CQ WW SSB 2008

Although not planned 2008 has turned into a contesting sabbatical. I’ve been on here and there but not like in 2007 where I entered almost each and every contest – big and small. This contest was the first contest where I actually tried to be serious. Not to put together a top score which is impossible from ON with my setup, but to do at least was well as the previous years. For the fourth year in a row: SB20. No chance on 15m let alone 10m yet and I don’t like the mode enough for a Low Band endeavor on phone.

Here’s how I did compared to last year’s CLAIMED score. Target was 1300 QSO and 450k points. Deep down I hoped for 1500 QSO. Silly me.

Year QSO Zone DXCC Score Setup
2005 1256 30 90 324230 KLM KT34XA + 500W, TS-850
2006 1507 35 114 420031 KLM KT34XA + 1 kW, TS-850
2007 1360 32 107 378219 OB11-3 + 1kW, TS-850
2008 1224 31 104 378405 OB11-3 + 1kW, K3

Preparation started the weekend before The Weekend. I’ve got a K3 since half June and this would be the first time I’d put it to use in SSB. With a lot of parameters to tweak, or at least more than on my TS-850, I solicited some audio reports. I learned that the modulation sucked… big time! After trying to adjust all sorts of parameters and still getting bad audio reports I decided to send a message to the Elecraft reflector. As usual it rained prompt replies suggesting some values for the parameters. Then I sounded like a 747 taking off on a simple PTT. I didn’t even talk into the mic yet. To make a long story short: microHAM USA’s W4TV told me to cut a ground wire in the interface cable and there you go: pristine audio and great reports. Last Friday before the contest I received a private and direct email from Eric @ Elecraft (one of the company’s kingpins) to check wether my problem got solved in the end. Elecraft customer care to the max!

I got home on Friday around noon and I cranked up the tower. An OB11-3 tribander at 21m high and with the audio supposedly great now I fired away on 20m. That was fun. I worked all across the USA from East to West and everything in between and made some more elaborate QSO’s "rag chew style". Great comments on my signal strength and the audio. This promised a lot of good for the contest. Propagation seemed to cooperate too.

I started on Saturday morning and pretty soon I grabbed my pen and started making notes about whose modulation is as wide as a barn door and who nests too close to yours truly. I made 17 notes in total and as usual after the dust has settled, I don’t do anything with it. I just file the notes in a little book. I try to be friendly and not make enemies so I never disclose this. Although in the heat of the battle I plan to. This time a couple of calls returned on my list two or three times over these two days.

I had a constant S9+20 QRM level. Everyone was on 20m all the time which caused a lot of trouble. I could have worked a lot more DX with a clear frequency. I think some multipliers called in (or at least 3 pointers) but I couldn’t hear them with the QRM and splatter. I missed a couple of multipliers. No KH6, no YB, no 9M, no XE and not too much SA mults. The lack of YB and 9M stunned me. It seems they are more active in CW, no? I heard a weak TG9 on Saturday but the band was almost closed so I didn’t work him. And I didn’t hear him back on Sunday.

Unassisted. Hunting for mults myself. Mostly I do SOAB(A) so I am not a mult finding machine. Even worse: I hate S&P and love to run. Boss Springsteen even made a song about that. So every time I took a break I ended my run with a S&P sweep and before trying to find a running frequency, I moved up and down the band once more. Finding weak DX mults under all the QRM seemed impossible at times. A better way was to look for a bunch of rude and impatient callers, stop there and try to find the weak DX they’re calling. That implies swinging the beam over a 270° span.

I found a couple of goodies like that. ZS9X for instance. And 3DA0DJ. The latter was completely covered in Italian splatter so I needed to RX for a while to see what the pile up was about. TK9R sat there too for another mult. All too close to each other though. 3DA is in line with Italy from here. I think I worked him but the timing with the running Italian was so unfortunate that each time 3DA0DJ came back, the Italian hit F1. So I went back half an hour later and called again. I got the QSO and a duplicate notice from the DX. Sorry but I can’t afford to miss a mult. Can you?

QRZ? QRZ? QRZ? QRZ? QRZ? One EU contester aiming for a WRTC seat worked 5 QSO’s before signing his call. Not that there was a pile up, he just said "QRZ" until someone answered. I think the QRZ phenomenon was less than last year though…

One station from the UN DXCC had modulation as wide as 10 kHz. I mean that I needed to move away 5 to 6 kHz to hear something else than him – while he still slipped through 20dB over 9… He topped the bill but there sure were some ugly signals out there!

One African contest station did something I don’t understand. He called for JA JA JA. They called but obviously no calls stood out. So he pulled them out with partials one at the time and this killed his rate. After 10-15 minutes he went back to working EU. I can understand that you do this in an every day DX pile up. EU QRX – PSE JA. But in a contest where EU is worth as much as JA (3pt) and EU has way more zone and DXCC mults than JA, I’d just run EU like crazy. Only my opinion…

Saturday night, band closed. CU2X a/k/a CU2A a/k/a OH2UA came in S9+60dB. Maybe more but the S-meter scale ends there. I needed the mult but I couldn’t work him. I called for half an hour since the band was closed but he was running USA at some crazy rates. Didn’t he hear me at all? It must be great to operate a place like that. I worked him on Sunday morning for the mult.

It was fun but I really prefer CW. I wonder what I’m going to do for WW CW. SOAB(A) would be fun but I don’t think I can focus 48h… Maybe in a couple of weeks I’m so hyped that I do?

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