SFI > 250 or bust!

Friday

Here’s the deal: SB40(A) with the rotary dipole 23m above the ground and an almost flat wire dipole with the feedpoint about 9m high and the ends about six to seven meters. Both antennas are fed to the amp with an A/B switch, not ‘stackmatched’. I decided to leave the RX loops on the stackmatch because that’s a proven help in many marginal contacts. I should make a small signal version of the stackmatch for the RX loops.

I hoped to leave the tower up after last week’s fun session but Wednesday and yesterday were very windy so I lowered the tower and put it back up today. I used the RBN to compare the antennas. Good to have two callsigns. The lower dipole was stronger for skimmers within a 1000 km circle. It didn’t seem to differ much farther away. Maybe it’ll be something else at night when 7 MHz should really shine.

I then did a quick test around 13.20 which is still broad daylight. I heard a BY but he didn’t copy me. HS0ZIA was a struggle with the EU callers, DU/SomeRussianCall and VK4DX were worked on first call. Again: still broad daylight. Let’s hope for a calm sun and good propagation. More later…

Saturday

00.00 and off to the races. The contacts flowed in at a steady pace. Not as fast as my record +200 hour on 80 (again: in marvelous 2014) but still not too bad. However the K-index had risen from 0 in the afternoon to 3 right now. Later on the K even peaked up to four and I think that’s the reason why signal strength dropped and the run became slow. So slow that I just went to bed for a while. With the intention to be back well in time for sunrise.

In the meantime it had become clear that the lower wire dipole didn’t do a thing. At least: nothing that wasn’t workable on the high dipole, even local stuff within 600 km. One time I tried to bust a pile up for one of the exotic G-flavors (forgot which: GU? GD?). I switched to the lower dipole ‘just in case’ and forgot to switch back to the high dipole. It didn’t make a noticeable difference. Maybe on the marginal paths to far away stuff like KH6 or ZL.

Nigel G3TXF had announced to be SB40 too. In his WW SSB contest report I noticed he has the same antenna at about the same height. I had two RBN monitors open, one for me and one for G3TXF. It was amazing to see that both our footprints matched. When the rate was slow I tried to compare the SNR figures for the same skimmers and that didn’t reveal much difference either. There is no point in this experiment. Just something to keep my mind going when the rate drops to sleep inducting levels.

Sunrise was nothing spectacular but it was a quite productive time to rake up multipliers. Around 10 AM utc I decided it wasn’t worth continuing. I didn’t plan to use the real time score report but I decided to do so, just for fun. I had been lurking at the SB40 scores but it’s only fair that I’d join in. There is nothing I can do with a simple dipole against multiple stacks on huge towers and power splitting between monster antennas. And who knows how many of those run a OM-4000 amp or worse? So I was just moving along with the pack for fun but couldn’t really push forward.

I was back in the shack around 14.00 utc. There was already far east DX to be worked. I had a fast hour and then kept looking for multipliers interleaved with some more running. Suddenly a shower with melting snow came along. The static was so loud I took off the headphones. The online rain radar predicted it would last about a quarter of an hour. And so it did. When the shower moved overhead it was useless to carry on. Everything was weaker than the QRN level. Later on the sun came through and the sky was blue for sunset. I could resume my RF business.

Around 6 PM local time I called for room service and the XYL brought me dinner. Around 7.30 PM utc I decided to take a break and a nap. I got back around 10 PM for another log filling round of CQ CQ CQ. I kept going, slow at times, but I wasn’t tired. Actually I was when I thought about it but I felt OK and didn’t fall asleep. I got a little bit upset by the rude behavior of the power house mult stations in the packet pile ups. After a while the band dried up. Nothing new to be worked and nothing that came back to my CQ. I knew that the slow rate would wear me out so I decided to go to bed for two hours and be fresh for a morning run. And so I did.

Sunday

Around 6 AM utc I could work some more multipliers. And I was glad to get a fair bunch of three pointers into the log. The lack of DX had brought the points per QSO down to 1.6 where it was 2.0 after the first night. I got it back to 1.8 later on. Highlight was a spotted KL2R. A semi-rare double multiplier. He (she?) wasn’t loud but certainly workable. There were some callers but no messy pile up. And along came HB9xxx to rain on our parade. He kept on calling and calling. I heard KL2R coming back to what I thought was my call but the HB9 absolutely had to ruin it for everyone. Frantically I sent my call a couple of times and managed to hear my call and report while HB9 was still at it.

After that I decided to S&P for a total of 1900 QSO and then took a shower and have lunch. It’s 12.15 utc as I type this. Let’s see what the rest of Sunday can bring.

