CQ World Wide Contest for SSB was just this past weekend. For those who are unaware, it’s basically the largest Phone contest of the year and it’s the un-official kickoff to the contest season. Now that I have a beam, I wanted to play and put an honest effort in making as many contacts as possible. I want to put in a serious effort and help my local contesting club but the real motive is to get all time new DX contacts and increase my DXCC per band counts.
If you want to do well with any contest, preparation is important. You want to make sure your station and antennas are in working order, you want to make sure all your software is working and up to date and you want to have a good idea of what band to be on and when throughout the contest.
In the weeks prior my CL-33 has not been behaving and I was seeing 7.0SWR across 10, 15, and 20. I am thinking water got into something because it happened right after a bad rain storm. I wanted to get on the roof to clean and reseal all the connections but now there is some mental block about getting on my own roof. Thankfully the SWR returned back to around 1.0 the week of the contest.
Thinking the beam was toast, I revisited my Butternut HF9V that I’ve basically never used. I switched between that and the G5RV using the heathkit SA-2060 tuner I had. I never liked the butternut as the G5RV seemed to out perform it almost every time. I tried adding more radials during the summer and even tried re-tuning without much difference. I’ve been planning to add Inverted V antennas for 80 and 40, I purchase a used B&W Coaxial 5 position switch to replace the 2 position switch that was switching my beam or the tuner. I took the butternut off the SA-2060 and fed it directly to the new switch. There was a major difference to where the Butternut was just as good, if not better than the G5RV.
For this contest I will be using the CL-33, Butternut Vertical and my G5RV dipole.
A couple days before the contest I went to VOACAP to get an idea of what band to be on and when. Since I now have a directional antenna, I have to also think about when and where I need to point it in order to utilize my rates.
Running as SOAB (A) HP
I decided to run SOAB (A) HP which means Single Operator, All band, (A)ssisted, High Power. Depending on the contest, you have a choice which class you want to enter. Sometimes it’s wise to pick a class that the big guns won’t use or one that no one uses. I know for a fact that I won’t win ANY of the classes that I would try out for. Even though I think I have a great station, in this contest it’s menial compared to others in the area. I cared more about DX contacts than points so I wanted to use the amplifier and make use of the spotting network to assist me in making contacts.
Let the games begin!
Contest starts at 00:00z which is 8pm ET. I was able to help out my local club with a VE session and had enough time to get on when the contest starts. I didn’t follow my own advice and my station was not setup for contesting. I had to find and plug in the headset and configure N1MM+ for the new contest. I ended up starting late.
Problems right out of the gate
Soon as I transmitted on 20m, bye bye N1MM. RF is getting into my computer and it was nasty. Things were typing itself and my computer was making restart attempts. I immediately suspected the keyboard. I unplugged the keyboard and sure enough my computer RFI went away. My expensive (to me) DAS mechanical keyboard is not ham radio friendly. I plugged in my backup keyboard and sure enough, windows decided to take forever to install the driver. I ended up using a PS/2 keyboard and had to restart the computer. I ended up starting almost an hour late. This is why you should prepare your station before the contest.
Things are getting better
Once my computer issues were fixed, I was back on the air. 10m was closed for me and 20 and 15m were meh. 40 meters seemed to have all the action so I was fighting the contest with the G5RV and vert. Not a good way to start but at least I am making contacts.
Here is a view of 40m about 2 hours into the contest. I have my SDR taping the IF stage of the K3 and I use it as a pan adapter. It gives me an idea of what the band is like. I can cycle through the bands and stop on the most active one for contacts.
I made as many contacts on 40m as possible. I decided to give 80m a try and wasn’t able to make many contacts. I can hear a lot of stations but even with 500w, they couldn’t hear me. I ended up giving up the fight and went to be around 1am ET (5z).
I ended the night with about 50,000pts. I was sort of bummed out about it and I was thinking that I wasn’t going to break my 300k I made in 2011 before I lost power due to a really bad snow storm.
