Part 5: Last Thoughts

by Dan Levin, K6IF

Today is Wednesday, March 26th.Two days before the contest starts.Iím on the plane to New York.The 12 volt power outlet in this row isnít working right Ė so I have to type fast (hi hi).

My suitcase contains the typical personal stuff for a trip of 6 days, plus some rather unusual items.8 Clif bars.A package of Radio Shack audio adapters.About a hundred Halls throat lozenges.A couple of clip-on ferrites.A Heil BM-1 headset.A plastic portable urinal. Not exactly your standard business trip gear!

The last week has been a whirlwind of last minute planning.

Jim wants to know if I am left handed or right handed (so the mouse will be on the correct side of the keyboard Ė the right side for me).What frequency do I want the 80 meter vertical tuned to? (I choose 3.775 Mhz) Do I want the 80 and 160 slopers aimed at EU, or the US? (I choose the US)What kind of food do I like? (anything I donít have to cut with a knife)

I need to know some things too.Where will I sleep? Is there a reliable alarm clock in that room?Do you have a clipboard for my operating plan?Can I switch between the 80 meter sloper and the vertical from the shack?Are the rotators working (one ring rotor thawed and started working again, one is still stuck with a bad directional pot).Can you pick up some bottled water and Diet Coke?

Lots of good news.

We were assigned VC1R, the call that I had hoped for.Victor Charlie One Radio.Punchy.Short.Unique in the contest.Iím not sure the VC1 prefix has ever been activated before.Every little bit helps.

The 80 meter vertical is fixed.I breathe a big sign of relief.80 meters is key to my plan Ė without the vertical I had been worried about my signal strength into EU.

The SO2R set-up seems to be working fine, thanks to Jimís hard work.

My throat, torn to pieces by what my doctor thinks is strep, is feeling better today.875mg of Amoxicillin twice a day must be making some headway against the bug.If I keep getting better, I should be healthy enough to operate by Friday.

Despite the ring rotor hiccups, Jim has managed to coax the antennas into my preferred starting positions.The lower antenna will stay aimed at the US, both to keep my frequency clear and to pick up those precious US QSOís and multipliers.Remember, from Canada W Qís are worth 2 or 4 points Ė not the measly 1 that we get from W6-land.The middle antenna will stay fixed on EU Ė my best source of high point value contacts and multipliers.The upper antenna will start out aimed at JA, I still have a hope that conditions will be good, and 15 will be open to Asia at the start of the contest.As time goes on, that upper quad-bander will come around to EU as my main 40 meter antenna.

Iíve decided that if 15 is open, I will start the contest under the US phone band on 15 meters Ė probably around 21.195.Itís the wrong thing to do for rate, but Iím worried about Asian multipliers.I should be loud in Japan Ė probably louder than anyone else on the East Coast.That top C-51 is 330 feet up and beams to Japan over salt water Ė lots of low angle radiation.Iíd like to try to make 100-125 Asian multipliers including at least 75 JAís, but Iíll need a good solid opening to make that happen.If 15 isnít open, Iíll start on 20 and head to 40 as soon as I can.On Saturday morning at 11:00, when I am running Europeans that even KC1XX canít hear yet, Iíll be glad to be so far east.But at the start of the contest, it is going to be frustrating Iím sure.

At the last minute, I got a bunch of great advice and feedback.VE9DX dropped me a note to remind me to operate below the US phone bands.NB1B pointed me to some good info on conditions in the recent Russian DX contest.N6NF and I had lunch, and talked through some final strategy issues.

I printed out and laminated in plastic the rules of the contest, the US, EU and Canadian band plans, and the rates sheets from VF3EJ in í99 and WE9V in í01.I will keep that stuff handy as reference material during the contest.

After all this preparation Ė the one thing that I canít control is the propagation.When the flux hit 93 over the weekend and the A was 20 Ė I was worried.But 27 days ago conditions were fine, and today (with the flux about 110 and the K at 2) Iím feeling better.Iím hoping for a flux reading during the contest of between 125 and 150, with a K of 2 or 3.I will track the solar weather over the Internet during the contest (I like http://hfradio.org/propogation, but there are several other great sites), and use W6ELProp on my laptop to understand the likely effects.

I feel as prepared as I could have hoped to be.The station is in good shape.Iíve read everything I could find, and talked to lots of knowledgeable folks.None of that is going to prepare me for 00:00 zulu on Friday night.I know the bands are going to sound like I have never heard them before, and that the station will play differently than I could ever imagine.But at the end of the day, the most important thing is having fun.For me, the preparation, the strategy, the station configuration are all part of the fun.Iíve thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting ready for this contest, and hugely appreciate the literally dozens of thoughtful hams who have helped me.Now I just have to do my best, and see what happens.Less than 10MM points will be disappointing.More than 11MM will be a shock.But whatever happens, however it comes out, I am going to have a great time.

Chapter 6 (probably published a day or two after the contest) will be a quick run-down of my results and post-contest impressions.Chapter 7, the last chapter, will be my detailed post-mortum.