ZL/NB1B 2005 NEQP Report

Here's the report Dennis/NB1B gave to the Yankee Clipper Contest Club after he returned from his trip to New Zealand:

I thought some of you would be interested in the ZL6QH station that I used for the NEQP, and what it was like to operate from there.  First, a few stats on the station:

Contest Times
UTC     2000 Sat to 0500 Sun            1300 Sun to 2400 Sun
EDT     1600 Sat to 0100 Sun            0900 Sun to 2000 Sun
NZT     0800 Sun to 1700 Sun            0100 Mon to 1200 Mon

Short Path (SP) Distance: ~9100 miles    -  Long Path (LP) Distance: ~15700 miles

Antennas For North America:
Vee Beam, LP, aimed at 240 deg
Vee Beam, SP, aimed at 60 deg
6el 10m Beam, aimed SP at 60 deg

Rig:   FT1000MP
Amp:   Drake L7, 500W output
Tuner: Drake MN2700

W6ELProp showed that, for a given SSN of 60.5 and K=1, the following propagation should be available:
10M: None
15M LP: 2200-0200Z
15M SP: 2000-0430Z
20M LP: 2030-0130Z
20M SP: 0000-1330Z
40M SP: 0430-1400Z
80M SP: 0500-1100Z

If you check the available propagation against the contest hours, there was little 40M propagation available and no 80M propagation available.  The majority of the activity would have to be on the high bands. 

The ZL6QH station is located about 35 minutes outside Wellington NZ, on top of a 300m ridge overlooking the Pacific.  It is a spectacular site, dominated by views of the Pacific and the South island.  There is no line of sight to Wellington proper, as it is shielded by several other ridges.  The road there is narrow, steep, and windy (although far from the worst road that we traversed in NZ in any of the 3 criteria), and winds through a working cattle and sheep ranch.  To get to the site, you have to go through a series of gates, requiring you to leave the car to open and close them.  On the morning of the contest, I left my hotel at 0645 local and got all the way to a middle gate when the first problem presented itself: a herd of cattle was all clustered on the road in front of the gate.  As I started to pull up to them, 3 of the bulls (with horns) came out of the herd to confront my car, so instead of continuing to inch forward I backed off.  I figured, give the herd a little time and they'd find something else to do, but my naitivity in dealing with livestock showed- cows don't get bored, and they don't take initiative to change their direction.  One of the cows had somehow gotten over the fence, and the others soon followed and trampled the gate.  After all the cows were over the gate, I was able to undo the gate, drive through, and resecure it.  I thought I was now done with this, but I neglected to count on the cows. 

The last section of road was outlined by a fence about 20ft wide; as I drove up the road, it was clear that the cows had just exchanged clustering around one gate with clustering around another gate.  Not knowing what to do, I now gave Bob ZL2AMI a call on the cell phone for advice.  Bob advised me to pull to one side of the road as far as possible, and slowly edge into the herd.  The cows would eventually get the message and use the "out" I provided them.  I then slowly edged towards the herd, and the same 3 big bulls with horns proceeded to confront me.  (Does the rental car insurance cover animal attacks?)  They started looking angry and started to paw the ground, but I kept inching forward until I was within a foot of the closest one.  All of a sudden, one of the other cows saw the opening and bolted down the open side, and the rest of the herd (including the macho bulls) all followed them.  I was then able to (watching where I stepped very closely) open the gate and proceed to the shack.

The band was quiet, very quiet.  The only band with any signals on it was 20M LP, so I tuned around and found K2LE/1. After seven calls he was in the log!  WC1M was next, followed by W1NG.  Everyone's signal was weak (15700 miles will do that to a signal), but they weren't difficult to work.  After I worked everything I heard on 20M, I switched to 15M CW and did the same.  When I worked W1NG this time, we QSY'ed to 10M CW, 10M SSB, then 15M SSB.  I then went down to 20M CW LP again, found K1ZZ, and moved him to 15M CW and 10M CW.  Finally found K1KI/m at 2218Z, and we made our first of six CW QSOs (and six mults).  I also made four QSOs with K1DG/m (three mults) and two with WA1Z/m (one mult).  20M LP worked well until about 2315Z; there was a definite difference between switching the vee beams between LP and SP.  I did get three 10M QSOs (W1NG two and K1ZZ one), and tried to move several other stations there after 2200Z, but we either missed each other or there was no propagation.  20M signals improved quite a bit when SP came in, and the rate picked up somewhat.  I checked 40M about 0350Z, and was surprised to hear a lot of signals, so I answered a few CQs and was surprised at working stations that early (remember, 0351Z is 1551 NZT!).  Probably the most surprising QSO of the contest was KO1H and his great QRP signal; he tail-ended KO1U and got through with one call.  I finished at 0500Z with 87 QSOs and 33 counties, and I was sure that I'd break 100 QSOs and 40 counties no sweat.  My last QSO was made at 0443Z, as I was on 80M for the end of the time trying to get K1TTT or W1NG hear me (neither did).

There was a little useful 20M SP propagation, so I got up at 0100 NZT and worked another 5 stations before the band faded out at 1330Z.  With no useful propagation, I set the alarm for 1900Z (0700 NZT) and went back to bad.  When I got up, it was a beatiful morning.  Wind was almost nonexistant, and the sky was a beautiful blue.  I checked the bands and heard - nothing.    I figured it was still early, I'd come back in a little while.  I had breakfast, took some pix, and came back to the rig 45 minutes later and heard - nothing.  Okay, so it was being finnicky today, there is only a 75% probability the band would open anyway.  I never did hear a signal until K1TTT came through at 2124Z, and he was almost ESP.  At 2150Z, I heard a number of W1s, but they were all so pee weak and none could hear me.  At 2200Z, I decided that 20M LP wasn't going to be there today, so I started calling CQ on 21040.  Two stations - WC1M and K1EA - answered my CQs, and I kept CQing for almost an hour working any station that returned my call.  About 2300Z, realizing I would not make 100 QSOs and receiving two 449 signal reports from California, I packed it in.  After the contest I found out about the solar wind and the A of 64, but that was little consolation.

The results are as follows:
Band    CW   SSB   Mults
80M        0         0        0
40M       11        3        1
20M       51      13      31     (25 LP, 39 SP)
15M       10        3        3
10M        2         1        0
Total     74       20       75     Total Score 5880

Strongest stations on the band:  overall, K1TTT was the loudest, most consistent signal on the band.  Others with FB signals were W1NG, K1ZZ, K1RX, K1EA, K2LE/1, N8RA, and AK1W.  WC1M, NY1S and N3KCJ/1 were not as loud here, but they must have excellent Rx capabilities; it never took me more than one call to work them.

When operating at ZL6QH, the bands sound quiet.  S0 signals JUMP out at you, because they are so much louder than the background noise; the limiting factor in what you can work is what can hear you. 

I'd like to thank the Wellington Amateur Radio Club for the use of their great station at ZL6QH for this contest, and especially Bob Stewart ZL2AMI for taking the time to show me that station and go over its operation.  It will be a weekend that I'll always remember.

              -- Dennis NB1B

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