A New Day
After waking up, getting some much needed food and coffee in the system, I went back to station and thankfully the bands were open. I spent the morning working as many mults and double mults as possible and then circled the bands for contacts. I was depending more on the cluster but as time went on, I started to use the dial.
15 meters seem to be the place for me. I spent a good part of my day on 15 spinning to SA and EU and sometimes out West/North.
Night Time Asia
Up until now, I had a very hard time working ASIA. I almost NEVER hear anything in Asia. I would be lucky to hear Japan every once in awhile but this night was different. Not only did I make Japan contacts, I also made contact with China, Singapore, Asiatic Russia and even heard South Korea. I was a very happy ham radio operator.
Things are looking better!
Even though I walked away to spend some time playing with the kids and doing some work around the house, I crushed my 2011 record. I was now in “contest mode” where that was all I thinking about. Once I started struggling on 40m, I went to bed hoping conditions will stay the same for sunday.
I went to bed with 700,000pts. I now had dreams of making my first ever 1,000,000pts from home.
10 Meters was alive and business was a booming
I missed grayline but after my Sunday Morning coffee and Bagel, I went back on the air to find 10, 15 and 20 booming with activity. 40m was booming but I was hearing mostly the big guns working people that I couldn’t even hear. After clearing out any possible mults I went to work at my rate. I was clicking and spinning as fast as I can. If I couldn’t establish contact in two tries, I moved on unless it was a multiplier or much needed DXCC entity. Western Sahara (S0S) took a good hour to break.
10 meter was just amazing. People were complaining about 10m band conditions a week prior but by looking at the above spectrum, 700Khz were packed with stations. I spent a good part of my day on 10 and 15.
15m open to Japan
Towards the end of the contest, 15 meters opened up to Japan. When everyone was on 40, I was still on 15 working as many Japan Stations as possible. My rates suffered but I was having to much fun working areas I never worked before. I’ve exceeded my goals so now it’s just working mults and needed DX.
I will say that the K3 with the 1.8KHz filter worked like a charm. However the best option for the K3 was the Digital Voice Keyer. I control the DVK using CAT commands through N1MM and it made contesting much easier. I can still talk after the contest!
The fun must come to an end.
I went back to 40m for the last 5min of the contest and watched my pan adapter to see the entire spectrum that was alive with signals fade out to just a few. I am sure the ragchewers and net participants jumped for joy but I was also jumping with joy. It’s done. I can return to life.
I ended up with over 1.25 million points. I wanted to stop at 1 million but when I reached it, I had around 890 contacts and I started concentrating at making at least 1,000 contacts. Too bad I wasn’t focusing on countries worked because I would have pushed harder to get 3 or 4 band DXCC instead of putting around towards the end.
It felt great. I’ve broke many personal records and now I’ve set the bar high when it comes to future contests. I also felt like I am finally helping out the Yankee Clipper Contest Club (YCCC) in which I was logging for. I often feel intimidated by the YCCC members due to the massive score submissions and their station. Even though every point counts, 50k or even 100k appears to be small potatoes to them. I know I can run with the best of them on phone, but I don’t have station to prove it. This year was an improvement for sure.
No matter what I do, I try to walk away with learning something. Even though I participated in many contests, I am still learning and being reminded about things I forgot about or don’t care about. I need to work on antennas for 80, 40 and maybe even 160 meter. The solar cycle is not going to improve and if I want to maintain 1 million points, I need improve my antenna situation.
Due to my property size, I am looking at some options. I think I could get away with a double L antenna for 80/160. However I feel I might end up with inverted V dipoles. I also need to complete my 300′ receive beverage antenna that is looking at Europe. I may even upgrade to a reverse-able beverage so I can hear SA better as well.
I was reminded to make sure my station is in COMPLETE working order. CQ World Wide CW is a month away and I need to make sure my homebrew winkeyer can do the job. I
It was fun and thanks for reading my Soapbox. Scores have been submitted to CQ and YCCC and logs have been uploaded to LoTW and Clublog. Now I get to see what LoTW confirmations come through. So far two new DXCC contacts and a ton of band confirmations. Well worth getting on the air.