Ken Harker WM5R
2003 ARRL November Sweepstakes, Phone W5KFT (WM5R, op. )

Category: Single Operator High Power
Location: South Texas (STX) EM00st

Band QSOs Sections
Totals 1701 79

Claimed score268,758
   Radio: Kenwood TS-850SAT
     Amp: Ameritron AL-1500
 Headset: Heil Proset Plus
Software: TR LOG 6.69
     DVK: W9XT Contest Card

This is the second time I've tried this contest as a single operator.

Last year, K5PI and I could not get the WX0B SO2R Master to work on phone at all, and I had to abandon it before the start of the contest. This year, we hooked up a Top Ten Devices DXDoubler instead, and it worked fine. There were no major equipment problems to hold me back this year. Just me :-)

I was hoping to get off to a better start this year, but I had an almost identical first five hours. My first hour last year was 147 QSOs, this year it was 149 QSOs. After five hours last year, I was at 590 QSOs, this year I was at 595 QSOs. I had some carrier (at one point, two carriers) jamming on my 15M run frequency from 2230 UTC to 2245 UTC, but it didn't make any difference. I was stunned at how early the bands closed this year. I had K5TR's rate sheet from last year on hand as a guide to where I wanted to be when. This year, both 15 meters and 20 meters became unproductive hours earlier than they did last year. Just three weeks ago, in the CQWW Phone contest, fifteen meters was open and productive into the 0500 and 0600 UTC hours. This weekend, the band died, for all intents and purposes from a single operator perspective, before 2300 UTC. When I did a second-radio scan of the 15 meter band at 2356 UTC, there was not a single signal on the band. So, this really threw me for a loop. One of the things I know that I need to get better at is getting off to a big start. I really need to be getting my 140 and 120 hours up to 160 and 150 hours. Part of this is learning how to make band changes and being more or less instantly productive. Part of it is just practicing running technique fundamentals.

I did comparatively better the rest of Saturday evening. Last year, I quit for the evening around 0700 UTC with 837 QSOs, this year I quit around 0800 UTC with 1001 QSOs. I did a lot better on 40 and 80 than I did last year - maybe the low bands were in better shape - with 75, 78, 49, 51, 80, and 71 hours this year versus 74, 43, 31, 50, and 49 hours last year. 80 meters was especially nice to me this year, even without Beverage antennas. The rate tailed off sharply from 0745 UTC to 0800 UTC when I quit, but maybe in retrospect I should have stayed on the air a little longer.

Sunday morning, I started off a little too early. I got on briefly in the 1200 UTC hour, worked a couple of Caribbean stations on 20 meters, and quickly realized that my left amplifier (an Ameritron AL-1200) wasn't keying. I decided to use one of my three half-hour off-times remaining to me and let the bands warm up a bit more while I looked into the problem. I spent ten minutes or so before I solved it. When I went to sleep, I had turned off one of the desk lamps by unplugging it - the on/off switch was broken (ironically, by me, several years ago, during a VHF contest.) Apparently, when I yanked that power cable out of the surge protector, I also accidentally unplugged the keying line from a Y-adaptor cable at the back of the radio - something not easy to see in the clump of cables behind the desk.

I lost ground, compared to last year, on Sunday. I started Sunday 164 QSOs ahead and finished on 73 QSOs ahead of my total last year by the end of the day. In part this might be because I had one fewer hour of Sunday to operate, having stayed up an hour later than I did last year, but still, I think I should be able to improve on that. I first went to 15 meters in the 1700 UTC hour and immediately began hearing backscatter echoes of my own signal. It didn't turn into great rate right away, though. The 1800 UTC hour turned out be a big one for me, where I actually made 101 QSOs before dupes (94 after dupes) on 15 meters. I had some terrible hours on Sunday, though. Last year, my two bad hours below 50 QSOs/hr were 41 and 43, but this year I had 49, 46, 39, and 21 QSO hours when I took no off-time. Ideally, I should be making at least 60 QSOs/hr all day Sunday, but it's very, very hard to keep the intensity and focus up, and this is one of the things I need to really work on to get better. I think this year may have been worse, because the poor conditions really concentrated a lot of stations in less bandwidth and the QRM was so much worse than last year. This is my first solar cycle decline, so maybe I wasn't really psychologically prepared for what happened.

