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2018 FT8 Roundup Results

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    2018 FT8 Roundup Results

    The official 2018 FT8 Roundup Results are now available online:

    https://www.rttycontesting.com/ft8-r.../2018-results/

    Thanks to all who participated to make this inaugural event a success.

    Online certificates will be available before the end of January 2019.

    73, Don AA5AU & Ed W0YK

    The FT8 Roundup Story

    The FT8 Roundup is co-sponsored by Muns Vineyard (Ed Muns, W0YK) and rttycontesting.com (Don Hill, AA5AU). The idea for the contest was born from a discussion Ed had with Ned Stearns, AA7A, and WSJT-X creator Joe Taylor, K1JT, in mid-2017.

    The discussion centered around creating an FT8 “DXpedition” mode for the KH1/KH7Z Baker Island DXpedition, which Ned was a member of. Through Ed’s participation and efforts, the development team agreed to look at an FT8 “contest” mode after they nailed down the DXpedition mode (also referred to as Fox and Hound). At the time, Ed and I doubted FT8 would work for contesting but we were intrigued by the possibilities.

    With the phenomenal rise in FT8 popularity in 2018 and the announcement that the ARRL would allow FT8 in the RTTY Roundup starting in 2019, we realized now would be a good time to try an FT8 contest if the software was available. Our Ten-Meter RTTY Contest was on life support due to low sunspot activity. An FT8 contest made sense in the Ten-Meter RTTY Contest December time slot.

    After Ned’s huge success on Baker Island employing the WSJT-X FT8 DXpedition mode in June 2018, Ed and I were excited at the prospect of an FT8 contest mode using similar techniques to achieve rates upwards of 300 contacts per hour in theory. But the development team was reluctant to model the contest mode after Fox and Hound because of higher bandwidth requirements. Additional time would be required to develop a suitable high-rate contest mode. One fundamental difference is that there are many Foxes in contesting, rather than the single DXpedition Fox. And, there are far fewer Hounds chasing each Fox in contesting.

    Joe commented that “FT8 was not designed with HF contesting in mind. Steve Franke, K9AN, and I built FT8 on the legacy of the older ‘JT’ digital modes JT65, JT4, and JT9. There was a bit of contesting in the mix of motivations for those modes, but that was VHF/UHF contesting – a rather different sort.”

    He went on to say “The rate at which FT8 became popular as an HF mode astonished everyone, including us. Very soon we started getting inquiries about its possible use in Field Day, VHF contests, and the RTTY Roundup. We responded by increasing the basic message payload from 75 to 77 bits and used the extra bits to create message structures optimized for four different types of contest exchanges.”

    In mid-September 2018, WSJT-X beta version 2.0.0-rc1 was released by Joe Taylor, Steve Franke, K9AN, and Bill Somerville, G4WJS. It included an FT8 contest mode that supported the ARRL RTTY Roundup among other contests. Ed and I were in direct communication with Joe about an all-FT8 HF Contest to take place the first weekend in December and he was on board with his support. It would be the first major test of the FT8 contest mode.

    On September 20th, Ed coined the phrase “FT8 Roundup” for the first time and it became the name of the contest. We created rules molded around the ARRL RTTY Roundup and set up web pages on rttycontesting.com to support the contest. Ed worked with Ken Wolff, K1EA, to adapt the log-check software and with Trey Garlough, N5KO, to make the necessary changes to the contest robot. Things were really starting to ramp up.

    Over the course of the next two months, there were more updates to version 2.0 with improvements and bug fixes. The FT8 Roundup was announced to the public on November 14th even though the software was not quite ready. We were confident the development team would deliver a stable update before the contest. And they did. Beta version 2.0.0-rc5 was released on Monday, November 26, less than six days before the contest. There were three separate practice sessions that week to test the program. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked very well.

    The contest was non-stop action from start-to-finish and FT8 signals were wall-to-wall for 4-5 kHz on bands that were open. In the end, there were 1,253 logs submitted from 91 different DXCC entities, all 48 contiguous states + DC, and six Canadian provinces. The log-checking software showed there were 2,106 different calls claimed and 131,181 QSOs. For a first-time contest, it was quite remarkable.

    Perhaps just as remarkable was the support from the WSJT-X development team. Bill, G4WJS, offered near around-the-clock “live” assistance via the Rttydigital, WSJT-X Group, and Development Team reflectors.

    Single Operator

    When the dust settled, Ron Koenig, WV4P, came out on top in the Single Operator category with 693 QSOs and 95 multipliers operating from Tennessee. The winning score was 64,885 points.

    Ron used a Flex 6600 transceiver and Icom IC-7300 “plumbed into JK Antennas”. Not only is Ron new to contesting, he was first licensed in June 2017 and made his first FT8 contact in February 2018. According to Ron “Activity was high the entire time making it hard to decide when to take off times”. Ron added that his shack is only half built. His antenna plans include a rotating tower. Looks like Ron’s been bitten hard by the contest bug.
    73 Al 4L5A
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