ARRL International DX Contest 2013

Like last year, the condx seemed to go down a bit on Sunday compared to Saturday. This year seemed a little worse than last - hard to say though. One thing that was down this year was BIC time - only about 18.5 hours compared to 24 hours last year. I did pick up a couple extra mults compared to last year, but QSOs and points were down slightly. But this was with 25% less operating time, so either condx were actually better this year, or the station was better. I'm voting for the second. The weekend before the contest I put up a full-sized 40m ground plane, with the feedpoint up about 12' or so. This antenna consistently beat the 80m doublet into Europe on 40m, so it got a good bit of use. Also, on Saturday, during the contest, I put up a trapped EFHW for 10/15/30.

This antenna has generated a number of questions, so in case anyone else is curious, here's a little more info. The Cushcraft R-series of electrical half-wave antennas has always gotten mixed reviews, but I think overall they are a good idea. But I didn't want to shell out the money to try one in case they really were dummy loads. So, I figured why not build what I wanted? Since the R-series are effectively half-wave antennas, they have a high input impedance - this is corrected for with the large base-mounted matchbox that comes with the antenna. A similar arrangement exists for the Par End-Fedz 10/20/40. It is a half-wave on 40 that has a broad-band matching transformer used at the base; in the Par literature, they even mention that this matcher may be used for single-band antennas by simply replacing the wire with one appropriately sized for the band of interest. The 10/20/40 resonances all stem from the fact that these bands are harmonically related. My idea was to build an R-3(-ish) antenna with a trapped half-wave element to allow operation on 10/15/30m. 10 and 15 because those are the bands I need to pay attention to for my 5BDXCC, and because my antennas from 20m on down seem to work OK as is...and, I was anxious to get back to the contest and didn't want to bother with tuning the new antenna's low band up to 20m.

In March 2012, QST published an article by W6NBC titled "Better Coax Traps", wherein the author presented an alternative method of coax trap construction that was free-form, rather than using PVC or some other form on which to wind the traps. This looked like an easy method, so that's what I did, using the VE6YP trap calculator. I used RG-174 to build coax traps, and was aiming for a frequency just below the targeted bands. Not having a way to measure the trap resonance, I just put an antenna together and checked SWR - generally the SWR was OK after trimming the 10m section to lowest SWR, but could be better. I will likely trim the antenna closer to resonance on all bands, and also am planning on trying some different traps. Before doing too much with the traps though, I'd like to buy or build a dipmeter so I'll have a reasonable way to check the traps' resonant frequency. Oh, I also fed the antenna through a Par End Fedz 10/20/40 matchbox, as I had one laying around, not in use. There are a number of plans for a similar matchbox on the internet...Google is your friend!

I hung the antenna up as a vertical, with the feedpoint up about 10 feet or so. How did it work? At first, on 10 meters, when the band was just opening, the 80m doublet sounded better than the wire vertical. But, within a half hour or so, the band settled down, and the the vertical was actually better to Europe about 95% of the time, and the advantage was usually at least two s-units - at times, the advantage was 4 or 5 s-units. Performance like that makes the antenna a keeper - I do hope to do a little more tweaking on the antenna before next fall.

For the contest itself, I operated about six hours less, and got a couple more mults, and otherwise, my score was down only slightly compared to last year. The bands seemed a little worse, but with the new antennas, it was pretty hard to tell.

Here's the band breakdown:

Band QSOs Mults
80:   30   26
40:   85   47
20:   91   51
15:   87   44
10:   58   35

Tot: 351  203 Total Score = 213,150

Down a little less than 5%, with only 75% of the operating time - I'll take it!

KX3 at 5 watts, 80m doublet at 45', 40m Ground plane fed at 12', and 10/15/30m trapped EFHW, hung vertically.