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PB6X and the PACC 2001 Contest

from PB6X Contest Group
Website: on May 4, 2001
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The PB6X - PACC 2001 Story

The PB6X Contest Group - `any eXcuse for a contest'

Our motto is `One Call Equals QSO'

Background on the PB6X Team

Back in 1998, David (PA3HBB/G0BZF) and Gernot (DF5RF) met while David was working in Frankfurt - they met over the air on 40M and decided to meet face-to-face in a local drinking establishment (like you do...) during their conversations, it came up that they were both keen contesters - Gernot had much more operating experience and David had the ideal QTH and antenna design experience. The team was born.

The first contest they did together was CQWW-CW 1998 and they scored quite well for a first time effort - the shack was very primitive at that time - no antenna switches and every band change took about 15 minutes to unscrew the antennas and screw in the new ones. They scored a third place in Holland in Multi Op-Single Transmitter with 1851 QSOs and 415 multipliers (competition was PI4COM-1st and PI4CC-2nd).

For CQWW-CW 1999 it was planned for Gernot to join David and together they would try to beat their score of 1998. However, the flu struck Gernot down, and David entered as PA3HBB in the Single Operator High Power class - the results have just been published and he came second place in The Netherlands.

In WAEDC 1999, Gernot and David were joined by Derrick, GM4CXP who was on holiday in Holland and we managed to secure 1st place in The Netherlands in this contest.

David and Gernot entered a number of contests and were scoring very well - mostly in the Top 5 of their class, as you can see - but after doing a few 48 hour contests, it was decided that this was too much for just 2 people without any support crew - so they started looking for other operators - via email and packet radio they were contacted by EW1NY - Alex (from Minsk) who was in Venlo and asked to join us for the next contest (PACC 2000). We were also joined by Erhard (DL5JQ) from Goch, just over the Dutch/German border. This made a team of 4 operators and we used the callsign PA3HBB and came fifth place in the Multi-single category (All the scores and photos are on PA3HBB's website .)

Every contest we make some improvements/changes - generally, a controlled approach is used - not altering too much for one particular contest. For CQWW-CW 2000 we probably altered too much - with new antennas, a new amplifier, a packet station and a second RX... it was fun, but not as successful as we would have liked (of course!). We scored the highest number of QSOs we've ever had (2561) and the highest number of multipliers (515), thus leading to our highest score to date of 2.3 million points. This year we had another experienced operator, Sam, PA4AO who joined us for a few hours of exercising the PB6X callsign. Sam, for those of you who know his callsign, is the champion pile-up operator of The Netherlands and we were pleased to have him help us in the contest.

Preparation for PACC 2001

The Preparations for PACC 2001 started in the months running up to the contest. David, PA3HBB is our main antenna designer and was designing, building and testing a new 3 element 10M beam. (previously, we used his 2 element 10M beam) and a new 3 element full-sized monobander for 20M.

David reserved the contest callsign PB6X from the Dutch authorities ( The callsign was to be available for the 14 days before the contest - to allow us to get used to it and `give the prefix away' on the bands. The cost of the special license is 50 guilders (about 22 US Dollars).

It was originally intended that Gernot, DF5RF and Erhard, DL5JQ would be coming to help run the station in the Multi-Single category. However, Gernot had to work and Erhard was off to South Africa for a vacation - so it was decided that David would run the contest as a single operator. He set up the antennas for the station in the two days prior to the contest and got all the equipment up and running by himself.

The Antennas for PACC 2001

Almost all of the antennas we use for the contests are designed, built and tested by David PA3HBB, including the new 3-element 10M antenna. For PACC, we had to reduce the antenna plans, as David was the only person on-site and had to assemble and test all the antennas by himself. He decided that the monoband beams on 10,15 and 20M were in order. The new 10M 3-element beam was easily assembled and put on a small rotator on the 10M pump-up mast.

