Monday, July 16, 2012

Spectacular Field Day at W5YA

I was fortunate to be in New Mexico for a mini-family reunion in late June. I also had an opportunity to SOTA-activate a few local peaks including Sandia Crest (10,678 ft/3225 M) which overlooks Albuquerque. And a few days later, several joint SOTA-activations with Fred/KT5X who later invited me to join their award-winning, #1-in-category, Field Day team in northern New Mexico near Chama.

What a great FD experience! First we were truly in the "field", no electricity, no generators, only solar panels and batteries. Although we did have good cellphone coverage, so we weren't totally disconnected. And no amenities like nearby restuarants, late-night pizza deliveries, hot water, well, you get the point. I had become disillusioned with the "town park" type of FD efforts where folks are more interested in supper then back home for all the comforts of home, leaving two or three stalwarts to man the radios.
Over the past 10 yrs, Fred/KT5X has built up a highly competitive team, a set of 2-element Moxons for 40-15m, and a great location with a big hill downslope to the east and northeast, thereby providing some RF propogation enhancement for our QRP-battery signals. Over the past several years, the FD club call of W5YA has been number 1 in the 3A-battery/QRP class and ranked in the top 10-15 for ALL classes. So it was a special treat to participate with a dedicated group of "contest-capable" but yet "elmering-oriented" folks in a more traditional Field Day location.

Antenna setup was a breeze. The team had perfected the deployment of the single band Moxons (15m, 20m, 40m) for either a dedicated 20 ft mast or 4 strategically located pine trees for the 40m Moxon. The 80m dipole was strung across a wash between two 40 ft pine trees where the feedpoint was probably 60-70 ft high and angled northeast.

After the 24 hour effort, the team of 3 transmitters and eight operators including a VHF 6m station (no openings so only a few qsos) and a GOTA CW station (which had over 250 qsos!) amassed over 1,925 qsos and a total score (including bonus points) of nearly 20,000! Looking at the past year scores, this will certainly be a top 10 finish for ALL entrants! Not bad for a QRP 5 watt set of stations!

The secret New Mexico Field Day "sauce" was the following:

1) IF you think you are "strong", you will be. In other words, act as if you have a strong signal which means a lot of CQing interspersed with rapid band searches to pounce on new stations. This strategy is very productive as most (maybe 80%) field day operations are in Search and Pounce modes. If you can keep a clear frequency, they will find you. If not, S&P until you find a clear frequency then CQ again.
2) Focus on CW as it has a distinct points advantage over SSB.
3) "Nurture" a GOTA station. Not only can you elmer a new operator(s) but the points are "free" meaning you don't have to count the GOTA station in your transmitter total.
4) Build efficient and effective antennas. I was surprised at the front-to-back signal strengths of the 2-element Moxons plus the gain certainly helps the 5 watt signal.
5) "Sit in the chair", the contesting mantra for accumulating a lot of qsos! But with enough folks to man the 3 transmitters, everyone got a good break but certainly a lot of operating time.
6) Use the "best" transceivers possible, in this case, Elecraft K3s.

It was a pleasure to share FD with these folks! Thanks Fred/KT5X for the opportunity.