Another weekend another contest. This time it’s the Worked All Europe RTTY Contest. I have never done much RTTY, let alone a RTTY contest. It’s going to be interesting. It’s a 48 hour contest which they only allow 30hrs of operating. I set my goals to participate for at least 5 hours. That’s it… I didn’t care about points, DXCC or anything else. I just wanted to try it out
Getting Ready For RTTY
Since I never really done RTTY, I wanted to make sure I got about doing it the correct way. Thankfully a fellow operator Frank (KG6EYC) was looking to make an FSK unit for his radio so I tagged along and I ended up making a neat unit using an MCU and some optoisolators. That will be for another article. I got it working with N1MM+ (or so I thought) and I figured I was set for the contest. So far so good
Problems right out of the gate
I should have made some contacts before the contest but dum dum me figured I would have no problem. Well… soon as 0:00z rolled around, I get on the air to seeing nothing coming across my screen. I couldn’t decode any of the signals but I could transmit. After talking with Frank about the FSK project, I didn’t read where I had to use a different RTTY engine in N1MM+. Instead of MMTTY, I had to use a program called 2Tone that would allow me to use my soundcard to decode RTTY but use the MCU to send FSK emulating a TNC. After setting up 2Tone, I was now able to decode stations!
In attempt to make some points, I tried contacting stations and no one is replying. If I did get a reply I got “Agn? Agn?”. This means something is wrong. I switched to the dummy load and loaded up another receiver and I know for a fact that I am transmitting a signal. It didn’t appear to be distorted. Then I recalled reading something about signal polarity in my radio’s manual about FSK. I changed the polarity and was able to now make exchanges.
This is why it’s important to make sure your station, software and everything else used in the contest is in running condition BEFORE it starts. But I didn’t beat myself up over it because I wasn’t taking this contest seriously.
First Thoughts About RTTY
I honestly thought I was going to be making blazing fast contacts since it’s a “Digital” mode. Nope… RTTY contacts are much longer than CW or SSB. Even more so if you are trying to decode a weak signal or trying to decode a pileup.
Working weaker stations means you will be sending out the same messages multiple times. It appears if there is a pileup or more than one strong operator on frequency, the software will have a very hard time decoding. At least with SSB, you could pull a phonetic out here and there. However it’s still a great mode. Much faster than many other digital modes out there. I was just expecting something else.
It makes for a Busy Screen
I entered as Single Operator, Low power (un-assisted). I don’t think my amplifier would have been able to handle the duty cycle nor did I want to use the cluster. This contest isn’t as popular so I was able to get in call CQ often. I also used my Panadapter to hunt down signals. It helped out a lot in this contest.
Bands Were… Meh
10m was just dead. Multiple times throughout the contest there was nothing on 10 so I focused on 15 because I have trouble with CW/Data because my beam is adjusted for SSB. It works well on 15 and the upper parts of the CW/Data portion on 20. For 40m I used my Vertical and for 80 I used my G5RV. Nothing spectacular when compared to CQWW SSB just a couple weeks ago.
It was a wake up call that I need to work on better antennas for 40, 80 and 160
Dealing with QTCs
This contest uses QTCs where operators can exchange their recent contacts for points. Usually you send or receive the logs of up to 10 contacts from that you or the other operator made. My first run in with QTCs were during WAE SSB as part of a multi-op. I didn’t want to do it at first due to very long exchange but after the first couple QTC exchanges, it wasn’t so bad. For RTTY, it’s much easier with N1MM. Just press CTRL-Z and click on your fills. However I wouldn’t attempt to send or receive QTCs with weak stations. You’ll end up sending over and over.
I had a great time
Even though the RTTY tones give me a bit of a headache, I had a great time. During WAE for SSB and CW, contacts with those in the same continent don’t count for points but in RTTY it does. I used this contest as a way to fill missing Digital spots for the WAS triple play award. At the time of writing, it has paid off. I now only have to make 16 more RTTY/CW confirmations. Hopefully CQWW CW will get me Alaska and Hawaii on CW
Overall I did 67.5K points in my 9 hours of operating. If I participate in WAE RTTY in the future, my goal is now set. I doubt I will win any awards from this but we’ll see.
Thanks for reading