A little contesting this weekend
I spent about 10 hours Saturday and Sunday making some contacts in the CQ WW SSB contest. This is one of the biggest contests, where the goal is to work stations, for the most part, outside of your own country. You get two points for working a station on your own continent (if you’re in North America, one point elsewhere) and three points for working stations on another continent. There are also multipliers for each different country and CQ Zone that you contact. As with other contests, your score is computed by multiplying the number of points by the multipliers. World-class competition stations typically have scores in the millions or even tens of millions for the high-power multi-operator stations. My score was quite a bit more modest, just a bit under 115,000 points. That beats my score from last year, though I’ve done better in the past. (Though I’ve also spent more time in the past.)
This isn’t one of my favorite contests specifically because it is so popular. Because it is so popular, there are almost always a lot of stations calling, which makes it harder for a small station like mine to be heard. As a result, stations that I’m hearing very well just can’t hear me, and it often took several minutes to work stations that under non-contest conditions could be very easy. In a lot of cases, I’d just give up and move on, sometimes coming back to try to work the stations again later.
Partway into the contest, I came up with a technique that made things a little less frustrating: I intentionally made my station “hard of hearing”. Normally, although I’ve got a very modest antenna (my G5RV), my radio is quite good at pulling in relatively weak stations. However, in this case, there was little point in trying to work very weak stations because they weren’t going to hear me. What I did was to turn off any pre-amplification (kind of like a “hearing aid”) for all bands, and on some bands (particularly 40m and 80m), I put in 8db or more of attenuation. (Kind of like putting in earplugs.) There were still plenty of stations to hear, and with my self-imposed handicap, I found that I was a lot more likely to work these stations.
This technique isn’t something that I’d normally recommend, but for this particular contest, it kept me from wasting time on stations that I really had no chance of working.
Here’s my score breakdown for the contest. One interesting thing is that this is one of a very few contests where I’ve actually worked stations on all six possible HF bands.
Band QSOs Pts Cty ZN
1.8 2 2 2 2
3.5 22 50 17 11
7 62 172 39 12
14 87 223 45 18
21 45 113 25 16
28 8 22 7 3
Total 226 582 135 62
My total score was 114, 654 points, which, as always, is subject to adjustment for any errors that I (probably) made.