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 Contesting from Arabia
By Boris Knezovic T93Y
After Edin T97M and I worked CQ WPX CW from Cyprus in May and experienced working from the other side of a pile-up, I was not even thinking about WW CW from another DX location.

Everything started with a phone-call Edin T97M received from Abdullah 9K2GS, who asked about working the WW CW contest from A61AJ this year. Since that is a chance you cannot miss, we started preparing ourselves for another trip. Although we sent copies of our passports less than one month before the contest, visas were granted and everything arranged some 20 hours before departure.

On Tuesday we flew to Zurich with Swissair, stayed overnight there and flew to Dubai on Wednesday afternoon. The airplane landed in Dubai around 2200 local.

From Sarajevo with 0 degrees temperature and 10cm of snow we were greeted with 26 degrees. I thought there would be plenty of time to change into my T9DX T-shirt and make it easier for Ali to recognize us among the other passengers, but I was wrong because Ali was waiting at the entrance to the airport building together with the chief of airport security. A few minutes later we had our passports stamped, luggage found and were heading to the contest location.

The contest location is some 10 minutes away from the airport. I guess contest location is not the right word to describe Ali's property because at A61AJ you have all the comforts of home plus a swimming pool 20m away from the shack... I know that all the contest sites are not like this one.

Especially after I heard the "bucket toilet" story from KE3Q who was a few days earlier had been working SSB Sweepstakes at WP3R.

The same evening we met Bernie W3UR, A61AJ QSL manager and DailyDX editor who arrived a few days earlier, and Rich KE3Q, who was part of the A61AJ team last year. Sem PA4AO (ex. PA3GIP)/T94S would join the crew the next evening.

We agreed to work Multi-Multi and made a list of things to do before the contest. Our main tasks were to configure four operating sites, check the bottom antenna in the 20m stack, connect five computers into a CT network and then to the Internet DX Cluster, and put beverage antennas for 160m.

Also we set our main goal for the contest - to break the Asian Multi-Multi record set in 1992 held by the VS6WO crew. Conditions on the bands were good and we were sure that the old 17.9 million record would be history. At the same time we had to do better than the P3A guys, who were closer to Europe and the USA and who would work in the same category.

I spent Thursday connecting 5 computers into the CT network while the others (Edin T97M, Bernie W3UR and Rich KE3Q) were configuring operating sites. Each piece of equipment was carefully checked because some was purchased in the USA and needed to be set for 220V voltage. It was late afternoon when we finished work inside the shack and had to postpone antenna work for Friday morning. That is usually not a good sign, but that is the way we are used to doing things in T9DX days.

I managed to connect our computers and the network was tested with a simulated 15 QSO/min pile-up. Now we were ready for stage two - to connect the network to the Internet Packet Cluster. For that we needed at least one computer with two COM ports. Since the Compaqs in Ali's shack are rather new with only one COM and two USB ports, Ali started calling friends to see if anyone had some older computer we could borrow for the weekend. Since he did not find any computer good for us, (I should have brought the T91ENS computer junk-box with me and made one HI) Ali decided to buy a new computer. That same evening we had a P-II 350MHz with 17' monitor and two COM ports in the shack. After a few problems with DXTelnet installation we managed to connect to the Internet the next morning and I was ready to take some rest before the contest. I just thought so...

Friday morning, while I was finishing our Internet connection, Bernie W3UR and Rich KE3Q were putting beverages for 160m, and Edin T97M climbed the tower to see what was wrong with the bottom 20m antenna. Bad news was that the bottom antenna was OK and the problem was with the top antenna which is the only rotateable antenna and very important for the contest.

Around 1500 local (13 hours before the contest) Edin, Chris and myself were on the top of the 150ft tower and discovered that the cable was out of its connector. We needed to find out how to move the antenna closer and solve the problem. Ali A61AJ and Sem PA4AO (ex. PA3GIP) on the ground were sending different tools up the tower to help us finish antenna work before sunset.

Four hours later we had the feed point some 2.5 meters away from the tower and that was the closest point we could move the antenna. The other side was too heavy and it could not be moved any further. We spent 4 hours on the tower for nothing because the feed point was still too far and could not be reached from the tower.

We explained the situation to Ali over the radio and a few minutes later he was on the tower as a fourth. After we showed him what the problem was, he decided to hook himself to the boom and put the cable into the feed point. We tried to explain that is very dangerous, but he said that he climbed the mountains in Switzerland and will try to do it here again.

Earlier I asked people on the ground to send my camera up and we even got a picture of Ali hanging on the boom and connecting the cable to the feed point.

Now we only needed to move the antenna back and take some rest before the contest. Since the antenna was initially installed using a crane, we had a problem fixing it to the rotatable mast.

That problem was solved by drilling new holes, and finally around 2300 local we were on the ground - tired but happy because of a good job, and ready to work the contest.

