2001 WPX RTTY Contest

Ever since my record breaking effort in this year’s ARRL RTTY Roundup, I had been looking forward to this year’s CQ/New RTTY Journal World Wide WPX RTTY Contest. For this year’s WPX test I chose to operate Low Power as I do for every RTTY contest that offers such a class. I realize there is only a slim to none chance of winning a world title in this event, so I set my sights on something more obtainable like having a lot of fun and not worrying about what my score would be. So my number one strategy in this contest was to have as much fun as possible.

This contest may not be winnable from my QTH no matter how good the operator or equipment is. The reason is because the point structure is geared toward higher points given to QSO’s on 40 and 80 meters and for contacts outside one’s own country and continent. The advantage goes to South Americans, Europeans, certain Asian locations, Canadians and U.S. East Coast stations in that order. Geograghy plays an important role in who wins this contest. I did win the world title in Low Power for the first two years of this contest’s existence, but only because it was a new contest and it took the rest of the world a couple of years to warm up to it. Once they did, my world ranking started to fall despite my making higher scores each year. Last year I was 5th in the world. Last year was marked by a geomagnetic storm that virtually shut down the high bands for several hours. They never did fully recover, resulting in overall low scores. But the fact remains, I am at a geographic disadvantage in this contest.

Because of this disadvantage, I am able to take this contest less seriously and operate more casually and ultimately have more fun. It’s surprising how well one can do when the pressure is off. Surpassing the world record was the farthest thing from my mind when I started mapping strategy for this event. I took this contest so lightly, that the only real strategy I mapped before the contest was a template for off-times. I did not even look at past years logs. Since last year was influenced by the geomagnetic storm, it would not have been a very good tool to study. I did not even look at the records to see if any were obtainable because I simply was out to enjoy myself.

I did have a second strategy and that was to try to use the Packetcluster more effectively than in years past to chase every multiplier possible on Sunday. I figured that I would let the multipliers come to me on Saturday, then start chasing them on Sunday. So my second strategy was to chase multipliers with more veracity in an attempt to make up for my geographical disadvantage with the QSO points. I decided to make some goals that I thought might be obtainable, so I chose the round numbers of 1500 QSO’s and 500 multipliers. I didn’t know if the 500 multiplier goal was obtainable or not, but it was something to work toward. So I started with just two strategies and two goals. I didn’t map a plan for band changes, I would just go with the flow and work whatever bands were open, maybe staying up later on 40 and 80 meters and trying to work Europe at their sunrise.

I used the identical station setup that I used in the ARRL RTTY Roundup with the exception of a Packetcluster connection. In years past, I had used the Internet through my dialup account and connected via telnet using DXTelnet in conjunction with WriteLog to give me Packetcluster spots. However, this dialup connection was not stable and for the most part unreliable so at times when it failed during the contest, I would run without it. A week before this year’s contest, I finally got my ADSL Internet connection working and was interested to see if it was reliable. I used DXTelnet and filtered out the CW and SSB subband spots and fed the RTTY spots into the network to WriteLog. I am happy to report that my ADSL connection stayed up the entire 48 hours during the weekend.

Chasing multipliers showing up on the Packetcluster is somewhat of a gamble in this contest because of the large amount of overall multipliers available. In the amount of time it takes to chase down a multiplier and possibly have to fight a pileup, you could end up working several new multipliers just by calling CQ. So I waited ’til the 2nd half of the Sunday to start chasing multipliers in earnest.

Checking the bands on Friday before the contest, I found them in pretty good shape. The WWV numbers were not that impressive with a solar flux of 157, the A index at 7 and K index at 2. Just before the start of the contest, the flux rose to 162, the A dropped to 5 and the K went to 1 so I expected band conditions to be good but did not anticipate anything better than that. I checked the local weather and saw a line of line thunderstorms approaching. The line was very thin so I anticipated some noise and hoped I wouldn’t have to shut down for the storm.

In the hour before the contest 10 meters was open to Asia and there were good signals from the USA and South America. I had thought I would start the contest on 15 and 20 meters and since my sunset occurred right at the start of the contest at 0000Z, I ruled out starting on 10. But 10 sounded very good. I know a lot of multipliers can be had from Japan, so now I wondered how long 10 would stay open. My thinking changed to starting on 10 and going to 20 when the band faded. So that is what I did. With radio A on 15M and radio B on 10M, I was ready to go at 0000Z.

The line of thunderstorms reached my QTH about 30 minutes into the contest. I could hear light static crashes on the bands. I looked out my window and saw that it had started to rain, but there was no immediate lightning or thunder. It appears that the thunderstorms had dissipated, which was very good news. I did experience a small amount of rain static for the next couple of hours, but it wasn’t enough to really affect my operation. So I continued on and disregarded the weather outside.

