Sometimes you need to do something you don’t really like just because it’s a moral duty. I’m not talking about marriage but about a small SSB contest under marginal HF propagation. Coinciding with two CW (REF and CQ160) and one RTTY contests. If I get invited to play along with the special UBA callsigns, it’s only normal that I participate in the SSB contest. It also helps me in the log checking process, to know who was around.

The good thing is that there is also the CQ 160 CW contest. I don’t operate that one seriously but while the tower is up, I might as well see what Top Band has in store for me.

Preparation was easy. WX was dry and calm and everything went smooth. Even retuning the 80m GP for SSB.  I did that a few days before the contest.

I decided not to get out of bed early on Saturday. In retrospect I should have done that because 160m and its contest could have been very productive. N5DX (NY) and K1LZ (ME) were easily workable more than 90 minutes after my SR. I only made a handful of Top Band QSO and decided to rest.

The SSB contests starts at 1300 utc. It was a slow 20m start. With not much participation. This was prime time and there were gaps of two or three minutes between answers to my CQ. Go figure. Cluster spots pointed out a lot of EU activity was on 40m already but I decided that I could work these later on. I focused on USA which was more points per QSO and it was a case of ‘now or never’.

With the antenna to USA I had some RF into my headphone. I wondered if it was only in my ears or also on the RF side. I solicited an audio report and the USA operator confirmed the audio was OK. But a few contacts later N1RR said in wasn’t. He stood by my side for a moment while I fiddled with the cables. He said it got better but not completely resolved. There was plenty of time between the answering calls to reroute a few of the cables which made the problem disappear. N1RR called in a few minutes later to confirm the audio was clean. No idea what it was but moving the headset’s cables and twisting a few plugs did the trick. QRO RF, it’s always something…

The initial plan was to play in the 12h category but I took too much breaks between slow periods that I would have to operate either through the night, which is useless in this contest or fill the remaining eight (!) hours on Sunday morning which is no fun either with only 20m open and no one around. So I quit late in the evening and decided to go for 6h only. Chances are slim to win that one but who cares. Nothing to prove in SSB. My contest ego is only CW-sensitive.

I did some S&P on a jam-packed 160m. I couldn’t resist to call CQ and worked 150 QSO in one clock hour. That’s more like it. The band was full between 1810 and 1900 kHz. I decided to get some sleep at 0030 utc and set the alarm to be QRV on 160m at 0530 utc.

The band was in pretty good shape. And tons of stations to be worked, even DX. K5ZD writes the following on 3830:

Called lots of guys with no response. Must have been crowded in EU because was very difficult to find a clear frequency enough to get answers.

That is exactly what I noticed from my side. There was DX from LU over CX and XE to W7 and KL7. With S7-S9 signals. That would have been easily worked if they weren’t sandwiched between S9+20dB EUs 150 Hz away or nasty clicks from the crust of the sandwich. The good thing is I finally worked XE2X for a new country on Top Band.


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Een bericht gedeeld door Franki – ON5ZO – OQ5M (@on5zo) op

Actually it wasn’t an ATNO. I just checked if the QSO was confirmed on LotW (now = Wednesday after the contest) and it wasn’t but there was a XE2X confirmation for a QSO made the end of December 2019. I forgot I worked that Top Band ATNO a few weeks ago. That’s how much I keep track. EDIT: last weekend’s QSO is also on LotW now, the log was still being processed from the upload queue.

Also cool: working Steve N2IC in NM for a new (?) state on Top Band. Just checked: also not new. I worked N2IC in the same contest two years ago. Yep, not really keeping track of DXCC/WAS progress. But I do know how much QSO I made in a random contest ten years ago.  😁

I could have done more on 160 but I was happy with 477 QSO. And 61% of 160m DXCC. I still had to work two hours in UBA SSB. Mostly spent on 20m of course. Being called there by a couple of VK and ZL was nice. I never went to 28 MHz but I did try 15m. Not much around but the band was more open than activity would suggest. I tried to raise awareness by spotting the three stations I worked there and called CQ myself. This resulted in a bunch of EU mults and a loud VK3. I said this already last month: 21 MHz is not as dead as you’d think. I always work a VK or a JA or some Far East multiplier with a decent signal. We just need to try and don’t think the worst.

I reeled in the low band wires and lowered the tower on Sunday afternoon. There is a gusty period on the WX maps for the coming week.

Next up: ARRL DX CW. I hope for calm weather and good propagation. Don’t forget to try 21 MHz you Americans!



