Football, Sporadic E and FT8
Steve Telenius-Lowe PJ4DX reports on a heady combination of special event station activity
Steve Telenius-Lowe PJ4DX reports on a heady combination of special event station activity, summer propagation and plenty of interest in FT8.
Special event station chasers were well catered for in June by the ‘FIFA’ and ‘FWC’ (Football World Cup) stations active from many countries. One major DXpedition came on the air at the end of the month and continued to be active into July − KH1/KH7Z from Baker Island in the central Pacific. This is a difficult part of the world to work from the UK, especially at this stage of the sunspot cycle, and only one correspondent reported a contact. The last time this DXCC entity was activated, in 2002, I was lucky enough to work K1B, Fig. 1, from Stevenage using 400W and a 15m dipole – but that was at the peak of cycle 23!
It was Tim Beaumont M0URX, Fig. 2, (who is also my QSL Manager) who worked Baker Island. He wrote, “I started hearing KH1/KH7Z at 0700UTC on 14211kHz and listening up 5. Several G stations going through, but ohh then a fistful of French stations on the bounce, he is now working west Europe really well – I need to try hard with this one. ‘Who is the M0 with Radio X-ray?’ It took me several attempts to get my full callsign across but got there in the end. What a buzz! DXCC number 328 in the bag and I’m enjoying it just as much now as when I made my first DX QSO!” Tim added that for all amateurs licensed since 2002 “this DXpedition offered an excellent chance for an All Time New One. The opening on 20m, albeit short, gave three chances each day of a QSO: on FT8, CW and SSB. The team were especially aware of the difficult path to the UK and took significant steps in the short openings to call ‘G only’ and even when they were calling ‘CQ EU’ the team were still paying attention to the Gs calling.” I’d be interested to receive any reports of contacts made with KH1/KH7Z in July.
Having brought his 30m vertical back to resonance, as reported last month, Victor Brand G3JNB had QSOs with UE8OGS and UA9XF (Asiatic Russia), CU2DX (Azores) and FY5FY (French Guiana), checking that it was back on tune. “But, for the first two weeks of June, HF DX pickings were sparse... I persevered and, among lively EU FIFA activities, I did find occasional ‘DX-ish’ stations of note, including J32FIFA (Grenada) and KP4TF (Puerto Rico) on 17m and, on 20m, ZD7BG (St Helena), OY1G (Faroe Islands), ZP6CW (Paraguay) and PR7AR (Brazil).” Victor says that he agrees with the much-discussed view that the paucity of CW DX and reduction of CW operators in general may be linked to the phenomenal rise of FT8. To lend credence to this supposition, he says “Along came the ‘All Asian Contest’ weekend and 20m exploded with signals. I worked a pile of very loud JAs who must have been running some serious ‘welly’ and, similarly, with the flood of UA9s from Asiatic Russia. The Thailand E2A and E21YDP signals were quite readable here but, sadly, they seemed unable to copy my 50W or many of the Europeans responding... Tuning around that weekend was a joy. Incidentally, with the use of the operator’s age instead of location or a serial number in that contest, I became convinced that I was the most senior Old Timer on the band, since most reports seemed to indicate that the majority of contesters were in their 50s. Fortunately, that honour fell to another when I overheard a report of ‘59988’!”
The June HF Highlights of Kevin Hewitt ZB2GI included operating as ZB2RAF/P from the top of the Rock using a 10W transceiver and working 11 special event stations. See the band reports for the best of Kevin’s logs.
Carl Gorse 2E0HPI said, “At the beginning of the month I had a mad thought, ‘Why not head up to St Abb’s Lighthouse, reference SCO-224 and WWFF reference GMFF-0059?’ After two trains and two buses I arrived around 1300UTC with my camping equipment and all my radio gear. The views were amazing. I tried 40m first and managed to work around 20 or so but it was 20m that was in excellent shape with 148 contacts, running only 3W with the Elecraft KX2 and MFJ-1979 vertical antenna.” Carl also operated on 20m SSB using the Alex Loop antenna during a one-hour stop at St Mary’s Island in Tyneside, Fig. 3, but “my feet got a bit wet walking across the causeway with the warden when the tide was going out.” He obtained another Elecraft KX2 from a friend and added the side panels and PA heatsink from Pro Audio Engineering in the USA. “It’s made a massive difference because, previously, the radio would heat up and shut down. Overall,” he says, “the month has been great at the times I have been able to get out between hospital and physiotherapy appointments. But St Abb’s is one place to visit to enjoy the scenery and play radio!”
