ARRL DX CW 09

Score and story by Scott Redd K0DQ

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ARRL DX Contest, CW
Call: VY2ZM
Operator(s): K0DQ
Station: VY2ZM
Class: SOAB HP (Unassisted)
QTH: PEI
Operating Time (hrs): 43
Radios: SO2R
 Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Mults
-------------------
  160:  275    71
   80:  695    80
   40: 1215   100
   20: 1769    99
   15:  103    61
   10:    0     0
-------------------
Total: 4057   411  Total Score = 5,001,048

Club: Potomac Valley Radio Club

Antennas:

160:
TX:  4 L steerable vertical array, ~8 db gain to Europe.
RX:  Spread of beverages and a 6 L “six-pack” receiving array which almost
makes W1AW disappear off the rear

80:  4-Square

40:  3 over 3 (homebrew “XM340's”) on ~160’ tower, top rotatable; 2 over 2  (160/85 feet)

 2 over 2 Twin XM240's ~130/80 ft, top rotatable, sharing mast with top 20.

 
20:  Three stack of 5 L modified Big Thunder yagis (on tower with 2 L 40 stack) - 140/100/60 feet


15 & 10:  Four stack of 5 L modified Big Thunder yagis, top for each
rotatable.

 
Beverages - (5) at 880 feet or better

Rx Sixpack - for 160M only



My story by K0DQ......

What an incredible experience from one of the world’s premier stations and locations!  Great contest with a roller-coaster ride of exhilarating moments and more than few “others” in the downside column.   

A tale of two contests.

The highlights.  The first 24 hours saw amazing (to this mid-Atlantic denizen) signals and roaring runs into Europe combined with some of the best SO2R I’ve been able to achieve.  VY2 got the bands early and well and put them to bed satisfied.  160 was a dream and 20 earned its reputation as the money band inbottom cycle.  Jeff’s new 40 meter death ray stack with 10 phased elements into Europe was the piece de resistance that wouldn’t quit.  The first day finished with 2767/333 and fourteen hours over 100 per (including seven 150+ hours).  Only downsides were the high-latitude blues on 15 (forget 10, this was a five band contest) and the continuing presence of a 40 db biological attenuator pad which took up residence in my right inner ear about a week before the contest.

Playing injured.  Then, at 0100Z on day two, the wheel turned.  I almost quit the contest. The proximate cause was a WMD attack by a very nasty biological warfare agent that took over my stomach in a very unwanted coup d'etat. Being reasonably rested going into the contest (another blessing of guest operating), I had planned on taking 1.5 hours off at 08Z.  Instead, I took a total of five hours off during the night and was at half speed the rest of the night and early morning, with some eye watering abdominal pain.  To exacerbate the physical trauma, 20 opened late and we didn’t really “get” the band for almost two hours.  It may have been a blessing in disguise as my SO2R skills - which still require significant cognitive function for this op - degenerated substantially and I would have been hard pressed to keep up with several wide-open bands.  The strategy - driven by necessity - was to press on with the F1 button and do whatever I could on the second radio.  Things finally took a turn for the better about halfway through the 15 meter European “opening” on Sunday when I realized that the northern location wasn’t the only culprit in my low multiplier total on 15 meters.  It suddenly became apparent that the radio I was using on 15 had a defective preamp.  Shifting to a working preamp, the noise floor fell to near zero and I was able to add a dozen whispery central/northern Europe multipliers on 15, including an ESP-level mind meld with OH4A.  I limped to the finish line with a second day of 1290 Q’s - less than half day one - and, more telling, only 78 new mults.  But, in a perfect finish, the last contact was logged at 23:59:45 and the score rolled over from 4.999M to 5 million and a squeak.  Shortly after I was headed for bed with Jeff’s good news/bad news routine ringing in my ears (always take the bad news first - in this case a monster snowstorm sporting 100+ knot winds was roaring inbound from VE9).
Backing up a bit, this story really begins well over a year ago when Jeff graciously invited me to operate ARRL DX CW from PEI in 2008.  Having kept loosely abreast of VY2ZM through contest results and several articles over the years, I jumped at the opportunity in principle, but demurred for last year as I was recovering from double knee replacement surgery (and that on the heels of two of the most challenging - yet rewarding - years of my professional life). The issue became moot when a killer ice storm ravaged the station last January. In God’s providence, I enjoyed the restorative fruits of that disaster in the form of a new and improved 40 meter antenna setup.

VY2ZM: The station.

Simply put, it is pure joy to operate.
There IS a steep learning curve on the hardware side (even more so for someone who does an average of .5 contests a year). This is not a station you arrive at an hour before zero zulu.  The 160 antenna setup is in a league by itself with more switch combinations than a terrorist has aliases.  Eighty is mercifully straightforward with a mundane but highly effective four square (watch this space - the smart money is on another level of complexity and another S unit coming to this theater soon).  Forty isn't far behind 160 in menu diversity (“Would you like a Caribbean deuce with those stacked threes on Europe, sir?”).   The high bands are standard Mercedes Benz three and four stacks with a southward-pointing Toyota tri-bander as chase car.

My biggest concern, a priori, was the keyboard / software setup.  Jeff, in collaboration with Andy, N2NT, has instituted a novel (to me, anyway) setup using two keyboards & computers a la multi-single (yes, Matilda, there is an interlock. . . and it works).  And, to boot, the software is CT.  Having gone through several painful plebe years on TRLog and finally graduating to upperclassman status, I was quite provincial on the software subject and was, ahem, “extremely” reluctant to learn a new system for SO2R.  I had a very good contest at P40Q in November CQWWCW and have grown to really, really like
TRLog for SO2R. . . I especially like the part where you don’t have to move your hands off the keyboard for anything, including the RIT.  Jeff, however, politely responded to my not-so-subtle demarche for relief (“how about we install TRLog?”) with the diplomatic note equivalent of a declaration of war (”that’s really not a good idea”) so, in the presence of force majeure, I compromised. . .  on two keyboards and CT.  I have to admit, it was pretty cool.
I was able to carry on two QSO’s simultaneously, hitting F4 thence F2 on the S&P radio between sending reports and QRZ on the run radio - typing and logging the mult when there was a whisper of a break.  I even got used to the extra key stroke while running on CT, although my fatigued fat fingers would have liked very much somehow to add “TU VY2ZM” to the RETURN key.

Then, there’s this.  The scenery on PEI is some of the most beautiful on God’s earth.  I’d seen the Maritimes in summer, and they are gorgeous as only the north latitudes can be.  But the view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the northeast coast of PEI in winter has a stark, icy glory to it that was breathtaking to this sailor.  And, to top it off, getting there is half the fun.  VY2ZM is literally a mile off the beaten path.  In winter, the laneway (driveway to us southerners) drifts over and the choices are snowmobile or foot-mobile.   Six-foot-four, good-kneed, tower-climbing Jeff was kind enough to take the old man in and out on the Skidoo and make the final trek on foot while I waited in warmth.  The perfect host.  . . for a perfect adventure.

 
Blessings, and thanks for the Q’s. . . and the memories.


Scott, K0DQ / A92Q @ VY2ZM