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

The Force of Ice

IMG_3950A new year with new challenges just started. This weekend we got snow and temperatures below the freezing point for the first time this winter. On Saturday I spent some time making sure antennas where in shape for the colder season. I checked and adjusted tension of the 160 meter vertical guys and everything else about it was looking just fine.

On Sunday I made a last check of the Topband vertical and made a disturbing discovery. Ice had been building up overnight inside the bottom pipe and with enormous force pushed the whole antenna upwards.

On the photo you can how the antennas has risen almost 70 millimeter! When discovered there where only 15 millimeter margin, then the antenna would have jumped off the insulator. The force cut the stainless steel bolt securing the pipe to the insulator and the guy lines where tense like banjo strings.

The fix was quite easy, I strapped a heater tight to the pipe and a drilled a couple of holes for drainage. After about an hour the ice had melted and I was able to get the pipe back in place. A new hole was drilled a new bolt it put in place.

The Topband vertical is the most challenging antenna to keep in the air at SE0X. It is exposed not only to heavy wind, but also to the sea. In wintertime that means icing is a big threat, and at least two times icing of guy lines have brought it down. It happened last season and three seasons ago. This was a very close call! Lets see if it will survive this season.

Happy New Year!

 

Stew Perry Top Band Distance Challenge 2013

W1BB/160

I missed the Stew Perry Top Band Distance Challenge last Christmas so I really looked forward to it this year. To be repair the North East Pennant and to be able to fix any other issues with antennas I arrived early to SE0X.

The contest started with a decent rate but mainly with low-point contacts. There was very little DX in the early evening. JH2FXK called me two and a half hours into the test and it made me hopeful. But it would take another two hours for the next JA to appear. The first NA station, W1WEF, was logged just before 22:00.

The longest contact logged was with VK6DXI who called me around 21:00 for 27 points, N1MM calculated the distance to 13452 km. I tried several times for CE1/K7RCA which would have been the second longest, but no cigar. KV4FZ and FM5CD was a lot easier, only one call was needed to enter their logs. And I got pleasantly surprised when V55V called me in the middle of the night.

A more disturbing surprise was that the North West pennant failed around midnight. Of course it was wet and windy in addition to being dark! Grabbed a flashlight and went out to find a bad connection. 20 minutes later the antenna was working again.

After 14 hours of operating I had logged 383 contacts and N1MM calculated contacts and distances to a final (claimed) score of 1912.

CQWW SSB update from X-Team at SK3W

SK3W From Above

SK3W from above taken with the “eye in the sky”, my quadrocopter.

Here is a short update of CQWW SSB. X-Team members Vincent F4BKV, Björn SM0MDG, Patrik SM0MLZ and Jón TF3ZA joined forces with SK3W members Gunnar SM3SGP, Bertie SM5CBM and PeO SM5EPO to challenge the SM record in the Multi Operator Two Transmitter category in CQWW SSB 2013.

With propagation being great and with all the aluminium in the air at SK3W we where set for a fun and action filled weekend. After some preparation of the station and a team dinner at the Fernebo pizza joint we where ready to dive into the ocean of QRM.

We had lots of fun in this contest. Most of all is was the combination of great propagation together with stacks and stacks of antennas that put a big smile on everyones face.

At the end of the 48 hours we had broken the SM record in the M2 category with a claimed score of 16.608.188 points. This is more than twice the score of the 2002 record. See score and band breakdowns after the photos.

Click photos to enlarge.

80m 4-sq @ SK3W

Birds view of the 80 meter 4-square array with the SK3W station in the background.

SK3W station building.

SK3W station building.

F4BKV and SM5CBM @ SK3W

Vincent F4BKV and Bertie SM5CBM operating station one in CQWW SSB 2013.

TF3ZA @ SK3W

Jón TF3ZA operating station 2 in CQWW SSB 2013.

10m Stack @ SK3W

SK3W 10 meter stack with 6/6/6 from below.