One of the most frustrating moments of the weekend was around 2350 UTC Sunday. I'd been working stations at a decent clip somewhere near 14160 kHz for a quite a while, when suddenly the station below me left - changed bands or took an off-time - and I was able to slide down a little and I had the most perfectly clean, beautiful run frequency I had had all weekend. And the callers just tapered off until 0008 UTC, when I had gone for six full minutes without a single answer to my CQs. I had to go to 40 meters to work anyone. The frequency was so wonderful. It was just so heart-breaking.

The second-to-last hour of the contest the most painful. I made only 21 QSOs. I really could not get anything going anywhere I tried. 20 meters was gone, and 80 meters wasn't there yet.

I never worked the Northern Territories, and I was afraid I'd finish with only 78 multipliers, as I had not worked Newfoundland, either, but a VO1 station called in on 80 meters and worked me in the final ten minutes of the contest. I never did hear either VY1JA or VY1MB. Every other section I worked at least three times, except Alaska, which I only worked once. I heard maybe a dozen signals on 10 meters all weekend, all stations I had worked before, and I never bothered to check out 160 meters.

In the second hour of the contest I had the most bizarre exchange given to me by an LAX station: "Please copy four one alpha..." There was a slight pause, almost not worth noticing, between the four and the one, so I decided to get a a repeat on the number and precedence, just to be sure, by asking, "Is that forty-one alpha?" "No, no, it's four one alpha." "Your number and precedence is forty-one alpha, QSL?" "It's four one alpha, four one alpha." "So, it's forty-one alpha?" "No, negative, it's four one alpha." "The number is four one, forty-one?" "Negative, the number is four." "The number is just four?" "QSL." "OK, what's your precedence?" "One alpha. The precedence is one alpha." Sigh.

Thanks to Robert Brandon K5PI, who came out to the station Friday night to make sure everything was ready to go on Saturday. Thanks to Bryan W5KFT for letting me use his fabulous radio station on the lake.


160 - Inverted V @ 145'

 80 - Sloping dipoles - NE, NW from 150', SE from 135'

 40 - Cushcraft 40-2CD @ 150', rotatable
      Cushcraft 40-2CD @ 70', fixed NE

 20 - Hy-Gain 204BA @ 157', rotatable
      Hy-Gain 204BA @ 105', fixed NE
      Hy-Gain 204BA @ 53', fixed NE
      Hy-Gain TH7DXX @ 60', rotatable

 15 - Hy-Gain 155CA @ 135', rotatable
      Hy-Gain 155CA @ 90', fixed NE
      Hy-Gain 155CA @ 45', fixed NE
      Hy-Gain TH7DXX @ 60', rotatable

 10 - Hy-Gain 105CA @ 140', rotatable
      Hy-Gain 105CA @ 100', fixed NE
      Hy-Gain 105CA @ 60', fixed NE
      Hy-Gain 105CA @ 30', fixed NE
      Hy-Gain TH7DXX @ 60', rotatable

Radio 1:  Kenwood TS-850SAT, Ameritron AL-1200
Radio 2:  Kenwood TS-850SAT, Ameritron AL-1500
Headset:  Heil Proset
DVK:      W9XT Contest Card
Software: TR Log 6.78
Other:    SX0B StackMatches, Ameritron RCS-8V switches, ICE bandpass filters,
          Top Ten Devices Band Decoders, Top Ten Devices DXDoubler, CDE rotors

Contest Logging was done with TR LOG contest logging software. The following reports and log were created using TR LOG's post-contest processor.

Last Updated 14 April 2016