Etienne Vrebos OS8D/ON8DN “again had some damage here due to lightning in the neighbourhood. The last weeks were very hot, 30°C and still going up. It always has to be paid for afterwards with heavy lightning and thunderstorms but no real expensive damage to the electric circuits in the house (I’ve good fuses!). I’m sure the [Brussels] airport and its concrete and steelworks attract lightning…” Etienne reports he had another road trip: “I bought myself a new motorcycle and travelled around the Alps, Austria, Switzerland and Italy, up to 3000m mountain passes still covered with snow, Fig. 4, nice scenery and a great trip of 5000km. It explains the poor activity on HF... I’ll do my very best to be more active in July.”
Reg Williams G0OOF reports, “I am now using a Butternut HF6V. Wanted to try it as a comparison to the Hustler 4BTV. It’s early days yet and this time of the year and the solar minimum does not help. This antenna was not easy to tune but thanks to the amateur radio community I had good advice from a couple of friends, one of whom had an HF9V and who loaned me his MFJ antenna analyser. This made tuning easier. My band reports reflect stations I worked during June with the HF6V, other than those on 17m... The HF6V doesn’t include this band and it is expensive to purchase a coil to adapt the antenna for 17m. Next best was to make up a single-band wire dipole... It has ended up as a sloper. First contact was during an opening on 17m late on June 28th. Managed to work Grenada so I was pleased with that... I enjoy reading your articles in PW and often refer to your book HF SSB DX Basics.” Thanks for the ‘flowers’, Reg! I used a Butternut HF6V for many years in several locations and found it always performed well provided I put down a good number of radials (see Radials for Quarter-Wave Verticals – an Overview, PW, July 2018).
The log from Tony Usher G4HZW shows what can be achieved using FT8, even on 10m at the bottom of the solar cycle. He wrote, “I received my current call early in 1979 around the peak of sunspot cycle 21 and, due to living in a terraced cottage with no back garden and a front only 10ft x 10ft, decided that 28MHz was the only option on HF. A number of two-element cubical quads were employed over the next 18 or so years and with conditions so good I managed to work over 300 DXCC entities from that small patch using SSB and CW. Along with a near neighbour and great friend from Knutsford, SWL Dave Coggins, we even persisted with the band during the minimums − openings to Europe on Sporadic E during the summer with the occasional two-hop contacts with North America, but many weeks and months of only static. We were both anticipating similar conditions to prevail during this latest minimum but, of course, we hadn’t reckoned with the appearance of FT8. A letter in another publication tells us the mode ‘is of no real value for propagation studies’. On the contrary, I would suggest the results from the use of FT8 will require much tweaking of propagation programs and the rewriting of printed manuals! I’ve now worked 105 DXCC entities on 10m since September 2017, right at the bottom of cycle 24, due in no small part to FT8, an excellent Sporadic E season – and ignoring legacy propagation predictions.”
Terry Martin M0CLH reckoned that, “Conditions this month have not been particularly conducive for DX.” However, Sporadic E on the higher bands allowed “some useful slots to be filled in those difficult nearby entities unreachable by normal conditions.” Terry has been carrying out some experiments with a “very small loaded vertical” on 80m, which allowed him to work stations as far away as the Canary Islands and Cyprus (using FT8).
Martin Evans GW4TPG is another who used FT8 a lot this month. He says he has been “concentrating on 10 and 12m to get my QSLs for both bands up. 12m in particular still needs five QSLs for 100 confirmed DXCC, so I am almost there. 10 and 12m Sporadic E has been fine into EU most days when I had time to look, with the occasional outside EU QSO.”
Owen Williams G0PHY said, “The month got off to a good start with contacts with 4X70E, S9ZZ and VP8LP, all on 14MHz. I also worked S9ZZ on 18MHz (the only contact on 18MHz this month). 28MHz was open to Europe on June 3rd and I worked AO18FWC, Fig. 6, one of the many football World Cup special event stations on in June and July... I worked two new IOTAs this month: F4FET/P on EU-074 and TE6DX on NA-155. TE6DX was on 14MHz at 2232UTC on June 8th and working by numbers... It was just as well I got him when I did because I broke my microphone the next day and had to wait till I returned from holiday to order a new one. Fortunately, I have recorded my callsign in one of the memories on the FT-2000 so I knew the transmitter was working, which meant it was easy to diagnose a faulty microphone. Although not rare, I also worked OJ0Y on Market Reef. Although conditions appear to be poor, I can usually hear signals from South America in the late evening. For example, last night CX8TC and LU8FE in Patagonia were both at a good strength.”
Steph Foster G4XKH from the Riviera ARC in Torquay reported on the GB100RAF special event station run by the club, Fig. 5. She says, “We could not have asked for better weather. Blue skies, no cloud and gorgeous sun. Working conditions were an Icom IC-7300 through a fan dipole running full legal power. We also ran VHF/UHF. The bands were busy but with a lot of contest traffic. Our furthest contact was HB9, Switzerland. Anyone who worked us and seeking a QSL should send their card direct to G8FC, RAFARS HQ, RAF Cosford, Wolverhampton WV7 3EX, with SAE.”
