Anyone that has been involved with amateur radio for any period of time has most likely heard tales of the Dayton Hamvention. If you have never been, it is an event unlike anything you can imagine. Rows and rows of tables in the outdoor area where you can find most anything you desire related to this wonderful hobby. Inside is crammed full of vendors with all the latest gear. Going to Dayton is something every ham should do at least once in their ham radio experience. Dayton also has extra-curricular activities such as Contest University, banquets for DX’ers, DStar, AMSAT, Contesting and on. But, what if you cannot get to Dayton? What if cramming yourself along with 25,000 others into the inside buildings to hide from the frequent Spring rains in Dayton is not your cup of tea? Whatever the reason you cannot get to Dayton, that does not mean you cannot experience some part of it.
Through the wonders of technology, there are several ways to experience Dayton from afar. While it is certainly NOT the same as being there, you can experience some of the wonder that is the Dayton Hamvention from the comforts of your own home. Read on to see how to see some of these online opportunities.
First up is Contest University. Contest University brings together some of the World’s best contesters to conduct training for everyone interested in radiosport. Thanks to Icom, you can watch most of Contest University online. Click here for a full schedule of events starting Thursday at 8:00 AM. You can use the same link for the DStar events on Friday.
As far as the actual hamfest itself, you can watch live streaming of the hamfest via W5KUB.COM. Tom W5KUB has been streaming the hamfest live for several years. He has a table inside the commercial area and does interviews and walk-a-rounds to allow folks watching at home to get a feel for the happenings in Dayton. A nice benefit is the chat room where folks can share the experience with others and win nice door prizes all donated by vendors. There is absolutely no charge for this service but you are certainly encouraged to make a donation (especially if you win a prize). You can find all the information about the live streaming event at w5kub.com.
There you have it. While it is not the same as being there, you can still experience some of what the Dayton Hamvention has to offer from the comforts of your own home.
This year, SPARC contest station W4TA participated in the Florida QSO Party with a special 1×1 call: W4S. 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the FQP. In celebration, twenty Florida stations were given special 1×1 calls such that the proper suffixes, when combined together, spell out FLORIDA SUN as part of this year’s FQP spelling bee. That means that the rest of the country was looking for us.
N4RI works the CW station [N2ESPhoto]
Things started slowly for the CW station on 40M while the SSB station took off like a rocket on 20M. It’s safe to say propagation was equally poor for all event participants. Having amplifiers to drive our new antenna system enabled us to be heard around the country. We worked all 50 states and 8 of the 9 Canadian provinces, with a few DX countries thrown in for good luck. We were also fortunate to work SPARC member Lisa KC1YL who was at her northern QTH in CT. Thanks for the Q Lisa.
The FQP started Saturday at noon, and so did the food. Many thanks to Tom W4CU for the crockpot of chili and to Bob WB4MCF for the donuts. Sunday morning we were treated to fresh bagels courtesy of Tom NY4I.
KB8ESY (L) backup logging while N4GD (R) working the phone station [N2ESPhoto]
SPARC has a policy of encouraging newcomers to our hobby. We invite new hams and first timers to join us in the fun. While this can have a short term negative effect (on our score) the long term effect is very positive. In this sprit, Dave KR4U told us of his five minute QSO. We all looked at him in amazement, as Dave is a proficient CW operator. We all know that propagation was lame at best with lots of QSB. But five minutes? Must have been a lot of fills…FIVE MINUTES? Dave went on to explain that he was calling CQ FQP and a station returned around 5 WPM. Dave reduced his speed and sent our exchange. What ensued was hi, my name is … my QTH is… my radio is… my WX is… the typical newbie QSO. Dave recognized the situation and kept the QSO going…for five minutes. The toughest 2 points in our log, but worth 1000 QSO quality points. Thanks Dave for acting in the true amateur tradition.
KP2N (L) backup logging while KB8ESY (R) works the phone station [N2ESPhoto]
Operators participating in this event were Bob N2ESP, Dave KR4U, Dee N4GD, Johnnie W4TSP, Paul KA4IOX, Rex, KB8ESY, Ron KP2N, Scotty N4RI, Tom NY4I and Tom W4CU.
The final score indicated 613 CW QSOs and 733 SSB QSOs. A great showing for SPARC as we represented Pinellas County to the ham radio community.
This month, join the contesters at SPARC Contest station W4TA as they use the special 1×1 call sign W4S in the Florida QSO Party. The object of the Florida QSO Party is for everyone to work Florida (67 counties) and Florida to work everyone.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the FQP. In celebration, twenty Florida stations have been given special 1×1 calls such that when the proper suffixes are combined together spell out FLORIDA SUN (e.g. SUN = W4S & K4U & W4N). Working the right combination of these stations makes you eligible for the FQP Spelling Bee Award.
SPARC will be operating as W4S for 10 hours (April 29 1600Z (Noon EDT) – 0159Z (9:59 PM EDT) Sunday, April 30 1200Z (8 AM EDT) – 2159Z (5:59 PM EDT) 20 Hours total using both CW and SSB modes. If you would like the opportunity to work the receiving end of a pile up, please sign up with Ron, KP2N.
The W4TA SPARC contest team set another club record this weekend. Eight operators were able to make 950 QSOs and 147 multipliers in 12 hours on four different bands for a total of 139,650 claimed points. Our previous record was 94,416 claimed points in July of 2012. Quite an improvement.
