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The frantic telegrapherIntroducing the XCW WW Challenge...

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XCW WW Challenge

 

 

The eXtreme CW World-Wide Challenge

29-30th October 2005

2005 RESULTS

1   INTRODUCTION
The objective of this event is to promote contacts between radio operators interested in improving their morse code skills when sending and receiving messages under difficult operating conditions.

Judging by the comments received, this event—the very first 'eXtreme CW World-Wide Challenge'—certainly tested the skill and patience of all those who took part!  So much so, that the challenge of attempting to copy CW signals through the QRM proved to be too great for some, and a couple of would-be entrants later reported that they gave up the struggle within just a few minutes of starting!

But no one said that this event was going to be easy.  The 'magnificent seven' who did tough it out and sent in their log seemed to enjoy it and are willing to give it another go next year.  So who were these exceptional operators? And what were their experiences?  Let's hear from them now...

 

2   COMMENTS RECEIVED
These are the comments submitted by the entrants.  This event is not about the number of QSOs; multipliers; or run-rates.  It's about the people; their own particular operating conditions; and what they achieved.   I was pleased that so many of the entrants were keen to describe and to share their experiences in our first XCW Challenge.  Indeed, all entrants submitted a list of the stations worked—even though this was not an entry requirement.

Some of the photographs have been presented as 'thumbnails'.  - Just click on the thumbnails to view the full-size picture.

So, in callsign order, here are the entrants' personal accounts...
 

Comments from Martin, DL1GBZ
"Thanks for organising the XCW, it was fun indeed.  Thanks to XCW  I changed my behaviour during the CQWW fone weekend.  Without it I would have listened a bit with frustration and eventually I would have gone off air or made a few QSO on 30m or—even worse—I would have distributed a few points in SSB on an inoffensive band, i.e. 10 meters.

This year I left the station tuned to 40m over the entire weekend and I made a few XCW contacts without too much ambition - only as long as it was pure fun.  What I learned was the following:
1) The situation is worse than I expected: A handful of stations was calling CQ all the time.  Under daylight (short skip) they came down to 7025 and when it was dark outside they took over the entire band, at least down to 7010.  The situation is definitely worse than in CQ WW RTTY.
2) By far most offenders are routine contesters using contest calls or vanity calls.  Those who answered these callers had common calls.  I heard no former VHF calls or no-code calls.  However I don't feel comfortable to make lists of offenders, they just seem to follow a kind of herd instinct.  In order not to fall into a watchdog attitude, I usually had my filters narrow enough not to be able to read the calls.
3) I learned that in the case of bad QRM even a QRP CW station can get the message through - being familiar with signal theory this is of course no surprise, but it's comforting to see it confirmed in practice.
4) Too many are involved in 'policing' band intruders: sending strings of dots alternating with insults.  From a formal standpoint these are even worse that the offenders because it is illegal to be on air without giving an ID.  In many countries lawmakers don't rule bandplans - so the intruders are on the lawful side.  Moreover it was blatantly obvious how inefficient these QRM attempts were.
5) To my surprise I found myself in very nice conversations of 30 minutes and more with a few friends.
6) In practice most of the XCW traffic was between 7005 and 7015 kHz, so XCWers 'arranged' themselves with the CQWW contesters."

Martin has supplied a detailed record of the 41 QSOs that he made in the event.  Of these, five were QRP stations, and no station was running more than 100W.  

 

Comments from Gerald, G3MCK
"The eXtreme CW event was indeed a challenge.  I tossed up between the following options:
- use the [Ten Tec] Corsair—but this did not seem to be within the spirit of the event;
- make a 25W CO/PA [crystal oscillator/power amplifier] in the classic style and use my HRO—but this was rejected as being too easy to get QSOs; or,
- make a 1W CO/PA and use my HRO.  This was the path that I took, using a Kent straight key.

My original intention was to build the 'Pippin' (SPRAT #60, and PW Sept 2000).  Four blown PA transistors later it was time for a change of plan.  I could only get 0.5W from the Pippin at T8.  I never felt happy with the circuit as I thought that it depended too much on the luck of the draw regarding the exact characteristics of the transistors that you used.  Next I built the Universal QRP Rig by W7ZOI from SSD.  This only gave 0.7W and the oscillator coil resonated with much less than the indicated capacity.  This was very puzzling.  However, when connected to my low inverted V dipole I got 1W of power out.  This could be due to a slight change in load impedance or instrument errors.  It had a very slight chirp which I ignored: I can never get oscillators to key properly.

