Wow, what a blast! I love this contest. Early this year, I replaced one of my TS-940s with an Elecraft K3. I got it put together just before CQ WPX CW, and gave it a few hour test during that contest. I was blown away by how good the receiver was. I was able to work stations easily that I could not even hear on the ’940. With that thought lingering in my mind, I thought that maybe this is the year I could break 1 million points in CQWW (at least before log checking). As I talked about in a previous blog post, I found an interesting tool online for analyzing previous years CQWW logs, and I put together a pretty ambitious operating plan. Well, the new radio, and the planning all paid off. Here’s the whole story.
Had a great Thanksgiving gathering (with 4 kids, we stay put and others come to us – this year only my Father-in-law, so it was a nice quiet holiday). Friday I got up to the start of a migraine – not a good thing for having a relaxing day and being ready for the contest. Took some Excedrine Migraine, and within an hour, I was feeling fine. The Friday after Thanksgiving always involves going to cut our Christmas tree. My wife wanted to go on Saturday or Sunday instead, because it was raining on Friday, and the weekend was supposed to be sunny. I convinced her that getting the tree on Friday was the right thing to do, and we dragged all the kids out to slog through the muddy tree lot in the cold rain. We quickly found our tree (encouraged by the cold rain), and headed home to have turkey sandwiches for late lunch/early dinner. With all the required duties out-of-the-way, I headed to the shack about 6:30 to make sure things were all working right and see if I could find a frequency on 40M to run on.
Well, running on 40 was not in the cards, so I started off with some S&P on 40 with a whopping 24 q’s the first hour. Wow, not what I had planned on. I was hoping for running 40M at 40-50q/hr. No such luck. But there was the hilite of tuning through the bands, and finding A25NW just starting to CQ on 40. Got him with 1 call, THEN spotted him on packet. That frequency was soon in chaos! Second hour was not much better, with another 24qs in the log, S&P between 40 and 80. Conditions seemed lousy. Hours 3, 4 and 5 netted another 23 q’s, on 40 and 80. I was pretty discouraged as I headed off to bed at 05z.
I got up again at 11z and had a little breakfast before heading to the shack, hopeful that conditions on the high bands would be better. I was not completely disappointed. Hour 11 (about 10 minutes of actual operating) had 6 q’s. almost all double mults. ZM1A was worked on 40, KH6ZN on 80 – both nice catches for me. Hour 12 had a few mults from 40 on the 2nd radio, and working S&P on 20, trying to decide if it was runable yet.
At 11:36z I settled in at 14039 and started a decent run. I continued to work a few mults on the 2nd rig on 40. Hour 13 had 60qs and 14 had 51 – not too bad, but I was hoping the rate would be a little better. Hour 15 and 16 were not good hours for me. I tried to hit 15 too hard, and it was clearly not the place to be. The band was not runable for me, and I ended up working a few mults, but the rate was terrible. Could have kept running on 20 and gotten most of he same mults on the 2nd radio. At the end of hour 16 I found a spot on 20 again around 14039 again, and hour 17 was another decent hour of running on 20 and 2nd radio q’s on 15 with a rate of 61. After the discussion on the CQ-Contest reflector about “watching your dits” the call DH5HS caught my attention – and after a couple of fills I was pretty confident I had caught all the dits.
For some reason at the beginning of hour 18 I was compelled to leave a fairly good run to hunt mults on 20 and 15. Hour 18 had a rate of 28 – 6 of those were the end of my run on 20 and were in the first 5 minutes of the hour. Not sure what I was thinking but I spend the next 2 hours working packet spots (not all mults) on 20 and 15. Took a break for lunch at the end of hour 19, and came back hoping that 40 would open to EU soon, and I’d have better luck running than Friday evening.
Apparently, running on 40 was not in the cards this year. All of my afternoon and evening hours had rates under 30. I did make two full complete passes on 40 (down then up), listening to every signal on the band, and working new ones. But it was discouraging not to be able to get a run going at all. I went to bed at 05z again, thinking that 1meg was not going to be in reach with the lackluster performance on the low bands. After 29 hours of the contest (and about 22 of actual operating) I only had 440 q’s in the log.
