Category Archives: Sweepstakes

Sweepstakes results — clean sweep

For years my goal has been to complete a clean sweep in the CW ARRL Sweepstakes. A clean sweep is working all 80 sections in the US and Canada, which includes Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Several years I’ve been close with 78 or 79 sections, but I never managed to get the Northwest Territory in Canada.
This year I was fighting high line noise, and wondered whether to even take part. But I started out and started getting some of the rare sections — North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota — right off, so I got hooked.
The contest started at 4 p.m. local time, and by the time I went to bed at 1 a.m. I was close to 400 contacts and had 76 sections. I was missing Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Newfoundland and Northwest Territory.
So I thought I had a real chance for the sweep. On Sunday, I started out with a good run on 40 meters, and after it got light moved to 20 and 15 to look for my three missing multipliers. I didn’t spend full time at the radio, just checking the spots and CW Skimmer every hour or so to see if they had popped up. Around 10 the KH6 stations showed up on 20, so it was no problem to get Hawaii, but I had seen no sign of the other three.
Around noon I was doing search-and-pounce on 15 and saw Puerto Rico pop up on Skimmer. I jumped to the frequency and had him– only two to go. Shortly after that I saw a spot for Newfoundland, and discovered a huge pileup calling him. I used all my pileup busting skills — and got him after about 10 minutes. Only one to go. I went back to search and pounce on 15 watching what was showing up on Skimmer, and suddenly Northwest Territory station popped up. I jumped the frequency and got him on the first call. I think he had just started operating on that band, and I beat the spots and the pileup.
So at 1 p.m. local time, I had my first clean sweep. It felt good. I took a break. At sundown I came back to the shack and ran 40 and 80 for a little while, getting my contact total to 600. Around 6:30 I pulled the plug when I hit 600 contacts. More on fighting the noise later.

Slow sweepstakes

Last weekend was the CW Sweepstakes, probably the biggest and most challenging of North American contests. I had planned on making a major effort to work a clean sweep — all 80 sections — but discovered I had an old friend and his wife visiting over the weekend. It was hard to tell them “No, don’t come, I have a ham radio contest.”

So instead I did a very modest effort — in about 2.5 hours of operating I made roughly 140 contacts. I had a good run going on 40 meters Sunday morning, and did some search and pounce just to listen around the bands. Actually, it was a little liberating not to have to try to beat last year’s score and make that clean sweep. Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other contests coming up this winter. Maybe I’ll make a big effort on the 160 meter contest next month. Phone Sweepstakes is two weeks away, and I’ll dabble in that a little, but I just don’t see the challenge of working a phone contest. Maybe if I had a better microphone and a foot switch I could run the frequency….

Sweepstakes goals

It’s Saturday morning and Sweepstakes, the biggest and toughest contest, starts this afternoon. It’s tough because the exchange is long and unpredictable. People complain about contensts having a meaningless 599 exchange, but Sweepstakes is just the opposite. I’ll be sending a
serial number, precednece or the classification I’m in, my call, the check which is the year I was first licensed, and my section — 1 U K9OZ 65 IL. That may not seem like much, but copy different variations from different stations a few hundred times at high speed CW and you start to see the problem.

I ususally set a goal for myself prior to the contest. Last year my goal was 400 contacts and a clean sweep — working all the sections. I wound up with 380 and 75 sections. Someday, I’d like to do the clean sweep, but most years I wind up in the 75 to 78 range. There are a few tough ones, like the Northwest Territories in Canada. So my goal this year is 500 and a clean sweep. I’ll report back on my progress next week.

Ready for Sweepstakes

After what seems weeks (okay 2 weeks) of swearing at the computer, I have the station fully set up and ready to run for the contest season. In this screen shot you can see LP-Pan giving me a visual display of the band, CW Skimmer decoding a signal, and N1MM logger running.

I had most of this running on an old XP computer two weeks ago, but I was at 100 percent processor capacity. So thinking it would be too much work to upgrade to a bigger processor on that machine, I bought a basic new gaming computer with Vista, a high-powered processor and lots of RAM. That made sense to me. I could get the machine for $500 or so, move the sound card and extra port cards from the other machine and be ready to run. If Vista was a problem, I could downgrade to XP.

I waw wrong on every assumption. The sound card I had — an M-Audio Audiophile 2486 — has no Vista drivers and it was a bear to get the Power SDR software to run on Vista, so I decided to downgrade the computer to XP. It didn’t want to do that. After a week of futile attempts to get XP loaded on the new machine, I bought a sound card with Vista drivers and went about the task of getting Power SDR to work on Vista. The secret — which I finally discovered — was to run the program as administrator the first time I ran it. One of those Vista tricks. Thanks to the folks on the yahoo group for LP-Pan for the tip.

On Thursday of this week I had it all working. so I decided to put the computer in a better position and rearrange my operating position for better ergonomics for Sweepstakes. That meant unhooking everything and setting it back up. I the process, I reversed two wires from the LP-Pan panadapter the sound card. The result is that it looked like it was running correctly, but I was having all sorts of problems with ghost images and other strange occurances. In trying to fix it, I blew up the software a couple times, but have gotten good at reinstalling everything.

Finally, last night I realized the two channels from Panadapter to the sound card were reversed. I fixed them, and I’m done. It all works as advertised.

Now I’ve added CW Skimmer and the last piece of the puzzle. I’m not sure I can multi-task enough to use it in the heat of a contest, but I’ll try it next weekend.