By Douglas Ruz, CO8DM
On the morning of Wednesday, February 26, 2014, my friend Raul, CO8ZZ, arrived at my house. He had traveled from Las Tunas, Cuba, the capital city of our province, with antennas and other equipment. I loaded my equipment into his truck and we continued the trip to Chaparra, a small town about 8 miles away. In Chaparra we met up with the other members of the Radio Club Las Tunas team, T48K — Alejandro, CM8AKY, and Alex, CO8KA. We continued our trip to La Herradura beach, located in the northern part of Las Tunas province, and a good site for a station because an-tennas can be installed a few feet from the Atlantic Ocean, which does much to improve the station’s performance. T48K was first activated in Feb-ruary 2001, during the ARRL® International DX CW Contest. The founders were Raul, CO8ZZ; Josue, CO8JY (now CO7RR), and me. We have participated frequently in most of the ARRL and CQ contests held over the years, but this would be our first time competing in the ARRL DX Phone part of the contest.
When we arrived at La Herradura, our friend Hector was waiting. He owns the house we used for our contest operation. It was already afternoon and we only had time to install the two-element vertical for 10 meters. After the sun faded, we moved inside and installed our stations. We had a Yaesu FT-857 transceiver in the running station, a Yaesu FT-757GXII transceiver in the multiplier station, and a Kenwood TS-130S transceiver as a backup. We also had two amplifiers, a Collins 30L-1 and a Yaesu FL2100Z. To round it all off we had a computer network with two PCs running N1MM contest software. Just after sunrise on Thursday we started installing the rest of the antennas — the two-element 15 meter vertical, the 20 meter vertical dipole, and my 40 meter quarter-wave vertical. Then we had to deal with the problem of the 80 and 160 meter antennas. In previous contests we had used a pine tree to support the low-band antennas. Unfortunately, some-body had cut the pine tree down. We were up early on Friday to re-sume work on the antenna farm. We ended up raising two in-verted V antennas for 80 and 160 meters. We were a little apprehen-sive because we had to feed both antennas with one piece of coax and had neither the time nor the equipment to run any meaningful tests.
At March 1, 0000Z the contest began. Alejandro, CM8AKY,started calling on the 20 meter band begin-ning the first of our 2-hour shifts. The deepening nighttime brought with it a storm. Our portable antennas were not the sturdiest but, luckily, all survived except the 15 meter antenna, and our contest operation continued through the night on the lower bands. The inverted Vs for 80 and 160 seemed to be performing well and overall our operators spent the night working pileups of 120 – 150 contacts per hour. A new day dawned and we took a break to fix the 15 meter antenna that was knocked down in the storm. One of the 15 meter vertical’s two elements was damaged so we raised the remaining element as a vertical dipole. It performed well mounted next to the ocean water.Propagation returned with the sun and the high bands opened up. The weather was calm and we seemed to be in for good weather and good luck. As the middle of the contest arrived, we had over 3000 con-tacts and more than 200 multipliers.
Sunday, March 2
Ours was a modest station and because this was our first DX Phone contest, we didn’t have previous results for comparison. Our goal was to achieve a good showing with respect to other Cuban stations in our class. The high bands stayed open and we kept piling up contacts. Twenty meters was jumping until almost midnight. At that point, we decided to switched to 40 meters to improve our contact count on that band, but we found a problem. The tide seemed to affect the 40 meter antenna’s resonant frequency. We went out in the dark to raise the antenna’s radials off the beach. This brought the antenna’s resonant frequency back to the center of 40 where it was sup-posed to be.
For the first time we began receiving cluster spots, thanks to our friend Pavel, CO7WT, who installed a spider
cluster in Camagüey City. His system receives spots via e-mail every 2 minutes, a unique method for ob-taining spots. I installed a packet cluster system at my home location in Puerto Padre, about 10 miles from the contest station. My cluster system uses UiDxLink, a pro gram written by Roland, SM6EAT. It sent us spots on VHF at 1200 baud. This was very helpful because in La Herradura there is no Internet access, so packet radio was our only choice. The only glitch was that the telephone connection at my shack dropped out every 25 minutes and the system needed to redial. Once we had the cluster informa-tion, we were able to add more multipliers. At night, activity on the low bands increased while the higher bands continued to yield a steady stream of contacts. As the contest came to a close, we had operated for the full 48 hours. After all our weeks of preparations, we found we had 6094 contacts and 328 multipliers for an unofficial score of 5,996,496 points. If that score was correct, it would put us in second place just behind the superb station PJ2T in Curaçao. We checked our log for errors and submitted it. Our official score was 5,862,672 points, with 6018 contacts and 328 multipliers. This put us in the number eight spot for the Multioperator Single Transmitter, High Power category. Not a bad showing for a first attempt. Operating the DX contest was a great time and we enjoyed the adventure and challenge of the event. Thanks to all the stations who contacted us and we hope to see you in our next contest. (Published in QST Magazine, October 2014)