The International DX Challenge Cup (a proposal . . . . )

The problem with all of the current DX Awards and Operating Activities is they are in danger of becoming obsolete due to access and cost to activate the entities on their list. Some are also achievable (i.e. Top of Honor Roll) leaving the DXer with not many options to stay in the chase. Here is a proposal that addresses all of these issues – and more.

  1. Country List – ONLY real countries are on the list. No buildings or other weird “administrative entities”. The IARU List is what governs what will be on the list. Islands will have to be of some size and above all tides
  2. All possessions for a country are allowed – regardless of distance from mainland. Islands must be on the IOTA list though
  3. Activation’s can be made without stepping foot on land, but at least part of the Maidenhead Grid Square must have that country or island inside the square. Fixed, Portable, Marine Mobile are allowed, aircraft is not. There has to be electronic proof that all QSO’s were made within the grid square of that entity
  4. A weighted point system will be used. Entities where you land that are extremely difficult and costly to get to have the most points, and there are four tiers – Extreme, Moderate, Average and Remote. Only being on the actual entity is allowed in the Extreme category. Only excessively expensive and difficult entities get a Moderate weighting. Everything else is average. For example, Being on Bouvet is Extreme, being in a boat where a grid square includes a part of Bouvet is Moderate. Your score is based on the number of entities times the weighting factor
  5. There is a lifetime pursuit award with endorse-able levels and there is a yearly marathon like component – but its based on who improved the most against their lifetime pursuit
  6. Automated Remotes can be used, but they get the lowest weighting in the Remote class. If it turns out the playing field is way too much in favor of certain areas, then there could be a “leveling of the playing field” using a more elaborate weighting system – maybe have the classes plus zones

This combines the best of several of the most popular awards, and it doesn’t penalize young people just because they haven’t been in the game long enough. There are no Deleted’s, No Grandfathered. If an island sinks below the tide, you can work someone who is in a boat. Disputed entities including breakaways or reefs like Scarborough are not allowed – both because anything disputed is simply not eligible – this program eliminates politics.

There will be some way to collect money to pay for a bunch of Satellite devices that transmit data including longitude and latitude – so it can be proven that someone is actually where they say they are. If a governmental bureaucracy says “No Landing”, you can use a boat to enter its grid square. In fact, for Extreme class entities, you could have a ship that is going to an Extreme entity where they will land – enter the grid square of other rare entities, activate them from the ship and they get Moderate points. This solves both the access and cost problems because now one expensive DXpedition can provide many activations on one trip.

One thing that is odd with DXCC is how many times the rules were tweaked to change the list. This new award program prevents such gerrymandering as the list rules are unambiguous.

Yes, its a crazy idea, and it doesn’t work if there isn’t a 100% sure way to know someone is where they say they are – but I do believe the technology is there. I would rather have a satellite gps confirm that someone is where they say they are rather than submitting paperwork or going through Byzantine bureaucracy.

Kosovo to be Added to the DXCC List

It’s no surprise that Kosovo will soon be added to the DXCC List. Wayne, N7NG has a note on his DX University Web Site:

And the ARRL has been lobbied to add Kosovo for years. It required a DXCC Rules change, and it looks like that has now happened.

I started wondering if this affects other entities, so I put together a Google Sheet that you can view and play with:

I have the IARU, US State Department and Current DXCC lists there. The most obvious change is adding Kosovo. The harder part is sifting through grand fathered entities and islands covered under the distance rule. I think the “good work” is to see if there are any non – grand fathered entities that meet the distance rule but which re not IARU entities.

One could load this data into a relational database and add flag columns like grandfathered or distance and then write a SQL statement that compares lists and sees where there are differences. This would be a great job interview exercise for companies that give tests during interviews. It wouldn’t be as boring as the usual tests they give. Great for a Comp Sci major going to school too.

I’m too lazy – but if you do this – let me know what you find!

3G9A/MM – Your Best 3Y0Z Propagation Test!

