World Radiosport Team Championship 2014 Experiences


Hollis Site Support Team And Referee

Hollis Site Competitors, Referee And Support Team

Anita (AB1QB), Scott (NE1RD) and I had the opportunity to serve as site managers for the WRTC 2014 competition site in Hollis, NH. Our site was one of 65 sites in New England USA (and the only on in the state of New Hampshire). This gave us a chance to be part of the WRTC 2014 event and to meet some of the competitors, referees and the event organizers. WRTC has been called the “Olympics of Amateur Radio” because it brings together the very best Amateur Radio Contesters in the world to see who is the “best of the best”. Here’s a summary of what WRTC is all about from the WRTC 2014 Website:

“The World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) is held every four years and consists of 50+ two-person teams of amateur radio operators from around the world competing in a test of operating skill.  Unlike most on-the-air competitions, all stations are required to use identical antennas from the same geographic region, eliminating all variables except operating ability.”

Each competitor must qualify based upon results in selected contests over a period of 3 years. There were a total of 63 teams which participated in the event. It is a tremendous achievement just to qualify for WRTC. Each qualifying competitor selects a second person to make up their team. The competitors at our site were Julio Henriquez, AD4Z and Dan Thompson, W4UH. Our referee was Alex Orlov, RW4WR from Russia. We really enjoyed getting to know Julio, Dan and Alex. The stories that they shared and the information and tips they gave us a relatively inexperienced contesters will stick with us forever.

 

WRTC 2014 Competition Sites

WRTC 2014 Competition Sites

The WRTC 2014 competition was held on July 12-13, 2014 as part of the IARU HF World Championship contest. A great deal of effort was put into selecting and building 65 competition sites for WRTC to ensure that they were as equal in terms of propagation, antennas and configuration as possible. WRTC provided all of the antennas/feedlines, generator power and a tent for each site and each team of competitors supplied their own radios and supporting station equipment.

WRTC Station Kit In Transit

WRTC Station Kit In Transit

Preparations for WRTC 2014 have been in progress for several years now including planning sessions, station and site tests, team formation and training. All in all, the event is a tremendous planning and logistical effort. Doug Grant, K1DG was the leader and chief evangelist for WRTC 2014. Doug and his team did a tremendous job in making WRTC 2014 happen.

Our part of the WRTC experience began with the pickup of the station kit for the Hollis, NH site on the Wednesday before the event. The station kit consists of a 40 ft Rohn 25G tower, beam/wire antennas, feedlines, generator, tent and miscellaneous equipment.

TX38 Tri-Band Beam Assembly

TX38 Tri-Band Beam Assembly

Ed, K2TE and our “beam team” were at the Hollis, NH site bright and early on Thursday morning to put up the tower and antennas. The heart of the WRTC 2014 antenna system is the TX38 Tri-Band Beam which was designed for WRTC 2014.

TX38 Yagi Installation On Tower

TX38 Yagi Installation On Tower

Here’s a picture of the assembled beam and tower ready to be pulled up and into place at our site.

Tower Going Up!

Tower Going Up!

The picture above shows the tower going up. The Falling Derrick System that was developed for WRTC is quite ingenious and it raises the 40 ft tower and beam antenna with very little effort. Each beam team was specially trained in the use of this system to ensure safe setup and takedown of the tower and antennas at each site.

WRTC Site In Hollis, NH USA

WRTC 2014 Site In Hollis, NH USA

While Ed and the team took care of the tower and antennas, Scott, Anita and I setup the tent, generator, feedlines and “crew tent” at our site. The picture above shows the completed site ready for our competitors.

WRTC Station Radios And Equipment

WRTC Station Radios And Equipment

Julio, Dan and Alex arrived at our site after the site drawing at WRTC headquarters on Friday and proceeded to setup and test their station. As you can see, they brought quite a sophisticated setup! They used Ten-Tec Orion II radios, a microHAM band decoder and antenna switching system and PCs running the N1MM Logger to create a modern, state of the art multi-two contesting station at our site. WRTC competitors used a variety of different radios to compete in the event. You can find a summary of the radios and software used by the competitors here. The Elecraft K3 was the most popular transceiver and a combination of the Wintest and N1MM loggers were used most of the competitors.

