2011 ARRL Sweepstakes – CW

Contest: ARRL Sweepstakes
Date: November 5-6, 2011
Mode: CW
Period: Starts 2100 UTC Saturday, ends 0259 UTC Monday

80/00 / 00
40 / 02 / 00
20 / 264 / 50
15 / 106 / 24
10 / 39 / 04
TOTAL: 411 QSO / 78 SECT
SCORE: 58,560 (TIME ON: 16 H  Mn 07)

SOAPBOX: Much like I started in 2010 after SS CW, the main goal was achieved, I had fun, because if you are not having a good time, why participate? This year was a bit of a mixed bag when it came to weigh the positives against the negatives. After receiving my certificate f0r my winning performance (First Place Single Operator Low Power CW East Bay Sectional) from 2010, I figured I would try to repeat the achievement. So this year I entered the contest as an ‘A’ precedence (less than 150 watts), unassisted (using no packet).

I thought I would be running the contest without the use of 15M on my Yaesu FT-1000MP, since I had been having some sort of issue with the Local Unit problem that generates all of the various local oscillator signals used for frequency conversion. As luck would have it, 15M did work and I probably would have been better off start on 15M as opposed to 20M. Unfortunately the low bands, 40M and 80M were nearly non-existent for me. It wasn’t conditions or the radio, but I figure a problem in the SteppIR BigIR with the metallic tape. Those bands combined accounted for only 2 QSOs, which is down from nearly 90 last year! This would end up hurting my chances at my original goals.

Aside from a “clean sweep” I was hoping to make 500 QSOs in SS CW, which would put me half way home in achieving a ‘KB-1000’ certificate from the NCCC. As I just mentioned, only have 2 contacts on 40M and none on 80M pretty much killed any chance I had for 500 contacts. Like last year I did all my contesting in search and pounce, not one QSO was attained running a frequency. I should become a stronger CW operator, as running a frequency would easily allow me to increase my Q/hr rate.

I started on 20M for the first hour of the contest, which was my best hour at a 36 rate, I would flip to 10M just before the hour was up to log a few contacts, but returned to 20M to start the second hour. It wasn’t but a few minutes and I moved to 15M and was able to log a good amount of contacts that would push me over 30 QSOs in that hour, but I would return to 20M at 23z. Unlike last year I could work until the sun went down and 20M gave way to the low bands. But as luck would have it I logged only 2 contacts on 40M in about 3 hours.

I did not diagnose the problem on the low bands, propagation was good, so I could run out no sunspots. The radio was working or so it seemed to be, but my power output was quite low, but that was to be expected. The last piece of the equation, the antenna, a SteppIR BigIR. Not the best option for the low bands, but being in an HOA controlled neighborhood I will take whatever I can get away with. Unfortunately I had to struggle with the two contacts I had as both asked for fills across the board. Even N6RO about 2 miles down the road couldn’t hear me. That let me wondering what was wrong with the antenna.

Since the low bands did not produce I called it a night at about 02z. I returned for the NCCC rally on 80M, but again no one in the 175 mile radius could hear me on the low bands. Since this was to be where I would make up from last year, I all but wrote my 500 Q goal off for 2011. I did return to the shack early on Sunday morning, hoping  for a change on 40/80M, but it would not be. I sat spinning the dial on the Yaesu for about 90 minutes before moving to 20M real early, hoping to add to my total.

Sunday would be consistent, for the most part on 20M, which is band that dominated. I did work contacts on 10M and 15M over the course of the next 8 hours, but none of those hours would even see a 30 rate. I was pleased to work Glenn, K6NA in Valley Center, always a pleasure, as he is a long time family friend.

As for some of the specifics, I really had no issues work towards the sweep, as I watched the clock I spent the better part of 6 hours looking for SC and MB. I did hear one MB station (can’t recall the call), but the pile up was ugly and left, not wanting to waste time. I knocked out all the other Canadian sections and US sections without much trouble. Even the ones that traditionally (okay over 2 years) have given me fits, like SB and DE. I found both rather easy. I only heard K4HR answering a CQ and I tried to follow him on 20M, hoping he would squat on a frequency and call, but it never happened. The same goes for VE4YU, who I heard and followed for about 20 minutes, but again he never called CQ. That left me working 78 section this year and missing the sweep.

Out of 411 contacts, 64.2% were on 20M, while 15M accounted for 25.8% and 10M with 9.5%. The low bands, as I mentioned completely killed me. Hopefully I can resolve the low band issue before the SS Phone in a few weeks, as I have a lot of work to do in order to achieve a total of 1000 contacts between the 2 contests. Thanks to all operators who I worked, had a great time.