2017 New England QSO Party

Posted on May 16, 2017 by Chris Lumens in radio.

Back on May 6 and May 7 was the New England QSO Party, a radio contest where the object is for New England stations to make contacts with as many people as possible, or for non-New England stations to make contacts with as many New England stations as possible. Along with Sean (WA1TE) and David (WH6DSN), I operated from a rented house in Springfield, VT under our K1SIG club callsign.

A couple months ago, we had decided we wanted to do a group radio trip one weekend. We later decided that the NEQP would be the perfect event - the focus would be on New England stations making us more desirable and we wouldn’t have to go very far to do it. Sean and I were originally talking about operating mobile but with three people, we decided just renting a house would be better. It would also be a whole lot more relaxed.

I had three big tasks:

David and I headed up on a very rainy Saturday afternoon, hoping it wouldn’t rain long enough to get the antenna up. We had a ton of stuff in his car - radios, coax, laptops, clothes, a cooler, antenna supplies, tools, etc. Once we crossed into Vermont, it stopped raining and became a very nice day. We stopped at the grocery store for food and drinks for the weekend and headed to the house, getting there just in time.

We were allowed to get into the house at 4pm, which was the same time the contest started. Of course we still had to figure out which tree could support the antenna, where to put the radio, and how to get coax into the house. Here’s the front of the house, with antenna already installed:

The antenna went very smoothly, even though it took a while to get it installed. There was a nice big tree in the front yard with nothing much near it, reachable by the 100’ of coax I brought, and with enough space to put the legs of the dipole. I was able to get the slingshot where I wanted on the second try and with a little help from David we had the antenna hoisted, staked, and coax run in about half an hour.

While I finished that up, David got all the radio stuff unpacked and started hooking it up at the kitchen table. The whole downstairs was one big room and there was only the one table, so we had to settle for the radio being in the middle of everything. Luckily it’d only be the three of us so it didn’t matter too much. We got the logging laptop set up and pulled some beers out of the fridge and were operating just after 5pm.

Since David doesn’t have his radio set up at home right now, he took the first turn. We had decided to spend most of our time calling instead of hunting for people. The first hour was really slow with only two contacts on 20m. The next hour we managed nine contacts, also all on 20m. Most of them were either from Western states (who were having their own contest) or Alabama. I was starting to get a little concerned that it was going to be very boring.

It turns out I didn’t need to be too concerned. From 7pm to 11pm, we made 63 more contacts on 20m, 40m, and 80m. We had a couple good runs of several contacts in a minute which was much more exciting. We got new multipliers from all over the country and into Ontario, which meant we were starting to pile up a good score. David and I switched off throughout. As one person got bored (or needed to eat, or something) the other would take over.

At some point in the evening, Sean sent us a message saying that he was on the way and that we should follow him on APRS to track his progress. While David continued to battle the noise on 80m late at night, I watched a website. Finally I saw that Sean had been spotted right by the house and when I looked out the window, I saw his headlights coming up the driveway. A few short minutes later, he was inside with a beer and in front of the radio. The contest had really slowed down, but he managed a couple more.

The first day of the contest ended at 1am, so we watched most of a movie and drank some more beers and went to bed way too late.

The next day, I got up early to patch a bug or two in the logging program that had been annoying us the previous day. The contest started up again at 9am so I got all that done and then sat back down at the radio to make contacts while everyone else slept. In the next hour I managed ten contacts and two new multipliers.

Sean and David got up and took turns operating, getting several new multipliers each as well as having some good runs with contacts. David made breakfast and we kept going on the radio. Everything was great up until noon, when the bands just suddenly died. We only made 19 contacts between noon and 7pm.

Enthusiasm really died off, and beer drinking really increased. David and Sean went outside to work on David’s car. I stayed at the radio but spent most of my time playing with my laptop. Less than three contacts per hour is an awful rate. We didn’t even hear other people calling. Then again right after 7pm, it picked back up. Sean got us ten more contacts in the last hour, including only our second DX contact (also Ontario).

And then it was over. We managed 142 contacts and 39 multipliers for a total score of 5538. The results haven’t yet been posted, but we should have an all-time high score by nature of being the only multi-operator station ever in Windsor County. We spent a little time packing up and then watched more movies and drank more beer. Sean headed home.

David and I stayed overnight so we could pack everything up and clean the house in the morning. We didn’t really do much to the place so there wasn’t a lot to clean up.

Of course, we already started thinking about what we’d do differently next year to get a better score. I thought the house was great for operating from and it was very easy to set up our antenna. Here’s the things I think we could change:

Aside from that, just having the bands not be dead for seven straight hours would really help. Maybe having the antenna higher would have taken care of that some. We still had lots of fun, though. Radio is much more fun as a group activity and the contests are just a good excuse to get together.