Monday, 15 July 2013

M8C - Isles of Scilly EU-011, 25-30 July 2013

News of an Island activation by the Cray Valley Radio Society using the club contest callsign M8C for the IOTA contest 27/28 July from St Mary's Island EU-011, also QRV 25-30 July outside of contest period.

Six Cray Valley RS operators will be on this dxpedition to St Mary's Island these being Nobby G0VJG,  Richard G7GLW, Ian  M0UAT, Guy  G0UKN, Garo G0PZA and Chris G0FDZ. 

We will be entering the 24 hours, mixed mode CW and SSB, high power IOTA contest.  Please QSL via G4DFI.

73 Ian, M0UAT

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Japan International DX Contest 2013

While looking for a suitable CW contest to enter, I noticed the listing in the contest website, CW  JIDX Contest on 13/14th April 2013. Why would I choose this particular contest you may ask? Well the exchange was short, consisting of an RST and a Japan prefecture number (2 digits) or for the DX station their CQ zone. The official site had a list of all the 50 Japan prefectures with the corresponding callsign prefix, so I had a clue to copy the correct exchange details.

As with all contests, the key to success is in the preparation. So the first thing was to read the rules for this particular contest. The rules stated that the DX station had to make a QSO with the Japan station to score points, and other DX stations did not count towards the total score. The contest started on Saturday morning at 0700Z, and finished on Sunday at 1300Z. The bands for this contest being the usual HF contest bands 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10.  I would enter the multiband low power 100W category.

I wanted to decide which bands would be best from my QTH, so I did a point to point   analysis using the propagation prediction program VOACAP. I have VOACAP on the PC and also on my Kindle, an app called DroidProp.  Both indicated an opening with 80% circuit reliability between 0800Z and 1200Z at around 20MHz and then 70% circuit reliability 14Mhz until 2200Z. As this is a guide I decided my best chance of success would be to operate on 21Mhz in the morning and then move to 14Mhz during the afternoon and early evening. I put out a message on the CVRS and uk_hf_contesting Yahoo groups a couple of days before the contest, asking for any comments and suggestions, a few people responded.

I decided that I would operate only on the Saturday due to other commitments over the weekend. The radio hardware consisted of the FT-857D running 100W with 500Hz and 300Hz IF filters, doublet antenna at 12m height, and MFJ tuner. I was also using for the first time a Winkey CW/USB keyer, interfaced to my laptop. Software used included WinTest contesting software, telnet for cluster, and my transceiver was interfaced via the CAT output to the laptop. The CAT interface gave opportunity to use of the band plan window in WinTest, I had decided to operate only in search and pounce mode. I also had the CDXC cluster running on my laptop, so I could check the actual contacts reported during the contest, this is allowed in the rules.

I started at around 0830Z on Saturday morning on 21Mhz (15m), the Japan stations where coming in nice and loud, but with only a few making QSOs. I called back to them and initially they did not hear my call.  Later in the morning the conditions improved and I made my first QSO, then a few more until I stopped at lunchtime (1300Z). There had been many JIDX contest entries on the cluster for 21Mhz during the morning and nothing for JIDX on 14Mhz, so I considered my working plan was good so far.

I resumed at 1500Z and QSYed to the 14Mhz (20m band), some spots for 14Mhz started showing on the CDXC cluster. There was a difference on this band as the Japan stations had a lot of DX callers and some had large pill-ups. Here my problem was working the JA station with so many others DX stations.  I gradually worked all the JA stations I could hear, and with my level of Morse it was sometimes slow to comprehend the callsign and exchange.  I wrapped up at around 2000Z, 9:00pm and closed down my station having scored, according to WinTest, 180 points. This score is not a winning result only 17 QSOs, but looking at previous results for earlier years, I am expecting to make the top three in England.

Overall the contest was hard, being a novice CW operator and also my first Japan DX contest. Conditions were generally good, readability and strength of received signals very good using a 500Hz IF filter and DSP audio filtering. Improvements for next year include, vertical antenna with better takeoff, improve my CW and work a longer period of the contest.

73, Ian, M0UAT