Well, it brought me a long nap. Too long. Home alone so no one to QRM me. There was some Asian DX to be worked and also some VK/ZL. BTW I logged quite a few of those down under. Great! The rate was low and things were slow. I had tried a couple of times to break the 8P2K pile up but it was too messy. In the end I gave up and hoped that my old saying would become reality once again: if you run, the mults will come. Indeed: at 21.02 I got called by 8P2K. Yes! In the last hour ZP5WYC calls me. Again YES!

In the last few slow hours I hoped to reach the 2300 QSO mark. It looked that I wouldn’t make it while running as no one answered me. There was a QRS caller who sent ‘OQ5M OQ5M OQ5M de xxxxx xxxxx GE ES TNX FR QSO UR 599 599 16 16’. No problem with the QRS but with the end of the contest upon me and still needing a dozen QSO to get to 2300, all this superfluous information made me nervous.

So S&P for the final 17 contacts. I activated skimmer spots in the cluster window and soon the bandmaps were filled. There were some blue calls amidst all the grey spots and so I jumped at it. At 23.58 the counter showed 2300 and I quit.

After the contest

I had set no real goals for this contest apart from maximizing the fun factor. I hoped for 1500 contacts and a ‘DXCC in a weekend’. Just not to be mocked at. So the outcome of 2300 QSO and 137 DXCC makes me very happy. Of course along the way I looked up the Belgian record for SB40(A) and early Sunday it seemed far out of reach (OT4A in 2009 with 716.975 points). But in the end I wasn’t too far away from it. I think that OT4A has a three or even four element yagi.

More than ever: no cluster spot, no rate. I decided to spot some calls myself. I dumped more into the spotting network during this contest than I did in over fifteen years of assisted contesting. Although operating assisted I also tune the bands with the VFO dial and I have always thought that everyone should do the same to find the juicy undiscovered DX. There were many busted spots in the bandmaps. BTW: skimmers mistake CT9/ for CT9X. And then there were the ferocious pile ups for those ultra-rare multipliers from Africa or South-America.

I must admit I was quite amazed when I saw G3TXF’s score reported on 3830. Why am I so focused on G3TXF? First of all, he’s in my part of the world. That’s important for the points per QSO. And we’re both no rare or monopolized multiplier. Second reason is the apples-oranges trap in comparisons: simple dipole versus stacked yagis or better. We have a similar antenna, maybe even the same. His is reported to be at 80 ft (24m) while mine is at 76 ft (23m). That can’t be a factor either. Throughout the contest we had a picture perfect matched footprint on the RBN. So why does he claim 250k points more than me?

From his claimed score I derive that he has a 1.674 pt/qso average. Mine is at 1.649. So that seems pretty leveled.

He has 18 multipliers more than me. That burns. I wonder what he worked that I haven’t and if it was the mult calling him or vice versa. I’d like to see his log. In due time, I will. I think I worked most multipliers that were on the spotting network. Maybe one or two that I just didn’t want to endure the cluster spot pile up.

What about location? Google maps tells me he’s 580 km more to the west. That’s 10% closer to central USA than me. But that does not explain the difference in multipliers. I’d expect a higher pt/Q average then. From his location there is nothing but salt water between him and everything to the west. Could that be of any help?

What with the ‘call sign gain’ factor? Nigel is one of the most well-known ham radio operators. There or a bunch of callsigns that can draw a crowd when spotted. Where does this fit into my equation? I think 550 QSO is a huge difference. But I think it goes too far to attribute that to a call sign.

But most likely it’s that Nigel operated 11 more hours than me (43 vs 32). In retrospect I should have operated more. But the initial plan was to have fun and not to be a zombie after the contest. Maybe something for next year?

Please note that I do not envy Nigel’s score nor think that there’s something fishy about it. NOT AT ALL. I just want to know what’s happening so I can either try to do better next time or just learn to live with the situation.

Some thoughts:

  • I worked more VK (7) and ZL (6) in this one then I seem to remember in one contest. It’s not as easy as on 20 or 15 (if SFI allows).
  • I worked six VU2 stations. I think that is more too than before.
  • 522 USA stations were logged, that’s 22.7%. I think it’s impossible to drill into to the ‘second layer’ without a yagi. On 20 and 15 with three elements I can even exploit the third layer (QRP with indoor clothe hanger antenna).
  • MANY MANY dupes: 61. In fact my log shows 2361 QSO dupes included. That’s 4.35%. WHY??? Two calls were even logged THREE times. That’s a ‘tripe’!

Final words:

It was fun.    DX is!   CW 4 EVER!   And CQ WW CW is still the greatest of them all!

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