No better therapeutic session than a good CW contest. I’m good to go for a few weeks now. I had a blast! I like ARRL DX CW very much. Working tons of W/VE and knowing you can’t win anything except a #1 Belgium. Can’t win – can’t lose so this contest is always minimal stress and maximal fun. For once the WX cooperated and I could raise the tower to the full 21m. This meant that I could deploy the 2el 40m vertical dipoles (LP/SP) and that the L wire for 80/160 would have its maximal vertical component. No wind, no rain, no snow, no T-storms. Just quiet weather and not too cold. Welcome situation for a change.

I do SOAB(A) most of the time. Sometimes I wonder why because I hardly click the bandmaps and almost never spot stations myself. If you’d check my log, you can see that almost all my QSO’s are made on my running frequencies. But I like to see what happens. I’m by no means a ‘CW skimmer guy’ so I use it to see how propagation moves. And it makes for some interesting reading (NOT!). No SO2R this time. I’m glad to work W/VE on one band already as it is! Before the start, I had set myself 2 goals:

  • Make 1200 QSO’s at least…
  • of which 50 on 160m with 10-15 multipliers on Top Band.

I started Saturday morning around 02.00z. I hate the first hour of the contest where everyone tries to get a good start and situations sometimes get out of hand. Or at least in my perception. Doing a casual effort so why not sleep a few hours first? 48 is too long for me anyway. I started on 40m and the rate was acceptable but nothing more. After 2 hours I moved to 80m and back and forth to 40m. I was saving 160m for my Saturday sunrise. Sacrificing the 80m vertical antenna to convert it to a compromise 80/160m has a good and a bad side. The bad part is that I most certainly have something less for 80m now. I can feel that. The good part is that on 160m my DX performance is much better than with the low coil-loaded inverted V. Anyway I tamed the beast and on 80m I was not too happy. Was it the propagation? Or is it the antenna? No way to tell. I was glad to finally move to 160m where the first callers were amazingly loud. I soon worked 25 contacts of which 14 mults on 160m so my target there was almost met with still one morning to go. After sunrise things slowed down with hardly no one coming back on 80m although the band was open late and so was 40m. Around 09.00z it was time for breakfast and a nap.

Around 13.00z I was back in the shack, later than anticipated. The plan was to run 20m if possible but the bandmap showed 15m spots. I couldn’t hear anything so I ran 20m with some goods rates. I tried 15m again and made only 6 contacts. This was expected. I made 300 QSO on 15m in 2007 and only 50 in 2008. Now it would be even less. So be it. The rates were good on 20m and I tried 40m LP around 15.30z. This wasn’t a success and the LP opening was better last year. I stuck to 20m until 18.15z when I went downstairs for dinner and to watch some TV with the XYL.

It wasn’t before 22.45z that I returned to the operating chair for the second night. I stayed on 40m for almost two hours and the rates were better than the night before. At 00.45 I moved to 80m which was poor again. Antenna or propagation? I switched between 160 and 80 to return to 40m. Around sunrise (06.30 to 07.30) I climbed up to 80 contacts on 160m with 26 QSO. Compared to 30/7 the year before. You could credit propagation but I think it’s due to my new vertical antenna on 160m. Target #1 (the 160m goal) was met. I tried 80m again but only made 1 QSO and settled on 40m for a change. At 08.51 I quit for a nap and a shower. I planned to be back earlier on 20m than on Saturday.

Back at 12.15z. Checked 15m. It showed life. Well… life? The usual suspects from W1 (MA / CT / NH). I worked 4 stations followed by the mandatory QSY to 20m again. I had a good short run there and QSY’d to 15m again where I tried to run. Only a handful came back so I S&P’d the band and I noticed how signals were coming in from other places deeper inland and were getting stronger. I hoped for an opening and felt that it was possible. I settled low in the band and started CQ’ing on 15m. Soon after that the band opened up pretty decent to current propagation standards and someone threw me on the cluster. All hell broke loose but I was glad to be stirring that cauldron! I made about 120 QSO in that hour so it was a very good rate, necessary to get some score on that band.

The stream of callers stopped and the opening faded. When things slowed down, a spot appeared for my friend W1EBI on 20m. I wanted to call him but not waste time by retuning the amp. So I put the amp in stand by and worked him barefoot with 70W. So George, if you wonder why my ‘KW’ was so weak, that is why. Target #2 was met with 1227 QSO in the log. So back to 20m at 14.40z. The rates were pretty good to splendid and I really sucked 20m dry. I could run the band to W6/W7 pretty late. That’s only possible when the tower is cranked up to 21m. If the tower is down and the tribander low, the band closes much earlier. At 17.09z I picked a weak "3WW" out of the callers. "3WW" could be K3WW but the signal was too weak for that. So my brain told me right away it was my friend K3WWP. John is great in being small. He works QRP CW with minimal antennas. We have worked in the past but the current propagation does not allow for QRP and indoor antennas to be worked like a breeze. But it worked this time and I greeted John because he might not recognize OQ5M as being ON5ZO. It’s always a pleasure to work people you know. Like K7GK @ K7ZSD. Too bad we only crossed on 20m and 40m. Last year he brought me Oregon on 80m too but I didn’t work that far on 80m this year. The west coast mults were absent on 80m. Again: propagation or antenna? By the way I didn’t even try the 40m LP opening on Sunday because I had too much fun on the higher bands.

A funny thing happened. I was running on 20m when a persistent I6** called me. After a few times I wanted to get rid of him and sent "I6** 5NN KW". He returned "KK5M 5NN 500". So he must have logged KK5M in the state of KW…

At 20.15 the log showed 835 QSO on 20m so I moved to 40m which is pretty early but my guess was that I might work some new multipliers which would make up for the loss of rate. I stayed on 40m but it wasn’t a huge success apart from being called from Nebraska. Let that multiplier bell ring! For the last hour of the contest I tried 80m again. My mult count there was low and only 170 QSO. Biggest disappointment. At least I worked 2 extra multipliers. K1JB was handing out ME but I wasn’t the only one needing that. This brings out the worst in people. I worked him and saw a red spot for VO1MP. Another multiplier I needed and also here the situation was getting out of hand. The new KRX3 option in the K3 came in handy. I noticed he was listening slightly up to pick calls and soon after that I logged the NF mult. Back to 40m for the last 15 minutes and I was thrilled to be called by a W5 to log Arkansas as the last multiplier of the contest.

I am very happy with my score. I claim over 1 million compared to 600k last year. I made 500 QSO more. In retrospect I could have done better by sleeping less and maximize operations. Maybe I would have put down a top X score then. But then again the pressure to perform would kill the laid back approach and minimize the fun. So all in all I had a great weekend on the air. One very satisfied contest op says 73 ES QRU…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.