and Asian DX. 10 meter was also very strong ranking number two in contacts but with a bigger share of DX than any other band.

WPX SSB 2014: Continents by Band

Our goal was to beat the 2011 record at 8.410.650. Not only did we beat the record, but we where able to almost double the score. With a claimed score of 16.297.886 points the team left SE0X early Monday morning with a broad smile on their faces.

Thanks to everyone in the log, we couldn’t have done it without you!

de DD1MAT, SM0MDG, SM0MLZ, TF3ZA, W1UE

ARRL DX SSB from SK3W: Close, so close…

SK3W From Above

Last weekend a small team came together at SK3W to take shot at the Multi-One SM record in ARRL DX SSB. SM0MLZ, SM0MDG and SM5PU teamed up with SM3SGP for the contest. The weekend started with a very nice team dinner on Friday evening, SM0PHU had prepared a very delicious “Beef Rydberg”.

The first two hours of the contest was a disaster with too little propagation to get a run going. At around 0200z Twenty meter opened and the rest of the night we had a decent rate. But as the morning came we believed that we lost too much in the beginning to have a real chance on breaking the record. We felt that we were too far behind target.

Saturday afternoon we got very busy on high bands. Ten meter was fantastic with strong signal and Fifteen meter also provided well. On Sunday we were really picking up speed, ten and fifteen rocked.  During Sunday afternoon we realized that we might still have a chance to break the record. With three hours to go we just needed to keep the rate above 115 contacts per hour and scope in the last renaming multipliers on 15 meters. Ten and Fifteen meter closed a little too early on Sunday for us to reach the goal. We moved to Twenty meter and continued to log mainly low power stations resulting in a lower rate.

Low bands where generally weak during the ARRL SSB weekend, but we snatched the multipliers that became available on Forty and Eighty. Topband only provided two contacts, one to VY2ZN and the other to K2XX in NY. We where a little surprised that W3LPL and WE3C didn’t hear us despite their stable 57-59 signals.

We crossed the finish line with 2,578,644 points only 1,4% above the current record. After score reduction this will most likely not be enough to reach the record. In any case it was a fun contest with lots of actions on higher bands.

Thanks to Gunnar SM3SGP for the invitation to SK3W!

CQ-160 SSB – Twice the SM record!

My plan for CQ160 SSB was to beat the Swedish low power record. I ended up with almost twice the score. Considering that the 2013 result was 130k in High Power Assisted, I am very happy with the result.

Propagation was weak the first night, very little DX and not a single K or VE station heard. Worked a few AS in the 3000 km range and in my sunrise I found KP4KE who came back to me on the first call. Even with the band broken the first night, KP4KE was the longest distance logged.

Second night propagation improved a little and a few K’s where heard. But I was only able to make it through to Jeff VY2ZM on PEI. Peter K3ZM was the strongest NA station with a real 59 at my SR, but I could not crack through the pile. The Briggs brothers where emitting 90% of the NA RF picked up here! Everyone else was weak.

The contest was run via remote using pre-recorded voice prompts overnight. N1MM is hooked up to the remote radio via Remoterig’s serial server. Commands travel back and forth and a lag is introduced. The lag is obvious when tuning the radio manually and it slows down S&P a little. But its a small price to pay for the convenience of the much more comfortable remote shack.

Total number of QSOs logged is 436, 49 country multipliers and only 1 Canadian province. All summing to a total (claimed) score of 109,450. The current SM record is 56k, half my final score.

Overall a fun contest and no snow shovelling needed. Thanks to everyone in the log!

8Q7BM in CQ-160 @ Raa Atoll

8Q7BM Top Loaded Vertical

8Q7BM Top Loaded Vertical

This is my 160 meter top (and bottom loaded) compromise vertical relaxing on the beach from the overnight exercises on Top Band.

Working CQ160 from the Maldives using a compromise antenna and barefoot transceiver was not easy. One would think the exotic prefix should generate some attention. The fact is that it is almost impossible to cut through contest QRM in the EU, and I wouldn’t even dram about an NA contact. Plus the complicated call (on CW)  confuses the few operators able to hear my tiny signal.

Kudos to the few who heard and logged me! Tonight I am back for the final part of the contest. I am ready to log a few more “good ears on top band”.

The antenna is a 15 meter high vertical with three top loading spokes attached at 13 meters, the highest point possible on the weak glass fibre pole. The antenna is self resonant at 2.2 MHz and a loading coil wound on a water bottle at the bottom brings it down to 1.83 MHz. An elevated radial is deployed every evening and retracted again every morning after sunrise. The antenna is placed just short of a 1/4 wave lenght from the water line.

UPDATE January 27: I will try to be on 160 for another few days before I take down the top band vertical. Look for me on 160 around 15:00 and 01:00 UTC.

UPDATE January 29: New photo of the antenna and text edited.

UPDATE February 3: 8Q7BM is now QRT and we are on our way back home to the winter. TU!

QSL via Tim M0URX.

73 & GL from Raa Atoll de SM0MDG/8Q7BM