2011 ARRL Sweepstakes – CW

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

BAND/QSO/SECT
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.

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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

BAND/QSO/MULTS
80 / 08 / 05
40 / 42 / 22
20 / 46 / 45
15 / 24 / 10
10 / 16 /07
TOTAL: 225 QSO / 89 MULTS
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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