2010 ARRL Sweepstakes – SSB

Contest: ARRL Sweepstakes
Date: November 20-21, 2010
Mode: SSB
Period: Starts 2100 UTC Saturday, ends 0259 UTC Monday

BAND/QSO/SECT
80 / 4 / 0
40 / 90 / 17
20 / 206 / 53
15/ 48 / 6
TOTAL: 348 QSO / 76 SECT
SCORE: 52,896 (TIME ON: 15 H 18 Mn)

SOAPBOX: There is always a thrill and excitement at the start of any contest. I had planned on working the full 24 hours in order to better my combined score, break 1000 Qs, achieve a second “clean sweep” and contribute to a potential club victory. Things did not begin well, as I was an hour late to the contest, forgetting there was 7 hours difference (not 8 hours) and while I had made accommodations at work to leave early, I still arrived home minutes before 22z. Rule 1: Know the rules.

No real harm done…I guess. It would mean I shorten my overnight break by an hour, but it also meant I missed out on what is usually my best rate of many contests I enter. This was confirmed when I had a 45 rate during 22z and a 30 rate for 23z. Not great, but for my modest station and contesting skills these are numbers I am continually striving to improve. So I figured I lost out on 45-50 Qs that first hour.

Things would go from bad to worse because dinner plans were dropped in my lap about 3 hours prior to the start of the contest. It’s not as if this contest just sprang up out of nowhere, I had been talking about it since the end of the CW portion. But as they say, family comes first, so after about 2.5 hours I was forced into a break.

For the first 6 hours of the contest I had about 3.5 hours in unscheduled off time. Getting my “BIC” around 02z I encounter some terrible rain static. Working only from the SteppIR Vertical I made a combined 3 QSOs in about 30 minutes on 40M. I moved to 80M, but it was no better. The weather was here and between the rain noise (S9+20), the wind and cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning I decided to disconnect the station and call it a night with only 79 QSOs logged, well of my anticipated totals and behind the curve on the goals I had set.

There was a marginal improvement when I returned to the shack at 112z, but it was a long 90 minutes on 40M waiting for 20M to open. I had planned on running on 15/20M, but when I found a relatively quiet spot I never received any answers to my “CQ SS” calls. I did this a few times for about 5-10 minutes through out the contest and the results were also the same. All I have to point to is the hex beam at 20′ as the problem.

The contest was all S & P for the 15+ hours I participated, my ears are still sore and ringing. By far the best part of Sunday was the NCCC rally on 40M. I ended up working 35 stations in 41 minutes. All but three (2, ID and SDG) were NCCC members. It was a great strategy and sort of give me a second wind for the rest of the contest.

With my goal now unattainable, I was focusing on achieving a “clean sweep.”  The only challenge was breaking through the pile up to log VO1TA. I tried numerous on occasions, but kept on the hunt for other sections I was in need of; WPA, SC and LAX. I saw spots for W6AFA on the cluster, but never could hear him on 20M and figured I would find him on 40M. As 15/20M started to close I began ruling out finding WPA and SC, both of which I never heard during Sunday. I would end with 76 sections.

Much of Sunday was back and forth between 15/20M. As I mentioned I was never successful in running on any band during the weekend. While my rate goal was only 26/hr, that number jumped dramatically higher with all the unforeseen issues at the start of the contest.  About 22z I started moving between 15/20/40M but the rate and number of new stations was dropping dramatically.

What 40M did offer me was a chance to work many of the western sections I had not yet heard or worked. The band never really was as good for rate with the exception of the “rally,” which yielded a 41 rate. I finished up on 80M with just a few Qs, most of which were NCCC members.

As for problems, I had the FT-1000MP cut out on my once, it just seemed to loose power for some unknown reason. I had this same problem occur a few months back in a RTTY contest, but the failure rate was much higher, than the single time I had it on Sunday.

The only remaining problems I have are with the antennas. The hex beam is still stuck at 20 with the only possibility of getting 30′ higher through the purchase of a new Channelmaster mast. Not sure 10′ is going to add much improvement for the investment. It has been nice to read the reflector and see two towers for sale, while a tower is not prudent at this point i am still trying to justify the purchase, just to stash it away for when conditions allow me to raise the antenna higher, as well as add the Force 12 C-4XL. I continue to struggle on the low bands with only the BigIR at my disposal. Not sure adding more radials is going to improve anything at this point, with nearly 2000′ of copper already under the vertical now.

While I missed my goal for SS SSB, I need to look at this experience as a whole. What did I achieve? First I worked my second ARRL Sweepstakes in 2 years. I improved by 40% in CW, QSOs up from 218 in 2009 to 366 in 2010. I also achieved my first clean sweep during the CW contest this year. My final score for CW was also up 47% from 30,520 in 2009 to 58,560 in 2010. On the SSB side QSOs were up 23% with 267 in 2009 to 348 in 2010. As for the final score it was up 28% this year from 37,914 in 2009 to 52,896 in 2010.

So looking at the contest as a whole 2010 I logged 714 QSOs, 156 sections and a final score of 111,456 points for an overall improvement of 38% from 2009. All in all I see this as a success even though I did not meet my original goals set for the 2010 ARRL Sweepstakes.

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