The next problem was that the HRO would not work on the 40m BS coil.  For some time I had been using it to QAP 10.0000 MHz so I knew that the HRO worked.  I was considering using it on 40m on the 7/14 MHz GC coil pack which would have been 'testing'.  However a good dose of switch cleaner to the mixer trimmer on the 40m BS coil pack fixed things.

Working an OK station on Friday afternoon cheered me up but of course the CQWW SSB contest ruined things for the weekend.  I had told both G3VTT and G3SES of the event so I was very pleased to work them.  G3VTT was out on the marshes near his home so he really entered into the spirit.  On Saturday night I tried 40m with the Corsair, but found SSB down to 7012 kHz.  Perhaps there should be an section in the contest for the most blatant abuser of the band plan: it would make a nice section for SWLs.

Sunday was much better and I had some amazing QSOs." 

Gerald has provided a full log of the QRP QSOs made, which includes the following callsigns: OK1POY; G4LSB; G3SES; G3VTT/P; DL6MW; GI4AFS; GW4ALG; G3EFY; DJ5OU; and G8VG. 

As a follow-up to correspondence exchanged before the event Gerald also adds, "Having now taken part in the event I now think that that a weekend (48 hours) is the correct time and that 40m is the correct band.  Also I am happy for it to be a single band event.  If you run it next year more advance notice is needed but I am sure that it would get good support from the vintage gear fans."  

 

Comments from John, G3NCN

"Herewith my tiny log for the XCW contest.

List of stations worked: YL3DX; G3YMC; SM6NF; GW4ALG; G4GLV; IZ4FHT
Total score: 6 points
Max power used: 100 watts

It has to be said that if I had received a point for each time I called CQ, my score would have run into some hundreds. I spent as much time as family needs allowed—a total of perhaps 4 hours, spread whenever I could manage a few minutes here or there.  My lifestyle as a busy grandfather will not allow 24 hour or 48 hour contesting.  But my young grandson (nearly 3 years old) was thrilled when I sat him on my knee, put his hand on a straight key, and called CQ, allowing him to hear the sidetone.  By the way, my first contact was YL3DX, who was calling CQ XCW!

73, John Ellerton G3NCN"

 

Comments from George, OK1FPG                                

       OK1FPG QSL card to confirm XCW QSO with GW4ALG

"Thank you very much for the great contest and also I'm sending best regards from Ceske Budejovice city, Czech Republic.  The eXtreme CW contest was a very interesting idea.    Many stations during the CQ WW SSB contest worked outside the SSB segment and these stations had to compete with more CW stations than in previous years!

I'm 39 years old and a ham since 1976.  I started very early, supported by my father OK1APG.  I made my first CW QSO when I was 11 years old on 3.5 MHz.  When I was 14 years old I built my first HF transceiver for 7; 14; 21; and 28 MHz using mostly tube stages.  It was capable of running 120 W—which was above the legal limit at that time!  The private licences were not issued to those under 18 years of age, so I had to wait until 1986 before getting my own callsign, OK1FPG.

Collins 75S-3 RX and 32S-3 TX   Not a microphone in sight!   Wehrmacht Key (1942) - known to many as a 'T1 Key'

During XCW I used the Collins S-line: 75S-3 RX and 32S-3 TX (at 70W output), with the original power supply and power meter.  I bought this equipment in 1983 for about $150 (USD).   It was made in 1961, and is in full working order!  The rig was keyed using a classic military Wehrmacht straight key (ca. 1942).   The dipole antenna was made by Hy-Gain in 1962 and works from 3 to 30 MHz.  There is a balun in the junction box between the co-ax feeder and the dipole 'ribbon' elements, which can be pulled out to tune the antenna to any HF band.  This old antenna is complete with the original RG58 cable and N connector!  I bought the antenna in Lithuania for about $40.