After one hour, 10 died so I moved radio B to 20 meters. At 0157Z, I moved radio A from 15 to 40 meters. I keyed up on 40M and the noise on the B radio on 20 was tremendous despite both band filters and stubs. The only thing I could figure was that it was raining outside and that was affecting it because the antennas are so close together. I hadn’t tested this before the start of the contest. So shame on me for poor preparation.

Instead of fighting it, I moved from 20 to 80 at 0215Z. I didn’t really worry about the interference problem. 20M was getting slow and I realized that the QSO points doubled in value on 80 so I moved with little hesitation. There wasn’t much going on 80, but 40 was picking up so I was satisfied. The small static crashes I experienced earlier on the higher bands had disappeared and 40 & 80 meters sounded pretty good. I worked 40 and 80 until 0600Z when I took my first rest period. At that time I had 333 QSO’s, which isn’t great, but not too bad and I was satisfied.

With my sunrise at 1244Z, I wanted to restart about 30 minutes before sunrise to take advantage of gray line propagation so I restarted at 1215Z on 20 and 40 meters. There were no RTTY signals at all on 40M so I moved that radio to 15M and was pleasantly surprised to see the band was already open to EU. I quickly checked 10M and heard some activity but chose to go back to 20 until 10 opened more. 30 minutes later right at my sunrise, I went from 20 to 10 meters on the B radio. Things really picked up at 1300Z and I made 80 Q’s in each of the next three hours with tremendous runs mostly on 10 meters. What made it more exciting was that nearly all the contacts were to EU and worth 3 points each. 10 meters was hot. There were signals from 28060 to 28140 khz. I’d never seen it this crowded. I’d CQ until the rate fell a little, then S&P once from top to bottom, then CQ again, then S&P through the band again. When CQ’ing on 10M, I would S&P on 15M. When S&P on 10, I would CQ on 15, but later it got difficult getting any significant runs going on 15M. Although there were lots of signals on 15 from 21063 to 21130 khz, it seemed the majority of operators were on 10 so I ended up CQ’ing more on 10 and S&P more on 15. I found this to be more effective so I concentrated harder CQ’ing on 10M.

I operated 10 & 15 meters for 6 1/2 hours yielding 464 contacts when I finally went from 10 to 20 meters on the B radio. That was an average of over 70 QSO’s per hour during that time and I was truly amazed it happened. The rate fell off on 10, prompting me to move to 20 on that radio but 20 was not open to EU yet and I decided to take some rest. So at 2000Z, I took 1.25 hours of rest. I laid down for about an hour, then took a shower and decided I would restart at 2115Z and go all the way past the sunrise gray line in EU to about 0630Z Sunday (1230 a.m. local time). But it didn’t quite work out that way.

I restarted the contest on 15 and 20 meters, but the rate was not nearly as high as what I had earlier on 10 and 15 meters. So I slugged it out for 5 more hours when 15 faded and I moved radio A to 40M. There wasn’t much going on 40 yet and 20 was slow, so I took two more hours of rest to prepare for my late night run on 40 and 80 meters.

I restarted at 0345Z on 40 and 80 meters. Activity was fair on both bands but the one thing I remember most was that both bands were extremely quiet. No static crashes or band noise to speak of. I knew I needed to take full advantage of these quiet low band conditions. So I decided I would work 40 and 80 until I didn’t hear any more EU signals. On 80 meters, the first EU station I heard was HG1S. I called and called but he didn’t hear me. I wasn’t totally discouraged because it wasn’t quite grayline there yet. In the meantime I worked HK3WGQ on 80 and eventually found HG1S calling CQ again and at 0540Z he finally heard and worked me. It was grayline over eastern EU so I concentrated on picking out those weak EU signals on 80. When I couldn’t find any, I would CQ on 80 and S&P on 40. After only one pass of the band on 40 I would go back to CQ’ing on 40 and S&P on 80. If I still didn’t see anything on 80 I would CQ on the opposite end of the 40M band than where I CQ’d last time. In other words, if I had CQ’d down around 7040 the last time, I moved up to around 7090 the next time.