Ericsson Tower @ SK3W

Ericsson tower at SK3W with 5/5/5/5 on 15 meter and 4/4 on 20 meter.

60 Meter Tower @ SK3W

60 meter tower at SK3 Wwith 3/3 for 40m and 5/5/5 for 20 meter.

SK3W "Sauna", Amp Room

SK3W “Sauna”, the amplifier room with one amp per band.

SK3W Radio Room

SK3W operating positions with station 1 run and multi to the left, and station two run and multi to the right.

Station:  SK3W

Class: M/2 HP
QTH: JP80JH
Operating Time (hrs): 48

Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
------------------------------
  160:  247    10       53
   80:  913    21       94
   40:  797    37      113
   20: 2343    39      149
   15: 2419    39      143
   10: 1629    40      149
------------------------------
Total: 8348   186      701  

Total Score = 16,608,188
CQWW SSB 2013 Bands

SK3W bands by hour breakdowns in CQWW SSB 2013.

Thanks to Gunnar SM3SGP for inviting us to SK3W! See the photos from the CQWW CW weekend below. Click any image to enlarge.

73 de SM0MDG

CQWW-CW: Close but no cigar

Here is the quick summary of the single operator marathon of the year, CQWW CW.

Propagation was nice with some good DX on Ten meter and also a few surprises on low bands. I recently replaced my 40 meter array and have a new 160 meter vertical in the air, both working great in the contest. Being a smaller station I was pleased with my pileup busting abilities. There where only a few occasions where I didn’t cut through the big piles on the first or second call. 

Acc mults & points @ SE0X in CQWW CW 2013

Click to enlarge

I ended up logging about the same number of contacts as last year but spent more time picking zones and country multipliers on the second radio which helped the score a lot. I was mostly running but the last 2-3 hours was almost exclusively S&P.

Band    QSOs    ZN  Cty
 1,8     178    17   64
 3,5     470    19   69
   7     796    35  118
  14     732    33  106
  21     575    36  127
  28     285    35  115
Total    3036  175  599

I did not got the opportunity to rest as much as I needed before the contest, so I faded after about 24 hours of operating and decided to take a 3 hour sleep to be fresh for sunrise. This is where I believe I lost the SM record.

My claimed score at 4,280,994 points is a great improvement, but it is still about 50k below the current SM record.

Close but no cigar!

Topband Vertical 2013/2014 season

Topband Vertical @ SE0X

Click to enlarge

The top band vertical at SE0X was put in place just in time for CQWW CW. This year the antenna is a little stronger (and longer). The bottom section is now made of a 60 millimeter aluminium tube with 3 millimeter wall thickness and I added a more robust delrin isolator.

TB vert bottom isolator @ SE0X

Click to enlarge

The total heigh of the antenna is now around 19 meter and it is guyed in four levels, adding another set of guys to make it more robust in winter storms. I have also added some light bottom loading to make the top loading wires a little shorter and make the antenna a little easier to tune.

Future plans include to add remote switching of the loading coil to extend bandwith of the antenna. Another plan is to test if K2AV’s FCP (Folded Counterpoise) is a better solution than my raised and bent radials.

40 meter array upgrade

40m 2-el @ SE0X

Click to enlarge

This year I decided it was time to upgrade the 40 meter phased array. The fibre glass poles have been in the air for a few years, and winter time really wears them down. The plan was to replace them with aluminium which would also provide more rigid antennas to minimise swaying in the wind as this messes up the pattern of the phased array.

I did some extensive testing with vertical dipoles, I wanted to see if I could get rid of the radials. But in my situation the vertical dipoles where a few dB down in most directions and paths, so the decision was made to stick with full the current setup using full size verticals over 20-24 radials.

The bottom delrin isolators where originally machined for the vertical dipoles. I also decided to replace the coax phasing cables that had seen many years in the field with brand new cables.

40m vert base @ SE0X

Click to enlarge

The performance of the array is not very different, it always worked great and hopefully the better mechanical construction and stability will help it survice a few winters to come.