The 3Y0Z Team is entering the open sea. They have started transmitting as 3G9A/MM.

Sure, they are barefoot running a Flex into a Hustler vertical, but that’s the point. If their signal is good from the boat, it should be better from the island, of course not today, but as they get closer. In any case, you will be able to chart when a band opens or closes, and if the propagation predictions are close to reality.

I found an Argentinian WebSDR that I can hear them on from work – but very weak. The real test will be an hour or two before the West Coast Sunset

Its a looooong way to Bouvet, but I am looking forward to listening to their signal along the way, and of course, especially as they get close to the island

Godspeed to the team!

UPDATE – they are 599 on 40M on both the vertical array and the doublet. This is just past the West Coast sunset. But they are at the bottom of LU and CE so it’s just way too early to tell what will happen.

I have a really weird idea that their signal will actually get stronger on 40 and 30M as they get closer based on my weeks of monitoring

Two Phased Wellbrook ALA1530LNP Loops = 9 dB RDF 27 dB F/B

Two Wellbrook ALA1530LNP loops phased at 215 degrees with the NCC-2

The front to back is awesome, and I can hear it when I turn these and tune either a local 10 watt TIS station or a high power AM BCB in San Diego, about 440 miles away

Two phased Wellbrook ALA1530LNP loops using the DX Engineering NCC-2 is a true winner. One is 3 feet off the ground:

and the other up 13′:

It seems like having it up higher is better, but I don’t really think it matters much, actually. Here are both – phased through the NCC-2 at 215 degrees:

The reasons I have my two loops at different heights:

  1. One is down slope from the other – and is up 13′ and above the roof of the house so it will be away from the house
  2. One is next to a creek away from the house and 3′ off the ground
  3. The two are separated by 50′ so they show different “time of arrival” signals
  4. They are both 70′ away from the TX Inverted L, which is VERY important
  5. They are both as far away from neighbors houses

These barely fit in my odd shaped lot that has very little space for antennas. I have had other RX antennas like the K9AY Loops that were way too close to the house, and they worked for a while and then became swamped with noise.

As I said, by accident, the DX Engineering DV-40-P was my best 160M RX antenna, but this new (expensive) NCC-2 plus two Wellbrook ALA1530LNP solution reigns supreme. It is VERY much better than anything I’ve had before.

It is also the most RX antenna I can put up here that barely meets the space requirements.

At 9 dB RDF, here is what it compares to a small beverage or a 4 square of K9AY Loops:


Killing Top Band Noise

Here in the “noisy neighbor suburbs” the name of the Top Band RX game is steering the nulls towards noise sources using the rotators, THEN using the NCC-2 to electrically steer the antennas toward the signal source! I use the P3 to “see” how I can break up the noise. The noise pattern becomes “dispersed” and as it breaks up, I hear more signal and less noise. Even 5 dB less noise means I can hear and work DX that otherwise would have been buried in the noise.

I play a little game when I leave work to see where the two loops ended up direction wise. For OA4TT, one was about 130 degrees, the other 180 degrees. They were “close enough” because their patterns – when phased with the NCC-2 – present a directional cardiod azimuthal beamwidth. Some days I am surprised at the directions, but because I live in a hilly area, it’s hard to know exactly how signals arrive at these antennas.

Listening to OA4TT again today (whom I worked yesterday on 160M for #94), I have been playing around with the rotators.

