TOM MOORE, WX4TM
First of all I have to establish some disclaimers.. I don’t know many facts.
All I know is what works for me and I’m not even sure about that half the time. I’m far
from being an electronic, RF, antenna, or propagation guru. Most of you guys have forgotten
more than I’ll ever know about this stuff. I’m an operator and novice experimenter. A
great majority of contesters are in it strictly for the fun of it and often for other
purposes like working on WAS or DXCC etc. A small group will want to be somewhat
competitive and yet a smaller group will be seriously competitive. It is rare that I
act, think or perform as a serious competitor. I use to race snow mobiles for fun.
When I started entering competitive racing, it got serious very quickly; became WORK,
VERY EXPENSIVE and wasn’t nearly as much fun as just going out and having impromptu
races with my buddies. I’ve tried to guard myself from letting that happen to my Ham
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
When I started RTTY contesting back around ‘96/97 time frame, I spent a tremendous
amount of time just listening and watching. From this I (think) I learned to build
correct / effective macros. I learned what my equip and antenna system could and could
not do. I learned to recognize changes in propagation during the contest and to make
changes accordingly. I learned to setup and test my software and radios a day or two
‘before’ contest start time. I learned to think about and actually write down a
‘strategy’ with IF’S and OR’s and included a reminder “don’t let anyone get you po’d”.
etc etc. Try not to prejudge what will definitely work or won’t work. Be flexible,
always ready to react / make a change at the “right” time.
Next issue: personal conditioning – mind and body. I was doing pretty good with this
until about 3 or 4 yrs ago when age and medications started slowing me down… sometimes
drastically. I use to tell folks down here to practice staying up late, eat mildly,
drink sanely. Get your mind right. Concentrate. Don’t get distracted. Operator comfort:
not too much, not too little. How do you have your software configured? Can it be made
easier or more efficient? A lot of people like hitting F keys. I’m like the mouse.
Use what works best for YOU. Not what somebody else says is best. But be open minded
Now most of you already know all this. Its nothing new. The problem, I think, is that
many of us forget to think about all these kind of things BEFORE the contest and to
take steps to really prepare ourselves and our equipment.
Operating expertise: Expertise occurs, I believe, based on experience and practice –
to the point that when you do some things, you do them automatically without thinking
about why or how – it becomes, to some degree, instinct. But the more you DO think
about the whys and hows, the better you’ll get. If you don’t, you’ll stagnate like
I’ve been doing more and more.
What about SO2R vs SO1R; a sensitive subject among some of us. I’ll say this and
let the subject drop. Anyone can do SO2R. But few can do it competitively. There’s a
big difference in the cost of equip and accessories needed to do it competitively. I
don’t think you have to be extra smart to do it. You have to practice and practice
some more; and you really must have full knowledge and understanding of the
capabilities of your computer(s), software, radios, and antennas. You must be able
to sustain intense concentration for long periods of time. And finally, no matter how
good or not so good you are, you can and will increase your score by being SO2R. The
better you get, the bigger the increase. It is rare, really rare, that a seasoned SO1R
op will beat a seasoned SO2R op. (In fact I’ve never seen that happen). The
‘standard reply’ to that is ‘the SO1R Op is just not smart enough be a competitive
SO2R op”. And to that I say that’s shear unequivocal BULLCRAP! Now, I’ve said
2 cents worth on that.
About antennas. Oh I can determine when its working and when its not and to some
degree (based on rates!) how well or not its working. I have basic understanding
about how low angle antennas work best for long distance while antennas with high
angles are best for closer in and, generally speaking, the higher the ant, the lower
the angle. But then there’s propagational effects on all this too. And these effects
often change sometime in a few mins, sometimes in an hr or so. Based on experience
with my antennas, I’ve got a pretty good picture of what works when but I know this
is likely to change and I try to stay alert to that and react quickly. For instance,
I have two tribanders: a TH11 at 85 ft and a TH5 at 50ft. A full size 40V at 50 ft
with 8 elevated radials and a regular inverted V at 45 ft. A full size ground mounted
Vertical on 80 with 60 radials and a regular inverted V at 65 ft. Stateside type
contests will find me switching between these a lot, a lot, a lot. I once told
Darrell K9MUG that I’d bout wore out my 6pak coax switch in one contest. One last
point on this: Darrell has demonstrated that a good wire antenna with a bit of gain
and multiple lobes can beat about any low angle beam in the right contest with the
right propagation. (NO!, I don’t point both beams in the same direction).