The 'tunable' dipole    Dipole centre, with built-in balun    The ribbon element, clamped in position

So that you can exactly imagine my eXtreme CW operating conditions:
- the temperature in the ham shack was between 5 and 7 degrees C, depending upon the outside temperature;
- there was dense smoke due to my smoking;
- and I had a fever due to fighting influenza. 
Well Steve, I guess I really entered into the spirit of XCW!

George and faithful friend taking a break during XCW

Now another XCW story.  When I was doing military service in 1985-87 as radio operator and service staff we moved into a military area during the winter of 1986.  We were in an artillery group with about fifteen 150 mm cannon, ready for firing live ammunition.  I remember it was a very severe winter with one metre of snow and about minus 30 degrees C.  Two of us lived under the open sky in a trench for 6 days and maintained non-stop CW communication with our HQ under extreme conditions, but we managed very well.

Also, five times each year we go up to the hills for VHF; UHF; and SHF contests.  We operate from the top of a lookout tower at 1096 m above sea level, usually with snow; wind; and frost.  So I am very used to operating under extreme circumstances!

Thank you for organising a very nice XCW challenge and I'm looking forward to next year's event."

The pages from George's original message pad used in XCW

I should add that, in addition to a perfect hand-written log (that includes 21 XCW QSOs), George also sent me the pages from his original message pad used during the XCW event (pictured above), as well as a picture of some active hams in his area:

     VHF/UHF Field Day 2005: OL7G
     OK1HCD, OK1DMV; OK1APG (George's father); OK1CDA; OK1FPG (George); OK1FRX

    

Comments from Alec, YL3DX

"I would like to mention three eXtreme operating conditions during my eXtreme 14 hours on the air:
Firstly,  eXtremely low activity of eXtremers: a lot of CQs without any result.
Secondly: eXtremely heavy QRM from eXtreme SSB stations in CQWWDXC started from 7000.1 kHz for both days.
Thirdly, occasionally for some days I had no heating in my shack, so there was your eXtremely recommended temperature: only 2 degrees C (night) to 6 degrees C (day). 

Rig: IC-746PRO 100W
Antenna: Dipole

My eXtreme 73 & DX to all eXtreme operators and organisers! 

Alec, YL3DX"
 

 

Comments from Gerard, VK4TGL

"Thanks for organising this contest, it certainly is a fun concept.

I set up station for the local evening of Saturday 29th, and had a good evening despite the lack of contacts.

 The most notable event for the evening was a nice long QSO with Ray VK2ARY in Sydney. (About 1,000km south of my QTH).  Here is a photo from the evening...

VK4TGL/P: Bike Portable

Features to note:
- Bicycle portable station
- QRP FT817 tranceiver plus audio notch filter
- 40m band dipole
- Gel cell batteries (in the pannier bag)
- Shellite lantern (needed to be pumped up every 30minutes or so, usually in the middle of an over)
- Can of Aerogard mosquito repellant (and absolute must for good quality CW transmissions)
- K9 assistant. (I hope this doesn't put me into the multi operator category... She did "Spot" some wild life during the evening).

Thanks for organising this, it was a bit of fun and helped me refine my bicycle portable setup.

Regards
Gerard VK4TGL"

 

3   SUMMARY

I have enjoyed reading the above contributions, and I very much hope that you have too. 

Somehow, I think that the recipients of the certificates won't really care about receiving another piece of wallpaper.  I believe that taking part means more to an eXtreme CW operator than any award I could offer!

SECTION: Single Operator, QRP (listed in callsign order)

Callsign  QSOs Score Notes
G3MCK 1 10 Certificate awarded
VK4TGL/P 1 1 Certificate awarded

 

SECTION: Single Operator, Low Power (listed in callsign order)

Callsign  QSOs Score Notes
DL1GBZ 41 41 Certificate awarded
G3NCN 6 6 Certificate awarded
OK1FPG 21 21 Certificate awarded
SP2FAP 2 2 Certificate awarded
YL3DX 16 16 Certificate awarded

Checklogs received: DK3UZ and GW4ALG.

 

I very much look forward to organising the event in 2006.  Suggestions for improving the 'rules' for this event in 2006, and offers of help with publicity etc., would be most welcome.

Thank you to all who took part—especially to those who submitted details of their XCW operation.  I look forward to compiling the 2006 Report!

Steve Rawlings, GW4ALG
Organiser, XCW World-Wide Challenge