1998 CQ WW SSB Contest (W2SC opr)
K5ZD (opr. W2SC), Single Operator, All Band, High Power
By Tom Georgens, W2SC
CQ WORLD WIDE DX CONTEST -- 1998 Call: K5ZD (opr. W2SC) Country: United States, Mass. Mode: SSB Category: Single Operator High Power BAND QSOs ZONES COUNTRIES 160 59 11 30 GP with raised radials 80 338 19 77 Inverted Vee 40 317 24 83 402CD @ 110' 20 1060 35 116 5/5 100'/50' 15 1070 32 110 5/5 10 264 25 76 TH7 @ 90, TH7 @ 45 --------------------------------------------------- Totals 3108 146 492 => 5,683,304
- Radio 1 – FT-1000 + Alpha 76CA
- Radio 2 – IC-765 + Drake L-4B
Tower 1 – 100′ Rohn 45G
- 40-2CD @ 110′
- 205CA @ 100′ / 50′
- 5-el 15 @70′ on rotary sidemount
- 6-el 10 @75′ fixed south
- 80m Inv Vee with top at 95′
- 160m 1/4-wave GP with 4 elevated radials
Tower 2 – 90′ Rohn 25G
- Stack of TH7DXX at 90’/45′ using WX0B StackMatch
- 40m 1/2-wave sloper to west
- 80m 1/4-wave elevated GP with 4 radials
- 160m Inv Vee with top at 88′
Early this year Randy asked if I was interested in defending my CQWW SSB title from his station and it did not take long to say yes, as last year’s CQWW was probably the best contest I had ever operated. The station worked well as usual, I made good decisions, and used the second radio as well as ever. In the end, I finished with a big lead in Q’s and multipliers. This year K1AR would be on and I was looking forward to the challenge. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the weekend proved to be full of poor preparation, operating blunders and I ended up not much of a match for K1AR.
Living in Kansas without a station makes it hard to get a feel for the bands. My only operating this year was ARRL CW as 8P9JG and about an hour in the NAQP. The last DX QSO from the US was at 2359Z in last year’s CQWW. I had been told that 10 meters would be open but had little other insight into what to expect.
This year I needed to be in California for a full day meeting on Tuesday so any possibility of arriving on Wednesday night was eliminated. In addition, Randy had a trade show in Texas and would not be home until Saturday night so it was not appropriate to arrive any earlier than necessary. Randy’s wife Connie was remarkably accommodating and I really appreciate her tolerance of my operating.
I arrived Thursday night and began the setup. I had built a two radio switching box over the summer that I had sent ahead for Randy to setup. When I arrived, Randy had the computer set up and most of the switching was ready. After a minor cable change to get the two radio switching to work with CT, it appeared that everything was ready. I also spent some time learning the new antenna switching scheme. We had added a second TH7 this summer for 10 and Randy bought a WX0B SixPak to allow any antenna to reach either radio. His station had been relatively intuitive and now it was even easier.
I eventually cycled through all of the antenna/radio/amp combinations to check for RF and interstation interference especially now that there were several new combinations. Every combination seemed to work OK except that the secondary antennas on 80 and 160 would trash the audio. Randy called that evening to see if everything was all right and I let him know the issues. I also had a minor computer problem and, having had a bad experience with this in the past, I let that go and focused on the RF issue. Randy had a couple of ideas but we agreed to wait until morning to finish the job.
After several hours of troubleshooting I managed to solve the problem by isolating the grounds and using Randy’s audio transformers. However, once I had everything fixed, the audio on the second radio was trashed on every band. This time is was not RF or switching related and would work great when the compressor was off. I was getting tired by then and I was concerned at the energy I had been expending and decided that I would just go without the compressor on radio 2. I also spent a fair amount of time debating whether to drive to my old house and get my AL1200 to replace the L4B as the second radio amplifier. I eventually decided not to add anything new and just take a nap. In the end, I never used the secondary 80 and 160 antennas but I had major problems all weekend working guys on the second radio.
I had a good nap and was well rested. I had a number of issues at work to resolve so I spent the next couple of hours on the phone. Despite being a great HF location, Randy’s place is not very friendly to cell phones. Around 6PM local time I told the people at work that I had to go and I would be “in-communicado” the rest of the weekend. I smiled at the irony at that statement and resumed my focus on the contest ahead.
