August 2012 North American QSO Party – CW

Contest: North American QSO Party
Date: August 4-5, 2012
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 0600 UTC Sunday

SOLAR CONDX: A=7, K=3, SFI=139, SSN=160

BAND/QSO/MULTS

20 / 153 / 45
15 / 111 / 38
10 / 4 / 2
TOTAL: 268 QSO / 85 MULTS
SCORE: 22,780 (TIME ON: 7 H 29 Mn)

SOAPBOX: This was a last minute decision to participate in the North American QSO Party. It’s contest format that I enjoy though, only 12 hours (single operator works 10 hours), a quick exchange providing name and state and everyone is running 100 watts. While NCCC sponsored a few practice sessions, I skipped those but made sure my antennas and rig were ready for the contest come 18z, Saturday morning.

I took a quick check of my August, 2011 NAQP results and thought about my goal. I was hoping to get 8-10 hours of BIC (butt in chair) and unofficially set my goal at 300 QSOs. That would equate to a 30 rate over the course of 10 hours. that rate would be higher if I was more competent in running a frequency as opposed to staying in search and pounce for nearly the entire contest.

I started on 10M and made 2 quick contacts, but for much of the contest 10M was closed. I would finish the band with 4 QSO. Conversely, with the sun scheduled to set at 0310z, 20M would be open quite a while. As it happened, I did not make to 10 hours, let alone 8 hours, so all my contacts were on 15M and 20M.

I went heavy on 15M to start the first few hours and was rewarded with a 46 and a 49 rate the first two hours. Without looking in past contests, I don’t remember another contest were I had two hours over 45 per hour. What was even more impressive to me, I had 5 of the first 6 hours over 30 per hour. As the afternoon wore on activity on 15M seemed to decline, but 20M picked up.

While conditions weren’t as good on 20M as they were on 15M the bands were crowded, as I exceeded my targets from 2011 from 18z until 01z. 20M ended up being my money band with 153 QSOs and 45 mults. The mult number was no better than 2011, but I could of easily continued to operate and get in a minimum of 8 hours.

I don’t believe I would of had any problems reaching my goal of 300 QSO. I stopped with 268 (2 dupes) and with 4.5 hours to go when I shut the shack down. 20M was still very active, especially the East Coast, but I had yet to move to 40M, which would have provided new mults and at least 30 QSOs. Still I had a great time participating and helping NCCC #4 in the team competition. Thanks to all for the contacts.

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2012 CQ World Wide WPX CW

Contest: CQ World Wide WPX
Date: May 26-27, 2010
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 0000 UTC Saturday; ends 2359 UTC Sunday

BAND/QSO/PFX
80 / 14 / 3
40 / 123 / 43
20 / 233 / 135
15 / 316 / 177
10 / 14 / 8
TOTAL: 700 QSO / 366 PFX
SCORE: 556,686 (TIME ON: 32 H 03 Mn)

SOAPBOX: Wow, what fun! Third time in the past 4 years I have had a chance to participate in this contest and it’s one of my favorites. Unfortunately I missed out last year but looked to make up for it this year and I feel as I gave it a very strong effort. Yet at the end of the contest there are positives to take away and negatives that need to be addressed. This was also the first time I was given the opportunity (by the XYL) to give it a full 36 hour effort.

I had some good success to build off from 2010. I put in nearly 25 hours and just eclipsed 500 QSOs. My goal that year, much like this year was to score 1 million points. K6MM made it look easy in his slideshow presentation! As I am finding out, it’s a bit more difficult than what numbers on a spreadsheet say. The goals I set for 2012 were 800 QSOs, 1700 QSO pts, 368 PFXs, which would give me a chance at scoring 1 million points. Now that I am looking over my spreadsheet the math doesn’t quite add up. My point being, the numbers were juggled by band and QSO location to give me a baseline on which to start. I also used the .OBF file from my 2010 contest to give me my target projections per hour.

One of the negatives was I planned too high for contacts on 40/80M. I had a goal of 450 contacts on those bands, 125 of them being 6 point contacts on 80M. In the end I scored on a total on 14 contacts on that band. For me, 40M wasn’t much better. While I did make 123 contacts it was nowhere near enough points to give me a realistic shot at 1 million points and I knew this early in the contest, which caused me to rethink my goals during my first break.

In fact, things were looking good as I took a 60 minute break for dinner about 01z. I already had 510 logged in just over 13 hours. My hopes were still alive as the sunset waiting for the low bands to open. Even when they did open, I found myself on 20M up until 08z working EU. That was a surprise. 40M was okay in some regards, although I did expect a much better showing, as this was the first time I had put the refurbished SteppIR BigIR to the test. As for 80M, it was miserable, so instead of working straight through the first 12 hours I knocked off at 09z, but overslept by 1 hour and didn’t get back in the shack until 13z.

