The 2018 edition of the CQ160 CW provided lots of fun and SE0X broke the SM Record from 2004 in the Single Operator Low Power category. But right before the contest it looked like we had to cancel because of antenna problems. Full story follows, keep reading.
I arrived at the station just before lunch on Friday. In a addition to the recent problems keeping the vertical straight up in the winter storms, both Pennant RX antennas had been torn apart by the brute force of nature. So before even getting lunch I was engaged in antenna work. And being alone at the station, most part of the daylight hours where spent outdoors maintaining the vertical and repairing pennants.
When sunset came preparations continued indoors. I rewired the station for the contest and updated the software. I also added a pan-adapter to the K3 for the visual advantage in a crowded band. I used a ColibriNANO, a small direct sampling USB SDR receiver and synchronised it with the K3 using SDC, Software Defined Connectors, developed by UT4LW. The SDR shared receiving antennas with the K3 through a divider. To protect the receiver the RX antenna was automatically disconnected during transmit. This arrangement worked pretty well and the addition of the panadapter really made a difference. The screenshot show what the band looked like right after sunset on Saturday. Pretty crowded alright!
Propagation was good the first morning, but it was quite hard to cut trough to NA, I suppose they had lots of QRM on their side. Second morning started OK to NA, but then it slowed down and the boost at sunrise was minimal. Topband was extremely crowded when EU was awake, sometimes it was almost impossible to find a run frequency in the crowded band. I wonder if the number of submitted CQ-160 logs will increase this year too. In 2017 the number of logs submitted was 2661compared to 2112 in 2016, an increase of 549 logs! In the past 15 years CQ160 CW have almost tripled in size, 2002 the submitted number of logs were only 902.
The top photo of the PC screen shows the point where the SM record was broken, W2GD came in a the right moment and pushed me over the line with a nice multiplier. The record was set by 7S7V fourteen years ago, and my goal to break it was achieved with several hours left to go.
Other memorable contacts include W1UE Dennis, a SE0X team mate a few years ago in CQWPX SSB was one of the few NA stations to find and log me. Another one was Guy K2AV who now is logged using the FCP, Folded Counter Poise, he offered me advice on few months ago. A last minute surprise where also offered in the form of an ATNO, Kosovo Z60A, that was found during a S&P session. And when I had finally given up on the JA multipler JH2FXK checked into my log with a big signal.
- Elecraft K3
- SPE 1k-FA amp, used to to get 150 watt and extend the antenna bandwith using the tuner
- ColibriNANO direct sampling SDR in a USB stick used as pan-adapter
- N/E + N/W Pennants + BOG pointing south (shared between K3 and ColibriNANO using a divider)
- Clifton active vertical as diversity antenna for K3
So to summarise; CQ160 CW 2018 was a fun event. A little shaky because of the recent problems with the vertical, but the antenna stood up to the challenge. Propagation was fair to good and the mood was on top. With resonable effort the goal was achieved and the record was broken. Now we just wait for the results to be published.