OA4TT’s signal is best just after his sunrise – at least yesterday and today

The name of the game is to steer the antennas so the nulls point at the noise sources, and at my QTH, the direction of the man made noise is different today than last night! This might mean that there is actually “noise propagation”. Think about it – the noise is pretty low frequency and is for sure ground wave. It can be caused by any neighbor up to some distance – I don’t know exactly what the drop off is, but from walking around with a portable AM radio, I have found that even rain gutters can pick up noise. Pardon the goofy rotator control box positions, but I am just waiting to work 3Y0Z and get that over with so I can tweak my shack (an ongoing process it seems). After 3Y0Z, I will:

  1. Take down the 17M EDZ and 20M two element yagi
  2. Put up the 30/40M Cushcraft D40 at 60′ with the 30M mod
  3. Replace the MFJ-1886 and MW550P with the new Wellbrook ALA1530LNP loop (my second one of these)
  4. Replace the SPE amp with the Elecraft KPA-500 and KAT-500
  5. Sell the AT2K , MFJ-1886 and MW550P

I will be a dyed in the wool 160 – 30M Low Bander. I would much rather have an antenna for 30 and 40M up 60′ than a 20M two element yagi up 40′ for the duration of the bottom of Cycle 24 – which I know we will start this year – probably in the second half of the year. All of the high bands will start becoming “anemic”. 160M has already started “turning” – the solar disturbances had their last hurrah last Fall, and 80M has been great lately, although its my least favorite band. 40M – as always – is the best band year round and solar cycle round.

We are going to eeek out the last drops of 15, 17 and 20M during 3Y0Z.

Im already looking forward to my post 3Y0Z plans, and their ship hasn’t even left yet – hi hi

Spring Has Sprung!

We have had a beautiful Winter here near San Francisco. Just enough rain and temperatures that hit 60 degrees F every day. It has been just perfect “antenna weather”.

The very first shrubs and trees are starting to bloom, and this will build for months.

We do need more snow in the Sierra’s though, so I’m hoping we reach a normal level. Last year was an extremely wet Winter.

How to Make the DX Engineering NCC-2 “Sing”

The NCC-2 has been an “elusive beast”. On Top Band, from a small suburban lot, the trickiest antenna effort I have ever had has been finding something that combats the man made noise and lets you hear very weak signal DX. I tried just about everything in the ON4UN Lowband DX Book, and have had what best could be described as a “meandering path”. Then one day, I accidentally had my DXE DV-40-P switched in on 160M – and Holy Moly Batman – it was like magic. That antenna became the one to beat.

I had some false starts. At one point the K9AY Loops were great. Then my neighbor did “something”, and they were swamped with noise – they became useless. I also tried several passive loops, and some had some success, but again, noise, noise noise.

Enter the Wellbrook ALA1530LNP. It has an amplifier that I seriously doubt ANY other loop can beat. But to make the NCC-2 sing, the best solution I have come up with is TWO Wellbrook ALA1530LNP Loops and the NCC-2.

Not only can I electrically steer the nulls, I can also physically rotate each antenna. Sometimes its for maximum gain, sometimes minimum noise, most of the time its both.

Here’s the funny thing – sometimes noise comes in from all kinds of weird directions here on my suburban lot. The rotators directions sometimes seems crazy, so I don’t care where they are pointed as much as I rotate until I get the best signal to noise ratio.

This is also why I like the loops way more than say two verticals. With verticals you can only electrically steer them. I can tell you from experience, when you also add in physical totation using cheapie rotators, then its like having 3D instead of 2D. Its a geometric imporvement for sure.

When testing the NCC-2 controls during the day, the most amazing test is at 1700 khz, where the Oakland International Airport is about 7 miles away as the crow flies, and where I can get the NCC-2 Phasing knob to select either the Oakland Airports 10 watt TSA station, or a high powered ESPN sports station in San Diego. To do this – one antenna is pointed South by Southwest and the other is actually more South by Southeast. Its the coolest thing. That test then leads to better DXing on 160M, like working OA4TT today. The S/N was quite a bit better than the DV-40-P, so I have hit a new milestone in my quest for the best RX antenna.

I would be surprised if I will ever beat this arrangement at this particular QTH. I just moved the rotators, and noise entered in. SO the physical rotation on top of electrical phasing in the NCC-2 just seems like something even better than anything else I can do.

Andy Ikin at Wellbrook is an expert in low noise high gain RX pre-amps, and the only way to make this better IMHO – is to follow Andy’s continual progress with his product development.