In the next hour I worked only 3 more EU stations on 80M plus HC8N to go with several US stations. I worked a dozen or so EU stations 40M and at about 0645Z I wasn’t hearing EU anymore on either band so I pulled the plug for another rest period. During the slow periods on 80 and 40 that last hour, I was figuring out my off-times and making plans on what time to start on my Sunday morning and when I would take my remaining rest periods. I decided I would restart the contest at 1315Z which is 30 minutes past my sunrise. I figured that by that time, both 10 and 15 meters would be fully open to EU and I should be able to get good rates going right away. By using this start time, I would have to take 2 more hours of rest on Sunday afternoon. I didn’t decide when I would take them, that would depend on how things were going. If 10 was good up until 1900Z, I would switch to 20 and hope it would be open and full of signals like it was in the Roundup. But for now I needed rest and went to bed. At that time I had 1170 QSO’s, 2900 QSO points and 430 multipliers. My score was 1,247,000 points. My goal of 1500 Q’s and 500 multipliers seemed within reach with 8.75 hours of operation left until I hit my 30 hours. I slept well that night.

Sunday morning when I rolled out of bed, the first thing I did when I entered the shack was to check the WWV propagation numbers and saw the the A index went up one to 6 and the K went as high as 4 at 0900Z and then dropped to 3 by the 1200Z report. This was not good news. However, when I turned on the radio and restarted at 1315Z, 10 and 15 meters were already jam packed full of signals again. I noticed that my Internet connection was still working and there were several packet spots showing new multipliers on 10 meters. Now was the time I would work on the strategy of going after mults. I quickly chased down each of the stations that were spotted if they hadn’t moved already, then settled on 28102 khz and started a fair run. In the meantime, I came across a few stations on 15 S&P, but finding new stations on 15 was a slow process. I alternated CQ’s for a while on 10 and 15 meters, but the rates never approached what they were on Saturday.

I decided I would leave the A radio on 15 meters for the rest of the contest and work 10 until EU faded then either rest or hope 20 was open. I concentrated CQ’ing on 10 and S&P on 15. If a new multiplier showed up on the cluster, I would chase it down immediately, leaving my CQ frequency on 10, hunting down the multiplier then, with WriteLog, hitting F12 to put me right back on my CQ frequency. This is a very neat tool in WriteLog and I used it extensively on 10 meters Sunday. Practically no spots were coming out for 15 meters. Like Saturday, it seemed everyone was on 10 meters again. But then again, everyone couldn’t be on 10 meters because 15 was wall-to-wall RTTY signals from 21070-21120 khz. But it seemed like every signal I came across on 15 meters I had already worked. Whenever a multiplier popped up on the Packetcluster on 10 meters, unless I was in the middle of a run, I would go chase it. When I chased a multiplier on 10, I would find the nearest clear frequency and CQ on 15 meters. This got to be a lot of fun chasing multipliers using the Packetcluster. It was so much fun, I chased every new station that was spotted regardless of whether or not it was a mult. Point and click and bingo, new stations to work. It was wonderful and I was really enjoying myself and I was racking up multipliers.

By 1800Z, the rate really started to fall off. There were still plenty of signals on both 10 and 15 meters but I had a hard time finding new stations to work. No new stations were being spotting on the Packetcluster so I decided to move from 10 to 20 meters. I could hear EU stations but they were not very strong. It was way too early for 20 meters. So at 1815Z I decided to take an hour of rest and come back at 1915Z to see if 20 was any better.

I restarted at 1915Z and signals were a little better from EU on 20 meters. I was happy to see there were still plenty of EU signals on 15 meters. That first hour back I worked 57 stations and the rate stayed fair. Since I hadn’t operated on 20 meters much on Saturday, I was hoping I could make some good CQ runs, but that never really happened. I continued chasing packet spots for new multipliers, but not many new stations were being spotted.

Since EU was still coming in on 15 meters and 20 was picking up I decided I would keep going until 2300Z then go QRT for good and show the last hour of the contest as a rest period and that’s what I did. It finally got to the point where I wasn’t finding any new stations while S&P, so I concentrated alternating CQ’s on 15 and 20 meters. I used a setting of 12 in WriteLog’s Auto-CQ and alternately CQ’d back and forth on both radios, swapping antennas back and forth.

Throughout the contest, my main concentration and focus was in working Europe as you have read. The reasons for this are to get more points per QSO and take advantage of the multitude of available EU prefix multipliers. With little activity from Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America, the most QSO points can be obtained by working EU for me. By combining working EU stations with NA stations, I can achieve a decent QSO point total with lots of multipliers. I didn’t think about any of this before the contest. I really only noticed that I did this after the fact and realize now that this was a natural instinct I acquired through my many years of RTTY contesting. I guess you could call it a strategy that I just did naturally and didn’t think about – to concentrate hard on working as many EU stations as possible.