Was up the next morning at 11z again, and hopeful things would be better. By 12:26z I had settled in at 14041 and stayed put (only getting pushed off once and moving to 14038) for the next 3 hours with rates of 57, 55 and then 91!. Now that’s what I was hoping for on Saturday. While running I also picked off about 20 2nd radio qs/mults on 15. That was a lot of fun! So maybe 1 million is within reach – maybe – if 40 produces some this afternoon. Hour 41 had 47 qs and then as things slowed down on 20 I had a 34 hour in hour 42. Then it was another slow slog to the finish, with rates of 15, 22, 16, 20, 30 and 19 for the last 6 hours.
But, I did make it to 1 million, during the last half hour of the contest. Once I made 1 million, I decided to just make a final sweep through 20 and see if I could work any of the qs to the south (LU, TI, ZW, etc.). With only a few signals on the band, I opened the filter up wide, and tuned pretty quickly. DP1POL was very loud and easy for a double mult, and R1ANC was also loud. Two nice catches. Then I heard a fairly weak signal – probably another LU q I thought. So I listened hard. It was a station CQing….9M….hmmm, what 9M prefix is in South America. None I knew of. CQ again, 9M2…hmmm, wait that’s Asia. Then the signal came up and it definetly was 9M2 someting – cqing with no takers. I dropped in my call and he came right back. I confirmed the call as 9M2CAC in zone 28. Wow! What a catch. And with the beam pointed south. It must have been some type of long path greyline propagation, but he was in the log.
So I ended up just over 1 million points, and just under 1000qs. Very nice – the best I’ve ever done in CQWW CW, so I was very happy. I’m already looking foward to next year.
CQ Worldwide DX Contest, CW
Class: SOAB(A) HP
Operating Time (hrs): 30
Band QSOs Zones Countries
160: 0 0 0
80: 38 11 23
40: 228 27 91
20: 593 33 102
15: 92 20 62
10: 5 4 5
Total: 956 95 283 Total Score = 1,018,710
Club: Yankee Clipper Contest Club
2009 CQWW CW Rate Chart
Things that need fixing or upgrading
As always, I leave the contest with a list of things I wish were better, or need fixing. I really like the getscores.org idea, but WriteLog does not post directly to getscores, and I could not get the new universal uploader script to work before the contest. I ended up manually posting my score a couple of times on Sunday during the slow times, but I’d sure like the process to be automated.
I also need to get a new fan in my SB-220. The SNR in the shack with that amp on is barely tolerable.
I’ve been thinking about putting up a 2 element array for 80M with a 2nd HF2V. I think I’ll make this happen before next year – maybe even before ARRL DX if the weather cooperates.
I also wish I could do something better on 40M for an antenna. I have a low dipole that slopes from about 45 feet at the northwestern end down to 25 feet at the southeastern end. Works great for SS, and OK into EU, south and towards VK/ZL but has absolutely no signal to Asia. I don’t really have supports to put up a 2nd dipole, so I’m thinking. A half square would put a better signal into EU, and West, but I’d most likely lose the performance towards the south. What to do….
I had planned to add a receiving loop above my tribander on the tower as shown in December 2008 QST Article by N6PE, but just didn’t get around to it. I think I’ll make sure that happens before next year.
I had a 2nd K3 high on my list, but after this contest, I’m not so sure that’s such a high priority. The ’940 worked just fine for picking off mults most of the time, and if I felt like I really needed to DX and work somebody weak, I could always switch over to the K3.
I’ve got audio from the Right radio (the K3) bleeding into the Left radio audio (the ’940). I’ll have to trouble shoot this as it was very annoying at times, and the only way to stop it was to turn the K3 off completely.
I’d also love to work more on copying in two ears. Or maybe not copying, but being able to tune out one ear to pay attention to the other. Currently, when working SO2R, I have the headphones latched so that when radio 1 is cqing, I hear radio 2, and when radio 1 goes back to receive, I only hear radio 1. The few times I tried having the audio split this weekend, I went completely bonkers. Maybe MorseRunner will add 2nd radio audio for those of us who need that practice.