August 2011 North American QSO Party – CW

Contest: North American QSO Party
Date: August 6-7, 2011
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 0600 UTC Sunday

SOLAR CONDX: A=15, K=5, SFI=109, SSN=81

80 / 08 / 05
40 / 42 / 22
20 / 46 / 45
15 / 24 / 10
10 / 16 /07
SCORE: 20,025 (TIME ON: 8 H 05 Mn)

SOAPBOX: I had planned a full 10 hour effort, but I wasn’t being true with myself and knew 8 hours was more realistic. With the XYL at work and my son at a friend’s house, the shack was mine, along with the dogs lying at my feet. I had taken time off from work to participate in the NAQP, I missed out on WPX at the end of May and the last time I had spent any sort of ‘BIC’ was during the 7QP.

After reading up on the current solar conditions, as well as the solar flares and CMEs that were earthbound I suspected conditions were going to be challenging, to say the least. I fired up the Reverse Beacon Network site and starting looking at where signals were being heard. I sent out a few ‘TEST’ messages but never did say responses from the network.

Much like all the other CW contests I have participated in, this effort was all S&P. I guess one day I will be a great operator, like many of those who participated this weekend, so I must keep everything in perspective when I set my goals and attempt to compare my effort to that of another CW operator. My goal was set at 225 QSOs and 80 MULTS, which was a 25% increase over my 2009 total. I achieved both of these goals in my 8 hours.

My best hour was 23z when I topped 33/rate. This was one of 2 hours in which my S&P results in over a 30/rate. The other hour was 19z with a 31/rate. In fact every hour, except 01z was over a 20/rate. Now those might not be impressive to the many CW operators, but I have seen a real decrease in activity from my QTH after the first few hours. This time that drop off never happened. In fact I had 5 hours in which I was over a 25/rate. Now the next thing to do is gain more confidence in my CW skills learn to run. I have yet to attempt to run and very infrequently call ‘CQ TEST’ during a contest. That alone would increase my rate!

I started out on 20M for the first 30 minutes, gave 15M a quick check, picked up a few East Coast stations and the local “big gun” (N6RO) but the activity was spotty at best and went back to 20M until 20z. Every time I moved to 15M there was a new multiplier to add but the conditions were terrible. When I finally found stations on 15M most were West Coast stations, which I logged and it was back to 20M.

I did check 10M at the top of every hour and had it up on my second VFO listening for a good duration of the contest. At 23z it seemed there was an opening, which is when I logged a majority of my 16, 10M contacts even got a few East Coast stations, K2SSS, NC4KW and W3YY. I took my break at 2359z and returned almost 2 hours later.

It would end up being 20M as my money band, which of often happens are my QTH. By far, 40M was the most challenging of all bands. I probably moved too early at 0145z, but all the signals I heard on 20M I had worked, so I figured I would try to add new multipliers to my score. There was still a spattering of new signals on 20M, so I was jumping back and forth, but finally left 20M at 2031z for 40M where I started adding new multipliers to the log.

I was able to hear the East Coast, for the most part but my calls when unanswered. Only W8FJ, KT3Y and N2MM were able to copy my signal from California. All of my other contests were mainly west of the Mississippi River.

As my 8 hour time limit approached I was pushing myself to meet my 225 QSO goal. I jumped to 80M at 0336Z and started searching for signals. I only had 8 QSOs on 80M, 5 of which were CA stations. Thanks to W0BH who was my final contact of the contest.

All in all conditions were poor. I had hoped for a better showing on 15M, but that never really materialized. 20M seemed a bit slow at the start of the contest, but seemed to pick up nicely as the day progressed. 40M was the most challenging of the bands, lots of QRN to deal with. I did not spend enough time on 80M, but knowing hour 40M turned out I suspect I did the right thing and shut down just prior to 0400z.

I had made a minor change to the antenna by adding a Rohn H50 mast in hopes of getting the DXE Hexx Beam up to 40′ but I broken off a screw anchor when tightening one of the lower sections. I don’t believe the loss of 5′ had anything to do with just how poor conditions were.

Finally the only other change I keep toying with, changing the name I use during the contest. I selected ‘STU’ a few years back, but on CW especially it has been a cause for name fills, “NAME?” It’s fine to use on RTTY and SSB, but I had quite a few operators ask for the fill. Thanks to all who worked me, had a great time as always in the NAQP and unfortunately will miss out on the summer SSB version of the NAQP in 2 weeks.

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