During a contest the XYL often asks if all goes well and whether I’m having fun. When the answer is a sigh and a short ‘no’, she wonders why I keep going on. Why do I keep going on? Only a true contester knows. Conditions were not too good. The sun threw some mud up. And throughout the whole weekend the lightning detection website displayed a string of yellow dots from Sicily to Finland. Need I say more? There was no thunderstorm in my area this time, but the static crashes made it hard on the ears. Add to that the QRM of the occasional tractor or combined harvester that passes under the open shack window, and you have the recipe for summer fun in WAE CW. I checked my archives (this bloggy thing here) and QRM/QRN often come up.
Against common sense I decided to sleep the first night. Friday was a steamy hot day and we went to visit Brussels as tourists in our own country. The result was me being tired from the sightseeing under a boiling hot sun and the atmosphere exploding to the east of me because of the heat. And A/K indexes that weren’t really appealing. So I started with nine out of twelve hours rest.
Operator and equipment did a good job. The days of practicing for QTC are long gone by. For myself, the key is to keep my mind to it and not let it wander. Was that an S or an H? Was it a 2 or a 3? No, don’t think – just type. I knew I wasn’t going to improve my old record. Things were slow, signals were weak. WAECW is by no means a rate contest, and the ratio EU/DX is skewed towards EU. But for the nice DX to come out, there needs to be an incentive in the form of good propagation. Nevertheless, there WAS DX although the S meter was pretty lazy.
There was deep QSB on the signals. A caller would be S9. Great, let’s ask for QTC. Then six seconds later when he sends his report, he drops down into the noise, barely audible. If sigs go up and down so fast, it’s not smart to exchange QTC because you would need to ask for many repeats. This would often result in chaos as the request for a repeat might go down in the QSB too.
Along the way N1MM+ started acting up. I could feel it slowing down as the log grew. At a given point the delay was cramping my style. When running, the DX was gone by the time my PC sent ‘QTC?’ and when S&P the DX took the next caller. A couple of guys and myself tested the latest version before the contest but you look for scoring and procedural bugs, not for speed with a heavy log. The dev team is almost always on call and I sent my database to one of the database wizards. It seems they have found the culprit piece of code already. They also posted a procedure as a temporary workaround. I followed their advice and soon the logger was following my keystrokes again. Off to the slow races.
The rate was so low and the static crashes so loud that I decided to take a nap Sunday morning. The plan was to be back before sunrise but of course I slept longer. I found eighty meters empty to my surprise. I ran a bit but there weren’t many callers. Those who did call were either weak or pounded on by relentless static. Strangely enough there was little activity on forty too. Bummer!
Towards the end of the contest, the M/S guys and big gunners were jumping on each and every packet spot, and some of these guys really seem to think they will die a sudden death if they don’t work the DX in under 20 seconds! A classic returning problem.
In the end it wasn’t my best score, but given the fact that I was not going for a score and with the propagation disturbed and all the lightning crashes, it turned out not to be too bad:
900 Q, 1300 QTC, 590 total mult score for 1.298 megapoints.
The only question on my mind is: will this be enough for country winner? My guess is that OR2F will have taken things far more seriously and strategically, like not missing the first night and not taking more off time than the twelve hours. And probably begged for more QTC.
For years I have wanted to do the SSB part seriously too but something always comes up that weekend. It isn’t any different this year. Oh well, in WAE it’s CW that counts. As in any other ham radio event for that matter!