After a shower and some sleep, at 0345 I was in the shack with the others. And Murphy struck again. This time into our 20m HENRY amplifier which would not transmit at all. We tried to see what could be wrong in 15 minutes before the contest but since we found nothing, Edin started and worked the first 10 hours of the contest with an Ameritron AL-811 and output of only 500W.

Saturday morning we called a HENRY technician who said that there are no fuses inside and that it would be very hard to discover what is wrong over the phone. Ali borrowed another ALPHA Amplifier from Jamal A61AO and we continued our work on 20m with 1.5kW.

On Monday morning after the contest, we opened the amplifier and discovered a blown 1.5A fuse inside. After replacing it, the amplifier was working OK...This is how we lost at least 300-500 QSO's or about 1 million at the end of the contest.

I started my work at 0200z on 80m. The 2-el rotary YAGI worked fine and I had a nice 105 EU and USA in one hour. Since the same operating position is used for 10m, after sunrise, I moved there and had the biggest pile-up in my life.

Others were doing good jobs on other bands and by Saturday noon we had 3875 QSO's. In the afternoon, after getting some sleep, I was working 40m and had a good JA, EU and USA run. I wish I could have worked more JA's but since they are worth only one point from A6 we were forced to work more EU and USA.

The same thing happened Sunday evening when JA's stopped at 80m and requested our 160m operator (Edin T97M) to listen in their window. I hope we made some of them happy with a new country on top-band.

I stayed more than 10 hours on 40m and was replaced with Rich KE3Q who just continued working the pile-up. Our Sunday morning total on 40m was about 2200 QSO's and that was the band with the most QSO's at that moment and at the end of the contest.

We finished our first day with 6721 QSO's and 12 million points, which is almost the same as KE3Q and K3LP did in their two-man Multi-Multi in 1997. I was sure that the old Asian record will be broken but at the same time was worried because I heard P3A guys with huge pile-ups.

Our pile-ups on Sunday were about the same size or even bigger than on Saturday. I was working 10m in the morning and 80m in the evening. We were CQ'ing all the time but when notified of a new multiplier we tried to work it. No matter if it sometimes took a few minutes, people were waiting on our running frequency.

Packet spots from the Internet worked fine and helped a lot for a good score and certainly increased the number of countries worked. Also on Sunday we started moving needed multipliers from band to band and I would like to thank all the people willing to change band and give us new-one. As the contest got closer to the end, we started to be a real team and I am sure it will be to our advantage for future contests.

A61AJ CQ WW CW 1998 Multi-Multi score is:

160m,  543 QSO   20 zones   69 countries
80m, 1407 QSO   29 zones   96 countries
40m, 3050 QSO   35 zones  133 countries
20m, 3042 QSO   38 zones  147 countries
15m, 2393 QSO   36 zones  142 countries
10m, 2639 QSO   36 zones  140 countries
     13074 QSO  194 zones  727 countries   =  32,234,664 points

Team members were : Ali A61AJ, Rich KE3Q, Bernie W3UR, Edin T97M, Sem PA4AO (ex. PA3GIP), Chris and Boris T93Y. Chris is not an HAM yet but helped us a lot, and we promoted him to team technical adviser. You should hear his stories about Dayton 1998, and it should be published somewhere as a non-HAM view of our hobby.

A61AJ team had four operating positions with the following equipment :
160m :  FT1000MP + Alpha 87A + 1/4 wave vertical + 2 beverages NW and E
80m   :  IC-781 + Alpha 87A + 2el YAGI at 150ft (45m)
40m   :  FT1000 + Alpha 87A + 3el YAGI at 100ft (30m)
20m   :  IC-781 + Alpha 87A + 6/6/6el YAGI at 150/100/50ft (45/30/15m)
15m   :  FT1000MP + Alpha 87A + 6el YAGI at 100ft (30m) - same setup as 160m
10m   :  IC-781 + Alpha 87A + 6el YAGI at 100ft (30m) - same setup as 80m

We spent Monday fixing the amplifier, and working on the bands. Monday afternoon we had three stations working at the same time. Rich KE3Q was on 10m, Edin T97M on 20m and myself on 15m. Like with real DXpeditions, people start asking me to move onto another band or mode for a new country. Although we made more than 13,000 CW QSO's during the weekend, there is still a big demand for United Arab Emirates, especially on CW.

Tuesday we worked some more QSO's, took a ride through streets of Dubai and met Ali's family. That same evening we were heading back to Sarajevo where we were greeted with blizzards and even more snow.

And at the end of this story I would like thank Ali A61AJ for inviting us to be part of the team, and the great hospitality we got at his home. Also it was a great pleasure to meet Chris, Bernie W3UR, Rich KE3Q, Sem PA4AO and work the contest together with these good operators. Also, many thanks to all of you who gave us a call during the contest weekend. Without your help we could not make it.

73's Boris T93Y

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