Time for the annual event that brings out hundreds of Belgian possessed CW contesters. NOT.
I left the tower and wires up from last week’s ARRL DX. No preparation this time. I booted the PC and turned on rigs and amps ten minutes before the contest.
Friday night I asked my friend W1EBI to listen for the Belgians this weekend. He’s an active contester with a good signal. I wanted to make sure I worked at least one W for the mult. Too bad he had commitments this weekend, but his side note was: “I tried UBA CW once, but there was not much participation from Belgium.”. Now that is a common soapbox remark I often read*: where are the Belgians?
* I am the UBA DX log checker, remember?
Let me make this one thing clear: Belgium is a small country. There are about 5000 licenses issued. Licenses means paper. Paper does not mean: have an antenna, emit RF. My liberal guess is that about 600 of those have a station that gets out on HF. ‘Station’ being anything better than a dummy load. Belgian hams generally don’t care for contesting. Belgian hams generally don’t care for CW. The intersection of the Venn-diagram for the categories ‘knows CW’ and ‘likes contesting’ is infinitesimally small. Last year there were 42 logs from Belgium submitted for this contest. A record year doesn’t even count 70 Belgian CW logs. That’s ALL logs, also those with only a dozen contacts. So if you enter this contest and you work thirty unique Belgian stations or more, you have just earned the Literally Worked All Belgian CW Contesters Award…
On the other hand: there is a loyal fan base for the CW leg of this contest with many happy returning customers. Proof: 460 logs already six hours after the contest for a total of almost 100k QSO. Usually we end up with 950 logs and 160k QSO after the deadline. Plenty of activity and most of all: everyone can work everyone. It’s not like some other contests where you can only work the stations from the organizing country. I have no desire to fill my log with F, SP, DL, PA exclusively… Skip would limit the fun to 40 and most likely 80 only.
Belgians can enter either 6, 12 or 24 hours but no Single Band categories. Otherwise 95% of those 42 stations would hide on 20. Belgian hams usually don’t stay up late. That’s why even the local flavor of our Region 1 field day also has a 12h category. As a result most people settle for the 6h category.
I know that all the above is a serious generalization and a sarcastic profile sketch. You can always prove me wrong. I dare you.
I mostly do 12h in the UBA DX contests because there isn’t enough activity to get through the night and keep it enjoyable. I have done 24h once or twice when the higher bands are open and you can stay late on 20 and be early on 15/10. Won’t happen this time. Be that as it may I was in for a full time effort this year. At least that was my initial intention.
The first eight hours were not bad. I came a few contacts short for 800. That’s an average of 100/hr during the busiest period. Then it slowed down big time. As predicted. So I decided to stick with the usual 12h after all. But I was not to make the mistake I usually make. That is: quitting early Saturday night to save some operating time on Sunday. Experience taught me that Sunday morning on 40/80 is a bust and the low band goodies are to be worked late on Saturday. And that’s what I did this year. I operated longer on Saturday into the night to focus on 40/80 DX mults. The low band skimmers of the RBN picked me up just about everywhere (ZL, VK, HS, VU) but no one around to answer my plea for exotic DX multipliers. Credit goes to HI8A: I was S&P on 40, he called me on the other guy’s frequency, I said up but ended up CQing down yet he came and called me a minute later. For some reason he always shows up in this contest and in my log. Twice this year. And in many others contests too. Always a nice multiplier. Much appreciated.
Saturday afternoon showed little life on 15. I worked 250 W/VE there a week ago but this weekend the band was close to dead. Rather: dead closed. Just one lost soul from VE3 for the multiplier. NIL EU. NIL whatever. Twenty was pretty good but I had hoped for more participation from the US of A. I offered you guys 1800+ contacts last week. I don’t do that just for the fun of it. I do that because you guys would work me the weekend after!
To keep the rate up, I tried that dual CQ thing. Or was it dueling CQ? 2BSIQ maybe? Or whatever it’s called these days. That kinda worked for me in a few contests with fixed and short exchanges. For this contest, it was a no go. The gap between two CQ sequences on either band simply is too wide with the long exchange. You look like a lid and waste the other station’s time. Speeding things up is another no go: copying pseudo-random numbers at 30WPM or more is a problem for many so called CW operators. Yet I like the longer format. Keep it challenging for CW lovers.
I totally skipped sunrise on Sunday because there is no one there anymore. The West is vastly asleep, the East is on the higher bands already. And so I returned to the bands on 0800z, which translates to 9AM local time. The plan was to complete the remaining time in one stretch. And so I did. I ran an early daylight 40m with a decent rate but no mults anymore. I tried 21MHz. That yielded a handful of EU that made the mult bell go bananas but it soon came to a stop. I still needed something easy on 10. There was a PA spotted there, which is only 200km or so but nothing heard. I asked ON6VL to move and he agreed. I guess he’s about 40km from me and even that was asking a lot from the 28MHz band.
Band QSOs DXC Pt/Q 3,5 262 42 2,2 7 345 47 2,3 14 381 49 2,6 21 79 19 2,6 28 1 1 1,0 Total 1068 158 Score: 407.482
Just before lunch I got the ‘game over – insert coin’ message. My twelve hours were over. After lunch I took all the wires down and lowered the tower. I have no plans for ARRL SSB and next one is probably RDXC in a few weeks. Hopefully SOAB CW only.
73 and thanks (again) to all who called me (again).