WRTC Monitoring System

WRTC Monitoring System

The WRTC 2014 organizers did some custom design work to facilitate the event. Shown above is the WRTC monitoring system. This system is used by the referee to monitor the power levels of each operator’s radio to ensure that the 100W WRTC power limit is not exceeded. The referees can also monitor the audio from each operator simultaneously and a recording of these audio streams for the entire contest period is also made. All of this is done in the interest of ensuring a fair contest and for judging purposes as needed when the event is complete. A device also monitors the logging streams from the competitors computers to create a live, real-time scoreboard on the web. The scoreboard uses an innovative data collection method developed by Dave Pascoe, KM3T and Bob Raymond, WA1Z to “sniff” the logging information being exchanged by the competitors computers. The data extracted in this way is fed via cellphone data connections to the WRTC headquarters to update the teams scores on the web in real-time during the contest.

The Big Moment - Our Station's Callsign

The Big Moment – Our Station’s Callsign

On Saturday, just before the competition began, Alex our referee opened the sealed envelope which contained our site’s callsign which was W1T. As with all things about the event, the callsigns were not disclosed to the operators until just before the contest began to ensure that none of the operators specific callsigns were known to others.

Julio (AD4Z) Operating

Julio (AD4Z) Operating

Once the contest began, our team was all business. Julio is shown above operating CW. He is an amazing operator and can easily operate at 40+ WPM speeds!

Our site was one of the public access sites for the event and we had quite a few visitors from the press and local HAMs who were interested in seeing what WRTC 2014 was about. The event also received quite a bit of media coverage, some of which can be viewed here.

2014 WRTC Medal Winners

2014 WRTC Medal Winners

An award ceremony was held at WRTC HQ the following Monday to announce and recognize the winners:

Medal winners

Gold K1A 7,184,844 points

Daniel Craig, N6MJ – United States
Chris Hurlbut, KL9A – United States

Silver W1L 6,816,144 points

Rastislav Hrnko, OM3BH – Slovakia
Jozef Lang, OM3GI – Slovakia

Bronze W1P 6,421,383 points

Manfred Wolf DJ5MW – Germany
Stefan von Baltz DL1IAO – Germany

Award winners

Highest SSB (with >35% QSOs on CW)

K1M (IK1HJS/I4UFH) SSB – 2063 CW – 1233

Highest CW (with >35% QSOs on SSB)

N1S (LX2A/YO3JR) CW – 2391 SSB – 1302

Highest Multiplier

K1A (N6MJ/KL9A) 436

Best Accuracy

W1P (DJ5MW/DL1IAO) 1.0% error rate

The final results were very close with only 118,425 points separating the 3rd through 5th place teams. To give you an idea of how close this really was – only 6/10 of a multiplier or about one minute of operating time separated the 3rd and 4th place teams! Some of the operators achieved peak rates of over 300 contacts per hour. This is very impressive considering that Field Day style stations with 100W output were used by the competitors.

WRTC Tower And Antennas At Sunset

WRTC Tower And Antennas At Sunset

Our  WRTC 2014 experience was a very memorable one. It was a great combination of amazing people, the best contesters in the world, great application of Amateur Radio technology and some of the best logistics and organization of a large event we’ve ever seen. Truly an Amateur Radio experience of a lifetime!

- Fred (AB1OC)

2014 Thirteen Colonies Special Event Operations


13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card For K2K New Hampshire

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card For K2K New Hampshire

The 13 Colonies Special Event had another record year, completing over 108,800 contacts around the world during the 6 days of the event. This was about 25% more contacts than last year. We added the WARC bands to our operations this year which provided folks a chance to work several US states on these bands. This, no doubt, helped to increase interest in the event. The NH Operators had a good year this year completing over 9,000 contacts. I operated mostly SSB phone on 160m – 6m and made over 6,800 contacts during the 6 days of the event.

