On Sunday 25 March 2007, a cast of operators converged on Quartz Hill for a dabble in the World-Wide Prefix Contest. Attending were: Frank ZL2TTS, David ZL4TAC, Chris ZL1CMB, Andrew ZL2ACG, Wilbert ZL2BSJ and Doug ZL2AOV.

A station was set up around the Quartz Hill FT1000MP, connected to a temperamental logging computer running the 'Writelog' contest logger. Also installed was the ZL2BSJ amplifier. A contest-hardened boom-mike headset completed the main station.

Chris had brought along his trusty TS520, a classic rig with 200 W PEP valve finals, and also a solid-state FT-7. Both these transceivers were put in the front room and patched through to the Rhombic.

Operators Frank, Andrew, David and Chris took turns at the main station and quickly got the hang of the rubber-stamp QSO format that contesters use to get QSOs 'in the can' as fast as possible.

Running a busy contest station is a lot trickier than it seems. It is similar to riding a bicycle: you have to do two or three things right, and do them right all at once, and under time pressure.

When the DX calls, the operator is straining and scrambling to get the callsign typed in correctly. Then he needs to look up the serial number on the screen, think about what he is going to say and get the reply on the air before the caller loses patience and calls again.

The reply has to be fluent enough so that the VOX (voice-operated transmit) does not drop off or breaks up the reply.

Next, the operator has to scramble again, tabbing across to get the received serial number typed in correctly. Finally, the 'thank you' reply needs to go to air, immediately followed by a 'CQ', as the QSO is logged.

The Quartz Hill operators, some of whom where new to contesting, put in a pretty good performance. It was obvious that VOX operation took a bit of getting used to, and perhaps a foot-switch would have made it easier. Those ops with good keyboard skills had an easier ride, being able to concentrate more on the scripted QSO and on copying the DX.

We are presently in a solar minimum and propagation wasn't great, but ZL6QH managed a good run on 15 m into Japan for most of the afternoon using the 5 element 15 m yagi, pointing into the NW.

While the main station was active, the TS520 next door manned by ZL1CMB and ZL2ACG accounted for several 20 m search-and-pounce QSOs into South America and Asia.

On sun-set, the 20 m European long path opened, but signals were - by and large - fairly weak and the window closed after 40 minutes of dense and difficult to copy pile-ups.

In the early evening, ZL6QH went QSY to 40 m in the hope of working North America. Instead, several VKs were worked, but by mid-evening, North America started to come in. Frank ZL2TTS, having been asked to do so by anonymous American voices, was keen to try dual-receive. We fiddled the FT1000 to give us our transmit frequency of 7068 kHz in the left ear, and 7178 kHz in the other. This helped us work several limited-class US stations.

At around 9 PM, ZL6QH went QRT with 283 QSOs in the log. Below is the break-down by continent:

Continent 40M 20M 15M Total %
AS 0 4 123 127 45.0
OC 25 11 5 41 14.5
AF 1 1 2 4 1.4
EU 0 75 9 84 29.8
NA 20 0 1 21 7.4
SA 1 4 0 5 1.8

Congrats to Frank and Andrew for spotting a bug in the Writelog program (#1 on the numerical keypad would not work as expected).

Thanks everyone for helping out with the operating. After this, field day should be a piece of cake!

Wilbert, ZL2BSJ -for ZL6QH operators.

Posted by ZL1AZE on March 27, 2007