CQ World wide CW contest and my station

You can see where the 15m band starts! 
This weekend I dipped my toes into the CQ world wide DX CW contest and by dipping my toes I mean very casual contesting. With my station being a QRP setup I rarely ever jump in the contest on the Friday evening. I find the CW speed is fast and very rare is a QRP station ever heard in the pile ups, so rather getting frustrated I relax and do other things on the Friday evening.  I was on for a few hours on Saturday morning and afternoon. The propagation conditions looked good and I was hearing lots of
20m action Saturday afternoon

European stations booming in…..BUT……it was hard to raise a contact either on 15m or 20m. I have the MFJ 1788 loop antenna so 10m is not an option, I did hear that 10m was booming with great signals and propagation. I took Saturday evening off from the contest and decided to give things a go on Sunday. I had some running around to do Sunday morning so the contest time came early afternoon and I must say the conditions were still good and I was delighted my signal was being heard in Europe with some repeats but it was being heard. Some of the highlights were contacts into Hawaii, Canary island's off Africa and Jersey island.  I was able to net 25 contacts in the contest so as you can tell I was not on all that much but I did enjoy the time. More important was the way I was able to set the station up for contesting. I plan on doing more contesting both local and DX so to get the software and hardware working well together was one of my plans for this contest. As you can see from the picture all my radio gear is nicely tucked away in a roll top desk. For me it's a great setup I only have to roll the top up, pull out a keyboard, pull out some side shelves, moves some accessories onto the shelves and presto Im on the air! Lets get back to my contesting setup….
The contest desk
Below are the programs and hardware I use and why they are great for my setup.
The software programs:
N4PY's radio control program. This program allows me to control my K3 and KX3 with very fast and convenient mouse clicks. As an added bonus the program has virtual com ports and it's simple to incorporate other programs and hardware. Also the support that is offered with N4PY is great and most questions I have had are dealt with same day.

N1MM contest software There are other software programs out there for contesting but this is the only one I have used from day one of my contesting. N1MM has come out with a new program called N1MM Plus, I have not tried it as of yet and a rule I have is to not try new programs or upgraded programs just before a contest. N1MM supports most if not all contests, it's very easy to use
 works great and that's good enough for me.  N4PY's program has virtual com ports and it allow me to setup N1MM so it seamlessly works with N4PY's program.

MRP40 CW decoder Yes you read it correctly I have a CW decoder program, this is not a free program but I have found it works the best of any I have ever tried out. So why do I use a decoder…..well I have found that in contests there are op's who for some reason send at speeds that only a decoder program can read. This program has helped me with making a contact that never would had happened if I was decoding by ear. 

The hardware I use for contesting:
Elecraft P3 This is one of the best investments I have made it's a stand alone pan adapter that uses no PC memory. I have found it's nice to see how the band is doing and this piece of equipment does just that. For contests  I can tuned from contact to contact. I am able to see 100, 50, 10 or 3 hz segments of the band. With my narrow band width MFJ 1788 I set the P3 to 10 hz and I can see a detailed segment of the band I can work before having to retune the loop.

Elecraft K3 What can I say it's a great contest and general QSO rig and to not get into boring details about the rig…..for contesting I have installed the following Inrad 8 pole filters 500 Hz, 400 Hz and 250 Hz and with the width control on the K3 I can narrow the filtering to 10 Hz!!

Winkeyer USB This unit came as a kit and was fun to build and is great for contesting. I have the keyer directly hooked into the K3. You can control it with N1MM software but as far as I know there is a latency issue with the keyer being used with N1MM, for that reason I hook it up directly to the K3. There are 4 programable buttons on the top (very easy to program via PC software) I program in my call, contest exchange, TU and the last button has a repeat of the exchange only less the 599. I place the Winkeyer beside my keyboard for very easy access to send my call and exchange, my hands are never to far away from the keyboard.

Flex Radio's Flexcontrol In the picture it's located in the white paper. N4PY's program again through a virtual port allows me to have VFO control of the K3. There are also 3 programable buttons as well to control the K3. I have programmed one of the buttons to the K3's spot function and in CW contests it's a great option to have.

Begali Contour Key I find with all the software ways to send CW it's very important to also have to old fashion key handy. Many times I have had a station asking for a repeat of my call or report, to send it with the key allows me to leave a longer spaces between letters of my call. This method has had my call or report get through to finalize the contact.

Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

6 Responses to “CQ World wide CW contest and my station”

  • Julian KEOCEB:

    Mike VE3WDM,
    Just received my call sign. Would like to get into CW. My father was a telegraph operator during WWI. So I guess I’m following in his footsteps. Would appreciate any
    suggestions to get started equipmentwise, learning the Code, etc.. Thank you.
    Julian KEOCEB

  • Kyle N4NSS:

    Mike, I use the CW decoder built in the K3. It’s fantastic …so why use MRP40 CW decoder?

  • ian g3ynu:

    Thanks Mike for your sharing your experiences.
    Like you I “dipped my toes” in CQ WW, with 5 watts to a KX3 and a 40m Delta loop (apex 40ft), firing roughly wnw from north west england.
    Working only “loud” stateside station at irregular intervals, managed to work 28 stations down the eastern seaboard into Florida, Texas, the Caribbean and Brazil, all on 40m. The predictions for the loop of low angle radiation seem to be bourne out in practice. KX3 continues to be a “wonder rig”.
    73/72 es
    ian g3ynu

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good afternoon Julian, why don’t you email me and I can go over some areas of CW and getting started with some websites as well. ve3wdm at hotmail dot com.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Hello Kyle, yes the K3 has a great decoder but I find the one line scroll just does not cut the butter for me. With the MRP40 I can have about 20 lines of de-coded CW. I find at times I have typed something wrong regarding a call and I can go back with MRP40 to double check.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Nice to hear from you Ian, yes the KX3 is a great radio and I was on my KX3 during the last part of the contest on 40m to see what I could dig up. I was only able to muster up one state side contact with my QRP signal. I have never had to much luck with my MFJ loop on 40m.

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