Category

QSOs % QSOs States DXCCs
SSB 7182 79% 50 71
CW 1546 18% 48 58
Digital (RTTY + PSK) 293 3% 26 36
160m 3 <1% 3 1
80m 82 1% 28 5
40m 2008 22% 46 32
30m 246 3% 34 26
20m 2936 31% 49 59
17m 1473 17% 49 53
15m 1443 17% 47 59
12m 268 3% 41 15
10m 361 4% 39 9
6m 201 2% 31 4

2014 13 Colonies QSO Statistics for the K2K NH Hampshire Stations

I thought it might be interesting for our readers to see how an operation like this breaks down in terms of bands and modes. The table above provides these stats for this year’s K2K NH operation. As you can see, the daytime band activity reflects the state of the solar cycle with most contacts being made on 20m, 17m and 15m. Operations on the 40m band are primarily during nighttime and are essential for many folks in the states close to New Hampshire to make a contact with us. SSB Phone is usually the most popular mode in this event with CW also being quite popular. It’s a little hard to grasp the diversity of the contacts that stations make during an event like this. Here are some additional stats for our operation in NH this year:

  • DXCC’s Worked – 82 (A good portion of a DXCC – not bad for a “US” event.)
  • DXCC Band Points Worked – 263 (A band point is a given DXCC on a unique band.)
  • CQ Zones Worked – 27
  • Unique Callsign Prefixes Worked – 1,061
  • Worked All 50 US States On The SSB Phone Mode
  • US Counties Worked – 1,416
  • IOTAs Worked – 60
  • 6m Grids Squares Worked – 94 (Almost a VUCC! Some DX from EU in here.)
  • Contacts Made To All 6 Continents

As you can see from this list, the event has become quite popular with folks outside the United Sates. There are quite a few DX operators that complete a sweep, working all 13 Colonies and the two Bonus Stations (WM3PEN and W3FT).

6m Opening During The 13 Colonies Special Event

6m Opening During The 13 Colonies Special Event

We had some very nice 6m Es Openings during the event. I worked a couple of these as K2K making about 200 contacts on 6m and working 94 unique grid squares – almost a VUCC on 6m! Amazingly, the conditions where good enough to generate a pileup for the duration of one of these openings. This was the first year that I have had the chance to focus on making contacts on the Magic Band and the  6m openings during the event were a nice chance to make some more contacts on 6m.

AB1QB's 13 Colonies Sweep Certificate

AB1QB’s 13 Colonies Sweep Certificate

Many operators who participate in the event do so with the goal of working all 13 Colonies and the two bonus stations for a clean sweep. Ken Villone, KU2US is the event coordinator and he provides a nice certificate each year for folks who work one or more of The Colony Stations. Anita, AB1QB completed her sweep this year and the picture above shows the nice certificate that she received for doing so. If you worked one or more of the 13 Colonies Stations, you can apply for a certificate here.

K2K New Hampshire QSL!

K2K New Hampshire QSL!

Many folks work the event to collect our QSL cards and for Worked All States Award Credit. This results in quite a few QSL cards being sent! The picture above shows the outgoing QSL response about 1 week after the event. This batch contained about 700 cards. The total QSL’s we will send in response to 2014 operations as K2K New Hampshire will be approximately 1,000 cards. We added ClubLog OQRS, LoTW and eQSL as alternatives to confirm contacts with the K2K New Hampshire Stations this year and many folks have used these to confirm contacts as well.

As the 2014 13 Colonies Special Event and the follow-up QSL’ing draws to a close, I have many great memories to look back on. I am already looking forward to the 2015 event. Ken has created a really great looking certificate for the 2015 event and you can see a preview here. I hope to contact many of readers as part of the 2015 13 Colonies Special Event!

Fred (AB1OC)

Experiences From The ARRL Centennial Convention In Hartford, CT


ARRL Centennial

ARRL Centennial

The ARRL has been celebrating its 100th year this year with a variety of events. One of the biggest was the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT this month. Anita and I were fortunate to be able to attend this excellent event and I wanted to share some of our experiences from Hartford with our readers. We began our Centennial Convention experience by attending the Contest University session that was held on the first day. No matter how many times we attend this excellent training day, we always learn some new things and techniques that we can practice in our contesting efforts.

