niedziela, 10 lipca 2016

It's over...

A few days of preparations (less in last year - finally everything is ready), three days of building antennas and station, 24 hours fun and 6 hours of station disassembling.

Every year I promised myself that it was the last time. But this is like wandering in mountains - when you walking up you wonder why the hell you do it and whose idea it was. But when you reach the top you forget how difficult it was and enjoy the moment. Also a few moments later when watching pictures or films you start to plan a next trip. I have exactly the same with IARU contest. Maybe somehow this time I'm a little bit less exhausted than I used to be. No idea why - I built more antennas than usually, it was terribly hot this time, I lost a windscreen in the car and my rotator died and I had to manually rotate whole mast with antenna. So why I'm still alive this evening and even able to write? Again no idea.

Maybe because the highest result I have ever made - 272 Qso and over 70.000 points (the highest was 254 and 60.000). Maybe because I had expected bad propagation and worthless contest and it was pretty good and interesting? It seems that there were less dx stations (less South and North America, no Japan) but probably more local stations...

I started on Thursday after finishing my work hours. It took 2 hours to assemble Spiderbeam antenna. Would be faster but discovered that the glue between o-rings and Spiderbeam tubes lost strength and this had to be fixed (for now temporarily by tape but later will have to glue it again).

Friday was antenna day - at the EOD (we use this in the bank = End Of Day) all three antennas - Spiderbeam, GP and Delta 40m were up. I checked SWR with VNA and also listened to some bands on KX3.

Saturday morning - just before the contest - some latest amendments to Delta 40m and building the station in the car. I was more or less in the middle when realised that I miss some cable - USB cable to connect K3 to computer.. Luckily I took one more additional USB-Serial converter and this was used instead. Next year I should make a check-list with all cables listed (on my current one I have just one position: "cables"...).

I have to do some final tuning to Delta 40m antenna as was tuned before in different place and on different height. Surprising was that when I attempt to change the length of the bottom leg the SWR was only higher... Then I incidentally lowered the middle of the bottom leg and SWR dropped to 1.2. Finally I shortened the bottom leg for around 150cm and lowered middle of it fixing to the mast and final SWR was close to 1. Strange - never heard about such method of tuning delta antenna.

At 2pm (12:00 GMT) I was ready to start. 

This year contest was quite "calm" - I could reach on my QRP 5w most of stations I could hear. Of course not all of them - 5w is 200 less than 1kW and best antenna will not fix it. Probably also strength of my signal was much weaker than all the stations with 1kW but during the contest everybody puts more effort to receive even weak stations.

Following advices from Rick DJ0IP ( I had some very interesting conversation with Rick related to my new Delta antenna) I tried to not use the antenna tuner - all my antennas are pretty well tuned and according to Rick tuner introduces additional and unnecessary loss (minimal but always...). Probably no big gain but at least I dint have to ensure that tuner is properly tuned on every band (I guess K3 does it automatically but I was always checking).

Shortly after midnight when I tried to turn antenna to some direction the rotator stopped following the orders.. It appeared that can turn antenna right but couldn't do it to left direction :( I tried to review all connections, tuning unit, rotator but everything looked OK except that didn't work. Finally I had to disconnect rotator from the mast and till now I was "manual rotator" for my antenna. It affected whole next day so instead of turning antenna for every station I was pointing antenna into one direction and then trying to sweep through all three bands 20,15 and 10m. Sometimes when some specially valuable station appeared (multiplier) I was running to antenna and manually set desired direction.

The contest finished on Sunday at 2pm. Next 5 hours I spent on disassembling everything and putting back to boxes. Now these boxes are waiting at home for the right place (radio I have to install but  when I think about all these cables that need to be connected again...) 

Power usage for this year (seems to be much less than previous years)..

Rotator & notebook:

Radio & panadapter:

Green: AGM 107Ah (not charged additionally)
Red: two 70Ah car baterries (charged additionally 3..4x 20 min running engine). Btw: such 20 minutes was able to lift battery voltage from around 12V to 12.6. It really helps...

And finally ..

This year results are promising...

However it always depends on overall performance of all participants..