Next, the 15M 2-element and the 20M 2-element beams were assembled and mounted on a 2M stub mast. These antennas are very lightweight and both can be easily turned with a lightweight rotator. The rotator and the beams were bolted onto an 8M wooden mast and raised to vertical using a pulley and a couple of ropes. Allowing David to raise these two antennas single-handed. The Cushcraft AP8A multiband vertical is mounted at ground level on a post driven into the ground. It is positioned in the center of a 50 square meter wire mesh groundplane buried under the grass.

On 40M, the dipole was erected in the trees, suspended across the pond in the garden at about 8M high - this antenna is mainly for working European stations. The second 40M antenna was the 2 element 40M linear loaded beam which was put up without a rotator and fixed, pointing stateside. As a second DX antenna, the AP8A is used.

On 80M, we use a 2 element wire yagi with 10M between the elements and it can beam either west or east, depending on the length of the passive element. During a 48 hour contest, we usually switch the direction on the second evening - to pick up more DX from the opposite direction. Generally, this adds about 10db to our signal (and consequently reduces it by 10db off the back of the beam). For the PACC contest, it was beaming west towards North America (each call area is a multiplier!) and we worked about 10 stations with 5 new multipliers.

On 160M, we use a dipole which has its center suspended from a 20M oak tree and the legs tied off in two other trees at a height of about 13M. The antenna has its major lobes in the north/south directions but, because it is so low, the pattern is very distorted and we managed 105 stations this time.

The Site for PB6X

The site we currently use for PB6X is in a small village to the South East of the city of Eindhoven in the southern part of the Netherlands. It is the home of PA3HBB and he rents a cottage on the country estate of a local orthopaedic surgeon. There is about 10,000 square metres of space and has everything a good contest site requires - a warm shack in the spare room, easy access to the grounds and a cooperating landlord who will even help putting up or testing the antennas. It is a dream site- the only thing which would make it better would be to have the antennas permanently erected - but this is not a major set-back.

The Equipment for PACC 2001

All the equipment for PACC 2001 belongs to PA3HBB. The main rig is the ubequious Kenwood TS850SAT with a full set of filters, the backup rig is a TS570D (which so far, we have not had to use during a contest). The amplifier is a Yaesu FL2100Z and the reserves are a Yaesu FL2100B and a Collins 30L1. The amplifier performed perfectly. However, David did not have the usual foot-switch (normally supplied by Gernot, DF5RF) so he made a hand switch from two pieces of PCB material with duct-tape to hold the contacts apart. This assembly was taped to the operating table, so that when David's hand was moved to send on the key, his wrist rested on the switch and keyed the amplifier. This cured the `hot-switching' of the amplifier - where the RF from the rig gets there before the relays in the amplifier are properly switched.

The Shack for PB6X

The shack is situated upstairs in David's cottage and has a dedicated operating corner for the radio/computer and amplifier. It is a comfortable operating position with a custom made desk and a comfortable chair for those long hours of sitting.

The antennas are switched through a series of manual coaxial switches and coaxial relays which are all labelled with coloured tape - as is the amplifier - a chart on the wall reminds you to check that all the colours match all the way through the system - i.e. if you are on ten metres the amplifier should be set to RED and tuned to match the setting for the RED band, the Antenna switches should be set to RED, then everything is OK - work DX!. Tune-up instructions are pasted to the wall - `10 Steps to Tuning Up the Amp', so no one forgets how to do it in the middle of the night.

Every band has its own colour and this is reflected all the way from the shack through the coaxial cables (each connector is colour coded) to the antennas, where the elements are colour coded - so mistakes are reduced during assembly. These colours are etched into the memory of anyone who operated the station by the station manager - PA3HBB.

All the amplifier settings are also on the wall - so band change time is minimised. There is large map of the world for checking your beam heading against and a separate table which holds the antenna rotators - again clearly labelled with coloured tape and the band it rotates.

The PACC- 2001 Contest starts

So, David is ready for the start of 24 hours of continuous pile-up with our contest callsign... the times of band changes are rough guides - not exact times.