Vendor Show

Vendor Show

One of the key things to do at the Convention was the excellent Vendor display arena. In addition to an all-out booth run by ARRL, many of the major radio and equipment vendors were present. Beyond the Dayton Hamvention, this was one of the best vendor displays of this type that we’ve had the pleasure to attend.

Forums And Presentations

Forums And Presentations

The best part, by far, for us were the excellent Forums and Presentations that were part of the convention. The ARRL managed to line up some of the most noted experts in the Amateur Radio Community to speak on a broad variety of topics.

Joe Taylor's WSJT Presentation

Joe Taylor’s WSJT Presentation

One of the best was Joe Taylor’s (K1JT) excellent presentation on the weak signal digital protocols that he has developed and the software that he has created to enable the Amateur Radio community to make contacts using the Moon, Meteor Scatter, and other means in very marginal probation conditions. You can find out more about Joe’s work in this areas on his Home Page.

Gordon West 2M Tropo Presentation

Gordon West 2M Tropo Presentation

Gordon West, WB6NOA gave an excellent presentation on Tropo Ducting Propagation on 2M. Gordon is very knowledgeable on this topic and he is also a very entertaining speaker!

Fred Lloyd's QRZ Presentation

Fred Lloyd’s QRZ Presentation

Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ founder of QRZ.com gave an interesting presentation on the history of QRZ.com and what he is doing with some new online logbook and QSO confirmation capabilities on his site.

cott Andersen's DXpedition In A Backpack Presentation

Scott Andersen’s DXpedition In A Backpack Presentation

B. Scott Andersen, NE1RD gave a cool presentation on Lightweight DXpeditioning. Scott has perfected a practical approach to lightweight DXpeditioning and has also contributed much to the use of the Buddipole Antenna System via his work with that system as part of his operations (check out Scott’s excellent book – Buddipole In The Field).

Our Presentation On Station Building

Our Presentation On Station Building

I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to speak about Station Design and Construction as part of the program. You can check out our material on this topic via the overview post here or download a copy of the presentation that we gave in CT.

Gifts From Other Amateur Radio Organizations Around The World

Gifts From Other Amateur Radio Organizations Around The World

There we several fun dinners and keynotes through the event. One thing that was very special was the presentation of awards to the ARRL from other Amateur Radio organizations around the world. The picture above shows some of the awards received by the ARRL.

The QSL Wall

The QSL Wall

There was also a QSL Card Wall at the event. Can you find the callsign of someone that you’ve worked in the picture above? There are a few rare ones in here.

All in all, the ARRL Centennial Convention was one of the highlights of our Amateur Radio experience to date. Anita and I feel very fortunate to have been part of it.

Fred (AB1OC)

ARRL Centennial Convention This Week – Come Join Us In Hartford!


ARRL Centennial

ARRL Centennial

Anita (AB1QB) and I will be attending the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford Connecticut, USA this coming weekend. We are looking forward to seeing the vendor exhibits, Contest University and the many fine forum presentations which are scheduled.

Station Design Presentation

Station Design Presentation

I will be doing a presentation on the design, construction and operation of our station at the ARRL Centennial event. My presentation is scheduled for Saturday, July 19th at 11 am in Room 27 at the Connecticut Convention Center. I will be presenting the complete story of our station from planning and design, through construction and finally how the station operates and performs. The presentation will include lots of high-resolution pictures and video including material on our shack, tower and antennas.

Updated Station Tour

Updated Station Tour

The presentation will include lots of new material covering all of our recent projects as well as an updated virtual station tour.

Latest Antenna Projects

Latest Antenna Projects

Some new topics will include our latest antenna projects and some information on our recently completed LEO Satellite System.

Station Automation Overview

Station Automation Overview

The presentation will also include information on our recently installed Station Automation System from microHAM.

Current Station Performance

Current Station Performance

We plan to talk about how our station is performing against our original design goals and we’ll have some updated video too!

For those who are attending the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford Connecticut, I hope you stop by and say hello to Anita and me. We’re anxious to meet as many of our readers as we can at the event. For those who cannot make the trip, we will be taking lots of pictures and we plan to post a summary of what we saw here after the event.

