Right now I am suffering from ‘post contest stress disorder’. With no one around to talk about the contest, it’s hard to decompress. Anyway with over 4300 QSO and almost 6 million points , I have once again raised the bar for next year.
Last week after LZDX I told ON4BHQ that only WX or Murphy could take me out. BHQ jokingly (I hope?) said I would easily make 5000 QSO. WX was very calm as we have seen it over the last weeks. They predicted a windy Sunday but no online forecast mentioned wind speeds that would be fatal for my pseudo field day setup. Murphy showed up on Wednesday with something that seemed to head for a cold or a flu. Sleep and couch time proved to be the cure. On Friday night I took a last nap and I was all set to go.
The plan was to hit hard, run like a madman and hunt down all I could on Radio 2. Last year my self-imposed magic limit was 3000 QSO. I ended up with 4000 in sight so that was this year’s target. And 4 million points would be nice.
Contrary to WW SSB, the start is a blur. Last month I could wonder about operating SSB on 40m in the SSB part, but I just didn’t have the time to philosophize in the CW part of the contest. Every time I switched to an SO2R scenario, I had to abandon radio 2 because the rate picked up. After exactly 7 hours (8 AM local time here) the log showed over 1000 contacts. What a rush! It included an 175 clock hour, which is equal to my best rate hour ever. Sunrise propagation was a bust, and especially 160 let me down.
I was fit enough to carry on right after a short break. Stretching legs, empty bladder, call room service to order breakfast. The rates were still good but nothing mind boggling anymore. It soon became clear that propagation was plain good. The best conDX in WW CW in years. But it lacked that very special and exceptional boost that we experienced in WW SSB last month. The number of contacts grew but I was always very short on mults. I needed to do more S&P, and also I was less called by juicy double mults than in the previous contests. Anyway I kept my butt in the chair and was always running one band and S&P’ing another with Radio 2. A second amp for that would have been nice. It works with 100W but not as fast as with QRO and the OQ5M call is prone to be from either Slovakia or Czechia when it’s not too loud. Saturday after lunch… note to the catering department: chewing food is OK in a CW contest, but eating half a chicken is not practical when contesting. Hunger prevailed though and it was delicious. So after that lunch, I was suddenly feeling cold and felt like being ran over by a train. Time for a longer break: a hot shower and fresh clothes and I was good to go. Rate was good, mults were low.
At about midnight I had my first crisis. I was leaving contacts unlogged or holding my finger on the CQ button while dozing off. I decided to get my first sleep – very late for me. So resting before the contest and trying to live healthy paid off. But things were slow enough to justify a nap. I took off the headphones and heard a weird noise from outside under the roof. Oh no: the wind started to blow much harder than predicted. A quick look outside showed bent trees and my SO2R vertical was swinging outrageous. The top section of the telescopic tower was wiggling too and I swore I could see the lowest section move too. That would be virtually impossible or otherwise a recipe for disaster so I blamed fatigue and filed it under ‘figment of imagination’. Sleep deprivation can do that to you. This strong wind triggered a very unhappy and uncomfortable feeling. I went outside and inspected the tower base. The wind was howling and the antennas shaking but the lowest section, the one bolted to the support and concrete base, was absolutely NOT moving. Only vibrating which is normal. I guess the tower has never been at its full height in this strong winds before. Bloody WX and its incompetent forecasters. I asked myself: if I had known this, would I have cancelled the operation on Friday? Nah, unless they predicted 6Bft – I think it’s safe up to 5Bft. The forecast was 4 Bft until Friday when one online WX forecast mentioned 4 to 5 Beaufort. I landed on the couch, put on the TV and watched the rerun of the TV news with some politician blahblahing away. I set the cell phone alarm to ring three hours later but I woke up four hours later. So I was lucky to have lost only one hour more. Dangerous! The same politician telling the same mumbo jumbo. Overnight TV loop! I must have killed the alarm and fell asleep again. I felt fairly fit again and I don’t think I missed something.
The wind was still blowing but the tower had survived the previous 6 hours so it won’t be a problem after all. I am worried much too fast about winds and my telescopic tower. It is rated for much more than this but I always wonder… As a matter of fact the wind might be a bigger problem for my low band wires, especially the dual wire 80/160 verticals Those wires might get tangled but they didn’t. I can’t remember what and how but I started running again – run run run. When the sun got up and everyone seemed to be on 10 meter already, I took breakfast downstairs with the family. Again: can’t remember what follows, I was just deep into the contest. Around lunch I noticed the wind was calming down, as predicted. By sunset it was calm again outside.
My cell phone shows a message I sent to ON3DI who informed how things were going: 3200 QSO and 3.6 meg points at 12.20 utc on Sunday. I knew that 4000 QSO would be possible with almost 12 hours to go but I also knew they would not come by themselves so I attacked the bands. Still low on mults I decided to break the magic 4000 barrier and then try to score multipliers. The plan worked, thanks to some fast runs with the USA on 10 and 15. American CW ops, you gotta love ‘m! It felt good to break my own magic limit and much to my surprise I was feeling relatively fit.
I had many QSO with familiar calls and people I’ve come to know in the contesting scene. The biggest surprise was being called by a loud K3WWP on 15m. John and I have QSO’ed before but it was a long time ago. He operates strictly CW QRP with modest wire antennas. He does a great job and I consider him the living proof that QRP and CW is a working combination. But the sun has not been favoring his operating style when it comes to transatlantic DX. I had been thinking that with the recent rise in SFI and improved propagation, John and I might bump into each other again and there you go.
The afternoon strategy was simple: skim a band for mults first, then run it dry and reskim for mults before leaving. That worked for 10m and 15m. When it was time to hit 20, that band was in poor shape. It was very noisy and the signals were weak. Soon I found myself on 40 which was actually a relief for my ears. But things didn’t move anymore so I went to 160 to stay there. I had only 100 QSO so the chance for improved rate and some EU mults was pretty high on Top Band. In the mean time I took all I could on 40 with barefoot radio 2. This way I worked 8P5A, B1C, TO3A, ST2AR, OE4A, V26K, ED9M, ZF1A for multipliers and another bunch of other stations for the QSO points.
I was glad to switch everything off and go to bed. I slept like a log and felt like crap this morning when the alarm rang. I’m quite happy with the numbers… Will I do better next year?