CQ WPX CW 2014

The stars were not really aligned for this one. Bummer as it is a nice contest for people like me with stations like mine. First of all there were the national elections. As the voting is mandatory in Belgium, going out to vote would have to be fitted inside a break on Sunday morning. Luckily WPX is a 36/48 contest and it’s not CQ WW. Also there was this annual event at work that coincided with the contest. So from Sunday before lunch to early evening local time, I would have to go to work. Also mandatory. In theory this could all be squeezed into the twelve hour off time. The same situation occurred in 2011. I did SB40 and pulled two all-nighters before leaving for work on Sunday. Not a good idea.

This year I wanted to sleep and be fit. I was already sort of running on empty. The last few weeks have been busy and the energy level is low. I didn’t want to go ‘into the red’. So I decided not to be competitive and just try to maximize the fun during the hours I was able to be in the shack.

I didn’t bother to crank the tower up to its highest level and settled for two thirds. Saturday morning it struck me that ten meters was quite… silent. Check WWV… There you go! A=19. Soon after I went to 15 and that was better. But it wasn’t good. It reminded me of the dark years between the current and previous cycle. Pure ‘propagationalistic’ horror!

In the early evening I had a ball on 20 after we put the kids to sleep. Well past midnight I went to 40 which seemed OK but I needed to go to bed since the voting and go-to-work routine made for an early rise. Between casting my vote and leaving for work I played some more but there was nothing spectacular.

I was glad to arrive home on Sunday evening and although exhausted I found fifteen meters quite hot. After that I still had four hours to go to the end of the contest. My plan was to split these between 20 and 40. Whichever band provided the best rate.

I was rounding off my 15m activity when KH7XX called in. That was nice! DX and a prefix multiplier. This late (2007 utc) and under still disturbed conditions. I hit the button to send my serial number to him and then –POP– the lights went out, the screens turned black and the fan noise died out. PANIC! Did I do that? Now what? What will KH7XX think? The street lights went dim too so it’s not just here. UH-OH: the amp is hot and the fans aren’t blowing. Wait, I can put an external fan on top of the vent hole to provide some forced cooling. Good thinking – with no power available. So I just blew into the vent hole. That must have been a silly sight. I was hoping that power would return real soon and that the sudden outage did not cause damage. After all I was transmitting when the power failed. Who knows what relay routed what signal to what fried semiconductor.

I went outside and enjoyed the fading twilight without light pollution. After almost an hour we decided to go to bed. That is: the XYL went to sleep and I was just lying on the bed with my cloths still on hoping that power would return soon so I could run some more. One hour later I jumped up. Apparently I fell asleep. Still no power. Darn. I doze off again and got awakened by the sound of electronic devices coming back to life. Aha – power’s back. With less than an hour to go I decided to go into the shack. Mostly to check if all was still working fine. As it turned out it was so I ran some on forty. Nothing spectacular. This three hour power cut cost me 250 Q at least. So I ended with 1379 contacts on four bands (no 80/160).

During the few hours I got on, I noticed more than ever that no cluster spot means no rate. You’d think that the RBN would have eliminated that and that a CQ would have the same effect as a genuine classic cluster spot but it doesn’t seem to work that way. I think that 99% of the ‘packet’ users still solely rely on the classic Telnet packets. I say Telnet because the VHF/UHF and TNC combo has become obsolete by now. That said I use RBN only for comparing signals, not to find stations. On the other hand, it’s obvious that the M/x stations make intensive use of the skimmers. A first CQ on a new band triggers a short pile up of a dozen M/x mult-stations calling me. That it’s waiting for a packet spot to get some rate.

A related issue was the kind operator who put me on the cluster as OY5M. I tried to counter the flood of dupes by sending my call three times, very slow and emphasizing the Q by pausing around it. That chased away some of the spot clickers. Some were persistent, one even re-spotting me as a Faroerian. It has happened to me before but I guess by now everyone would know it’s OQ5M  :o)

I used the new N1MMLogger Plus Beta and was very happy with the performance. It behaves like the classic version. It just got a new look adapted to new UI technologies. And a couple of new features, like the built-in graph feature here:

New graph feature in N1MMLogger Plus

I’m sure once the latest issues are resolved, the graph will reflect non-active periods (off time) too. But of course this is a detail in the big picture. Several B-testers used the program last weekend and no one has gotten into troubles so all you N1MMLogger fans out there, rest assured: this helluva contest logger is still the best out there!

I wonder how many digits the number would count, if you calculate the sum of all the hours the coding bunch put in over the last year and multiply that by the average hourly wage of a professional commercial programmer. Please note that (some of?) the programmers are professionals using their skills for us to enjoy. Thanks for that!

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