Special thanks to Ron, KP2N in organizing, preparing for and keeping the effort on track. Additionally for keeping the equipment humming (and making noise), and for his patience in mentoring the less experienced members of the team,
Additional thanks to Tom, NY4I, for getting our logging software up to date, to Joy, XYL of W4CU, for the batch of crockpot meatballs, to Ron, KP2N for the Sloppy Joes, to Roger, K4SHI, for the loan of a 15 meter bandpass filter, and to Tom, W4CU and Rex, KB8ESY for repairing the dipole support pole and getting it back in the air.
Operators participating in this contest were: Rex ,KB8ESY; Paul, KA4IOX; John, KI4UIP; Dave, KR4U; Ron, KP2N; Bob, N2ESP; Dee, N4GD; Scotty, N4RI; Don, VE3XD; Tom, W4CU and Leslie, WA4EEZ.
This contest will be run again in July. If you would like to participate, contact one of the happy team members above for information.
Prior to this weekend, the highest score the SPARC Contesters managed in the CQ WPX RTTY contest was a commendable 4th place (U.S) in the Multi operator, Single transmitter category with a 2.3 million-point showing in 2009. That effort used the callsign AK4K with operators KP2N, N1XX, N2ESP, N4RI, VE3XD and W4CU. After this weekend, that club record is no more.
AK4K 2009 WPX RTTY Certificate
This weekend’s effort in the CQ WPX RTTY contest exceeded that score by a good margin. Operators for this weekend’s contest were Ron KP2N, Tom W4CU, Scotty N4RI, Dave KR4U, Don VE3XD, Richard, N4BUA, Bob N2ESP, Johnnie W4TSP, Paul KA4IOX, Rex KB8ESY and Tom NY4I. The team kept the station on the air for the full 48 hours of the contest. A feat even more impressive when you consider this was also the weekend of the Orlando hamfest and several of the operators also attended the hamfest on Saturday. By this time you might be wondering, what the heck is the CQ WPX RTTY Contest?
As with most contests, the objective is to contact as many other stations as possible. The mode this weekend was RTTY, which is digital mode that you may hear above the PSK portion of the HF bands. It is distinctive by its characteristic “diddle” sound. As with any digital mode, the main interface is a computer that generates the keying signals for the radio (FSK) and decoding software that processes the received audio into text readable by the operator and the computer logging software. There are many types of contests and each has its own specific objectives. Usually one is interested in points—the number of stations you contact—along with multipliers, which are the unique twist for each contest. For example, in DX contests different countries count as a multiplier. So if I have 10 contacts—each for one point—and work 5 different countries, the score is 50. The scoring for each contact varies—as in this contest contacts with our own continent (North America) are worth one point, but contacts with other countries are worth 3 points. But the basic idea of multiplying QSO points by the number of unique “multipliers” gives the score. That means we always want to add as many multipliers as possible. Now in many contests, there are far more US stations than DX stations. But in the WPX contest, unique prefixes are the multiplier. That means that if we use a call that has a somewhat rare prefix, we are the multiplier and other stations want to work us. This weekend we used your author’s callsign, NY4I. As NY4 is only a 2×1 prefix (there was no NY4AA or NY4AAA issued), there are only 26 stations in the entire world that have the NY4 prefix. While there are some NY4 stations that are also contesters (NY4A), we did not hear any other stations in this weekend contest. What this means, is that the operators at the club station could act like the DX stations and camp out in one place and call CQ the entire weekend. This is known as “running a frequency”. This is a much more efficient way to make contacts rather than searching for other stations and working them (Search & Pounce). If you have any wondered how it would be to operate on the other side of the pileup where stations call you, a prefix contest is the place to be.
Tom NY4I working another multiplier
WriteLog in operation
We had plenty of food available to keep the team running. The famous contest chili was there as well as hot dogs, drinks, doughnuts and the usual assortment of goodies in the station. As fas as the equipment, we used the newly elevated Log Periodic for the 20 and 15 meter bands and a simple dipole for the 80 and 40 meter band. The equipment was an Elecraft K3 and an SPE 1.3k-FA solid-state amplifier running around 1200 watts. The software used was the club standard WriteLog which particularly excels at RTTY contests.
So, how did we do? The total points submitted for this contest were over 3 million! We had 1923 contacts with 675 unique prefixes for a total score of 3,121,200. Not too bad at all!
This was a great team effort led by Ron KP2N as the organizer. Many thanks to all the operators that came out and supported the effort. We will not know r where we placed in the standings for a few months, but regardless, this was a great testament to what this club station can do especially after the hard work of the club’s tower project. The only thing missing from this weekend was you! We had new operators this weekend as well as old pros. The camaraderie of the operating team makes it a great way to spend some time “playing radio”. As I have said many times, you do not need experience. You just need a desire to learn something new, have fun with some fellow hams, and get on the radio. Our next planned contest is also a RTTY contest but this is a short one. It starts at 1:00 PM on Saturday, February 25. Right after that is a phone contest on March 4rd. This is the ARRL SSB International DX contest. This contest encourages DX stations to work US stations so while not as big a multiplier as NY4 in a prefix contest, it still gives plenty of opportunities to work DX. Watch the new Club Station Activities page for more information. We welcome all to come down and operate or just stop by the watch and learn. I promise you will have a great time no matter what you choose to do.
In order to let people know what club contesting activities are planned, there is now a page that members and guests can review. This will be updated with information about each contest and the planned schedule of operating. You can find this page in the menu on the left side of the club website as well as here. If there is other information you would like to see here, please email NY4I@arrl.net.