I was eager to work this contest. The antenna situation was better than it had ever been for me, and the weather was beautiful all weekend. Now that I had the FT-950, I was really anxious to put it through its paces.
Most of the time there did not seem to be much of a difference between the 80m V and the DX-EE 10-40m dipole, but once in a while using one instead of the other helped me to pull out a contact. Just knowing how the DX-EE is oriented, I attempted to use it when the stations I was working were to the north or south of me. And it seemed to perform more reliably on 10/15 than the V. This is probably because the DX-EE is a parallel dipole and the high band elements/wires are 1/2w and provide a more consistent and focused pattern.
I was running AFSK RTTY in PKT mode. For a couple reasons this is not best.
- I don’t think the frequency displayed is the true mark frequency. Good thing I wasn’t spotting anybody. I would have no idea of the exact frequency I’m on. This can become very confusing if you were hoping to follow someone else’s spots. I wasn’t doing that, I did not take advantage of any spotting.
- Although the filtering in the FT-950 is very nice, the filtering setup when in PKT mode are intended for digital modes such as PSK. If you run AFSK RTTY, you have to use IF shift to move the filter passband so that the other stations tones are centered inside your passband even when you are using the narrowest of filters. In some cases, this was successful in keeping the wanted RTTY signal inside the narrow filter range (200-300 hz). But for some reason, this did not always work. I can’t tell if it was band dependent or what. But on some bands I just couldn’t narrow the filter without losing the station completely. And, of course, running a wide filter was useless all by itself since there were times [especially on 20m] when there were RTTY stations every 250 hz or so. Any decent signal up or down from the one I would try to copy woudl be totally silenced when the station on either side would transmit. When I was able to run the narrow filter, I could set it on 200 hz and copy the wanted signal just fine without the signals on either side obliterating it.
If I would have been running FSK instead, the radio would be in RTTY mode, the filtering would be dead-on to begin with, the proper mark frequency would display, and everything would have been much smoother. I spent a significant amount of time narrowing and widening the filter and playing with the IF shift, and at odd times things would not work as expected. All in all, I wasted a considerable amount of time with filtering issues. This also tired me out more, especially at times when I should have been the most productive.
There was absolutely no shortage of RTTY stations to be worked. I worked many countries on RTTY that had I never expected to hear/be able to work. It was a real thrill. I worked stations who weren’t bumping the S-meter but were audible. I think I even worked one station on all five bands! To the average contester that may not be a big deal, but to me it is.
In total I worked nearly 21 hours of the contest, according to N1MM. It was 100% search and pounce. I really wanted to CQ, but I was not confident in my ability to handle the people who may transmit off frequency. I read up on the use of AFC and NET in MTTY, but the one time I turned on AFC and started calling CQ, the first station that replied was far from centered and the AFC didn’t tune to teh station fast enough. In light of me not understanding how to account for this phenomenon, I thought it best to not bother CQing. As laid back and patient as the RTTY ops were, I knew they really wouldn’t want to waste time being my guinea pig during the biggest RTTY contest in the world.
Before any future RTTY contests I have a lot of things I need to read up on. I need to make a ‘short’ exchange and a ‘long’ exchange, and know when to use which one based upon the quality of the signal coming in. Many times I knew that sending an exchange like “K7DX 599 04 OH 04 OH AA8IA” was overkill, and at other times I knew that duplicating data in an exchange would actually shorten the contact if I felt the other station was not going to hear me well… such as “K7DX 599 04 04 04 OH OH OH AA8IA”. I’ve yet to figure out the fine line / happy medium, but I’m sure many of my exchanges were longer than they needed to be.
It’s all a blur now. I wish I could give you an hourly or four-hourly play-by-play, but I really don’t remember what bands I was on or when I was on them.
I had a great time. The RTTY ops were great, especially the DX ops. I’ll definitely do it again, but I have to make some signfiicant changes in my efficiency as well as in what bands I operate and when I operate on them. Even though a 100′ tower and a bunch of monobanders would yield better results, I know that modifying my operating practices during a contest can yield me double the score. So I’ll work on improving myself until I reach the point of diminishing returns. I’ve got a lot of room for improvement.
CQ Worldwide DX Contest, RTTY
Class: SOAB LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 20
Band QSOs Pts State/Prov DX Zones
80: 83 105 35 7 6
40: 108 200 29 31 13
20: 120 252 21 41 18
15: 86 169 8 30 14
10: 16 47 0 7 5
Total: 413 773 93 116 56 Total Score = 204,845
Club: Mad River Radio Club