Monday, April 15, 2024

Visalia 2024 - Summary

Back home from Visalia 2024.    It was a really productive convention.  

Here's a brief run-down of some of the talks/sessions that I enjoyed the most

Brian, N9ADG

"How NOT to get into the log" put on by Brian Moran, N9ADG.  A tongue in cheek way of describing exactly how to get in the log, the right way.  Synopsis:

  1. Listen
  2. Listen
  3. and Listen
The talk had a great level of humor and advice and I loved the way Brian wove in bits of advice of what to do.   I hope that Brian is able to publish the synopsis again for the club.  The DX Code of Conduct really is the cornerstone for being a better DX'er.

Tom, ND2T

The next day had a full slate of tutorials and sessions on contesting.  In that subject there were several very important sessions to hear:

"Train for your weaknesses and Compete your strengths" put on by Tom Berson, ND2T

The take home message for that talk is simply to practice and train on the activities that you are least effective -- "Aspiration without allocation is folly." -- By that Tom meant that in order to train and prepare it will require time (allocation) and dedicated effort.  "Put time into the effort that will pay off later" and "A little goes a long way" -- to mean that each iterative session you put into training will accumulate better skill.   

He also made some other notes clear "Strength is mental" -- getting stronger at the things about contesting that seem like your weakness is about strengthening your mental acuity to handle the tasks you will have contesting.

And he made a few final comments:

"Study the moves of those you want to emulate" -- a contester you admire and appreciate -- find them on the air and emulate the same methods that you want to aspire to.

As a contest schedule and plan is formed (another thing to do -- plan your attack!  Make a schedule for what contest(s) you want to perform and then work backwards from those dates to plan your training and preparation to peak when those events take place.   Using any of the numerous contests that occur is the best angle to use.   CWT, MST, State QSO Parties, and the CQ WW contests - even the NCCC Sprints -- all good exercises.

Hank and Rusty

Hank W6SX and Rusty W6OAT gave a really lively talk on contesting mechanics and operations.  It was a culmination of a lot of the best ideals to strive for when contesting.   Slicing up the pile up, handling contacts in the contest -- the bottom line is "Be minimal"  DO NOT repeat what is not needed to be repeated.

If the other station comes back to you with their call sign, for instance, there is no need to repeat their call -- they know their own call sign.   Just stick to the exchange and the information that is pertinent to finishing the contact.   Ending the QSO in a contest comes down to a simple TU (thank you) or 73 -- and as much as there is debate among experienced contesters about using TU vs 73 to end the QSO, you will have to decide for yourself.  TU is of course a speedier way to end than 73, but that doesn't mean you are required to use it.   Going back to what Tom ND2T said -- emulate the behaviors that you want to strive for in other experienced contesters.

The best part of Hank and Rusty's talk was the simulation of a live SSB pile up.   

Hank called CQ to the room (emulating SSB contesting) and in the room dozens of attendees tried to shout out their calls (the pile up) and we saw and heard Hank work the room just as if it was on the HF band.  It illustrated a few points that were already discussed:

  1. Use full call signs
  2. Use standard phonetics, (don't mess around with fancy arcane phonetics)
  3. Only give out the information that is new and required, don't repeat what is already confirmed.
  4. End the QSO cleanly with the TU or 73
  5. Reset for the next QSO with the pattern that keeps the rate up.

Mark, K6UFO

In the scheme of things, the digital modes FT-8, FT-4, etc. are appearing (no surprise) as dominant factors in the total Q-counts for DX'peditions.  I don't think I heard a single expedition summary talk show less than 50% of their contacts were using FT-8.   This mode is the way forward for those DX'peditions to elevate rate of Q across the expedition time.  SSB and CW will still be crucial, but the FT-8 mode is dominant and will continue to be so.

For that reason, Mark's talk on FT-8 was a summary of the impact of FT-8 as well as a thumb-nail guide for those who want to use it effectively both from the DX chaser and DX'peditioner side of the fence.  Advancements in the FT-8 exchange will be announced more formally, but the technology that is emerging will include authentication schemes to help suppress pirate operations fouling up the overall DX'pedition.   Technology alone won't really eliminate the DQRM problem, but the authentication schemes for establishing truth about the contacts will definitely help tamp down the problem to an extent.

Mark's talk went through these issues and a highlight of the benefit when FT-8 and FT-4 is used for maximum efficiency.   It was an excellent capsule of knowledge for those using FT-8 -- which it turns out is a majority of the DX chasers if the statistics are followed.

H44WA and H40WA

There were two other talks that the conference had.   I missed the H44WA talk from Robin, WA7CPA (I had seen the presentation at the Western Washington DX Club meeting, but I still wanted to hear Robin's re-telling of the story -- I was in the Contest Academy at the time).   H40WA was reviewed by Rob, N7QT on the Sunday breakfast session and that was a really engaging story about the difficulties for working that province in the Solomon Islands.

I was really glad to see the Western Washington DX Club so well represented at the convention -- both in terms of members being there and also the number of presentations given by our own WWDXC DX'peditioners.

Nice job to Robin, Rob, and shout out to Brian Moran, N9ADG for very effective work and support patching the WSJT-X to allow for streamlined F/H QSO rate.

The Convention

The convention itself had slightly less attendees than last year, but it was still a very rousing and successful convention.   Another highlight were the dinners that occurred during the weekend -- to the side of the convention were a number of fine restaurants and in the evenings, a few people gathered to share a meal and talk DX, and all sorts of things in a smaller setting.  I was glad to be able to attend a couple of these.  I had a great time listening and the engagement was really helpful.

We didn't have a huge number of third parties at the vendor area.  It was reduced somewhat from the last convention in 2023.  However, it was good to see representation from the Flex Radio company as well as Elecraft -- who put out some demos of their products.  The new hand-held KH1 CW transceiver was remarkable.  Wayne, N6KR very enthusiastically showed all of the features of the KH1 and the physical design that went into the device -- it's a really compact HF radio (80-15m).   The picnic-table operators or SOTA folks will appreciate it.

The convention was organized by an integrated cooperation between the Northern California DX Club and the Southern California DX club and they pulled off a great convention -- well organized and really satisfying.

I met a few friends who were first-timers to the convention.   I want to mention a couple:

Jim, N7AUE -- I had worked Jim many times on MST and CWT so it was fun to meet him F2F.  I think he had a great time at the convention.  The only advice I gave him was "For this convention especially, become an extrovert and talk to as many DX'ers as you can -- you'll find they want to help and the connections you make will be really important."  

Danny, KX7DX -- His first IDXC.  I carpooled with Danny and Rusty from the Fresno airport to the convention and it was great to hear Danny remark about what he enjoyed about the convention.

New Friends

It was a whirlwind of meeting new people this year.  At the after-hours dinners especially.

I got to know better some of the active DX'ers and contesters that I have read about before.

End Notes

Just the same message -- if you haven't gone to IDXC, go.  If you are into chasing DX, or being the DX, go.  And if you enjoy the company of friendly amateur radio operators who live and work in that field (DX and Contesting), then go.   You will have a great time.

See you next year!

Picture of the author at the special event station K6V handing out signal reports

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