Propagation zones. Now this is going to get deep. I fully believe there are three
distinct propagational zones in Alabama. North. Central and South. Yeah, I know, you
think I’m full of it. But based on contest activity, claimed capabilities, time spent,
after contest comments and scores I’ve seen, I just have to believe this. I’ve seen it
when N AL claims props were good and we here in central AL can barely hear anything,
while S Ala is working’em like gang busters. And I’ve heard N AL saying they had bad
props and we here had great props. I’m telling you, its weird. Really weird.
Specific to RTTY: experiment with your settings. Last year at Huntsville, Rick K4TD
asked me why he couldn’t copy what I was copying even tho the signal strengths were good.
His system just wouldn’t decode what I was easily decoding. I offered that I had
developed a set of MMTTY parameters a yr or two earlier that were really great but that
I had lost them in a computer crash. Honestly, I’ve not put out a lot of effort to
recover them because MMTTY has worked so good with its default setups. Well almost. For
your comparison, here’s my setup: Using mmtty ver 1.66g with Writelog, under “option,
setup”, in the Pre-Filter block, I have BPF checked ON, Tap set at 386, FW to 100
(sometimes 80) and DO NOT have AFC Connection checked. I do not use squelch or notch.
All the rest are standard default settings. On my FT2000, I vary the width of the DSP
bw filter. The more intense the activity, the narrower I set it. On the radio, I set my
XMIT to the 2nd VFO and keep the main VFO for receiver tuning. My right hand works the
mouse and my left hand works the VFO. When rates get going really good and there’s lots
of stations calling, I start using the IPO function to cut out the ampflier stages to
help better decode the loudest/strongest stations calling. Remember I said I like using
the mouse vs hitting F keys. I do that using a utility called FKEYS freely available
on the internet.
CQ’ing vs S&P. Both must be used with effective strategy. Admittedly I don’t S&P as
much as I use to. I use to run a while and when rates would drop a bit, I’d go S&P
making one or two sweeps up and down the band then run some more.. I have rarely
been able to use the cluster effectively to quickly identify a needed multi and go
get it fast enough to make it worth my while. If you CQ long enuf and hard enuf you’ll
most likely get him, but sometimes not; especially if that multi never does S&P. Its
really a judgement call. And too, one must be somewhat patient. I see some folks who
change bands back and forth way too much.
RATES: Almost always RATES is the name of the game. Do every thing you can to maximize
RATES. Multis are important and must be had but rarely at the expense of good rates.
Here’s where the 2nd radio pays off if you have one.
Macros. Mentioned that above. Keep’em as short as poss but not so short you’re asked
for repeats. Read the conditions and know when you can use short exchanges and when
you need to use long exchanges. There’s not much you can do about what I call ‘rate
killers’. The guys who comes on and gives your call 3 times, his call 3 times and his
report once! (and all the variations of this). Work’em as fast as you can and get on
with. Don’t argue with anybody. Don’t dilly dalley. If he’s a dup, work him as fast
as you can and get on with it. RATES RATES RATES
Luck? Some will say you make your own luck. But there IS some luck involved. Here’s
an example of luck: when you’re S&P and move up or down the band, you regularly catch
the next station at the end of his QSO and you nail him fast and move on and do the same
thing a dozen or so times in a row. That’s luck! There’s some luck in doing SO2R. You
have to have a good rhythm going cqing on diff bands or cqing on one and S&P on another.
If you can’t get that rhythm going, you’re going to slow down so you don’t violate the
‘xmt on only one band at a time’ rule. You’ve had it happen. You’ve got a good fast run
going, somebody calls, you quickly give him a report, then wait. You might send your
report again before he finally answers you. Why was he so slow to respond? Good chance
he’s working SO2R and he was answering or giving a report on another band. And if you
xmtted yet again while waiting on him to respond, you just set back his rhythm again.
He can’t answer. Result you’re both slowed down and good run is busted.
I’m sure there’s a few more things I wanted to elaborate on but I’m old, tired, sleepy
(missed my nap thinking about all this) and my short term memory has kicked in. Besides,
I’ve given away too many secrets today. But I’ve held back a few. Don’t want that young
whippersnapper K4TD to clean my clock too often.
73 Tom WX4TM
FRED DENNIN. WW4LL
First, RTTY contesting is not for everyone but it is growing in popularity. Several new
contesters have told me that they got started in contesting by participating in RTTY
tests, as they thought it was less intimidating than CW, for example. The 2010 CQ WW
season opens on 25-26 September with the 24th running of the RTTY mode in this contest.
With over 15,000 participants and a record 2307 entries in 2009, the largest RTTY
contest promises to be a great event.