After a decade and a half of writing about contests I get the feeling that I am repeating myself. I can copy-paste a lot from last year’s post and edit the numbers:

This year was only the second third time that I did the RAEM contest from start to end (12h). I guess the E.T. Krenkel Memorial Contest has made it to my ‘must do’ list. It really fits my profile and operating preferences. I wish there were more events with distance based scoring i.s.o. multipliers.

What about this from 2018?

Eighty meters was hot. Lots of good signals, plenty activity and more USA on 3.5 MHz than ever before. I worked twenty eight Americans. After three hours I had over 220 contacts on 80m. Not too bad.

This is definitely NOT the case this year. Sure the band was wide open. Skimmers were picking me up that usually don’t hear me on this band or at least not this good. But it was a slow start and there was not many USA. This year RAEM coincided with the Stew Perry 160m contest and this certainly took a bite out of the activity on 80. A crying shame but at least the Top Band contesters report superb conditions there too.

Last year I wrote this:

The QSY to 40m was a cold shower. Not so much activity, weak signals and almost no DX. Everything beyond 2000 km was weak and real long haul DX seemed absent. The rate suffered. As well as the fun level. I think it was a general issue with the propagation. I could keep my position in the top five of the online scores. Most of the time I was third there. That puts things in perspective.

This was exactly true this year too. After a slow start on 80 it was the same story on 40. Not too many signals and those present weren’t really loud. This was not beneficial to the fun factor.

Things being slow made it tough to stay awake. I slept about three hours before the start of the contest but after a few hours I got very tired. Up to the point where I got uncomfortable and annoyed by the fatigue. Things went better when the sun came up and I could try 20m.

When 14 MHz didn’t produce any more QSO I would move back to 40m and work semi-DX there too. I focused on the UA9/UA0 because they are worth well over 100 points. Real arctic Russians even 180. VK2DX on 20m netted 280 points. Yeehaw! I managed to work the RAEM memorial station on 80+40+20. On 40m it was funny because I thought the station I called was sending CQ RAEM but it was RAEM itself. That’s 434 points per QSO.

Fifteen meters was closed. I managed 2 QSO there. I had 3 in 2018. I did not even switch the VFO to 28 MHz… I finished with about 100 QSO less than and 90k points below the 2018 score.

Last year I managed to win z14 despite this:

DL5YYM was pretty active from z14 so maybe this time I won’t be getting the z14 winner wood?

He was there again and handing out serials similar to mine. Will I receive another plaque half a year from now or will it be mailed to Germany?

BTW here’s proof of my lon/lat exchange:


Since I’m into this contest business I might as well participate in this nice everyone-works-everyone contest. I decided to set up early in the week in order to play with the special event callsign OR0YAL. I had two options: do it on Monday in the rain or on Tuesday with wind. I hate rain so I picked the latter. Tuesday afternoon I was cursing and swearing because all the cables, wires and ropes were swinging and getting entangled. Getting wet seemed not so bad after all.

The wind was strong enough and more wind was predicted later that week. Hence I decided not to raise the low band wires yet. I still had to reconnect the 160m wire at the feedpoint. I guess my last 160m QSO dates from ARRL DX CW in February. Go figure. I put up the ladder next to the pole and went to get a screwdriver and wrench to fasten the cable lug. When I came back half a minute later the ladder had been blown over. It was that kind of weather. But it didn’t rain… The wind blew harder later that week but I decided to man up and leave the tower cranked up. If I cave in every time the wind blows too hard here I might as well knit scarfs or collect stamps.

Saturday afternoon I was ready for the contest. I was on the live score board and had no real expectations. Contest not too popular outside of EU and conditions weren’t inviting. Of course it was mainly a 20m thing at first and I descended to 40m already early on. The 15m band was a bust. I was glad to work K1ZZ for my only American on 21 MHz and what was to be my only (!!!) QSO on 15m on Saturday. The contest has a late start (2PM utc) which means I was on 80m early too. Things were not going spectacular but I was having loads of fun.

Around midnight things got predictably slow so I decided to grab a few hours of sleep. I was not really exhausted but I knew that when things were this slow I would be dead by the time the bands would open up again and activity would ramp up.

From sunrise on it was changing bands between 40m still open, 20m producing rate and Es signals on 15 but each QSO there was a possible multiplier. When ON5JT called me there I knew it was now or never. He agreed to QSO to 10m for my one and only QSO and (more important) multiplier there.

