The much-anticipated North American QSO Party July RTTY contest has come and gone and I have 140 new contacts in the log to show for it. I really thought I’d have twice that many, but since this is my first real contest effort, I’ll take the low number and chalk it up as practice for the next one.
I’d been looking forward to this contest since I discovered I enjoyed RTTY during Field Day this year. I tried to get myself in the mindset of a true contester in the week leading up to it, getting my station optimized, making sure my macros looked OK, testing and re-testing N1MM, and finally, on Saturday, making sure my schedule was clear for the day starting at 1800z.
There are several aspects of this contest I really appreciate: One, it’s limited to 100 watts; two, the exchange is simple, just name and state; and three, the duration of the contest is only 12 hours, and operators are only allowed to participate for 10 hours during that period. I planned to work the full 10 hours.
When 2 p.m. rolled around I tuned over to 20 meters and found a wall of stations up and down and outside the segment of the band normally used for RTTY. I quickly discovered my rig wasn’t up to the task thanks to its lack of filters. Strong adjacent signals made it difficult to complete a single QSO and I spent more than 30 minutes just tuning around trying to get my first contact in the log. I thought my rig or software was screwed up, then I finally broke through and made contact with the first of many stations from Texas on 20 meters.
I decided to try 15 meters and see what the action looked like there. Within seconds of changing bands I had a new QSO in the log. I camped on 15 for a few hours and scored nearly 30 QSOs, then decided to break for about 15 minutes to grab a sandwich.
Things had calmed down on 20 meters so I tried a few contacts there and scored a dozen or so, then returned to 15 meters to grab a few more before the band closed down. By now dusk was approaching and a handful of stations had migrated to 40 meters. I called CQ and grabbed a handful of stations on a short run, and decided to return to 20 meters and try to work until the band started closing.
From about 10 p.m. onward it was 40 meters with a few dips into 80 meters, although the lower band proved very problematic, as most stations either couldn’t hear me or they couldn’t decode my signal. Almost every time I responded to a signal I was met with the irksome AGN? AGN? macro. Judging by how loud many of the 80 meter signals were, I’d be really surprised if all those guys were using 100 watts or less, but perhaps they just have awesome antennas.
Almost all my contacts were made from searching and pouncing on signals. That’s not how I wanted to roll, and no doubt that resulted in the lower QSO count. I just couldn’t get a run going.
I was also surprised at how many stations muffed my call sign, even though I sent it repeatedly in some cases. I think the issue may be that some RTTY contesters just don’t expect to see a KK4XXX-generation ham on the bands. It does look funny compared to all the 1×2 and 2×1 calls.
I stopped working at 1 a.m. to complete the 10-hour period. My score summary is below and I really don’t have anything to compare it to. I don’t know if this is a good score, a bad one, or just mediocre. I approached the contest with 110% intensity and I feel like I did as good as I could with the antenna and rig that was available to me. If nothing else, I gained some experience for the next one.
NAQP RTTY July 2013 by the Numbers
- Total QSOS logged: 140
- Unique states worked: 35 (Did not get AK or HI)
- Unique provinces worked: 3 (ON, QC, NB)
- Unique DX worked: 3 (Cuba, Belgium, Mexico)
- Total points: A meager 8,820
N1MM band/QSO summary
Band QSOs Mults ------------------- 80: 5 4 40: 68 24 20: 32 19 15: 34 12 10: 1 1 ------------------- Total: 140 60 Total Score = 8,820
So NAQP RTTY is in the log and I’m looking forward to the ARRL Rookie RTTY Roundup (Yes, I’ve been licensed less than three years, so I can participate) on August 18! I may have a secret weapon ready for that one…