- Fred (AB1OC)

13 Colonies Special Event Begins Today!


2014 Thirteen Colonies Special Event Certificate

2014 Thirteen Colonies Special Event Certificate

The Thirteen Colonies Special Event begins today! The event runs from July 1st through July 6th, 2014. Anita and I will again be operating as K2K, New Hampshire as part of the event. There will be thirteen stations on the air (K2A-K2M) plus two bonus stations during the event. Working one or more will earn you an attractive certificate. If you work all 13, your certificate will indicate this (an endorsement for the bonus stations is also available). Details on how to obtain a certificate may be found here.

We have been operating as part of the Thirteen Colonies Special Event for several years now and we always have a great time doing it! I was able to make over 5,800 contacts as part of the event last year.

The Original Thirteen Colonies

The Original Thirteen Colonies

The idea of the event is to work one or more stations in each of the states that grew from the Original Thirteen Colonies. Each state has several stations on the air and we try to provide contacts in SSB Phone, CW and digital modes on the HF bands and via Satellites. We will be operating on all of the HF bands 160m-10m (except 60m) including the WARC bands this year. Some states will also have operations on 6m and above as well as providing contacts via HAM Sats. The Thirteen Colonies Special Event stations made over 80,000 QSOs last year and we are shooting to make even more this year.

Thirteen Colonies Special Event QSL Cards

Thirteen Colonies Special Event QSL Cards

In addition to the attractive event certificate, each state and the two bonus stations have attractive QSL cards available. A card can be obtained for working on of the Thirteen Colonies Special Event Stations via a direct QSL request (including SASE/postage for the return of a card). You can find more information on how to request our QSL cards here.

This event is a lot of fun and is open to all HAM operators around the world. Many stations outside the United States work all 13 Special Event Stations and the two Bonus Stations for a clean sweep! There is an excellent website that contains lots of information about the event and I’d encourage our readers to take a look at it. There is also a Yahoo! Group for the event this year which contains additional information.

We hope that our readers will spend some time next week working the event. It’s a great thing for US operators to do over the July 4th Holiday. I hope to see meet some of our readers on the air as part of the event. See you in the pileup!

- Fred (AB1OC)

LEO Satellite System Part 2 – Antenna Assembly and Ground Test


Assembled Eggbeater Satellite Antenna System

Assembled Eggbeater Satellite Antenna System

We continued our project to add LEO Satellite capability to our station this past weekend (you can read about the design of our LEO Satellite System here). With 370′ of 7/8″ Hardline Coax (LDF5-50A) ordered and with Matt Strelow, KC1XX of XXTowers scheduled to help with the antenna installation on the tower later this week, the only prep work left was to assemble our M2 Eggbeater Antenna System and preamps and test the setup. The first rule of tower work is to assemble and test as much on the ground as possible. To this end, we decided to mock-up the entire antenna system a few feet up from the base of our tower. The first step in the process was to assemble the M2 Eggbeater Antenna System. This step was not difficult.

Ground Pre-assembly And Test

Ground Pre-assembly And Test

We next assembled a Rohn sidearm mount and attached it to our tower about 5 feet from the ground. We then mounted the antennas and cross boom on the sidearm mount and did some SWR sweeps on just the antennas with a RigExpert Antenna Analyzer to ensure that the they were performing to specifications. Both antennas checked out just fine. They both had SWR readings of 1.2 or less across a very wide bandwidth.

Satellite Preamp System Mock Up

Satellite Preamp System Mock-Up

The final step in the pre-assembly process was to mount the preamp system that we had assembled previously to the tower. We also built all of the coax cables needed to connect the system from the planned 7/8″ Hardline Coax Feedlines (LDF5-50A) through the preamps and to the antennas. We used LMR-400UF Coax for these jumpers along with crimp-on N-connectors (we crimp and solder the pins on these connectors to the inner conductor of the coax to improve reliability). We installed heat shrimp tubing to seal the connectors in the crimp ferrule area and then covered all of the exposed connectors with electrical tape and CoaxWrap sealing tape. We also installed a 200′ length of DX Engineering Heavy Duty Control Cable (DXE-CW8-HD) to the preamp system. With these steps done, we again verified that the SWR performance of both antennas checked out within specifications.

