Number nine for me since 2001. The 2007 running was a drag. I was not prepared for the boredom in 2008 and assumed we hit rock bottom. But 2009 even topped that. Here’s ON5ZO razor sharp but totally subjective analysis of how and why.

  • First off: no propagation. Really, NO PROPAGATION. Ten meters? Nothing, just like it has been for a few years now. Fifteen meters? Nothing. I dragged everything that was S9+++ on 20m to 21MHz. Nothing worked. I accidentally worked 2 Italians on 15m but a few minutes later they were gone. "There’s always 20m" would be a good adagio. Except: there wasn’t 20m. I worked two JA’s in the noise. One YB that I hardly copied. It took until late Sunday morning to be called by a UA0. USA on Saturday? Few and far between and those who did call, were weak. I don’t know about 40/80 because I spent a little time there as possible.
  • The lack of propagation is the root of all evil. This makes that you don’t get through and not many people hear you and not many people find it worth to tune the bands then. You can’t blame them but the absence of calls to work adds to the boredom in this contest. Since people don’t participate on the higher bands, they don’t bother to be on the lower bands. So it was hard to make some contacts there.
  • Many other contest about. REF CW which is not really big either but it’s CW. Any CW contest beats SSB. There was a lot of RTTY activity in what I believe was BARTG RTTY? But it seems that THE place to be was Top Band for the CQ WW 160m CW contest.

So why on earth did I torture myself? Because I am blinded by the greed for contest plaques. I won both 2007 and 2008 UBA SSB contests in the 12h HP class. I’m afraid this year’s score isn’t exactly plaque material but at least I have had a chance to win one in this contest. I’ll never win a plaque from here in any other (serious DX) contest. So I gave it a shot. Would I have made more QSO on 160m this weekend? Surely and easily. Would I have had more fun? You bet! Would I have worked some new DXCC on 160m? Probably a handful. Would I stand a chance to win a plaque? None whatsoever. Plus I find it my moral duty for some reason to be active in the UBA SSB contest. Now if for some reason I miss the plaque which is perfectly possible, I’ll reconsider the strategy for next year.

The good thing was working my young but long time ham friend ON4IT. He seems to be QRV again after being away too long. Thumbs up too for OQ4B = ON4BHQ who did a great job with 100W and a limited yet FB setup. Maybe the most amazing thing was that Friday’s semi-storm died out over the night, WX was FB and that I set up the tower and antennas from 09.30 to 11.00 and everything worked great on the first try. I was all set about 3 hours before the start. A record! I was afraid the MFJ tuner would act up again but it didn’t. In retrospect the dipole for 80m would have been a better choice. "Told you so" will be ON4BHQ’s reply but I needed to see if the 160/80 MFJ-tuned thing still worked after the weather elements played with it.

Just like last year (link) it was self spot / cheerleading time again on the DX cluster. Some guys use their primary callsign to spot themselves with the second call. Like ON5ZO would spot OQ5M. Let’s make a K1TTT like report?

OQ9E          7093.4 ON7IDX      UBA CONTEST CORR FREQ           1705 24-Jan-2009
OQ9E          7092.0 ON7IDX      UBA CONTEST                     1658 24-Jan-2009 

Especially painful if you spot yourself on the wrong QRG. Obviously the first spot didn’t work. QRZ.COM says ON7IDX = OQ9E. But there’s more:

ON5MA        14255.0 OT7G        CQ UBA CONTEST                  0820 25-Jan-2009
ON5MA        14188.0 OT7G        CQ UBA CONTEST                  0722 25-Jan-2009
ON5MA         3765.0 OT7G        UBA ONTEST                      0547 25-Jan-2009
ON5MA         3765.0 OT7G        CQ UBA CONTEST                  0453 25-Jan-2009

QRZ.COM says ON5MA = OT7G. I could go on like that. Mostly club stations being spotted by their members (too many to mention). I know that most of these spots are made in good faith. The average ON ham only gets out once a year (so to speak) and is not a trained contester. Not even an untrained contest op – just a casual ham. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that but I think this spotting thing is poor operating practice and pathetic behavior. Now I don’t think any of those guys is waiting for a "know-it-all" going to tell them how to work a contest. If they were, I’d volunteer right away because I’d very much like to "teach my people how to contest". But given the low enthusiasm for "Radio Sports" a/k/a contesting in Belgium, I’ll just take a rain check. I envy the USA where is big (and in the UK: link). I’d love to be a professor lecturing there!

Now on to a series of CW contests. Usually I can double the number of contacts in the same time compared to the SSB totals. Less other contests going on during the UBA CW then and most of all: except for the really big contests, a CW contest draws more crowd than phone events. Now if only propagation would improve – even the slightest rise in SFI will make a big change I think…

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