By relling on Jan 11, 2005
We came, we typed, we conquered.
Another ARRL RTTY Roundup contest is behind us. Here's a recap of the activities at the W5VZF station this year.
Antennas were the biggest change this year. In previous years, we used a dual band 40m/80m dipole. The trouble with that sort of antenna is that it is kinda hard to get it to work well on both 40m and 80m. Tuning is a pain because there is always a little bit of interaction between the two bands. If you get it perfect for one band, you suffer on the other. This year we added a M-squared 40M1L rotatable dipole for 40m. We also built a new 80m dipole and raised the ends so that it is very nearly horizontal at about 70 feet. This combination worked very well and we were able to make quite a few good runs on 40m and 80m. We also cleaned out the mud dobber nests in the triband capacitors as well as cleane it up so that it was in tip-top condition.
New software was also used. It actually isn't new, but we've been using WF1B's contesting software for about 13-14 years or so. This year we switched to WriteLog and MMTTY. I've been using WriteLog and MMTTY on and off for several years, except for the RTTY Roundup. W5VZF got a shiny new computer for Christmas, and we went whole hog. This is truly excellent software and is quite a time saver during busy contests.
Murphy only struck a few times. On the thursday before the contest, we blew out the high voltage power supply during testing. Fortunately, W5VZF's QTH is Starkville, MS, also home to Martin Jue's MFJ Enterprises and Ameritron. After a quick call to the Ameritron folks, we were able to get the amp fixed on friday morning. We actually run in the low-power category which is limited to 150 W. We use the amp because RTTY can be harsh on your finals. Most rigs are built to deliver 100 W or more, but that doesn't assume continuously high power or high duty cycles. So we use the amp and crank down the gain to ensure we're putting out only 150 W. The amp worked well, except for late saturday night when it started making a peculiar buzz followed by some stink. We tried to figure out what was burning, but never did. We eventually put it up for the night. On sunday, the amp worked perfectly without complaint. Go figure.
Conditions weren't very good, all things considered. The solar flux was about 85 and the K-index hovered 2. 10m was a compete waste of time, and 15m wasn't the blockbuster it can be during peak solar cycles. I think the antenna improvements on 40m and 80m really paid off, as we made quite a few contacts there. Hopefully next year the conditions will improve and so will the scores.
Our results are our best ever. We worked all 50 US states plus the District of Columbia. Wyoming was tough, as it usually is, but some of the other rare states were well represented. We really appreciate the hams in Nevada and North Dakota who got on the air and worked us. We ended with a claimed score of 77,366 (766 QSOs and 101 multipliers.) I doubt this will get us in the top-5, but we should stay in the top-10. We'll know in about 6 months.
The post-contest port was an '85 Dow. Very tasty and a fine finish to a great steak dinner. Next year we'll do it again...