Dear TBDXC Members,

I write this August update from my new QTH of Troon, on the West coast of Scotland, some 40 km South of Glasgow. I moved here in early July, and this has been a truly life-transforming event. I don’t want to bore you with the personal side of things – I would just like to say a few words about the transformation of my ham radio life.

I call my new flat “the cloud”, as I really feel I am living inside a cloud, suspended mid-air almost over the ocean. Anybody with a few seconds to spare can visit my page on qrz.com and have an idea of what I am talking about. In ham radio terms, the astonishing experience has been to discover that… the HF bands are NOT dead as I believed them to be for the last four or five years. The proximity of the sea seems to have a tremendous effect on what the bands look and sound like. Especially, having 10 to 15 dB less noise than I had in Glasgow I marveled to discover that there are PLENTY of signals on CW and SSB. They obviously have always been there, but, as they were buried in the city noise, I believed them to be gone, forever. “Our” kind of ham radio is not extinct! I know I sound like an over-excited child, and I apologise for that, but this has been a hobby and a lifestyle for 40 years, and finding out that what I so dearly love still exists – despite the rise of FT8 and the terrible noise conditions most hams have to battle with – makes me truly emotional.

Which leads me to another, less personal issue. Where are the North American stations that once filled the bands, much to the joy of the European DXers? The vast majority of the signals I now finally hear are European stations. Asians and South Americans are also heard and worked, as propagation conditions allow. But… the path to the US from here is open most days, particularly on 20 metres, and sure enough W stations are heard almost every day: two, or three, and always the same. NY2PO, for instance, is heard almost daily, with a commanding signal. He has a good setup, but nothing extraordinary, which confirms that conditions are there. Where are all the others? There used to be what looked like an infinite supply of Ws and VEs, and now? Has the FT8 craze affected North America in particular? Are noise conditions there any worse? Difficult to believe, and yet there must be a reason. I would very much like to hear views on that. Why not sign up to the TBDXC Facebook Group and write a short comment there?

Now, coming to the 2021 DX-Ultra Marathon, which is the biggest initiative taken by the Club so far, it is exciting to see some of the fierce battles becoming increasingly heated, with some scores getting real close and positions held or lost for a few QSOs.

The HP SSB category is essentially dominated by Valter, IK0NMJ, thanks to his incredible antenna farm, consisting of two verticals – a Hy-Gain AV640 and a home-made big size vertical for the low bands. That shows how skills and dedication can deliver excellent results even with totally ordinary means. What’s really exciting, though, is what happens just below him in the leaderboard: three stations with very similar QSO numbers (KL7KK at 3664, IN3ZNR at 3363 and OE1HHB at 3823) and slightly different scores owing to multipliers and rate of QSO points. A fourth station, MI0BHX, is also close in terms of score, even with a lower number of QSOs (2649). The race for second and third looks completely open.

In the HP CW category we have two extra-terrestrials who have amassed an absolutely outstanding number of QSOs 22,543 for AA3B and 22,200 for 9A2AJ. Here again, what I find both extraordinary and exciting is that Tomislav 9A2AJ – who has an absolutely ordinary setup – not only competes neck-to-neck with, but is actually ahead of Bud AA3B, who has a top-contest-level antenna farm at his disposal. Kudos to both of them for their incredible, sustained effort. We look forward to seeing how it’s going to end. And, there too, the fight for 3rd position is completely open, with 4O4T, I2IFT and K5ZD within easy grasp of each other.

LP CW sees Vit, OK2ZV, making a fantastic 8,409 QSOs so far with a tribander and wires. You never know, but looking at the leaderboard it’s difficult to see how his top position could be realistically challenged…

Augusto, IK4RQJ, with a beautiful tower and beams overlooking the planes of Emilia-Romagna, has a commanding (and, I believe, unchallengeable) lead in LP SS with 6,365 QSOs. With 100 watts? At the bottom of the solar cycle? Incredible!

However, the most incredible result of them all is probably my friend Peter, DL3NAA, who made 3,291 QSOs with… 5 watts and a simple vertical! THIS is exactly the spirit of the Marathon: make QSOs, as many as you can, with the means you have. Keep the bands alive, and you may also win a competition! It is very difficult to see how Peter could lose the top position in the QRP CW category.
So, thanks for reading this longer-than-usual monthly update. Apologies again for the personal notes in the beginning. Congratulations to all and special thanks for doing exactly what the TBDXC exists for – making QSOs and keeping CW and SSB alive and well.

73 Pete MM0TWX
TBDXC Founder and CEO