Back to the contest – at 2144Z VY1MB was spotted on 10 meters. A double click on the spot and radio B was instantly on his frequency and he was in the log in matter of seconds. I checked up and down on 10 meters while I was there but didn’t see anything new so I hit F12 again and I was right back on my CQ frequency and continued my run on 20M – man, I love that feature. I don’t get to use it much in other contests since the Packetcluster is normally not allowed for Single Operators. I like the fact that it is allowed and encouraged in the WPX and makes the contest that much more interesting to me.

By 2200Z, with only an hour of operating left to reach my 30 hours, I decided at alternate Auto-CQ’s on both radios on 15 and 20 meters until 2300Z, then go QRT. A couple of new stations were spotted on the cluster, they weren’t multipliers, but I went ahead and grabbed them. I heard a JA station on 15 so I put the higher tribander on the A radio and pointed it to Japan and put the lower tribander that’s fixed at 20 degrees on the B radio. I picked up a few new JA multipliers on 15M and a few new EU stations on 20M. With about 15 minutes to go I had reached my goal of 500 multipliers, then in the last 15 minutes I picked up 2 more mults from Japan and VK6HD called me long path on 20M for my last multiplier.

I made my last contact at 2258Z and shut off both radios. After dupes, I had 1597 net QSO’s, 3857 QSO points and 503 prefix multipliers for a total score of 1,949,041 points. I clicked on my Internet browser and went to the New RTTY Journal web site to see how I fared against the USA, NA and World records. I clicked on the Contest Page on the RTTY Journal web site and then to the WPX Records page (these records are now kept on www.rttycontesting.com). The Single Operator Low Power records are listed at the top, so in an instant I saw that I had surpassed UP5P’s World Record of 1,830,630 points set in 2000.

I was pretty happy with that accomplishment, but reality tells me that even though I have done well, the odds of me actually winning the Low Power world title are pretty slim. There were several EU stations and the usual LU stations that were putting in strong efforts. With the QSO point/geographical disadvantage, I feel the score will probably be good for between 2nd and 4th place in the world and hopefully at least a new NA Low Power record.

I shut everything down in the shack and took a shower. When I came out of the shower, I felt pretty good. I wasn’t tired at all. I ate dinner with my girlfriend and went to bed at my usual time. I awoke Monday morning refreshed and even made it to work on time. This is very unusual. Normally after a major contest I take the Monday after off from work to recover. My relaxed attitude allowed me to keep calm during most of the contest and the fact that I was really enjoying it kept me from getting exhausted. The rest periods helped tremendously, but personally, I think 18 hours of rest in a 48 hour contest is too much. I would prefer to be allowed to operate 36 hours. But rules are rules and other than the difficulties I had figuring out my off times, everything worked out pretty well.

On Monday, the scores started coming out and there were many high scores over a million points. UP5P ran High Power this year and he posted his score of 2,805,372 points to the WF1B reflector. It looks like Romeo had a great effort and smashed the High Power world record of 2,222,330 points set by CT3BX in 2000. Congratulations to him on a super effort!

On Tuesday after the contest I hadn’t seen any Single Operator Low Power scores posted higher than mine and it may be several months before I know how well I fared against the rest of the field. But I’m not really concerned with it. I’m looking forward to the next major RTTY contest which is the BARTG Spring RTTY Contest in March. I see on the calender that I’m on call at work that weekend so I won’t be able to put in a full effort, but I will be in there giving out points. I just can’t stay away from a RTTY contest. They are just too much fun to pass up. And with the decline of the sunspot cycle coming upon us, it’s important that I try to operate in as many RTTY contests as possible. When 10 meters disappears and 15 no longer carries signals into EU or JA from my QTH, then my chances of having these big scores are gone until the next cycle. At age 43, I’m not getting any younger, and by the time the next cycle perks up again, I won’t be able to stay awake or alert as long as I do now. My reflexes won’t be as good so the scores I am obtaining now could be the highest I ever post.

As the scores diminish, there will still be something more important continuing to happen. We will still be able to work our RTTY friends during a contest. We may only make 3 contacts instead of 5 with them and will primarily be limited to the lower bands of 20, 40 & 80 meters, but we’ll still get to make contact with them and feel the comaraderie with someone in another part of the world that enjoys doing the same thing – the wonderful hobby of Amateur Radio RTTY contesting. The bands will change, equipment will change, antennas will change, software will change and strategies will change, but our love of the sport will carry us onward. And I’m looking forward to it.
AA5AU Unofficial Totals

Band QSO’s Pts. Pfx
80 107 276 20
40 191 688 73
20 284 501 80
15 489 1041 136
10 526 1351 194
Total 1597 3857 503

Claimed Score: 1,940,071