Being the first time I participate in the ARRL Sweepstakes, it was a real eye opener early on. I was not ready, makes me wish I would of had time to spend practicing the two nights prior to the contest. Unfortunately family life and other responsibilities, as well as shack problems prevented me from any true practice rounds. Another piece of advice came from Dean, N6DE in the webinar that was presented last week, the importance of a second radio in order to call CQ on.
I was in no way cut out to work two radios in this, my first Sweepstakes. It took 5-10 minutes to actually make my first contact. That was frustrating. I knew the exchange, which is one of the more complicated exchanges in all contesting. It also depends that you pay close attention to what is being sent so you do not find yourself continually asking for a repeat of a piece of information. There were QSOs in which I missed something, but what might have taken my twice as long was to catch the exchange prior to mine and fill in the information before answering a CQ.
I spent 2100-0200 working the contest, about 6 straight hours, with some minor distractions. 20M was hot to start the contest and this is where I spent all daylight. I had thoughts of moving to 15M, but there were enough people running 20M that I did not bother changing bands. it might have benefited me, but I won’t know. Guess we will see what happens when the SS SSB rolls around.
While I thought I was prepared, outside of not practicing, I forgot some key pieces of my macros, this required me to ALT-K and enter a repeat via keyboard or with the Vibroplex. This too more time away from calling or answering a CQ. Once things got rolling there was a flow to the exchanges.
I set my personal goal high, 400 QSOs, about 40/hour. Since many stations run 100/hour the first few hours, I thought 40 would be a good benchmark. I came in much lower than my anticipated rate. During the first three hours my rates were 22/hour, 25/hour and 27/hour, rates got worse after that.
More issues I need to deal with is my station. 40M and 80M are terrible on the SteppIR BigIR Mk III. I point toward the radial system for 40M. I had planned on adding some 33′ radials prior to the contest, but time being what it was I ran out of it prior to the start of Sweepstakes. I did double check the SWR on 40M and it looked respectable on the antenna analyzer, but the forward power never even averaged 1000w on CW.
There was a special moment for me personally last night on 40M. While trying to secure some needed sections I went looking for a friend of my father’s, Glen Rattmann, K6NA. Using DXWatch I found him on 7.046.8, I listened for a few minutes before I answered his CQ call. It’s special because he was one of though young hams I knew in my youth, as he, N6RJ and my father would spend countless hours in the shack during contest time. At the end of our exchange I received a “Wow 73” it truly was something special.
As for today, I am hoping to run out the final 4 hours of the contest, most of which will be on 20M and hopefully some on 15M before the sun sets and I move to 40M. With any luck I am hoping for a minimum of 100 QSOs (25/hour), anything over that will be considered nice.
With one SS nearly behind me, I look forward to the SSB version of this same contest, two weeks from now. Of course signals will be wider and there will be more operators working the bands. All in all I had a great learning experience during the time I participated in SS, hopefully my points help the NCCC in winning the gavel from PVRC.