I plan to pre-install a run of control cable from the control line surge protectors at the base of our tower to the shack and hook the control cable up to our M2 S3 Sequencers sometime later this week. With these steps done, we will be ready to put our LEO Satellite System on our tower and perform the final integration and testing steps with the rest of our station.

- Fred (AB1OC)

2014 Es Season On The Magic Band – A Journey Towards A 6m VUCC


6m Band Opening Viewed On DXMaps

6m Band Opening Viewed On DXMAPS

I decided to become active on the 6m band this year. This 6m Sporadic E (Es) season was in full swing about a month ago when I got active on 6m. The picture above is from the DXMAPS website and shows one of the daily openings that we’ve experienced on 6m here in the US during the last month. The DXMAPS website is a good tool for monitoring for VHF/UHF band openings (10m and higher). The site collects and plots cluster spots and propagation mode information on a world map in real-time. This includes spots from CW Skimmers which monitor beacons on the VHF and UHF bands. This allows one to determine when a VHF/UHF band is open and the directions for possible QSOs from one’s location. As you can see from the picture above, there was a solid 6m opening on this particular day from my QTH in New England to the Midwest, the Southeast and the Caribbean! You can also see the beginnings of an opening into Europe.

Cluster Spots During A 6m Band Opening (DXLabs SpotCollector)

Cluster Spots During A 6m Band Opening (DXLab SpotCollector)

The graphic above shows spotting cluster data (we use the DXLab Suite at our station). You can see the details of the stations being spotted during the opening.

The 6m band is often called the “magic band” because it exhibits many different propagation modes including Sporadic E (Es), Tropo, Aurora, Iconoscatter, Meteor Scatter and even Earth-Moon-Earth (EME or “Moon Bounce”). You can find a good introduction to the magic band, its propagation possibilities and some ideas on how to get started on 6m on these sites:

I would also recommend Six Meters: A Guide to the Magic Band by Ken Neubeck, WB2AMU. While the equipment information in this book is somewhat dated and it can be a little had to find, it contains excellent information on propagation modes and operating on 6m.

Many of the 6m propagation modes can be very short-lived so one must be prepared to make short contacts at the start of a QSO. The typical 6m exchange would include callsigns, signal reports and grid square (more on grid square below). The 6m band is typically very quiet and will easily support QSOs that do not move one’s S Meter even with the rig’s preamps on!

SteppIR DB36 Antennas At Our QTH

SteppIR DB36 Antennas At Our QTH

We planned for 6m operation when we built our station a couple of years ago. Our primary antennas for 6m are our SteppIR DB36 yagis at 105′ and 65′. These antennas are used separately on the 6m band (we can run them as a 4 over 4 array on 10m – 40m).

SteppIR DB36 With 6m Kit

SteppIR DB36 With The 6m Kit Installed Below Our 2m and 432 MHz Yagis

Out SteppIR DB36 Yagi’s feature a 36 foot boom and have a 6m Passive element Kit installed which provide two additional elements on the 6m band. The resulting gain and front/back performance are in the range of  typical 5 element 6m mono band antennas. Having two independently directional antennas for 6m has turns out to be quite useful in contests and when monitoring for 6m openings. These antennas have 6 elements on 6m and are pretty directional. Typical operating setups at our QTH would have one antenna pointed to the West or toward Europe while the other is pointed south to monitor for openings to the Southeast and the Caribbean. In these configurations, we can instantly switch between two directions using our microHAM Antenna Control System.

AB1OC Operating Position On 6m

AB1OC Operating Position On 6m

Both of our two operating positions are 6m capable. They both feature Transceivers with good receivers (a Yaesu FTdx5000 and an Icom IC-7800) and both have PW-1 Amplifiers which provide 1KW output on the 6m band.

