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ARRL DX SSB 2021

SSB contesting is not my thing, but then again it is a contest. With lots of DX. USA nonetheless. My kind of thing. I didn’t plan to be on for hours, but a few bursts of high rate and a total of 1000 QSO would be nice.

I slept the first night which seemed a sane thing to do. I got up early but I was not in a hurry. Read some mails. Read the headlines online. Had breakfast. Then into the shack. Cold shower: very weak signals. Once again 80m seemed the best place and I worked 45 stations or so in an hour. None of them were strong, none of them came from deep into the USA as seen short path from here. The band died pretty early and I had a snack with the family who had their breakfast. Then I thought: “ Forty will be good now!”. But forty was an absolute DISASTER. I only worked a weak W3LPL. If the Biggest of the Biggest powerhouse is only S4 or so, you know you’re in for a boring and unproductive grind. I decided not to waste a beautiful day outside and quit. Nah!

BTW nothing worked on 160. One or two weak ones just CQed in the proverbial face.

If you see this kind of weather and you’re not doing anything usefull in the shack, why then not go out for a good walk? That’s how I spent Saturday. There’s always Sunday…

Same routine for day 2: sleep and get up early. 0400 utc was my first contact on 80m (75m?) again. I worked a few more and went to explore 160m. VY2ZM was my only logged QSO on Top Band with an average signal: S6 or so, maybe less. I’ve worked him S9+20 on 160 in the past. Then 80/75m ran dry and I managed to squeeze a dozen contacts out of 40m. Like the last pea sized drop of toothpaste squeezed out of a completely empty tube.

QSO count was pathetic and motivation was accordingly but there I was in the shack again, determined to conquer 20. I kept stacking disappointments: I only got a modest burst of rate after a cluster spot. No spot made for ten minutes between QSO. Best rate wasn’t even 60 Q/hr and not even sustained longer than half an hour. Boring. I would definitely go to bed early and not return after sunset.

But then WW4LL said he hoped to work me on 40 later on. And Randy K5ZD said the same because he still needed Belgium on 40m for the multiplier. That triggered my sense of duty. I just had to return to 40m. And so I did.

Pretty early for 40m but I really wanted Randy to find me early so I could quit and go to bed. Twenty meters was still open but I had worked most there and I couldn’t care less anymore. After a cluster spot things more or less exploded, at least relative to the rest of the weekend. I worked about 80 stations on 40 in the last hour and a half. One of them was Randy K5ZD who thanked me for the multiplier. Also KU2M told me I was a multiplier on 40. In the last hours of a major contest, on 40m, I had to be the multiplier…

Spotz we gotz

It was not easy because I was surrounded by S9+++ EU blasting into my dipole’s rear lobe, with no F/B and USA still weak in the front lobe. I turned down the volume of the dipole RX and listened with the 2nd receiver on the RX loop favoring USA. That helped to attenuate EU and increase S/N for USA. Since only USA mattered this weekend, I had fed a Loop on Ground (LoG) into the RX stackmatch. While the terminated standing loop was always slightly better, the LoG did a good job too. It’s just a piece of enameled wire on the lawn. We can’t all have 300m long beverages every 30°. But most of us can put a square on the ground with 4m or 5m per side. I feed it with a 9:1 transformer. Try it! You’ll be surprised how well it works. Any antenna beats no antenna, that also holds true for the RX side of things.

At times it almost seemed like it was OM-Power model OM-4000 demo day. Add to that obnoxiously wide signals by many, worst noted: YU1EXY, LZ9W, SO9I, SP8K and RG2A. I didn’t write it down but some of these could be heard more than 10kHz on either side. That’s 20kHz wide. Would make a nice waterfall/spectrum impression. One more reason why CW is just so much better for people like me.

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