Time for another round of CW contesting! I missed this one last year thanks to Xynthia. But this is ‘our’ contest so I’d better be QRV.
I’m not a big fan of The Beatles but I had been working like a dog so I should be sleeping like a log. Which is what I did on Friday in stead of yet another round of putting up wires and cranking up towers. It was a gamble: WX on Friday was ok, but they predicted rain for Saturday late in the morning.
What they didn’t predict was the strong wind, and the rain was there earlier than predicted. Fieldday Franki was cursing his lazy Friday attitude. I had to take shelter for a shower lasting only 2 minutes, and then I discovered that a rope to hold the low band wires had slipped from the pulley. I had loosened the rope so it could go along when cranking up the tower. Because there was no tension on this rope anymore, the wind had blown it off the pulley during the shower. It was jammed. Now what? It’s the 160 rope which I don’t need in this one. Cut it and fix later? No I just pulled up my pants, took a deep breath and climbed the tower and put the rope back in place. Maybe not a smart move. It’s only eight meters but with the wet aluminium and no protection, and no place to put your feet (inner elements of the tower block your shoes)… And not easy holding your own with one hand and fixing a wiggling rope with the other. Stupid wind! Anyway faint heart never won fair lady so I was back on track. Rather: I was back in the garage sheltering for yet another short lived shower.
Back in the shack, with one hour and a half before the contest, I was thinking things over. I usually enter the ’12 hour’ category. Which was my plan so far. But when to take breaks? In the past I planned breaks in rush hours only to have time for the low bands later. Why not do the whole period? Twenty four hours. I felt physically fit. Last year’s winner only had about 400 QSO. I hold the 12 hour ON records for both high and low power, and claimed +1000 QSO in 2009. I talked it over with ON4BHQ over MSN. I could try it. Then I looked up the record for 24 hours high power: CH OO6NR – 972 QSO – 153 mults – 388620 points, in 2005. Lo and behold: I had just found my new motivation and target for the contest: win CHP in 2011 and while at it: set a new record for this one. I quickly talked things over with the XYL. Change of plan: no breaks so she would have to cater me. Green light (thank you sweetheart!). So dinner and time for a shower and off to the shack. I land in the chair at 12.57 and try to get started. 5…4…3….2….1: GO! Wait? Where has 15m gone? Only weak UA’s. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this? Oh well. It takes me a couple of CQ’s to find out that I’m heating up the dummy load. I flip the switch and the band comes alive. From then on it’s rate-rate-rate, from the East to the West. Even on 40m.
Just like I feared, the packet pile ups prove to be a real rate killer on the low bands. A spot and 5 seconds later a modest but heavy pile up is created. Everyone zero beat. You can work your way through by picking partials. But – and here’s the REAL problem, the root of all evil: people do NOT wait for the caller to give its call but just send their call AGAIN. So I pick a ‘UA3?’ but I hear the same bunch of dits and dahs again. If a RU3 or UT3 would send their call again, maybe –just maybe. But there is a huge difference between UA3 and SP1. I didn’t get the call but that SP1 was a real SOB! Here’s what I said in 2009:
I was spotted right away and this turned out the be a curse rather than a blessing. A frantic packet pile up emerged and the callers where so undisciplined and chaotic that I needed to repeat reports 3 to 4 times and send the call twice etc. I tried to listen up 200-300 Hz and narrowed the K3 DSP filtering but the callers didn’t follow my ‘up’. I was disgusted by the callers’ behavior and saw the rate collapsing while enough callers where there for a good and fast hour…
I knew the point was coming along but by 02.00 UTC the rate was so pathetic and everything was worked. Fatigue set in and concentration was gone so I went to sleep on the couch. Longer than I anticipated. Why the couch? A comfortable bed is way too inviting to snooze along. I hate the couch and only sleep there when being really tired in a contest. The record was almost broken, and with some more QSO and a handful of multipliers I would easily pass the 400k mark.
Back by 05.00 UTC and I worked some more on 40 and 80. No big rates though but some nice multipliers. I stuck to 40m because I badly wanted a ZL multiplier. That is an easy multiplier at EU SR / ZL SS. There was a ZL spotted on 80. He was loud and I worked him and even got a serial number for the contest. I wanted to break away from 40 but the ZL… A few other local multipliers but no ZL. A shame. Overnight the A index had risen from 2 to 5 and it showed. Hard to work on 15m. Very noisy 20m. VK4TT called me and I had a hard time getting the serial number. The rates were low, not many multipliers logged, but at least I had topped the 2005 record. I made almost 1500 QSO and claim 625k points. A new ON record.
Now to put things in perspective: those records are fun, and I love to see my call behind it, but ON6NL (hi Anton!) also broke the record this time with his 435k claimed score. Let’s face the facts: there just isn’t enough competition or even participants in Belgium to make any ranking significant. And if there were, so what. Contesting is fun, and the ‘funniness’ does not come from competition or scores but from making a lot of wireless contacts with friends all over the world, working some exotic countries and trying out new antennas. That’s what I tell myself when someone took my plaque or certificate by doing better.
Now a final note, mostly to N6AR who wrote this on 3830: “Seemed like all the ON’s boycotted their own contest!”
Lets see: 5000 ON licenses issued, 1000 more or less active hams, 300 doing some kind of CW, 51 the number of submitted CW logs in 2010, compared to 91 in SSB. It not a matter of boycotting, it about just not being interested in contesting.