WAE CW 2016

WAECW: Love it or hate it. I love it. Always have since I accidentally got sucked up by it in 2001. What QTC? Why do they all send ‘QTC?’? After that I got trained in copying QTC for 2002. Yes: the QTC game. Nothing more fun than copying a bunch of 36 WPM (or more?) QTC and not messing up. Don’t expect high rates. It’s a slow contest and for once it’s not about rate. It’s mostly about multipliers. There’s always nice and rare DX on. And you get to work it. Even if you sometimes have to wait until the Powerhouse Rude Boys got their turn. And in the best of cases, that rare DX comes to call you!

I had the weekend more or less to myself and the WX worked with me. Once again it was nice weather with the right ingredients. I set up Friday afternoon. That is the same old boring routine. Crank up the tower, disconnect 160 for this one, put up 80 and reinstall the RX loop and the DoG (dipole on ground). Don’t know if this RX stuff really helps. I sometimes think they do, sometimes it’s noise all over anyhow. I might do a dedicated RX test this winter. I took the other DoG (pet) for a run while riding my bicycle along and enjoyed one of the most picturesque sunsets in a long time. Actually not El Sol was the star in the picture but the silhouette of my tower and antennas on a yellow background. That sight combined with the smell of harvested wheat and freshly pressed straw bales made me lyrical. I love living on the countryside. And you know it’s WAE CW when the shack windows are open to create a breeze and you miss the weak QSB infested serial number when yet another tractor or harvester does a roaring drive-by.

For the third contest in a row (IARU and EUHFC preceded) I repeated my new mantra: no expectations, no targets, no pressure – just fun. And it worked. Add to that no strategic planning of the off times combined with a laid back attitude and I found myself having fun. And when it wasn’t fun, I just took a break. A shower, a snack. Out for a walk with the dog. Watch a movie I recorded on the HDD. I watched in two sessions. I enjoyed a good 15m opening in between. But I need to tell you about the start of the contest.

I decided to sleep first and start later. When the alarm rang I hit snooze. When it rang again I just told the alarm to keep quiet. So it was 0215 UTC when I got out of bed. I was a bit cranky because of the brutal wakeup. I switched everything on and started to run on 40. Through the high isolation headphones I heard a rattling sound under my first CQ. A relay? What is it? The rig? The amp? It was the rotator controller! What? In twelve years it never missed a beat. Whenever I keyed the rig with more than 300W, the controller went crazy. I tried on 80: the same! Why does this device fail me now? It’s never a good time for a hardware failure but please not now.

Engage analytic mind. It’s only when more than 300W. Not below – clearly RFI. And when not keying, the controller works fine and the antenna turns. So the hardware is fine. I have never seen this in over ten years of QRO operation and there is no new antenna. What is different now than before? Two things: the RX loop and DoG – but I used both in IARU without a problem. Only now I use the underground coax instead of running a spare coax over the lawn. The other difference is: I left the electric tower winch’s plug connected to the 230V AC wall socket outside. Long shot but it’s one thing I normally not do. When the tower is up, I pull the power cord as an extra safety against eager little fingers – and there are twenty of those in and about the house. I disconnected the K3’s RX coax. Didn’t help. I went outside to the garage and did three things: disconnected the winch’s power cord, unscrew and reconnect the RX coax line from the underground coax and unplug and reconnect the rotator’s control line. I can break that one up in the garage when it’s a thunderstorm. Back in the shack things got fixed: even with 1000 W the controller didn’t click. What was the cause? My guess is that there was a more-or-less bad contact where the rotator cable is split in the garage. Pulling it apart and sliding it back together might have solved it. It never returned during the rest of the weekend and I was off to the races.

I enjoyed most of the contest. Conditions are what they are. But now that we have the RBN, I see that there is more propagation than activity. You might think a band is dead when no one answers. Yet my signal is received all over the world. VK4CT’s skimmer even picks me up on 80 most of the time when there is a path of darkness between us. On 40 the RBN gives me good S/N from JA over ZL to PY. Yet I don’t log much from that side of the world… Too bad.

Sometimes things were slow, even to WAE standards. Lower bands were noisy. Ten meters opened up to USA for a brief moment but enough to catch a dozen multipliers if you include the Canadians. Fifteen was quite good Sunday evening around sunset here. Even a few true Californians logged. No sixers from the east coast. This year just like any other I suffered the occasional EU caller. Some were persevering.

I mentioned the big gun hot shot spot hoppers before. And I might have also mentioned the follow observation. As soon as a spot appears, the second radio or mult station immediately and frantically starts calling. They have to outgun each other and in doing so they fail to listen and call too much. Then the DX sends ‘…5NN 123’ and no one has heard to whom he comes back. If we’re lucky it remains silent for the DX to repeat. But it also happens that the silence is used for someone to send his call again, to have the others do the same. Which takes us back to square one. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200 or a mult for this matter. It’s even funnier when such a loud blind caller gets picked, and then has to ask for multiple repeats to get the serial right. More than once I happen to copy the serial the first time. Either I have better ears myself or my stations has. If that’s the way to get more multipliers than me, if that is the answer to the question why they always get so much more multipliers, then I’m glad to settle for a few less.

Always a treat when DX calls me. Especially on 80 which is not the easiest of bands with a simple wire and in noisy summertime. Even better when the face behind the call turns out to be familiar (hi Nate @TI5W). Regular caller Rich K3OO only gave me one lousy QTC. A few minutes later he came back and offered me a full plate of nine QTC. Yeehaw! And thanks for the generous comeback. I think VO1MP sent me the fastest ten QTC of this edition. I was flirting with my copying speed limit but Yeehaw squared: flawless copy. That’s the thrill I was talking about.

I am happy with the result: 930 QSO and 1400 QTC. I didn’t operate the whole 36 hours. N1MMLOgger+ tells me I only operated twenty eight hours. That means I could have done eight more. Imagine that! I didn’t plan my breaks so I guess I missed some prime time. I didn’t go after every station. I moved only for mult spots. I didn’t aggressively beg for QTC. Just a plain polite question. Great score from OR2F again with low power. Amazing.

Every year I consider doing this one in SSB too. But I just don’t see the fun in this one on sideband…

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