QSOs By Band

QSOs By Band As Of Early 2014

Before the 2014 Spring Es Season, we had only done limited operating on the 6m band. I did participate in the 2013 ARRL June VHF Contest and operated on a combination of the 6m, 2m and 70cm bands during that contest. I also did some 6m operating as part of the 13 Colonies Special Event in 2013. In total, I had made about 200 QSOs on 6m and had worked 10 grid squares by the beginning of the 2014. Most of these 6m contacts were with stations in the US with a few to the Caribbean. My longest DX up to that point in time were a few contacts 6m stations in the Canary Islands on the northwest coast of Africa.

JT65 QSO On 6m

JT65 QSO using WSJT-X and JTAlert On 6m

At the start of the 2014 Spring Es Season, I decided to get serious about earning an ARRL VUCC Award on 6m. This award requires one to work and confirm 100 grid squares on the 6m band (it’s also available for 2m and higher bands). I began by studying 6m propagation modes and monitoring the calling frequencies on the 6m band. We work a combination of modes on 6m include SSB Phone, CW, and digital (using JT65). The CW and JT65 modes are very useful on the 6m band when the propagation conditions are marginal. We recently upgraded to Joe Taylor’s WSJT-X software which supports both the JT65 and JT9 weak signal modes. This WSJT-X software coupled with JTAlert software from HAMApps integrated the JT65 and JT9 modes very well with the DXLab suite that we use for logging and other DX’ing work at our station.

There were some exciting times on the air during the early part of the Es Season this year. Two that stand out were my first double hop Es contacts with hams in California and several openings to the Midwest and the Southeast where the band went from dead to very active in a period of 5-10 minutes! This is typical for the 6m band but it’s quite an experience to go from calling CQ with no answers to being in the middle of an almost instant small pileup!

AB1OC Claimed Score In 2014 ARRL VHF Contest

AB1OC Claimed Score In 2014 ARRL VHF Contest

I also decided to operate in the 2014 ARRL June VHF Contest again this year. I decided to operate in the Single Operator, High-power Category on 6m only. I was able to make a little over 300 6m contacts in this contest and managed a score that was significantly better that my 3 band effort in this contest last year. My QSOs were primarily SSB phone mode but I also managed a number of contacts in CW mode and a few digital QSOs using JT65.

AB1OC Worked Grids In 2014 ARRL VHF Contest

AB1OC Worked Grids In 2014 ARRL VHF Contest (N1MM Logger)

As you can see from the screenshot from the N1MM logger that I used for the contest, I was able to work quite a few grid squares. We had a very nice opening to the Southeast and Florida during the contest period and this resulted in lots of new 6m contacts and even some small pileups at times!

AB1OC Worked Grids In The Americas

AB1OC Worked Grids In The Americas

By the end of the contest, my total grids worked was up to 98 and this put me very close to my goal of earning a VUCC on 6m. At this point I was hooked on 6m!

AB1OC Worked Grids In Europe And Africa

AB1OC Worked Grids In Europe And Africa

A couple of days after the contest ended, I took a look at the DXMAPS website and saw that a good 6m opening was occurring to Europe. I got on the air and was able to make my first ever contacts into Europe on 6m. The opening was a “spotlight” one (covering a limited area) that involved double hop Es propagation in Spain, Portugal, France and Morocco. Over the period of about an hour and a half, I made some 30 contacts into these countries. A very exciting time on the air and one that I will not soon forget!

AB1OC Worked Grids Around The World

AB1OC Worked Grids Around The World

With the opening to Europe and some continued operation on 6m I am currently at 122 Grid Squares worked (with 91 confirmed so far. My 6m QSO count stands at 755 with 112 new grid squares and approximately 550 QSOs made in the last 30 days.

The website used to plot the grid squares worked and confirm in the previous pictures is WG7J’s GridMapper site. Its a really nice tool to visualize the grid square one has worked or still needs to work.

At this point, I am totally hooked on the 6m band! While a yagi antenna with 5 or more elements helps a lot on 6m, I have found that it does not take a big station to have fun on the band when it’s open. I have worked many station in the US who were using wire antennas and verticals with 100w or less. See the following youTube video for an example of a simple 6m setup. Another good 6m intro video can be found here. If you have not given 6m a try, I encourage our readers to take a look at the band. It is really quite a lot of fun.

- Fred (AB1OC)