12:00 - The initial intention was to start on 10M. At 12:00 the contest starts and he decided to start on 15M - In the morning, before the contest started, he worked some Japanese stations on 10M , but the conditions were not as good as in the morning, when he put 50+ JAs in the log in an hour. 15M didn't seem too hot either, but it was open to Europe. 10 minutes before the contest started a clear frequency was found and the amplifier was tuned up ready to go. A few QSOs were made on 15M before the contest started and some kind soul put PB6X on the DX cluster. The contest began and there was one almighty pile-up. David worked solidly for 1 and a half hours on 15M with rates peaking over 160 at times

13:30 - He QSYed to 20M and got an instant pile-up there with rates in excess of 130 QSOs/hour. He didn't even have time to spend hunting for multipliers. David stayed on 20M until 16:30. 3 hours operating = 210 QSOs.

16:30 - He QSYed again, knowing he could always come back to 20M. This time he tried out 40M and the dipole and beam. The QSO rate was still peaking up to over 120/hr at times. He stayed on 40M until 21:00 and clocked 230 QSOs into the log and 41 multipliers. A lot of time was spent catching grey-line DX for extra multipliers, before finding a clear frequency and calling CQ TEST.

21:00 - To take advantage of the RSGB 160M contest - a short visit to that band was in order. A clear frequency was found and a pile-up ensued, then some hunt and pounce to up the QSO numbers and get some more multipliers. After 2 hours, 95 QSOs were in the top-band log, with 21 multipliers.

23:00 -80M, probably one of David's best bands - especially with the 2 element beam. The QSO rate was quite good sitting normally over 70/hr when CQing and a lot lower when hunting for multipliers. After approximately 2 hours there were 105 stations in the 80M log with 30 multipliers.

01:15 - half an hour on 40M, to catch a few more multipliers. 7 stations worked and 2 multipliers (VE3 and 4S). Obviously getting a bit sleepy - coffee break required.

01:45 - Refreshed from the coffee, a quick excursion to 160M again to collect some more multipliers there - 10 more stations, but only OY as a new multiplier. (We know that 160M is our worst band - perhaps a vertical antenna will help).

02:15 - Time for the 80M beam to come into play again. A bit of multiplier hunting and a bit of CQing produced a lower QSO rate - but a few nice multipliers.

03:25 - Desperately in need of some food and another coffee - 20 minute break.QSY back to 160M for some more multiplier working - peak rate 80/hr.

03:45 - Again, David visits 40M for a few more multipliers. However, the band was not good to him, 2 QSOs, but one new multiplier (K4).

03:55 - OK, time for some sleep -3 hours sleep. QRT till 06:50.

06:50 - 10M might be open... No. It was just starting to open - worked a few UA stations - spent the required 10 minutes here before QSYing to a busy band.

07:00 - 15M also not too open, so David made a QSY down to 20M for the sunday morning rush as it is now daylight in Holland. Spent about 1 hour 20 minutes for 60 QSOs and 7 multipliers.

08:20 - A quick check on 10M showed the band was now open. Therefore, QSY to 10M - with quite a lot of success - peak rate around 90/hr. 16 new multipliers in 36 QSOs.

09:00 - Switched to 15M to fill the log - peak rate of 115/hr. Spent 2 hours collecting 85 QSOs and did quite a bit of hunting to collect 18 multipliers.

11:00 - Changed band to 20M to get some QSOs in the log - calling CQ TEST obtained 25 QSOs in 30 minutes.

11:30 - back to 10M to find more multipliers- not too difficult on an open 10M band. David managed 17 more QSOs and 6 more multipliers before the end of the contest.

12:00 - Contest finished.

12:10 station shut down, backups made of the logs - bottle of beer opened.

14:00 started taking down the antennas - spent 4 hours working on them - then too tired to take down the 20M+15M stack, so left them until the Monday morning. The rest of the antennas were successfully dismantled and put away safely until May for the CQ WPX contest - hope to work you then...we'll be ready with the whole team at full strength.

Till the next time we air PB6X - 73 es GD DX OM.

De the PB6X Team.


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