WPX SSB 2010

What a crappy contest. Boring to say the least from my side. Disappointing rates. Maybe I picked the wrong band? But you’re wrong if you think that I’ll be telling you how much I prefer CW over SSB and that I hate phone contests. I do, but I’ve been telling that for two and a half years already. A major contest is a major contest regardless of the mode so I planned a couple of hours in the shack. And with the mixed mode fun on 15m in RDXC the week before, I decided to do a SB15 effort. The reason for another 15m show:

  • I can sleep at night, my low band antennas are still down
  • I don’t want to get on 20m again with all the QRM
  • 15m was quite open last week
  • 10m is still a bit silly right now.

That’s the plan, and there is not much to tell about the execution. The band was most productive to the east but remained closed to the west. Exception: LU/PY. A huge number of exotic prefixes booming in from SA. Hardly any Americans on Saturday, and only one (1!) on Sunday. Most goodies came from the east. Contesting in China is booming! A lot of loud signals from Indonesia. Quite some JA in the log.

OQ4B and myself observed that we could easily work DX in S&P ‘first call’ but runs remained unanswered. Later on Joe OP4K told the same on 3830: “when we were running no much response came back (big signals at times from US 59 + 40!!), but going on S&P we made it from the 1st call.“ There must have been 2 versions of 15m, one for EU-west and one for EU-south. I concur with F5HRY on 3830: “Bad propagation, especially on sunday. Too short openings to NA (being west, it’s important here …), and nice backscatter to EU at the end of the opening (a pleasure to make some nice mults, with some EME like signals). 73, Herve F5HRY

Compare that to 9A1P (here) who picks up 2283 QSO and works USA zone 3 and even Hawaii. And don’t get me started on the guys in Africa or NH6P who tells us that “15 meters was fantastic all weekend long, with long path into Europe both nights.” Maybe the OB11-3 yagi at only 16m high is just too small and too low for this kind of work. And for the serious SSB battle, 1kW of RF power is just not enough anymore. Add to that the stations that have no shame to crank up the audio gain to splatter all the way round, and you have the ingredients for some frustrating moments. I always thought that SSB bandwidth was approximately 3kHz. Let’s take 4kHz to have some leeway.

At a specific moment an American M/2 2kHz popped up below me. His signal was so wide I had to abort my modest run. Up to more than 5kHz on both sides of his frequency was completely unusable. I tried to listen through the clutter but it didn’t work because he was too loud. So I went up there and asked if he could be considerate and turn the ‘elbow room’ function off because he occupied over 10kHz of spectrum. He replied to me (and I quote) that “stations were creeping up his frequency and that he was trying to keep it clear. QRZ?”. I insisted but in the end all I got was a sorry and a QRZ. I told him that his sorry didn’t do it for me, especially since his initial comment implies that he widened his signal on purpose to guard his QRG. “Are you just gonna complain or are you gonna work me?” was his final stand on the issue. I gave him my call and told ‘m we already worked. I didn’t want him to QSY, I just wanted him to adjust his modulation.

On Sunday the reverse thing happened. I was finally moving the rate meter for a +100 clock hour when someone (no call given) told me I was bothering him 2kHz down. I really don’t know what my signal and occupied bandwidth looks like but I’m confident it’s clean and within limits. Remember I use the 3kHz limit standard. I never had any negative complaints so I guess it’s a clean signal. So what was I about to do? As a reflex my thought was: “To hell with it”, especially since the rate was the best I had so far in the contest. And also since I consider my signal to be clean. A split second later, I remembered the issue with the American M/2 the day before. So what was I about to do? QSY? Adjust the settings on the rig which I consider to be right? Just plain ignore the guy’s remark? For a short while I was a bit confused. Was I using a double standard here? If someone else does it, it’s bad. If I do it, it’s right?

In the end I just continued my run. The guy told me he was 2kHz away. I did not hear him. And he did not hear me when I was asking if there was someone on the frequency. I always ask that. Two times just to be sure. But all too often no one replies and you start a run with a clear QRG but after a while you feel the QRM rising. Maybe I should use a dirty wide splattering signal. You know, to prevent stations from creeping up the frequency. Just to keep it clear. Hey, it works for the American M/2.

In short it was a very boring contest. I envisioned 600 QSO or more just like the week before. I made 700 QSO in RDXC but didn’t even achieve the 400 mark in WXP. In about the same amount of operating time. WPX is supposed to be a bigger contest than RDXC. Although the numbers and activity seems to prove this wrong.

Things will slow down now. I hope to work some JA in JIDX in ten days. Maybe do EU Sprint, the contest you love to hate. Then it’s WPX CW. No clue what I’m going to do there. I did a desperate SB10 two years in a row and that was fun. In the long run my next big effort will be IARU. I really would like to do a full time serious SOAB CW effort. I missed too many contests over the last year. And I did too much ‘fooling around for fun contesting’. It’s time to kick ass and get serious again. But not quite yet. Let the pot burn on the stove for a while…

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