NW8S WPX RTTY 2021 Recap

Finally!  The WPX RTTY contest we’ve been trying to have!  In 2016, KB8O, KM8V (then N8USK), and AB8M operated our first multi-op / 2 transmitter CQ WPX RTTY contest from KB8Os new QTH.  We ended up with a final score of 3.9 million and set the M/2 record for the 8th call area.  Every year after that (as NW8S in 2017, AB8M in 2018, KB8O in 2019, and NW8S in 2020) we’ve failed to meet the expectation we set with that first score.  In fact, the very next year (2017) we had less than half the score.  Only in 2019 did we come close.  So I’m rather pleased to state that 5 years later we finally did it – and in band conditions that were not nearly as favorable as in 2016.

WPX as a Contest

One of the important things to note about WPX RTTY is the point structure.  

CQ WPX RTTY Points80 & 40 Meters20 / 15 / 10 Meters
Same Country21
Diff Country, Same Continent42
Different Continent63
CQ WPX RTTY Scoring System

This scoring system, coupled with the fact that this is NOT a DX contest, allows smaller stations to be competitive against even the “big guns.”  A lot of the big contest stations have sunk 6 figures (or more!) into tower systems and stacked/phased beams giving them 5-elements-over-5-elements-over-5-elements on 20 or 15 to Europe.  Yes, that extra gain gives them an advantage on the upper bands when conditions are marginal – but sometimes those same stations stay fixated on those upper bands because they’ve invested so much time and money into the upper band system and just have a couple of wires for the lower bands. 

NQ8O and AB8M working WPX RTTY 2021

In WPX you can use that to your advantage and bang out US and Canadian stations on 80 and 40 at a strong rate and with a point advantage that negates their 3 point contacts to Europe.  Looking at the results from the stations who have publicly reported results and their band breakdowns to the Contest Online Scoreboard, you can see that the stations with the highest scores took advantage of those low bands.  

A side note on scores:  EU stations will, for the most part, have a higher score in this contest than US stations due to the extra points awarded for working a different country on the same continent.  Working between France and Germany is worth 4 points on 40m, but between Ohio and Indiana is only 2 points.  That is why you see breakdowns of scores by regions in results articles.  Likewise different regions even in the US. 

If you’re new to contesting, you may find some of those scores even in the U.S. as intimidating but you have to remember that band conditions may be totally different between the West Coast and the East Coast and there will be a natural bias towards better conditions the farther south you are in the U.S.

Band Conditions

“Son, I’m not sure what you just sent me, but you’re going to have to send it louder.” – AB8M

To quote WV4P, bands were “OK, not good, not bad… just usable.”  I’d echo that sentiment.  There were no mag storms or other badness to make it a painful slog, but there was no sunspot activity to help either.  10 meters was all but non-existent and 15 was slow.  20 meters was wall-to-wall with stations from about sunrise to early afternoon – as one would expect.  40 and 80 is where we spent more time than we’ve traditionally spent in a contest and they were busy.  80 turned out better rates than 40 did after 9pm and as much if not more DX.

CQ WPX RTTY QSO Count 2016 vs 202120162021
80 Meters337642
40 Meters518974
20 Meters545687
15 Meters539208
10 Meters2920
Team QSO Comparison of 2016 and 2021

The short days this time of year lead to what I call the “after lunch nap.”  After about noon, as greyline moved out of Europe into the Atlantic Ocean, the rate on 20 really dropped off.  “The early bird gets the worm” as the best time for Eastern Europe stations on 20 is right after the band opens. 

NQ8O and KM8V working WPX RTTY 2021

Without any sunspot enhancement, a lot of the stations on 20 and 15 were just at or above the noise floor requiring a lot of back and forth to get them in the logbook.  The QSB on Saturday was more pronounced than normal – especially on 15.  A number of stations simply “disappeared” in the middle of an exchange only to come back 20-30 seconds later. 

Overall everyone seemed patient – even the EU stations which tend to send you their exchange one time only were indulging us with their macros sending a serial number 2 or 3 times.  That had to be difficult for them to admit to do. 

Station Setup

“Yes, I know what my call is!  I know what your call is!  Why can’t this guy just send his number 4 times in a row instead of my callsign?” – AB8M

Station 2 on 20 Meters

This might be the 2nd RTTY contest in a row where we ran high power, had a good score, and didn’t blow up equipment along the way.  At the risk of jinxing ourselves, I hope this is the start of a trend!  We fielded a team of 4 (KB8O, AB8M, NQ8O, KM8V) with the goal of keeping both stations on the air as much as possible.

Friday:  We avoided 20 meters at the start of the net (in the past we’ve tried to pick up some in the first 1-2 hours) and jumped into 80 and 40 with both feet and shut down at 2am.

Saturday: We kicked off again at 7am on 40 and 20.  Station 2 stayed on 20 for the majority of the day while Station 1 bounced between 40m and 15m – depending on condition on 15.  By evening we were back on 80 and 40.  We shut down at 3am.

Sunday: Again, we kicked off at 7am on 40 and 20 and had pretty much a rinse and repeat of Saturday until the contest ended at 7pm.

Station 1: Kenwood TS-890, Acom 2100, AT5K Tuner, FilterMax 4, 160m doublet (used on 40 meters).

Station 2: Kenwood TS-890, OM Power 2000+, FilterMax 4, 80m doublet (used on 80 meters).

Shared equipment: High power transmit band pass filters from Low Band Systems for each band.  Low Band Systems triplexer for 20/15/10. Optibeam OP9-5 at 45ft.

NW8S 2021 CQ WPX RTTY Results

“Hey Dougie, you feel like making some contacts on 20 meters over there today?” – KB8O

Total Score: 5,158,53825116622779
NW8S 2020 WPX RTTY Scores by Band

If the logs hold up as they appear so far, this will be a new M/2 record for the 8th call area and a new WPX record across all categories for the 8th call area.  

Station 1 – 40 Meters

All-in-all we had a really good time, a lot of laughs, and probably too many 807s as the days went on.  One of the nice things about RTTY contests is they tend to be more social than CW or Phone, letting you give the other operator some good natured grief or listening to their outbursts while trying to pull a good contact out of the noise.  It was nice to get together after a year where the last time we probably all met up last was for Field Day.

Thanks to everyone we got in the log book.  Looking forward to doing it again next year!

On behalf of Jay (KB8O), Tom (NQ8O), and Jon (KM8V),

73 de AB8M