Shocker: my last participation in the phone part of the WPX dates from 2014. Actually I didn’t plan to play WPX SSB this year either. For the obvious reasons. Do I need to repeat those? For the hard headed: it’s SSB. And propagation sucks. On the other hand: it is a contest! I have the time. The Tower of Power is up. And that elusive OQ5 prefix isn’t going to hand itself out. And so I settled for SB20 just for fun and no goals. Again: for obvious reasons. It has been many years since I did the five-out-of-six routine: ARRL CW, UBA CW, ARRL SSB, RDXC and WPX SSB: five contests in six weekends. This means that my contesting dip is dead and buried and furthermore there are no (thunder)storms so the tower and low band wires are deployed.
Saturday I started around 0830z. The band wasn’t really open so I did a lot of S&P. Later on I managed a run that netted 100 QSO in an hour. I was in and out of the shack and after lunch I had 250 QSO. The weather was just too nice and the band just too lame so the family made a long walk. I got back around 1600z and thanks to the American contesters I had a nice 119 hour. The band died early and I scraped the bottom to finish day one with 500 QSO. So in theory, with much optimism and naivety this could lead to 1000 QSO. Yeah right.
Sunday morning started slow and I can skip the rest of the contest for this write-up: it would remain slow. The logger tells me I was active over eight hours on Sunday alone for a measly 200 QSO. I have called CQ for minutes on end without a single answer. Eight hours – 200 QSO. Compare that to this. I am grinning as I do the comparison myself.
Sunday afternoon I ended up in a nasty frequency fight with EN4U. He had a S9+40dB signal and was as wide as a barn door. He just landed upon me. I asked him to QSY which he did. 500 Hz or so. Since there was no other fun to be had I engaged in a dog fight. I ignored him but QSY’ed along with him. If he went 500 Hz up, I followed him. Agreed: I should have been the bigger man. Which I probably am anyway. But I wasn’t this time. During this atrocity I remembered something from my analog electronics classes twenty years ago. A dirty signal over-amplified becomes a very big and very dirty signal. I forgot the math behind it but the principle stuck.
Now I usually don’t do this stuff. But I had been frustrated earlier on by a few dirty signals ruining that little fun there was to be had. RW3XZ occupied 8 kHz. UF1F: what was that? Elbow room is one thing but this was the equivalent of stretched arms. And UA3KW wasn’t much better. As if someone was slowly pulling apart twenty meters of Velcro-strip. But ten kHz away.
Things became too slow. I went out in the garden to see how nature starts to wake up with the first rays of light and temperatures with two digits (and positive). There were bees coming out of my bee hotels. And an early butterfly. One thing lead to another and soon I was handling my spade like a pro and working in the garden. I have been looking forward to this for months! One hour and one obligatory shower later I was back in the shack.
The sun had set in the east so many were moving there splattery business to 40m. I had a short run into USA but the signals were weak and there wasn’t much to be done. Then strangely the band went ‘super long’. Nothing anymore from the east coast but a dozen W6 came booming in. Propagation then shifted to WA / OR with another loud batch of W7. Sweet. There were also some weak W7 in there which weren’t easy to get in the log. Then I worked a batch of loud PY. They have more special prefixes than anyone else! And to close the day some southern EU stations were loud and easily worked. Stations that had been unworkable during the day. Along with stations from the Caribbean and central America. PJ2T was probably the hardest to work ever. Usually they are loud and easily worked on all bands. Today they were S6 and I had to try a few times in the course of the last hour. Propagation: never the same and it can be surprising any given day.
I can’t say that this was much fun apart from the two modest high speed runs and the W6/7 opening at the end. Next one is WPX CW?