|The hills are alive with the sound of music....well you get the idea.
This past weekend, as most of you may have known or seen, the bands were alive with a CW contest, all except the WARC bands. The annual running of the CQWW CW contest was in full swing for the entire weekend. I try to take part in most of the large CW contests, and this one was not exempt. In this contest, for the first time EVER, I did not operate search and pounce. (search and pounce meaning searching out stations in the contest who are calling CQ and trying to contact them) I was for the first time ever a running station. (run, meaning you sit on a frequency and call "CQ contest" and wait for stations to contact you) I CAN'T BELIEVE I DID IT.....
For those of you who are not into CW contesting when you are running (for me anyway) it's a big deal, and you have to be on your CW game. You send out your call sign (for me at 26-28wpm) and wait for the grease to hit the fan and at times it did! Below is how it feels to be a first-time CW running contester.
Before I begin with the adventure, just a little background. They say that preparation is the key, and that I worked on. Over time, getting my code speed up to copy around 30wpm. Every day I practiced with programs such as Morse Runner and RufzXP. These are both free programs and excellent tools. I also downloaded the CWops intermediate CW course and worked through that each day. I worked on my keyboard skills, so I am now able to copy calls without looking at the keyboard. This allowed me to concentrate on the contest program.
Well here we go......first thing that occurred to me was a contest simulator and the real deal is very different! I was not sending code to a computer program but a real person, it's a hobby and all, but I was very nervous about the whole thing. Out the code went, "TEST VE9KK VE9KK" I did this about 3 times and then a station came back to me........it didn't turn out as planned.
I heard the code but my N1MM+ contest software was just met with my blank stare. I heard the call again, and this time it was a full out fumbling act between reading the call and keyboard stumbling. Eventually the op just moved on to another running station. Well, that was a bell ringer for sure! I took a deep breath and tried again, and this time it was worse. The next station came back to me in around 35 wpm, and I was clueless. This time I did not even attempt to answer them, they gave their call a few times and moved on.
I decided it was time to go back to search and pounce and that contest running at this stage in the game was not for me. I took a little break from the contest with a walk, and once I got back to the operating desk, I began to search and pounce. After making a few contacts it occurred to me that this was the first time I tried running in a contest and for sure there are going to be hiccups. Heck after all I just did not grab my first bike and started riding it, I had training wheels..........wait a minute training wheels!
I took a deep breath and set my N1MM+ contest program back to running but this time I opened up a program called MRP40 an excellent code reading program. Now just wait a minute, I am not giving up and relying on a code reader......it's my training wheels and will be used when needed. Well off I went again......"TEST VE9KK VE9KK"
The contest is now in the history books and I did keep running throughout the contest except when I did some search and pounce for needed multiplies for a better score. Midway through the contest, I started to loosen up and began to get the hang of things. Sure, I had op's get frustrated when I messed up their call and when I asked for repeats, some just moved on.
-The obvious one being, running for basically the entire contest.
- Being spotted in the cluster and BOOM I'm not trying to work a pileup, I am the pile up. They were not huge pileups and did not last for long but exciting nonetheless.
- Having the time fly compared to search and pounce where the time went slowly.
- My highest number of contacts ever in a contest of 412 and my best score as well of 113,775.
- Depending less and less on MRP40's decodes.
Some funny moments:
- With N1MM+ you are able to program macros to send preprogrammed messages. It's when my fingers press the wrong key and send thanks for the contact before the was made!
- Finding out the hard way that the code reader is not always correct. I copied a call in my head and then glanced at the code reader, I may have messed up on a letter. So I change it and low and behold my head was correct and MRP40 was wrong.
- This has happened more than a few time......forgetting to change N1MM+ from search and pounce to run and send out the incorrect message.
- Finding myself answering one call after another and sounding to others that I have really pulled this off to only then totally screw up the next few callers.....the way the contest can humble me.
Finally, I want to apologize to those of you with whom I messed up your call or made your contact with me a bit painful. Then those who just gave up and moved on I hope next time things will be better.