- It’s a major contest
- It’s DX
- Lots of activity on the bands
- Lots of friends on the air
- It’s SSB
- I’m not in the mood
Here’s what I did in the previous years:
My first plan for obvious reasons: SB80. Lots of room, not too much spatter and QRM, sleep during the day. But what do I have to proof? I set a few Belgian records for SB entries. I’ve done it before. So why not just go for maximum fun and see what happens? There seems to be life on Ten these days!
KL9A and/or N6MJ started the hashtag #roadtocqww. My road leading there was full of potholes, traffic jams, detours… Lots of work, an unusual amount of work related stress, meetings, projects, deadlines. I was mentally empty and physically exhausted by the end of the week before this contest.
On Thursday my bowels went through the same thing as the sun right before the contest. The gastric equivalent of a CME. Add a snotty nose and I was beginning to fear illness – or worse: the dreaded C-word.
Added twist #1: the weather was bad and was predicted to be worse during the weekend. Strong winds on Friday, a calm Saturday but a nasty Sunday with possible gusts exceeding 70-80 km/h and lightning. Two things I hate and drive me nuts when there is a contest.
Added twist #2: A CME on the sun could/should/would hit Planet Earth during the weekend and cause a radio blackout. Why does this always happen during contest weekends? My wife would answer: “Every weekend is a contest weekend for you guys!”. Fact.
Long story cut short: come Friday I was dead tired and I had nothing prepared. Tower not cranked up. No low band wires. Where is that headset? I’m a CW guy so my microphone is in a box, somewhere… That forced me into a non-competitive mode and I had settled for a ‘just for fun’ approach. First thing: get quality sleep.
I more or less felt ok when I woke up on Saturday. With the tower down, so the yagi at only 8m high, I could work some stuff on 10m. With the small amp, no use to pump out 1.2kW RF with a low antenna. LIFE ON TEN – that’s to be filed under ‘Breaking News’. I scrutinized the outcome of several weather forecast models: Saturday rain and a tad of wind, a calm night but on Sunday a cold front would move over with very strong gusts – just like they predicted the previous days.
Another setback: our new 50kg heavy 8 month old puppy (yes, 50kg at 8 months) charged its way through the RX loop I set up a few days earlier. Luckily a zip tie snapped which released the stress on all other parts. Quick and easy fix but this is a sign of things to come…
I went out around 10AM local time It was cold, raining and a bit windy. It’s been a long time since I was out in this weather doing antenna work. I decided to crank up the tower, play on 10/15/20 and do the low band wire shuffle in the afternoon when it was supposed to be dry. I had two layers of clothing and I got soaked but the yagi was now at 21m high and I could go for it.
Ten was hot. I worked deep into the Far East and Oceania, including 2 VK and 5 JA. On 28 MHz. In SSB. Go figure. This is what I mean with ‘maximizing the fun factor’.
There was an opening to USA on 10m but it was not spectacular. On the other hand, any opening on that band is spectacular today. This band has been closed for ages! Time to head out into the garden to set up the low band wires. It was not too windy so ‘wire management cursing’ was within reason. I have marked the points on the 80m wire where I need to fold it back to make it resonant on 75m. Spot on. I installed the coax stub on the 40m feed line. The dual band dipole exhibits high SWR in the SSB part and since I operate >95% CW, this is the fastest way. I use a T-barrel to put in a parallel coax stub to lower the SWR between 7100 kHz and 7200 kHz. Quick ‘n dirty fix, works FB and makes the amp happy on 7 MHz SSB.
The reason why I don’t like CQ WW SSB is 40m. That band is a total madhouse here. There are hundreds of stations in a small slice of bandwidth, most seeming to use the newest +3kW amps. Impossible to get through with my setup. Last year I worked 3000+ QSO SB40 in WW CW, so my setup is ok for CW. It is not suitable for SSB. Which is fine because SSB is no fun. Here’s my motto:
I work SSB contests, I play CW contests
I tried calling CQ during the night. There is a bit of room below 7125 kHz because USA can’t go there. 7125-7200 kHz is jam packed for the reverse logic. Only thing left to do: call CQ below 7100 and use the second RX in the K3 to listen above 7200. Technically that is easy and is a perfect solution. But it seems no one tunes the bands anymore and your faith lies in the hands of the Cluster Spot Gods. It took a while but finally:
W3KB 7059.0 OQ5M + QSX 7214.0 0104z 2021-Oct-31 W2YR 7059.0 OQ5M + QSX 7214.00 0102z 2021-Oct-31 N4XL 7059.0 OQ5M + QSX 7214.00 0044z 2021-Oct-31
This caused a short lived surge in the rate. Oh well, this just confirms my feeling about the band-mode combo. Off to
80m 75m for better times.
By the end of the night I developed a minor headache. SSB is brutal and makes my ears bleed. CW operators will understand this. The sun came up and I managed to work a few Americans and Canadians on Top Band. Those who called me were easy, but there weren’t many. Their loss.
As predicted the weather went south and the wind speed increased so I called the Big Gun phase a day. I reeled in the low band wires and lowered the tower. I still scanned 20/15/10 once in a while and switched to the 500W amp.
In the afternoon there was a decent opening on 28 MHz and I had a good run, including a +100 hour of USA. With the yagi at only 8m high and only 500W. With this run, a few stations achieved ‘six band status’ in my log.
It was a good thing I lowered the tower because the wind speeds increased and when the real cold front passed over, there was a shower with very strong gusts. I am very protective towards my setup when it comes to wind. I’d rather avoid damage and problems to the key element in my semi-field day setup. Soon after this the higher bands died and I occasionally went into the shack to work whatever I could with the tower down.
Here are the ‘USA in log’ statistics (679/1750 = 38.8%), my benchmark for any DX contest:
Prefix 1,8 3,5 7 14 21 28 Total K 8 37 93 218 196 124 676
Two of these were with fellow blogger John AE5X:
I also found Bas PE4BAS calling CQ on 80.
I worked Dima RT5T who was making 20m a better place.
And here’s Instagram phenomenon Marija YU3AWA.
Max ON5UR was living the DX contest dream from A73A and called me on 80m for a double multiplier. Thanks Max!
And many more friends across the planet. Ya’ll non-hams can do whatever you want but Ham Radio is the only Greatest Hobby In The World!
My sons came in to listen on the speakers I installed. My oldest even told me he wanted to this contest thing too. I told him he first has to get his license and pass the tests. I think the minimum age is 12. He replied: I turn 12 in a few months…