Monday, 16 July 2012

A 24 hour contest worked: IARU HF Championship

Last weekend I worked a 24 hour contest. The contest was named IARU HF Championship 2012. Here is how it went:

My category:

I decided to participate in the All bands/Low Power/CW/Unassisted category. The arguments for my decision:
  • The All bands category makes it possible to use all the 24 hours efficiently in the contest. Sometimes Single band is ok, but this time my wife gave me a free weekend :)
    The output of my 
    TS-850S is limited to 100-120W. I do not have any external amplifier.
  • I like CW much more than SSB: easier to catch DX. Also I am a quite trained CW operator, maybe giving me some edge in the contest?
  • I have used the N1MM Logger previously, but now I wanted to be an expert user. 
  • I wanted to try the Unassisted category, to test my abilities to find the stations without internet tools like DX Cluster. I really hope others in my category don't cheat...


Some preparations had to be made. The last time I used N1MM it was with my IC-718. The older (but better!) TS-850S  has a different PC interface. The biggest thing is that N1MM expects the the CW operations to go via the RTS pin in the same port as the radio controlling. That makes my SB-1000 pc-to-computer interface useless and I have to solve the problem somehow:

<< This is how two female serial connectors are interfaced...I am just an amateur, right?:)
<< A shortcut to my VOX relay in order to send CW from the COM port to the rig. Yes, very professional soldering again.

Next step was to I define my N1MM macros for CW sending. This is how I did it:
Hopefully my final macro this contest I learned the F keys really well.
Last arrangements:
  • I checked the propagation forecasts for all the bands. 
  • I adviced my kids not to disturb me between Saturday 12UTC and Sunday 12UTC :)
  • I brought the best chair I could find in my house.
  • I printed the ITU zone map and a hotkey list, to access information as briefly as possible during the contest.

My antennas:

  • 10m: my 20m vertical delta loop, up about 20m
  • 15m: my 10m long copper pipe vertical with 3 radials, being an excellent 5/8 wave antenna for this band
  • 20m: the 20m loop mentioned above
  • 40m: the vertical mentioned above: 1/4 GP for this band
  • 80m: my vertical delta loop
These were checked and found to be in shape.

The contest, the first day:

My idea with this contest was to maximize the QSO number, to beat my personal record (which was about 560 in the SAC contest last year). OK, multipliers are needed for good results, but I want to focus on them more in the future, when I get in shape otherwise. My goal was to get 1000 QSOs, so I defined an almost randomly chosen hourly QSO rate goal into my N1MM Logger: 56.

For the first time I had the QSO rate status window open all the time in the contest to check whether I am over or below the goal. The shortest statistics period is 10 minutes. This was really good info for deciding whether to continue with the current activity or if a band change should be made.

Because the 10m was somehow open, I started contesting there. The band could well be closed next day (and it really was!).  Searching and pounching...only a few CQs. Mostly european stations got dx conditions there, so I decided soon to switch to the 15m band. Lots of DX stations easily worked there: US, Canada, South America, Japan etc.

Later in the night I jumped to 20m for a intention was to work that band harder next day. The late night and morning hours I spend calling and searching on 40m and 80m. It was really fun! Previously I worked contests with IC-718 and the splattering and noice made my life hard on 40m. With the TS-850S also the congested 40m band was an enjoyable experience to me. My selective receiver and silent QTH with good wire antennas obviously really made me strong enough on the lower bands. Sometimes I had pileups, where 5 stations called me at the same was so exciting to clear the pileups as smoothly and efficiently and possible.

During the night a major solar storm started...It didn't affect the night conditions, but I was now warned: very bad Sunday to wait for!

The contest, second day:

I went to sleep 5AM local time, because I had worked most stations on 80m and 40m and the solar storm conditions made the 20m silent: no use to sit here listening to the white noise.

When I woke up at 8AM I saw this:
K index 6...maybe the wost solar storm this year! At 8AM local time there were only European stations on 20m, and 15m and 10m remained closed almost until the end of the contest: Only strong European stations heard and nobody heard my CQs. So, the rest of the contest I spent on 20m.

The best period was perhaps the almost 3-hour CQ session on 14.003 MHz. I found a narrow but silent spot there and, gosh: that was a good place! Because my QSO rates was 80-150 QSO/hour all the time I saw no reason to stop calling there. No DX QSOs, only European stations were calling me. Many of the stations were quite weak...even Italians and Spanish, so the solar storm really was affecting the conditions. One hour before the end of the contest, some strong station gently(#%&!) pushed me off the frequency, so the last hour I spent mostly searching and pounching.

I had this score window open all the was nice to see the score going higher and higher. At the end of the contest my claimed result is this: 950 QSOs and 484 575 points.
So, I almost got my 1000 QSOs, which was my goal. Is this good or bad? I am not sure. At least compared to last year, it was not too bad. Here are the Finnish results for 2011. Later this year (hopefully!) I know how good I was :)

Anyway, I had a lot of fun!


  1. Well done Sauli. Excellent preparations for this contest. Imagine your score when the propagation would be good. I think you really did a good job. Now, tidy up your cables....your soldering / isolating is rubbish hihi ;-) 73, Bas

    1. Tnx Bas! You know, I was a little bit in hurry with my rubbish connections luckily worked well in the contest.

      I focused on good antenna connections this time, since I still feel the pain in the back of the SAC contest last autumn, when my 40m/15m antenna SWR meter started dancing in the beginning of the contest. 2 hours later I had the problem localized and corrected: water in the coax...sigh.

  2. Very good result. I was also QRV, but only on 80 m CW between 18 UTC - 02 UTC. 91 QSO:s / 30 HQ:s. Just for fun. A fellow ham set me up to beat him in HQ-QSO:s, and I did; he didn't participate...
    I remeber workin you as well. Cograts on getting the N1MM working. I use CTS for CW keying (RTS has not the CW option) with one 2N2222A transistor. The macros are easy to modify to need. Very much fun to use that software. CU in contests! Thomas / OH6NT

    1. Tnx for your info Thomas! Yes, I worked you on 80m in the contest! :)

      I have to correct myself: the CW is the DTR pin :)

  3. I was quite happy with the final results in the contest:
    55th of 815 in the world,
    36th of 445 in EU
    1st of 4 in Finland