WAE CW. My first DX contest back in 2001. Yes, the one with the QTC-thing. Little did we know, ON4IT and myself. Each at our parent’s place, no real antennas, and chatting over the local VHF frequency. Why is everyone asking QTC? We looked it up on the internet (yes, we are the new breed) and peed our pants. We could copy a call and a number if not too fast, but this… We promised ourselves to master the QTC copying for 2002. And so we did.
Fast forward 10 years. Where is ON4IT anyway? Time for the yearly participation in this enjoyable contest. Nothing could stop me, except maybe the predicted T-storms. Crap! I had some time and energy left on Friday and I put up a beverage-ish antenna. I knew that 80m would be very noisy so something to RX better is needed. The wire went through the garden, over the driveway high enough to keep it above the car, and to the other side of the garden. When I unrolled the copper wire from a broken current transformer and passed the living room’s window, the XYL grinned and made the international ‘you are crazy’ sign by pointing her index to her forehead. Yes, I am! I didn’t expect much from this ‘beverage’: way too short, bent in a U with sharp corners, not engineered but installed freewheeling. No free lunch but maybe, just maybe, there is something magical about this experiment.
The start of the contest was bizarre to my habits. Normally I start later and take a break at the start later to get some sleep. Now the plan was to start right away and keep it up until daylight. There was a lot of activity on 20m and I almost made it to 100/hr there! Then off to 40m which was good to USA and 80m which was a lot less. No activity, small signals and A LOT of static crashes and noise. Ouch! Just after sunrise I realized it was a pathetic harvest on 40/80 so I went to bed and took a 5 hour break.
The contest rolled like it normally does. WAE is not a rate fest but there is nice DX and the QTC’s. So the score grew and I checked the DARC WAE website for the ON HP record. I have the LP record since 2005, and the current record for HP is set to 700k points. Wait – something’s not right. ON record = 700k. I was at 650k at that point, so last year I must have made a million. Check the result for 2010: sure enough, I made over a million after log checking in 2010. DARC needs to update their records! 😉 I know, Belgian records don’t mean a thing. Especially in WAE CW. But I don’t think these records will be broken easily and as a contester it’s always nice to see your call in the records.
Knowing I hold the current HP record for Belgium also, and that if all went well, I might break my own score this year, I had just found a goal in his contest: do better than me! I soon had more multipliers, which was easy. But the QTC number lagged big time. So it was a matter of running to get QSO and beg for QTC to each audible signal and decipherable fist.
I don’t know what to think of the propagation. The index numbers are low. But it wasn’t too bad. Of course on 10m the party was modest. But I worked a lot of JA on 15m and a huge amount of USA on 15m. Even late in the evening, with good signals. I managed to work a KH6 and got called by a VE7 there! A light and spotty opening on 10m to the USA on Sunday afternoon yielded a bunch of mults but they didn’t come easy. I needed a lot of repeats to make sure I got the number right.
The only downside to the whole contest is that there seems to be a trend in contesting regarding packet spots. Things were slow, so each ‘fresh meat mult spot’ would immediately draw the attention of the mult stations (or 2nd TRX for SO2R). Unlike what I normally do, in WAE I like to be there when the spot appears. A couple of times the same calls were there too. And every time those same calls applied the ‘bulldozer technique’. They just run over the place taking each and everything down until all that remains is a flat land. They keep calling and calling until the DX picks them. Another accompanying trend is the worse form of ‘tail ending’. It’s ‘tail biting’. The DX does not get a chance to confirm and close the contact and the caller is left in the dark whether the DX has his call and number right. Because as soon as the DX sent his number, they start calling. Just to be sure their call is heard before the others start sending. And if one starts calling, the whole pack starts howling.
I am not one of those who diabolize the DX cluster, but more and more it seems it is a lethal weapon in the hands of sloppy and inconsiderate operators. On 20m in such a situation, VE9HF threatened ‘lsn or qrt’. A German station needed to bulldozer his way to the mult so in the end (half a minute later that is), there was no VE9 mult left for anyone. While a packet spot is a good thing, the way some people jump on it ‘me first’ creates a confusing situation where everyone loses.
The beverage lookalike antenna didn’t really work. Indeed no free lunch. And no magic. I heard no better than on the vertical. In stead it picked up RF causing a hum in my headphones and sometimes this made the RX AUX antenna relay click in the K3. There is a warning for that in the KRX3 manual. So I went out on Sunday afternoon to stretch my legs and remove the antenna from the front lawn. When in front of the window again, the XYL laughed because of me doing the exact opposite of what I did 48 hours ago. A kind of rewind-vision. I don’t know how to squeeze an RX antenna in here between the tightly packed TX antennas. Low Band RX antennas, the holy grail at ON5ZO’s. Someone ought to write a book about that. If I ever find a way it is now clear that I will need to unhook it when TX’ing. Yet another relay-interface then.
All in all a great weekend. Thanks to the XYL for taking over the domestic duties and catering me. Final score improved on all aspects: more mults, more QSO, more QTC, more points, more fun. How to do better next year?
Oh yeah, there was no T-storm anywhere near this weekend. Stupid weather(wo)men.