Warming the Clouds during a Real Artic Cold RAC Winter Contest

The Radio Amateur of Canada (RAC) Winter Contest was on the air December 17, 2016. With SFI = 71 and SSN = 0 the higher bands were expected to remain closed, and with K = 3 and an unsettled geomagnetic field the lower bands were not expected to be at their prime either.

I operated from my QTH in the National Capital, both CW and SSB using the ICOM 706MKIIG at abt. 50W (i.e., not QRP), tuning along the bands with no pan-adapter, no CW decoder and, of course, no cluster help. The only concession to technology was making use of the RCKLog program for the log of the contest. The antenna was the 50+ Ft. quasi-vertical end-fed wire up the tree contiguous to the shack. The LDG RT-100 is able to bring the SWR in this antenna down to acceptable operational values in all bands 10m-80m.

All exchanges were made manually using the AME single-paddle “Bushwacker” at speeds of about 30 wpm. Exchanges had to be sent manually because the ICOM 706MKIIG, although it does have a keyer, it does not sport CW memories as does the ICOM 703.

Although with a paddle I can send up to 30-35 wpm, currently and without decoding assistance I can only receive continuous CW at speeds between 15 and 20 wpm. Most of the CW in the bands was happening above those speeds. However, short words I can decode at higher speeds, particularly if I hear them repeated a few times. Hence I had little difficulty with the callsigns. The serial numbers from DX stations did require the occasional “NR?” or an “AGN”, but for the most part I was able to get them at first try.

For the SSB contacts I made use of the DSP filters, the RF/AF and the IF-Shift to reduce the background noise and transmissions were made with compression at mid-range. Overall, I think I did as good as can be expected given the equipment used, the time allocated and the fact that I did not prioritized VE contacts over DX.

At the end of the contest I had logged 87 contacts in 4 bands including 8 Canadian Provinces together with half-a-dozen DXCC’s and four “RAC” stations (important towards the final score). But the largest surprise came from the few long distant contacts made in the 80-meter band: Some of these were a first for that band in all my logs: F5, CA, LA, FL, GA, AB. Here is a map with only the contacts made in the 80m band:

va3pcj-rac-winter-contest-80-meter-band-2

And BTW, during the contest the temperature increased steadily outside the shack (from -20ºC to -8ºC, w/o windshield factor…). Maybe radio-waves do warm the clouds after all.

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