DX: Four ZL (2x 20m and 2x 40m), three VK (40+20+15!!!), eight JA (4x 20m and 4x 40m), 126 Americans, one KL7. Some pseudo-rare stuff not expected in this smaller contest like HI, CO, 3W, EX, KP4, PY.

Once again a fun experience. Enhanced by cqcontest.net. Propagation being what it is, there are still people showing up for the CW contests and there is DX even on the alleged dead bands.


I can copy-paste the first paragraph: not ready to even try 48hr in the chair, two bands lost (10-15), want to sleep in between band openings yada yada yada. So for the third year in a row: SB40(A) HP.

The week leading up to the contest was busy and I was tired. I was afraid I’d get a cold or worse. Luckily all bacteria and viruses either skipped me or I am resistant. Knock on wood. Friday evening: the XYL was out so I put the kids to bed and was in mine around 8.30 PM local time. I already had amp, rig and PC running so I set the alarm to ring at 0030 local time, which translates to thirty minutes to get into the shack. And a good three hours sleep before the start.

Aahh, the start. It’s safe to say it’s the slowest first hour in CQ WW CW in many, MANY years. Only 98 QSO. Since I was late to the party, the interesting real estate was gone. The whole 40m band was jam-packed and I couldn’t squeeze in. So I told myself to stay calm and just S&P before running. I don’t like S&P. But still I did. The second hour I finally could get running and netted 175 QSO. Hour #3 added another 140. That’s more like it. I thought the band was good. Not spectacular, but it could be a lot worse. Not too much noise or QRM and a steady stream of signals from all over the planet. The way it’s supposed to be. I went through the sunrise but then activity dropped. K5ZD says on 3830:

“As good as 80m was at Eu sunrise, what happened to 40m? It was empty even as I worked Europeans on 160 and 80 well past their sunrise.”

Yup – exactly the same from here. Where was the USA? There was the occasional DX but running was unproductive. Bummer. I decided to take a break and some sleep.


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DXCC on 40m in 10hrs with a dipole. Lots of friends worked. The band is quite good. So was the operator before he got tired… #cqcontest #cqww #cqwwcw2019 #hamradio #amateurradio #DXCC #OQ5M

Een bericht gedeeld door Franki – ON5ZO – OQ5M (@on5zo) op

I had 1143 QSO and 106 countries after ten hours. During the good first part of day 1 I was #1 on the online score board. That was motivating. Only three others were competitive: I2IFT, IR4K and S57Z.

Back around 1430 UTC. The Italians caught up so I had to pursue. Unexpectedly the band was alive again and full of loud EU wanting to work the Far East. BY, HS, YB, ZL, 9M2, 9M6, 3B, JA: it was all there. Even a dozen long path zone 3 stations called in. On a dipole. And a lost W1 on SP too. So it’s safe to say the band was good. Except for KH6 and KL7. KL7RA was on the bandmap all the time and three KH6 stations but none heard so none worked. Maybe later on… Saturday evening was calm. The sustained rate was about 100/hr. Just before midnight I was very tired and the rate had gotten very low. Lethal combination. So I decided to sleep and come back.

Somewhere along 4O3A had signed in to the real time score system and he was SB40 too. That was after I took the bragging snapshot above. He had such a lead in QSO and points (NOT in mults!) that even the Italians probably couldn’t catch him. So that took the pressure away and from now on it was me against myself.

QRV 0230 UTC. Slow hours. Little multipliers. Not enough three point contacts. And although the band was and stayed open, there was little to be worked. Boring and my only unofficial goal seemed impossible: beat my own ON record set last year. A quick extrapolation told me that I would have to work a lot of 3pt stations to even get there. Since the score didn’t really build, I decided to take a nap and get lunch with the family. I did want to get in the shack again earlier to work the Far East again. Still no KH6 or KL7 heard…

I worked a steady stream of stations in a 9000 km range, quite a few exotic DX and the occasional multiplier. AH2R was weak and had a fierce pile up going. XV9D was happy to greet me. Who is he? QRZ told me: Mats SM6LRR / RM2D. That explains! When would 9V1YC get on? He never did this time but 9V1XX did and I was happy to log the multiplier. Then two D1 stations called me. N1MMLogger flagged these as a mult but they probably aren’t. Politics… Later on I tried AH2R again and managed to work him.

Sunday evening was slow. VERY slow. Every multiplier that showed up had the same DX cluster pile up. With EU in the arena, it soon gets brutal. I went to listen for KL7RA or KH7B or whatever whenever they got into the bandmap but nothing. I heard an EA5 work KL7RA. QRZ shows a picture of a big tower and what looks like a three or even four element yagi. ‘Nuff said.