I started Saturday morning with some QSOs on 40M, but moved to 20M because 15M took over and became my money band for the next 10 hours. In that time I did work a few contacts on 10M, at the top of each hour for about 10 minutes and went to 20M at the bottom of the hour. Some good morning numbers gave me false hope that I could still challenge for 1 million points, but after breaking at 02z I was met with frustration.

The second night was not what the first night was. I sat in the shack struggling for nearly 4 hours before it I decided to call it a night just after 06z. Looking back, I might have taken a break earlier in order to rise on Sunday to start on 40/80M at 10z or earlier. I put together my best run on 40M at 12z, which did help to recover some of those lost points, but it was not nearly enough. My last shot was to see a repeat performance of the activity on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. All I needed was a 25 rate to help me hit my goal of 800 QSOs.

Unfortunately conditions deteriorated as the SSN decreased to 71 (from 86 the day before) and there was a minor disruption on the sun. There also seemed to be a lack of stations on the bands. Now I could account for this by saying all my QSOs were S&P and none were made running a frequency (more on that shortly). I would spin through the CW portion of a band and find I had already had a QSO with a majority of the stations, so even making a run for 800 was going to be difficult.

As Sunday worn on I had kissed 1 million goodbye for the second year and made a push for 500,000 points and a bit later in the day challenged myself to make 700 QSOs. I was able to accomplish both of these goals about with less that 50 minutes remaining in WPX. At that point I powered off the shack, grabbed an 801 and relaxed.

The final tally is my best attempt in any contest to date. Given I sat around for 32 hours, it stands to reason this is the largest QSO count I have put together. My XYL made the comment, “gosh honey 700 contacts doesn’t seem like a lot in 32 hours.” *sigh* She has a very valid point. As previously mentioned I made all my QSOs in S&P mode. I still hesitate to attempt to run a frequency as my CW is still a bit weak. I can copy fairly well, but don’t want to struggle sending ‘?’ or ‘AGN’ with every operator that calls me. I figure that would only put more pressure on me to get it right the first time. Guess it calls for more practice as well. Instead I sit back and listen to the call and exchange once and then make my call. This drastically decreases my rate.

I participated in this contest as a single operator, unassisted, low power, all bands. Looking at the past 2 years of results, I feel this would give me the best chance at challenging myself and the field for some wallpaper. While I came up short on my goals I do feel the final score will be one of the best in the 6th call district in that category. Even though I didn’t meet my original goals I am still very pleased with how I finished. I’ll look forward to the 2013 event and hopefully furthered my CW and make changes to get my 1 million points.

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2012 ARRL DX – CW

Contest: ARRL DX
Date: February 18-19, 2012
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 0000 UTC Saturday; ends 2359 UTC Sunday

BAND/QSO/DXC
20 / 82 / 39
15 / 210 / 61
10 / 48 / 19
TOTAL: 340 QSO / 119 DXC
SCORE: 120,666 (TIME ON: 12 H 00 Mn)

SOAPBOX: Some questions going into the contest since I am without an antenna for the low band, do I run SOSB or SOAB? I decided on a SOAB, low power operation this weekend and was shooting for 450 QSOs with 150 MULTS. I figured those were appropriate given the time I would have for operating, none of which would be on Sunday when I shut the shack down (0144z). I decided against a SOSB based on what I experienced in CQ WPX RTTY last weekend. It was a long and arduous contest and at the least I would increase my DXCC counts on 10M and 20M.

Overall I had a GREAT time, probably one of the most enjoyable contesting experiences I have had in the past 12 months. Why I have not been able to work a full contest in about 18 months, I do the best I can and also aim high, looking to pull something positive from all contests I enter. These 12 hours I operated don’t compare to my SOSB effort last week on 15M. While 15M was the “money band” this week I was still able to make some good headway on 10M, especial over the poles, while 20M was somewhat of a let down. That based on my limited experience and the fact that 20M since I got into contesting has usually been my best producing band with my hex beam at 40 feet.

I had some early questions as to where to start the contest, since rate is not my driving factor, I figured I would search & pounce to start on 10M, but it was short lived. It was no more than 7 minutes later and I moved to 15M, where I spent a majority. While rate for contesters is an important factor, being at the level of experience I am at with Morse code, I aim for a 30 QSOs/hour when in search and & pounce. For all CW contests that is all the time, so my rate suffers when compared to that of a more competent CW operator. A 30 rate will usually help me attain my goals, obviously duration plays a factor. Realistically I should have decreased the number of hours I was going to operate from 16 down to 12, or even 14 hours. I still stuck with a 30 rate and was hoping I would have a few hours over 30 and close to 40 or 50, but those gains were offset by a few very down hours as well, including one 60 minute break.

I operated just over 2 hours at the start of the contest, all but 7 minutes were on 15M and dominated by JAs. I usually rely heavily on QSOs with Asia in most of the contests I participate in. The numbers tell a different story, where 37.9% of my contacts were from Europe, while Asia accounted for 35.6 with Japan at a 29.4% of my total contacts dominating all other DXCC entities. I was disappointed with the number of JAs on 20M, I had hoped that more would move to 20M by 00z or 01z on Sunday but in that never appeared to happen while I was operating.

