Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 IOTA Contest

I operated a contest yesterday that I'd only ever done before as as DX, The RSGB IOTA contest. In this contest, any station can work any other station, but if you work an island (as defined by the organizers [note that the link goes to a PDF file]) it is worth more points (15, instead of 3 for a non-island contact) and each island you work counts as a multiplier, increasing your score. The contest has some interesting rules regarding hours of operations (you can submit as a "12 hour" or "24 hour" contestant) and some categories that are different from many other contests. (e.g., "Island DXpedition"). I decided that I'd try to operate in the 12-hour, low-power assisted  mixed category as "world" station. That means that my operating time was 12 hours or less, I used 100 watts to transmit, I used the packet cluster to help locate stations, operated both phone and CW, and I was not located on a island.

Unlike many other contests which typically start either in the evening or mid-afternoon for me, this one started at 8AM local (Eastern Daylight Time), and, not being a "morning person", I didn't get on the air until around 11:30 AM, and was a little disappointed to find out that the band conditions didn't seem to be as good as I'd hoped. I started off on 20m phone and made a handful of contacts in the first 20 minutes. I realized that if 15m was open, if I wanted to work anyone outside the US it would have to be early in the afternoon. I switched over to 15m and found ... nothing. Well, almost nothing. I did manage to work two stations in about 10 minutes, one on phone and one on CW. Clearly 15m was not going to be a productive band.

I moved back to 20m and worked stations steadily, thought not terribly quickly using Search & Pounce to find stations. I worked a few dozen stations on phone, then another dozen or so on CW and moved back to phone. After another hour of S&P, I was lucky enough to find a clear frequency to call CQ to try to "run" stations. (During most contests, it's pretty tough to find and keep a frequency, especially for a small station like mine.) I called CQ for a couple of minutes and got one reply from a station in Poland, then about a minute later got a reply from my friend David, K2DSL, who is located nearby. We chatted briefly, then I moved on to work other stations. All of a sudden, a number of stations all started calling me. It turned out that David had "spotted" me on the packet cluster. When that happens many stations will tune to the spot frequency to work whoever is there. For someone like me being spotted is terrific because it significantly increases the rate at which  I can work stations. Prior to being spotted, I'd operated for around 4 hours and had made around 100 contacts, for a rate of around 25/hr. One hour after being spotted I'd worked an additional 65 stations, almost tripling my rate. I finally gave up the frequency after about 90 minutes, making 75 QSOs during that time which comes to around 50/hr. (The final 20 minutes or so of that period was considerably slower). In any case I had a great time and it was a lot of fun being the person that was being called, rather than having to hunt.

After time out for dinner (we were out with friends), I got back on the air at around 11:30PM. The only band that was open at the time was 40m, and because of atmospheric noise due to all the thunderstorms in and around the east coast, the band was very noisy. It was very slow going making contacts, and I suspect that some of the ones that I made then will turn out to be incorrect, since I had a particularly difficult time getting the details of the contest exchange. (For this contest, you gave a serial number, starting at one, and, if located on an island, the island identifier). I gave up after about 90 minutes, with a total of 210 contacts in my log. I thought that it was a pretty decent effort for the seven hours that I operated. Here's my score summary:

        Band  Mode  QSOs     Pts  Sec
           7  CW      10     138    9
           7  LSB     22     246   13
          14  CW      45     399   13
          14  USB    130     990   27
          21  CW       2      18    1
          21  USB      1       3    0
       Total  Both   210    1794   63

            Score : 113,022


  1. Fantastic job! 15m was useless for me as well.

    When I'm contesting more casually like I was during the IOTA contest, if I'm using the cluster, after spotting a station that wasn't previously spotted, I often hang around a bit to see what impact it has. I noticed that both IOTA and non-IOTA stations yesterday saw a good blip when spotted and they weren't already on the cluster.

    I listened on your frequency for about 10 mins after we worked and then I spotted you. I could hear all but one of the first stations that you worked after being spotted. You were getting some nice DX calling including some IOTA stations.

    After we got home from dinner (seems to be the same time as you - 11:30pm local time) I only worked a few mins and snagged Hawaii and Australia before turning off the radio.

    Real nice job on the Q's and score!

  2. I did indeed get some nice DX calling in. In that span of 90 minutes, I worked 25 different DXCC entities. None of those will help my DXCC totals, but it's nice to see that even with pretty modest band conditions it's still possible to do decently. I worked a total of 46 DXCC entities in the contest in addition to the 63 IOTAs, but I'll need to do some more analysis to figure out how many of the IOTAs are new.

  3. DAVID,Pf for RSGB IOTA 2010 Contest,
    I only joint on 15m


  4. Yea 15 meters was in the mud here as well.