This past weekend was the ARRL DX CW Contest, one of the biggest contests in all of radiosport. The object of this contest is for stations in the US and Canada to contact stations anywhere else. (In this particular contest, there is no credit for US & Canadian stations to work either country). Contestants may use 6 different bands, 10m, 15m, 20m, 40m, 80m, and 160m. As you might have guessed from the name, this is a CW (morse code) only contest. I’ve done this contest a few times in the past years, and as I’ve become more comfortable with using CW, I’ve participated more. The band conditions for this year looked to be pretty good, with the sun finally starting to wake up from the very long trough between solar cycles 23 and 24. The solar flux remained over 100 for the entire contest, and the sunspot number was over 100 as well for a time, then dropped back to around 79. (This will all be gibberish for non-hams, but for contesters and DXers, this is great news.) I figured that I’d try to spend a reasonable amount of time operating this year, and I wound up spending 17 hours (out of the 48 possible) in front of the radio.
I usually try to set some kind of goal to keep me going, though as I’ve admitted in the past, I tend to do it on the fly; I’ll see where I am at some given point and decide “ok, I can make another 30 contacts before turning in for the night” or “I think I can beat last year’s score”. I really did a lot of “on-the-fly” this year, though I decided after about 3 or 4 hours of operating that I wanted to be sure to beat my score from last year. Last year I wound up with a score of around 160,000 points after deductions for errors, and based on the early going I figured I’d be able to beat that. Not only did I beat it, but I actually doubled it (before error deductions, of course).
Band QSOs Mults ------------------- 160: 5 5 80: 53 36 40: 189 67 20: 172 68 15: 81 47 10: 25 19 ------------------- Total: 525 242 Total Score = 381,150
I should note that this year I entered in the new Single Operator All-Band Assisted Low Power Category (previously any assistance required you to be considered High Power), so comparing this to last year might not be 100% accurate, but I’m still pleased with my showing. I used the packet clusters to help find DX for me, and using the N1MM contesting program, I could easily move from station to station with a couple of keystrokes (or mouse clicks). There was enough activity and the band conditions were good enough that I didn’t have to tune for stations which, while perhaps a bit more “pure” (to some) in terms of the contest, dramatically slows things down in a busy contest like this, where I have to find a station, listen to get a callsign and then decide if I need to work that station. (I should say that I always use the packet cluster spots as a guide, since they are notorious for incorrectly identifying stations. If you log the wrong station callsign, it’s not only bad for you but also for the station that you contacted.)
The nice thing about the good band conditions were that for the most part, once I could hear a station I had little trouble working them. For some of the big stations that attract a lot of callers, it could be difficult, but I’ve learned that those guys will be around for the whole contest and it’s easier to just move off and work someone else, then come back when things are quieter. This is in contrast to a year or two ago when conditions were so bad that even when the other station heard me, or heard “something”, it could take several tries until we were able to both get the correct information that makes up the contact. This time for the most part once the station started a contact with me, we were able to complete it relatively easily. The most significant exception to this was with one station (who I’ll put in here when I can figure out who it was ) who spent almost 4 minutes working with me late at night on 80m to complete the contact. (A normal contact takes anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, tops.)
Although I didn’t work any “all-time” new countries, I did pick up a few new band-countries: PJ2, V4, XE, and OM on 160, EU on 80, and J5 on 10. (Interestingly, as I was writing this on Sunday evening, the J5, which is Guinea-Bissau, was spotted on 80m and I was able to work him there as well, post-contest.) I was a little surprised that I only worked 87 different countries given the number of overall contacts that I made, but part of that is accounted for by the fact that I worked many, many stations on 2, 3, 4, 5, and even 6 different bands. (I worked PJ2T and V48M on all six, and I believe that’s the first time I’ve ever worked any station on all six contest bands.)
I did have a small visit from Murphy of course: We’ve had a couple of very windy days here, and Sharon commented that she thought she hear my antenna (it’s actually where the ladder line connects to the coaxial feed line) hitting the roof. (That particular portion of the roof is over the room where the TV is.) Sunday morning I took a look outside and realize that my G5RV had dropped about 10 feet from where it should be, the result of the winds blowing. I have it connected via bungee cords in such a way that they’ll take up some slack, but after a while it will drop a bit from the constant “pulling”. Fortunately, it was easy to fix and just required a quick trip up the ladder to both ends of the antenna to pull it back up and things were back to normal.
So, now that I’ve completed this blog entry, that wraps up my post-contest activities, having submitted my log to the ARRL, uploaded my contacts to Logbook of the World, eqsl, and Clublog, and submitted my score to the 3830 contesting reflector.