“Well, Chad, last weekend’s Worldwide HF Contest is over, I’m back to my old sub-normal self again, and I thought I needed to summarize my experience in the contest for you.

“Actually, we did very well.  My QSO production rate averaged 103.2 per hour, and I peaked at 141 per hour toward the end of the contest.  I haven’t calculated my points score yet, and of course all the other operators’ logs haven’t yet been submitted to the judges, but I’m quite confident that I will again place in the top ten on this one.  Whenever I enter one of these contests, it’s my sole intention to get my name and kisser into the magazine, so that I can gloat to all the little munchkins who have the audacity to enter the same contest which I am dominating.

“I put a lot of time and attention into the preparations for this one.  To begin with, I’ve always been a little dubious about the transmission line out to my three acre antenna farm.  So I improved it by tuning up the open wire lines and replacing the 1 5/8″ semi-rigid line (which is good to about 10 kW at HF frequencies) with 4″ rigid copper UHF television, air-dielectric transmission plumbing.  Expensive, but with it I can keep the line losses <0.1 dB.  At my contest power level every watt (well, in reality, every 100 watts) not lost in the transmission line certainly counts toward victory!

Pre-Contest Checkout of Antenna System
Pre-Contest Checkout of Antenna System

“I’ve been concerned about the electrical company power feed to my house/shack.  During past contests I’ve watched the neighbors’ lights flicker at my modulation rate, so this time I wanted no limitations and no problems from the neighbors.  I went out and rented one of those trailer-mounted Diesel “whisper generators,” the kind that the movie studios use to power an outdoor film shoot.  You can hardly hear the gen running from five feet away, so the movie company can record sound outdoors without any problems.  This generator was rated at 0.25 MW, electrical, and it provided three phase 480 volts AC power, just perfect for my new amplifier (see below).  No power limitations here!

“My contest transceiver is a little known German-made model, expensive and produced primarily for use by the German Federal Army.  The receiver’s third-order intercept point is +70 dBm, so strong-signal blocking of the front end is never observed.  I can tolerate a strong CW signal only 11 Hz away from the weak signal I’m working.  The transmitter power output is the standard 400 watts, but this puny power level is not any problem at all with the array of amplifiers I have available (see below).

“A month before the contest I sent the transceiver to the US shops of the equipment distributor, for micro-alignment and performance certification against their NIST-traceable standards.  It was returned in immaculate condition, almost glowing in the dark and ready for immediate contesting.

 

Contest ready! The Power Amplifier and Heavy Duty Power Supply Cabinets
Contest ready! The Power Amplifier and Heavy Duty Power Supply Cabinets

“The amplifier, of course, is my secret weapon.  I’m releasing this information about it solely to you, with the imperative that it goes no farther!  The news is that I have a new design for a one-tube HF “annihilator.”  I contracted out the building of this, and by contest time it was tested and ready to go into service.

“This amp uses a 4CX15000A ceramic power tetrode.  This is the tube used in the PA stage of those regional FM broadcast stations operating with the maximum FCC-authorized power.  The tube would also make a good driver for megawatt shortwave broadcast gear, a power level to which I naturally aspire, but I have to keep my power down to some sort of reasonable contesting level!  I won’t admit on paper to exactly how much power I get from the new amp, but RF induction-heated plastic molding would be child’s play for it.

“To drive the “annihilator” amplifier, I use a “legal limit plus” commercial grade desktop amplifier between the (reduced) 100 watt output of the transceiver and the input of the annihilator.  This intermediate amplifier seems to provide just about enough drive for the brute.

“Keeping an accurate contest log is a major requirement, and I know that I couldn’t work stations at my customary rate and log them simultaneously.  So I found a handy expedient.  I hired a pair of stenographers to keep the logs.  Both of these lovely young ladies are certified at 25 wpm CW, so I can work all modes as the occasion requires.  They alternated working shifts around the clock.

“I’m proud to say that I was able to operate all the way through the contest, the full seventy-two hours, without even a cat nap.  I made every contest minute count.  My family brought in food and drink on a scheduled basis, and they didn’t mind doing it since all electronic devices in the house were inoperative anyway.  Over the three contest days I filled a total of two-and-a-half gallon bottles that were situated under the operating desk and attached to me by a catheter.  The other sanitary preparations will go un-described.  A chair-massage expert applied his skills to me twice a day.

“Fortunately my neighbors, for once, were cooperative.  No one complained about the Diesel generator running continuously in the driveway, or about any drooping electrical line voltage at their house.  One neighbor, an ex-Navy seaman, did knock at my door with an observation of “St. Elmo’s Fire” dancing around the tops of my antennas.  I assured him that it was just a visual special effect, and that he had nothing to fear from it.

Software and Adaptive Antennas Ensured Precise Signal Targetting
Software and Adaptive Antennas Ensured Precise Signal Targetting

“In terms of my working the bands, I just dominated them and I loved every minute of it!  I would show up at a congested spot on the band, go key down for 10 or so seconds, and the current activity would clear out.  Finding a great operating frequency was never a problem!

“My most satisfying contact was with BY1A.  Peng-Shi was located in a small farming village in central China, running 20 watts from a salvaged Chinese Red Army tank transmitter to a backyard steel clothes line.  I got my expected 20/S9 signal report from him even though the band wasn’t open at the time, and that helped to assure me that my station was still in peak operating shape.     After working him I parked on the frequency, key down, for about five minutes to set a little order on the band.  When I unkeyed there was complete silence.  That always pleases me!

“Web cameras at strategic locations in my neighborhood kept watch on the surroundings, and from my operating position I was able to glance at their views on the screens in my shack.  Fortunately no FCC monitoring vans showed up at all during the contest.

“I really wish I didn’t have to go to these lengths to place in the top 10 operators in the contest.  But even with all this trouble and expense, I’m still just barely keeping up with the Big Dogs.

“So there you are, with all my experiences during this past contest weekend.  I’m reasonably satisfied with the drill (at least until the final results are announced).  But there’s a new contest coming up in a few weeks, and I want to be ready to take that one as well.  I’m looking at some needed station improvements with the goal of increasing my signal worldwide by yet another two S-units.  I think I can pull it off.” – 73, Cur, AH5BS

About The Author

The Old RF Curmudgeon has been poking his beak into the RF world for very close to fifty years. With both commercial and amateur radio experience, close contacts in broadcast engineering, radio site management experience, lots of paper pushed into the FCC, an immense curiosity about “how things work,” and a “real gud college education,” the RF Curmudgeon has seen a lot of telecom evolution. And he remembers almost all of it, can relate historical items to “modern developments,” and has a sharp sense of “what’s proper….and what’s not!”

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