What was even more surprising were the 10M openings to EU via the poles. I made a number of 10M QSOs with Europe including ES5RR, OH0Z and SK3GM. On Saturday 15M still dominated the log by a big margin mainly from Europe. My best 60 minute rate was 49/hour from 1606-1706 and it was not JAs I was logging. I found that somewhat surprising. Search & pounce was rather slow and from 1900-2200z things got very slow. I couldn’t find a suitable band to be on bouncing from 10m to 15M to 20M in a vicious cycle that didn’t see activity pick up again until 2300z.

Thankfully when the sun came in Asia/Oceania 15M was great! Many loud stations, some of which I had not worked at the start of the contest, but I had hoped more JAs would move to 20M but only 13 QSOs with JA were made on 20M (out of 121 total). I was also pleased with the activity I found on 10M running 100 watts.

While I did not achieve my goal I had a very enjoyable 12 hours participating. In total I worked 275 unique call signs and 70 DXCC entities. Now, if I only had more confidence to run a frequency that 30 QSO/hour rate would increase. This was only the second time I had participated in the ARRL DX CW contest, the last time was 2010 with only 99 QSOs made.

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January 2012 North American QSO Party

Contest: North American QSO Party
Date: January 14-15, 2010
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 1800 UTC Saturday; ends 0600 UTC Sunday

BAND/QSO/MULTS
80 / 1 / 1
40 / 37 / 17
20 / 135 / 43
15 / 91 / 39
10 / 17 / 13
TOTAL: 281 QSO / 113 MULTS
SCORE: 31,753 (TIME ON: 7 H 32 Mn)

SOAPBOX: Thankfully I had the day off from work and committed to a full effort in the NAQP. While I didn’t draw up any goals, I did use the 2010 NAQP results as a benchmark of what I wanted to achieve. Early on I figure 400 QSOs would be possible, but as the day wore on I realized I was going to fall short. Unlike 2010, I was able to start the contest, which made the difference this year.

When the clock struck 1800z I started off on 20M. Unfortunately CW is not my strongest mode, but one I thoroughly enjoy so my full effort was all S & P. While 20M was productive, it would be 15M that accounted for the bulk of my QSOs the first 2 hours. I also experienced a first for me and my station, as I was able to achieve 3 straight hours of a rate over 40/min, topping at at 50/min at 20z! I know this is small potatoes for those experienced CW operators who run a frequency.

10M seemed to be short lived as I made just 17 contacts during 19z and 21z, 13 of which were multipliers. At 21z, 15M seemed to slow down, but 20M picked up, which is where I remained until the sun set. I also took a few 30 minute breaks at 22z and 00z. In hindsight, I should have stuck around at 22z as another 40 rate might have been possible. 20M was also my “money band” with 135 QSO and 43 multipliers.

During my second 30 minute break I had to get the manuals to the SteppIR BigIR out and make sure everything was connected correctly as I could not hear anything on the vertical. While I didn’t open the antenna, I did home the element in hopes of making sure the element was the correct length for the band selected. What I did realize was the PL-259 connector on the coax  running to the SteppIR is bad. I had to wiggle the connector until I could get it to a point that allowed me to hear the band.

Unfortunately that was only have the problem. While the propagation had improved slightly leading up to the weekend I had a solid S7-S8 noise on 40M when I made the move (probably too early) at 00z. After wiggling my connector, I decided to connect it directly to the transceiver, which made no difference. Frustrated I decided to take another break. After 30 minutes to collect myself I returned, but was frustrated at the pace of the S & P, which yielded approximately 35 QSOs over the next 90 minutes. I could see my goal of even 300 slipping away.

Being more frustrated that enjoying my radio I made the decision to shut the shack down at 02z. Before I did, I was able to make only a single contact on 80m with Jack, KF6T. I thought 40M was bad, but I was either real early on 80M or had further antenna issues, as I could not hear anyone. Instead of riding out the struggling for the next 2.5 hours I thought it would be better for my sanity if I accepted my 281 QSOs and went to build Legos with my son.

My final tally was 281 QSOs, 113 MULTS for 281 points and a final score of 31,753. This would be a 33% increase in contacts and multipliers from my 2010 effort and a scoring increase of 17,803 points or 56%. Anyway I look at it the contest was a success for me and my station. I still call into question my low band antenna, which is really beginning to cause frustration when the sun goes down. I might need to inquire with the brain trust of the NCCC. Being confined to a small backyard, even the 1500 feet of copper radials I have might not be enough to get the signal I desire. The inability to get wires in the air due to no trees also could be an issue. Single band efforts during daylight hours might be more worthwhile if the low bands continue to be an issue, it will depend on the contest.

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