I was approaching last year’s record. But it felt as if I wouldn’t make it. It was too slow, the band acted weird (rising noise, signals dropping). I was working under 30/hr. Ugh. HQ9M had a rough time with the EU pigs. Yet I outsmarted most powerhouses. ZD7W was surprisingly easy for a double multiplier. And big thanks to 5U9AMO to give the score a final boost. Since running didn’t get me over the line, I decided to move up and down the band looking for three pointers. I found a bunch and finally the total showed more mults, more QSO and more points than last year. My only fear is that this time the margin really is too small to improve my own record.

I won’t be doing much analysis. I worked almost 550 USA stations. Other DX:

BY = 22      PY = 10     VU = 7      VE = 31                

VK = 14      VU = 7      YB = 8      ZL = 4

And tons of unique DX multipliers. Thanks to all going places!

BTW: 108 dupes, what’s up with that??? Some guys even called me three times!

It was fun and I think this is the best you can do from Belgium with just a rotatable dipole at 23m high. Both RX loops with diversity RX on the K3 seem a good addition.


Yet another lovely contest and I was there. The plan was to have fun, spend as much time in the chair as possible, and assess the bands to pick a Single Band effort in next week’s CQ WW CW.

Yes it was fun. I even did as much SO2R as possible. I don’t have a second antenna for 10-15-20 anymore. No need for that right now as 28MHz and 21MHz don’t produce much volume and I only have space for a simple second antenna. Style GP or vertical dipole. So SO2R was between 80-40-20. Or run 80-40 and use the yagi on 15m. Anyway my basic SO2R skills still keep me busy in the slow hours. But after 0000utc, it was just too slow and I took a break and got some sleep.

Ten meters? Dead. Just two Belgians for the multiplier.

Fifteen? Spotty. Long haul DX to the east (VK, HS, 9M…) and UA9. On Saturday there was a handful of USA but not much. Closer EU and the target zone (LZ) was very hard to work. Skip too long and my antenna too high? I would not describe the 21 MHz band as open, but it could have been better if people just would try. The Reverse Beacon Network picked me up between 8000km and 14000km but only a handful of real DX found its way into my log.

Twenty meters was OK. I even put fifteen JA in the log. But it is not in great shape. When it’s open, it’s open but it doesn’t last long it seems.

Money band was 40m and that will also be my band of choice in WW CW next week. A few juicy multipliers in the log. KL7RA made me chuckle as I heard his fluttery tones coming back to my CQ. I was working USA with 500W at my local noon, so about 11AM UTC. Let’s hope for the same – or better?

Eighty was not bad either. Noisy and QRN. Africa’s north shore and between Sardinia and Italy over to 9A: thunderstorms. But once again the wire GP with tuned elevated radials turns out to be a very good antenna for its simplicity. The two RX loops help and they are key for low band operation. Diversity RX is king!

I was on the real time score board but the pecking order soon got clear. UP0L works the same stations as me, but he gets three points because he’s in Asia. I get only one point because I’m EU. 9A5Y probably has bigger antennas and a better location for LZ mults and points? Anyway this is what it was for the better part of the contest.

Late in the evening I had a good run on 7019.6. Then UR7GO starts CQing on top of me. His signal is S6-S7. The usual self defense mechanisms kick in but to no avail. He works EU but I hear literally nothing. Not one station he logs. Then it hit me: am I listening to his harmonic? I move the second rig to 3509.8 and there he is. Stunning: 1800km and his 80m harmonic is S6 or stronger on my 40m dipole… I made a video.

The morning was slow, very slow and I used the second rig a lot. I also tried CQing on two bands at once. Actually not at once of course, but interleaved, or dueling CQ or dual CQ or whatever they call it. I don’t seem like too big a lid as long as the calling stations stick to the routine and keep it short and snappy. But most of the times the synchronization gets lost soon and I have to abandon one of the runs. I think that this is very rewarding for me (thrill!!!) and it keeps me busy. But it is intense. By which I mean it wears you out. I don’t practice this in simulation and I don’t do it too often. Also I don’t have the antennas to do this. But it is fun on a modest scale.

DX Brag Section:

Some medium-fast hours and since I was only active for about 17 hours of the available 24, I seem to hit almost 100/hr average.

I had a good time. Contesting is so much fun. I really yearn for a gazillion sunspots and a low K.