RDXC 2014

I really love this contest. Everyone can work everyone, it’s only twenty four hours. There is always enough activity yet the bands are not overloaded. Not too far away from the targeted area for the low bands, and not too close for the higher bands. What’s not to like? With good propagation to boot!

One of the best moments since last summer for setting up on Friday. Steel blue sky. Sunny. Absolutely wind still. Warm. I took a lawn chair, placed it near the tower base and let the electric winch do its job. Yes the chairs are already out on the terrace. That’s how good the weather was the last fortnight. We’ve had worse summers. Let’s hope it’ll stay or get better.

I took a false start because I was over-confident in my setup. I didn’t care to prepare and check the software but for some reason I loaded the wrong CW messages for the F-buttons. My bad. Lost a good minute and then off I went. I maintained a steady stream of QSO on 10+15. Not too fast, about 120/hr so I tried using radio #2 intensively. The more contacts you make, the harder this becomes as the serial gets longer. And people not always copy 5NN1589 right away. That kills the smooth SO2R operation. A fixed and predictable 5NN14 is more fit. Conditions were very good and there were plenty of stations to work, even non-UA. Great! For hours on end the rate stayed well above 100.

But it inevitable slows down as the evening rolls into the night. Between 0100 and 0500 utc the activity dips as does the operator’s energy level and it coincides with the urge to sleep. I was longing for a nap but I resisted. I took a few short breaks. One to get a snack because I was hungry. I was glad to stretch my legs. Another short break to put on a sweater and long pants over my shorts because I was getting cold. And one forced break to go ‘meditate in the small shack’. While I didn’t take an official nap I had a ten minute black out.

I was glad that I had another fast hour when I started mining the unspoiled terrain on 80. An excursion to 160 did not produce much surprises. I kept alternating bands and use the second radio as much as I could. When I moved to 160 I got a few W/VE calls there with the best signals from that region in a long time. All signals in the clear. No QRN / QSB. Too bad not many stations from NA / East Coast were on.

Around sunrise I really felt miserable. Every cell in my body was screaming for a nap. Inevitably the usual question arose: why do we do this to ourselves? Furthermore my oldest son decided to trade his bed for my spare operating chair in the shack. The blinking LED bars on the amp were fascinating to him for a short while but soon he started needing attention. I reacted a bit cranky. I felt tired, hungry and with sunrise in progress and a blatant shortage on low band mults – it just wasn’t the right time for quality time between father and first born. Thank god for TV and the cartoon channels. And a banana while I was downstairs.

The low bands were empty soon after sunrise. Except for fourty which I ran while skimming twenty. After a while I moved to twenty as a run band and did S&P on 15 and then run 15 and S&P 10 and so on and so on. I don’t really remember much anymore. I was on auto pilot and I was really focused on increasing the QSO count with radio #2. I must say that it is very exhausting to operate like this. And you forget more of what happened. The longer numbers make short snappy SO2R a bit hard. And sometimes it seems that more and more CW operators are able to copy callsigns and ENNxx with xx being a predicable prefilled exchange, but nothing like 5NN2135 at 32 WPM.

Yes it was fun. And I topped my own Belgian record for CW HP by almost two million.

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