Thursday, December 5, 2013

160 Meter Amateur Radio Contest

One of the more challenging amateur radio contests takes place this weekend ( Dec 6-Dec 8) and for the SWL who can copy CW it can be a fun way to pick up some new countries on a low band.
It is the annual ARRL 160-Meter Contest and runs from 2200 GMT Friday Dec 6 through 1600 GMT Dec 8.  The object of the contest for hams is to work as many stations as possible. US and Canadian hams work each other and the rest of the world, while other stations work US and Canadian Hams.The W/VE stations give a signal report and their ARRL or RAC section while DX stations give just a signal report.

To give you and idea of the difficulty of this contest,  it would be the equivalent of trying to log a broadcast band station running a kilowatt or less across the ocean.  Of course copying a CW signal is much easier than an AM signal, but its still not easy!

For stations in the US, working Europe can be possible during the evening hours and through about midnight local time.  For listeners in Europe to hear US stations, the best times will be between 2300 and 0700 GMT.

For stations in the US, working the Pacific and Asia is best from a couple hours before sunrise on. In this contest it will be difficult for European listeners to hear much activity during this time period because they will be in full sun.  So the window for hearing much for European listeners will be somewhat shorter than for those in North America.  That will be because while there are times that prop into Asia and the Pacific would be possible from Europe, it does not overlap with times that those stations would be able to work US stations and there would be no reason for them to be on. That window is mostly between 0900-1300 GMT.

Beverage antennas used for BCB DX would be useful for those wanting to log some DX in this contest as would loops that cover that frequency range ( 1800-2000) or if your local noise will allow hearing weak signals on that range, inverted L's and longwires.  Of course anything that you have can be tried.

I will be using a sloper antenna fed at the top and two receivers: An Icom R-75 with 250 Hz cw filters in both IF's and an old boatanchor,  a Hammurland HQ-170.  The old tube type receivers really shine on this band as they tend to be more immune to intermodulation interference from strong nearby broadcast stations. They also tend to handle noise better, modern DSP notwithstanding.  At least they appear to to me.  Who knows, that may be psychological or wishful thinking,  but again, at the end of the day, its whatever works!

In any event,  it will be something to have fun with.  During the end-of-November CQ World Wide DX Contest, conditions on 160 meters were fabulous, with stations from Japan and Asiatic Russia logged here in Central Texas.  While a cold front will be moving in late this week, we have no thunderstorms forecast, so perhaps the noise will be low.  And what better way to spend a cold weekend that in front of a good, warm receiver!

Good DX!

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