From several locations Carl 2E0HPI/P/2M0HPI/P worked: 40m SSB: 7S18FCW, G5RV/P, MU0GSY/P (GUFF-0004). 20m SSB: DJ18FWC. 17m SSB: OE100DMA. 10m SSB: 9A4WY.
Kevin ZB2GI worked: 20m SSB: 4Z70IARC, 4X70L, AO18FWC, EA5/G4VZV/M (pedestrian mobile), G1TPA/MM, HB18FWC, J32FIFA, PD18VOR (Volvo Ocean Race), R18POL, PV8AL, SX18FIFA, TC179JAN, W2YP. 12m FT8: GW4TPG, JW4PUA, LU8HGI, PU5YDD, RZ1OA. Kevin also operated as ZB2RAF/P: 20m SSB: LX1FF, M0XLT, OD5YA. 12m FT8: 4Z4DX, AB1HL, K4EM, LU1HVK, PU2WSQ. 10m FT8: KC1FOX, PU2RDB, VA3WLD, WQ3X.
Etienne OS8D / ON8DN reports the following: 20m SSB: EP3SMH, OJ0Y, VY2NX, W6KH. 17m SSB: OJ0Y. 15m SSB: 4L8A. 12m: J3/G0VJG, S9ZZ. 10m SSB: “a lot of Europeans”.
Reg G0OOF worked: 80m SSB (a new band for him): 5Q8FWC, R18PAN, SX18FIFA, OH0/DL8JJ. 40m SSB: ER18FIFA, LX18FIFA. 20m SSB: AO18FWC, J3/G0VJG, VE3YJ, YV5EED, ZD7DL. 17m SSB: J32FIFA. 15m SSB: II9FIFA, EA8BWL. 10m SSB: 4U29MAY, AO18FWC, EA6OM, EA9KB, HB0/HB3YDL.
The log of Tony G4HZW looks like it might have been made on 20m but is in fact all on 10m FT8: 4L1MA, 5A1AL, 5T5AI, 9Y4DA, CO3JA, EW2DZ, HB0WR, HC8AE, HZ1FI, IS0DCR, KE7B (Washington state), NP2Q, OG0C, P4/W1XP, RA2FAO, RA9LAN, T77C, YV7CX, YY1AJB, ZB2R, “plus 24 Ws, 3 HB9, 2 SM, 4EA, S5, YO, 2 LX, 5 I, 2 TF, 2 F, 14 DL, 2 EU UAs, 9A, 2 VE, LZ, 6 PY, 4 ON.”
Terry M0CLH sent in a long log which had to be pruned significantly for reasons of space. 80m FT8: 5B4ALX, EA8ZT. 30m FT8: EA1DRL. 20m SSB: LZ430PPW. 20m CW: UP18FIFA. 20m FT8: 4L6QL, N2WK, XP3A. 17m CW: LZ430PPW. 17m FT8: AY0FWC, HS0ZIV, K1KD. 15m FT8: 7X2KF. 12m FT8: 5P1W. 10m CW: HG18FIFA. 10m FT8: 5B4VL, 9G5AR, PU1JSV, PY5IS, SV1GSP/8, W2WI, Z61DX and numerous other European stations.
Martin GW4TPG worked some good DX: 80m FT8: EA9CD, VE1GRC. 40m FT8: HI0RCD, RW9RT, TF5B, VK7AC. 30m FT8: BG7BDB, OG0C, SU9JG. 20m SSB: OJ0Y. 20m CW: 4J100K, HV0A. 20m FT8: S01WS, TA3D, V53DX. 17m FT8: 9X2AW, AP2AM, BD0AAI, DX3H, JH1QXL, KP3IV, NC4RY, YB0MWM, ZS6JES. 15m FT8: OD5SK, FR4OS. 12m CW: OG0C. 12m FT8: 5B4VL, 9K2HS, A92AA, BG7BDB, C31RP, EK1KE, FR4OO, LU8HGY, PU5YDD, TK5IH, ZB2GI, ZP4KFX. 10m CW: FY5KE. 10m FT8: 9H1AE, CE2/YV5IAL, EA9BO, PP5JR, PY4BL, S01WS, PP5JR, VU2CPL.
Thanks to all contributors. Please send any input for this column to [email protected] by the first of the month (September 1st for the November issue, October 1st for the December edition). I would especially welcome suitable photographs for publication in the column. 73, Steve PJ4DX.
This article was featured in the September 2018 issue of Practical Wireless