IARU HF Championship 2012

It’s been ten years since my first IARU contest. The 2002 episode coincided with WRTC 2002 in Finland. I remember a conversation the year before on a Friday night club meeting. In summer 2001 ON4AAM got on the bands and there was a contest going on. He said it was a fun contest where everyone could work everyone and the special thing was that all the national IARU organizations were active with an HQ station. With this in mind I entered the 2002 IARU contest from home, being my parent’s place. With only a 20m dipole and I believe also a 40m delta loop fed with a SG-230 SmartTuner. I made 550 QSO which was a personal record. Ten years already…

My current best score in a 24 hour contest had been IARU 2007. That year the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and I made 2150 QSO in 24 hours. Conditions weren’t very good but there was short skip on 10m and 15m so the rates were high running EU. This contest has always been the benchmark ever since. I never made that many contacts in  24 hours. If it weren’t poor conditions, it’s the WX forcing me off the air during the contest.

Since WX for this weekend was predicted to be cold, wet, windy and a reasonable chance for thunderstorms, I didn’t have high expectations. I started the contest with a few real time WX websites open on the second monitor. I constantly followed the updates and it seemed the WX would not be a problem. Strong winds yes. Long lasting showers with a dancing curtain of rain. But not too much QRN and no thunderstorms. Come nighttime the wind settled but then the predicted propagation problems kicked in due to a CME earlier this week. The K index went up and you could tell from the signals. Weak and fluttery.

I sucked 15 dry, did some 20, then from the bottom up 160 > 80 > 40. In the mean time I used the second radio to look for things to work on the other bands. Contrary to the past years, I made quite a few contacts on 160. Memorable run on 80 where nice DX called me. Even a ZP5 called in there. And called me again on the same band 45 minutes later. And called me again on the same band two and a half hours later. Strange. Just to say that 80 was not too bad for a summer night with solar disturbances.

I managed to stay awake this time for almost all of the contest. I was lucky to have good rates: I made 1600 QSO in 16 hours. But then things slowed down a bit and I fell into a microsleep. With the finger on the keyboard resulting in a crashed N1MMLogger. When I woke up and clicked away the error messages, I saw the last QSO was logged 15 minutes before. I couldn’t go on because my keyboard didn’t respond. The mouse was OK. I have a 2.4 GHz wireless mouse / keyboard combo (USB or PS/2 wires cause RFI troubles here with QRO). I changed the batteries (always have spares ready) but it didn’t work. I needed to go behind the desk and press a synch button on the USB dongle with the mouse/keyboard receiver. That didn’t work either. Once again rebooting the PC was the solution. All in all I lost almost half an hour here, with the short sleep and the keyboard problem.

I tried to maintain the100/hr average rate but I had to let it go. Things were too slow: low bands closing and higher bands not open. A sudden K=6 didn’t help there. Towards the end of the contest there were a few severe showers again. The last one caused S9 static noise and had thunder and lightning too. With only half an hour to go, I decided to quit and unhook all coax and control cables. I couldn’t hear a thing anyway apart from the deafening noise. Of course as soon as the contest ended, the rain and thunder went away. With 2200 QSO in sight as a new personal record in 24 hours, the counter stopped at 2182. I’m glad I broke my 2007 mythical record. And I must have worked more DX and multipliers because I have almost 2 millions points compared to 1.5 million in 2007.

I used the second radio intensively, with 250 contacts made on the barefoot radio with a single trapped vertical. I really should have a modest second amp for this. And maybe a better antenna? Altough I can appreciate the vertical’s omnidirectionality and a second tower for a second yagi is out of the question. SO2R was a blessing to work the easy EU HQ mults on the lower bands. I didn’t find OP0HQ on 40m though. I looked quite a few times but nothing. I wonder who was doing 40 CW?


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