The NCJ (National Contest Journal) is a publication of the ARRL. It sponsors two North American (NA) short contests in three different modes (SSB, RTTY or CW): the “NA Sprint” and the “NA QSO Party”. The latter is a 12-hour contest whose CW versions take place in January and August. This are classic events in radio-amateur contesting in North America, with 2016 being their 25th year.
A feature of the NAQP is that it encourages team participation. In the past I have participated just as myself, but this year the Ottawa Valley QRP Society decided to operate as a team. I offered to join and was accepted. I knew I was not going to break any records but being part of a team effort, even in friendly competitions like this one, demands some form of commitment. Hence, I set to try my best.
The rig was the KX3 at 5 Watts. I preferred the KX3 over the ICOM 703 mainly due to the ease for changing CW speed at the turn of a knob (i.e., without the use of a menu). However, the superb receiving and filtering abilities of the KX3 are what really sets it apart from its competition in the shack.
My best choice at hand for an antenna was the long-wire-up-the-tree (end-fed via the LDG RT-100 and with a set of elevated 1/4 WL wires as counterpoise). This “quasi” vertical “random” wire readily tunes from 10m to 80m but not in 160m, so I knew I was going to be missing the opportunity for additional multipliers.
The logging software was the latest version of RumPed running in the MacBook Pro and the key was the Bencher Iambic paddle. RumPed could read the frequency and the mode from the KX3 but did not PTT the rig. For this I did made use of the memories in the KX3, but most exchanges were transmitted manually. Also I search and tune with the VFO knob as I do not use a Panadapter or any of the SDR capabilities of the KX3.
I chose to use my primary callsign (VA3PCJ). VA3PCJ is longer to transmit in CW than VE3DTI. However, the “J” at the end is easier to pick than the “I”. The exchange to be reported was “name and province”: transmitting “JOSE ON” seemed to have caused some confusion. I made sure to correct those who asked but a few may have logged my name as “JOE”, “JOS”, “JOSH” or even “JOHN”.
Roughly, I operated in 20m the first third of the contest, in 40m the second and in 80m the last third. Under current propagation conditions 10m was out of the question. I did hear some faint signals in 15m but at my location the background noise in this band was high. 20m was fine with some QSB though it faded early. 40m was the busiest but the signals had some flutter (an effect of the unusually high Electron Flux?). Towards the end 80m was the only band that remained open.
Here is a map of all the QSOs (always nice to confirm how the range of the contacts diminishes with increasing band wave-length) and their time-line during the 12 hours of the contest:
My logging software (RumPed) estimated my operating time at 5.2 hours. However, I estimate my “sitting time” significantly longer than that.
Fortunately – and as expected – my experienced teammates did much better than myself and my effort ended contributing just 10% of the Team Total Score. I wish it had been more but having surpassed 100 QSOs and logged 35 S&P’s I did not feel too displeased with my performance. Overall, a very enjoyable radio experience, with added camaraderie and time flying-by quite unnoticeably…