SE0X challenge the SM record in IARU 2013

iaru-2013-snack

A little snack to keep the spirit high in IARU 2013.

I like 24 hour contests, its not that i don’t like a major 48 hour effort, but a 24 hour contest is easy to participate in. Its a blessing not having to spend the full Friday with preparations and most of Monday to recover. The IARU HF Challenge is the perfect contest in that respect.

Last year my log got lost for some unknown reason. Not sure I just forgot to send it, or it for some reason never was accepted by the log submission robot. It does not really matter as it wasn’t  competitive. It was not a bad effort a year ago, but it was not great.

This year it was time to get serious and challenge the SM record. I calculated that about 1800 contacts and 228 multipliers would put me at 1.3 million, a score sufficient to beat the current record. How did it turn out? Continue reading and I’ll let you know!

The contest got off to a rocky start. A logging issue with Wintest forced me to change to N1MM, my preferred logger, after about 20 contacts. In addition to the log struggle the rate was lower than planned due to weak propagation with very few NA stations to pile up. Ten meter was useless on Saturday afternoon and only a few stations where logged on Fifteen. Twenty meter was the goto band during Saturday afternoon and early evening.

iaru-2013-bands-by-hour

IARU 2013 SOAB-HP-CW: Bands by Hour graph. Click graph to enlarge.

At 19:00 the number of NA stations increased on Twenty meter. The opening was not strong enough to improve the rate, but the new multipliers collected and more DX points in the log certainly helped building up the score. At 20:00 Twenty meter faded and I went on Forty where lots of new multipliers where harvested. 21:00 was be the second best hour when it comes to rate, and from 22:00 almost three hours where spend on Eighty meter. The second half of Saturday was better than the first half, but still I was 165 contacts behind my plan at midnight.

At 01:00 the rate dropped and I decided to take a tactical nap at 01:45. I was off air for only about 35 minutes, but it was well invested down time. After the nap and some strong coffee I felt fresh and awake for the morning race.

iaru-2013-acc-with-score-and comments

IARU 2013 SOAB-HP-CW: Accumulated QSOs, Multipliers and Score. Click graph to enlarge.

On Sunday morning Fifteen meter was alive, and a little later Ten meter came to life providing even more needed multipliers. The hour with the highest rate was the six o’clock hour with a total of 114 stations logged, all except one logged on Twenty. A decent rate of 80 to 100 QSO per hour was maintained throughout the Sunday except for the last hour and a half when stations started to dry up.

Normally I would like to have at least two thirds of the contacts in the first half of the contest, this time I had only about half. My luck was that the second half of the contest turned out the be much better which helped me to catch up.

On the finnish line it was obvious that I didn’t reach my goal. 1780 unique contacts in the log was in the ballpark of the number of QSOs needed, but I was missing exactly 20 multipliers to hit the 1.3 million score I set as my goal. It was close enough and after all, the claimed score is above the current SM record which is very good so overall I am pleased with the effort.

Below is the score summary from N1NN;

    CallSign Used : SE0X
      Operator(s) : SM0MDG

Operator Category : SINGLE-OP
             Band : ALL
            Power : HIGH
             Mode : CW
 Default Exchange : 18
       Gridsquare : JO99

        Band    QSOs    Pts  ITU   HQ
         3,5     222     614   12   25
           7     268     804   17   28
          14     842    2952   34   28
          21     326    1016   24   24
          28     123     331    9   17
       Total    1781    5717   96  122

            Score : 1 246 306

              Rig : K3 + TS-590

         Antennas : 3-el SteppIR, 5-el 15m mono, 
                    2-el vert array 40m, top load vert 80m

The good news is that the claimed score challenges the current SM record in the Single Operator CW, High Power category. Now its just wait and see if the final score after log checking (and score reduction) is still competitive.

Thanks to you who are in my log (or tried get into it). CU in the next Contest.

73 de SM0MDG