RTTY contesting is not unlike other modes as far as propagation, use of antennas, logging
SO2R and other contesting strategies. However, there are little shortcuts that you can
make to improve the efficiency of your RTTY contest effort. For example, one elementary
shortcut is to program your software as you would on CW to Zero your RIT once you hit
Enter and log a QSO. With that programmed, you don’t have to worry about zeroing it
yourself after each Q.
Properly programming your macros for your F key usage is also an essential element.
Running a pileup when using N1MM, you can use the Stacking feature as the incoming calls
are decoded and color coded, showing mults vs calls not worked. Of course you want to
work the mults first if possible, however, you have to do it quickly because the
aggressive contester will not hang around waiting on you to work off your list.
Two or three of the casual contesters may wait on you, but work the mults first
when you have the opportunity.
Partial Calls - When multiple stations are calling you simultaneously and you receive
partial calls, PLEASE, do not just respond by calling CQ again. This wastes time and
creates another pileup that you have to sort out. Instead, send the partial call with
your exchange and then hopefully and more than likely, the station will be in the clear
and send you the entire call and his exchange. You can then send his call with your
Thank You (TU) confirming that he’s in your log. When working a call that you have
fully copied and also have copied a partial call, you can work the first guy, finishing
that Q similar to this, K1ZZI TU de WW4LL Now 9SVL. You could also send K1ZZI TU de
WW4LL Now 9SVL 599 GA. When the op responds, you’ll now pick up his/her prefix.
History Files can be utilized for some contests like NAQP and you should save them and
continue to merge them together, expanding your history files for import into your
logging program before each contest. Contest clubs can put these history files on
their websites for others to share and/or, you can share with your contest friends.
Many novice RTTY operators will wait until the “tail” entirely drops from the received
signal, however, you can shave a couple of seconds off each exchange by both watching
your screen print, listening and hitting your F Key just before the incoming
transmission stops. The other station will miss nothing and you will keep things moving.
Message buffers should have a carriage return at the beginning and a space at the end.
Please.....no carriage return at the end as it forces the op on the receiving end to
follow the carriage return down the page. This separates the end of the message from
any noise characters that may be printed on the receiving station's screen.
End your calls of CQ with CQ at the end. In case someone is just tuning to your signal,
they know that you are calling CQ by seeing it at the end, even if they’ve copied nothing
else. They will know that you are calling CQ instead of calling another station. So
now, just drop your call in response. Shorten your messages as much as you can, but
keeping them effective. For example, no reason to use BK or SK.
Running RTTY SO2R – You can run SO2R in the conventional method with a DX Doubler or
some other interface but in RTTY, I don’t use head phones, can see the print on the two
computer screens and listen to the audio of the two rigs turned down. I use two separate
keyboards, computers networked and monitors. If I have a computer crash on one, I’ve
still got the other computer running with my data in tact and can continue relatively
unimpeded. Key reassignment also facilitates keyboard entry like using the Insert key
which is out on the numeric pad and is easily accessible.
RUN vs S&P – No pat answer to this but if you have a mediocre antenna system, I would
suggest in general that you S&P initially during the start of the contest because of
the wealth of activity. However, with the mediocre antenna system, you may find that
you do quite well running by going to the edge of where the activity is, and calling
CQ. Overall, if you’ve got the hardware, I’m a big proponent of RUNNING so give it a try.
MMTTY – I find that I decode as well running just MMTTY vs running a DXP-38. I have run
both simultaneously and see no benefit to running the DXP-38. You might want to try
running multiple instances of MMTTY in different configurations though. Most of the
time you’ll see little difference, but occasionally, you will copy clearly in one
configuration over another.
Reviewing your old logs ahead of every major contest is a great source for documenting
operating profiles. For example, if you are not a seasoned contester, you can use your
old logs to document beam headings and times of the day to start looking in different
directions for stations based on previous contests, as a reminder to turn that beam.
After a while, it will become second nature to know that it’s time to swing the beam to
look for stations from different parts of the world, based on time of day and band.
Operating Decorum – Be on your best behavior. Please respect the CW operators in this
shared spectrum, be aware of old established NETs as much as you practically can, stay
away from beacon frequencies, etc.
There is more to say about setup, operating style, etc. but so much of what applies to
operating the other modes, applies here as well. I just wanted to get this out ahead
of the contest this coming weekend so please have fun and good luck.
On 22 Sep 2010 at 11:04, K4HAL, Henry wrote:
As always you can pick up some very useful hints from these articles.
For example: It never occurred to me to use split mode during a run in a RTTY contest.
I had always used the RIT to fine tune the receiver the hit the RIT clear when done.
When using N1MM in split mode you can use the main tuning to fine tune the RX and
it will be reset to the TX freq when the contact is logged (But only in RUN mode). I am
going to try it this weekend. Thanks Fred !!