The K9CT Contest Station was created as a project and challenge for myself. The spark that lead to this was the compromises of living in close quarters to my
neighbors and finding out what could be done to get to the next level in contesting. My curiosity of all of the technologies and designs that could be implemented
whet my appetite for the project. But most of all, the camaraderie of the dxpedition team environment lead me to the multi-operator contesting setup.
I wanted a blank canvas to work with and needed some land for the project. My search for property started in 2008 and continued until 2009 when I acquired 18 acres
of flat land about four miles from my home and station. I did some research before looking for the land. Contesters were surveyed and responses were gathered.
Generally, I was advised to find a flat rectangular plot of about 10 to 20 acres. The long portion of the rectangle needed to run north-south so that the towers
would line up and the EU and JA paths would provide isolation between antennas.
The site was prepared as it had drainage issues, buried tires and buildings in disrepair to be demolished. While this was being completed, I visited several
contesters to learn from them about many aspects of team contesting, station layout and antenna usage. This was a tremendous help. I was perplexed very early as
to the many options for designing and laying out the contest station.
I decided that my goals for the project were to be:
- 3 db louder than my home station on all bands
- Station designed around 1.8 to 1296 MHz
- Multi-two, multi-one and single operator two radio class of operation
- Maximize antenna isolation at main population areas
- Multiplier antennas
- Low band receiving antennas
- EME to complete 2M WAS and DXCC
- Station attractive to team members for comfort and enjoyment
From previous experience with our building permit process, I had contacted the zoning department for our local county and inquired as to the proper zoning to be able
to have the best possible path to building permit. The zoning was for Agriculture and was the most open to any type of structure. However after submission of the
permit request, I met with resistance from the public because the county wanted to go through a hearing process. Shortcutting the story, I secured the services of
K1VR, Fred Hopengarten and we withdrew our original request and resubmitted a request for permit without the hearing process. The legal department for the county
reviewed our application and directed our county building department to issue the permit. We then had one year to complete the 11 tower project.
With the permit in hand, I secured the services of John, W2GD and Don, K4ZA to consult and erect the towers and antennas. A three stack of monoband OWA yagis were
selected for 10, 15 and 20 meters, and a two stack for 40 meters. Using HFTA, towers were to be 190 feet for the 40 and 20 meter stacks and 150 feet for the 15 and
10 meter stacks. The towers were rotated with K0XG base rotators and hardware. I chose to use elevated guys for farming the land so the professional engineering
services of Hank Lonberg, KR7X were contracted. We worked together to choose the tower locations and he did the calculations for wind loading with ice on the tower
and antennas. I chose to put the low band antennas further away from the shack and the higher frequency antennas nearer the station to minimize feed line loss.
1⅝” Heliax was searched and acquired to trench to each tower for a low loss feed line.
The project commenced right after the PJ7E activation. Most material had been secured and we tackled the project with lots of manpower and machinery. All foundations
were dug and rebar prepared...cement was poured within 7 days! 125 plus cubic yards of concrete was in the ground. The tower was preassembled on the ground shortly
thereafter. The longest pieces were 100 feet and then laid on pallets to keep off the ground. The cement cured for thirty days and we were ready to install the towers.
Cold weather hit hard on the day we wanted to commence the crane work. The crane froze before we could get started! A new crane arrived the next day and within four
days we had all towers up and guyed! It was still cold and we even had some snow while doing this work but the crews battled through it and towers glistened in the
morning sun upon completion.
Over the winter, antennas were being assembled and fabricated. The VHF antennas were completed the first nice spring day and the EME antennas and frame were carefully
assembled for many days in a row. The OWA antennas arrived the day before 2011 Dayton Hamvention. Much work to do after that!
A large trench was dug from the soon to be built shack to the mult-tower using a backhoe. The rest of the coax was trenched to all of the tower locations. 9400 feet
of 1⅝” was buried along with almost 1900 feet of 1¼”. Power and rotator control cables were also direct buried.
Many saw horses were secured from the local building supply stores and placed throughout the 18 acres so that the 60 foot boom OWAs could be assembled next to each
tower. The crane could then easily move to each tower and then lift the antennas to the tower climbers. All antennas were in place in less than a week’s time using
this method. The Stackmatches were mounted at the base of each tower and ½” Heliax were installed to each antenna….carefully wrapping the excess lines on the
tower for a nice appearance.
All summer we plowed in thousands of feet of THHN wire at base of the 80m 4 square and the 160m 5 element array. The farmer had prepped the soil at each location so
that they were weedless and evenly bared soil. Wherever the radials met, they were silver soldered to a common copper buss wire. Every tower had several
ground rods installed and attached to the base with copper buss wire and Cadwelded.
Simultaneous to the activities in the field, a new building was designed and constructed for Multi-two station operation. An open room was provided for the operators
and contesting. Adjacent to that the bathroom with urinal for the quick trips needed in the middle of a contest! A shower and bunk room next to that and more isolated
was a break room with small kitchen and dining area. All of the walls were insulated for noise isolation and a good door to the shack area could be closed for sleeping
or when the conversation was a bit loud in the break area. A garage and workshop were located at the far end of the building.
The building was completed in time for us to setup on tables for the CQ WW Phone as a M/S. Towers were still manually rotated in the field and nothing was automatic in the shack….it was more a Field Day operation but
still much fun to try out the antennas in a contest.
Work progressed rapidly following the first contest. Station consoles were designed so that two operators could sit side by side with plenty of room for each to have
two flat screen monitors.
Comfortable chairs were tried over many contests and finally selected for best comfort for long hours of operating. Station was carefully
designed for best operator ergonomics. Eyes on monitors and hands on the keyboard.
I decided to minimize wiring and get as much done with wireless using Green Heron Everywhere and WiFi network. I setup a server to connect to the rotators,
Stackmatches, and Steppir controllers. Each radio position computer was a client to the served devices. Any band change would select the correct antenna, filter and
on screen rotator and stackmatch. N1MM uses UDP on the network for band information. Green Heron and PSTRotatorAZ use these packets to make band changes.
Presets were created for the main population areas for contests. Green Heron EK devices are used to rotate the receiving and transmitting antennas for the low bands.
Wireless keyboard and mouse are used to eliminate EMI to the computers.
We have three years of contest seasons under our belt now. We have a solid team for our contests with only a few new operators needed to fill in when the regulars
could not play. Refinements have been made to improve ergonomics and some technical issues that have emerged. Lightning has hit a couple of times in the area and
repairs were needed. Learning from these experiences, tweaks to the installation and programming have been implemented.
How has the station played? We have broken most of the W9 or CQ Zone 4 records in our category for CQ WW, WPX and ARRL DX. Our Reverse Beacon Signal reports have
been equal or better than our peers. Timing is everything…we have broken the USA WPX record from the Black Hole! (also so did our east coast competition) I have
operated the station a few times in domestic contests and found that most of the antennas are too high or narrow in pattern. I have added a few low dipoles and setup
a portable to tower to fill the void. My plan is to add a crankup tower with the proper antenna to solve this issue. A 3 element yagi for 80m still awaits the right
This has been a fun project. I now have a ham radio “man cave” to find escape any day I can. My team mates for these big contest weekends enjoy the team spirit and
pleasant environment as well as I do. Many clubs and hams have stopped by for the “tour”…visitors from several countries have made stop….some for entire weekends.
This has truly been a great experience for me. It has been fun collaborating with so many contesters to build this station. Contesters have been more than willing to share their “secrets”. This project has been rewarding
in so many ways….friendships, competition, and technical challenges. See you on the bands!