Around 23Z Randy gave a final call to see if everything was ready. I told him about my plan to not use the compressor on the second radio to which he replied “that sounds like a bad plan.” He said that the 765 has good but very thin audio with absolutely no punch and I would have a problem in the pileups. He was right. I hung up with Randy and settled in to radio room. I was listening to K1AR warming up on 20 to get some sense for the propagation, which was not good. I eventually gave John a call. He was his intense self and told me that we may be tied for now but it would not be that way for long. I kind of felt like Rocky before a fight when Apollo Creed said “You’re goin’ down.”
0Z finally rolled around and I was CQing on 20 and trying to pick up mults on 15 with the second radio. I ran off a few stations but the rate went zero after 10 minutes. I did not have any luck with the 0Z 15 meter pileups last year and this year was no better. After about a half hour I went to 40 to run and managed to get some calls in the log and worked 20 with the second radio. After an hour I had 60 Q’s on 40 but it was slowing down so I went to 80 earlier than usual. 80 proved to be the money band all night long with a 78 hour at 3Z (plus 8 second radio Q’s on 160 and 20) and over 250 Q’s the first night. 160 was a disappointment. I was hoping for a good European opening since this was the one band where I had a major advantage over K1AR but it was not to be. I cycled back through 40 and waited for the high bands to open. I was reasonably pleased with the first night, with the exception of 160, but I was a little behind last year’s multiplier total.
In the 10Z hour, 20 became runnable and I was working guys but the on-frequency QRM was unbearable. On the second radio I heard ‘AR CQing on 15 and getting answers so I decided to QSY for a better frequency. It took a little while to get going but the rate finally picked up. At the time, I was angry that prematurely left good rate on 20 for lesser rate on 15 but the breakdown shows a 139 hour at 11Z.
I was very concerned about missing the 10 meter opening so I listened intently on the second radio. Twice I convinced myself that the stations were loud enough to be runnable and made the band change to 10. Unfortunately, each time I worked a few stations but could not get anything going and had to go back to 15. Finally, around 14Z the band did open but I could manage no better than a 98 hour. The two TH7’s at 90/45 feet did not seem to be even remotely dominant. Eventually 10 ran out and it was back to 15 for two unremarkable 90 hours. At this point I was pretty disappointed in my poor decision making and inability to get big rate on 10 and 15. To compound things, I was having a very difficult time breaking the 10 meter pileups with the second radio. All things considered my frustration level was very high.
In the 17Z hour I went back to 20, the money band at K5ZD, and the rates went back up to 148, 151, and 128 in consecutive hours. It was this period that QRATE measured a best 60 minute rate of 182.
In the next few hours, I completely botched the JA opening. When running JA on 20 I heard JA’s on 15 on the second radio so I decided to QSY to 15 to capture the opening. When CQing on 15 I heard JA’s on 10, an opening I did not expect, so I tried CQing on 10 for a while. Basically, I was not expecting a JA opening on 15, let alone 10, and I ended up working the bands in reverse. When it was all over I could not help but be concerned about how many multipliers I probably missed.
I finally reached the halfway point with 1990 QSOs but a multiplier total that was far less than last year. The halfway point is always a low morale point for me and requires a full mental effort to maintain my motivation. In assessing my performance, I knew that I had made a number of bad decisions and had a poor multiplier total so I gave up hope of competing with K1AR. I knew I would have to be perfect to compete and I certainly was far from perfect. As it turns out, after looking at K1AR’s breakdown post contest, I was actually ahead of him by 77 Q’s but he had 70 more multipliers. My multiplier fears were well founded.
At 0Z, I had a 54 hour on 40 and settled in for the inevitable slow hours that lie ahead. The next 9 hours consisted of rapid band changes and determination to squeeze out every QSO. 160 was much better the second evening but was never runnable. I picked up some good multipliers but it was clear that I would not get full benefit of my 160 advantage. Around 08Z I took my traditional 10 minute nap and the 09Z hour produced the only sub 10 QSO hour of the contest, but with 6 multipliers.
Determined not to repeat the previous day’s mistakes, it was time for the high bands to open but this day was to be more bizarre than the previous. 20 was very slow to open in the morning, the 10Z hour was generally unproductive and 11Z was not much better, but 12Z finally produced a 139 hour. It was clear that the bands were down from the previous day and 10 meters never was really runnable.
After an 89 hour in 14Z, the bottom started to fall out or 15. The stations seemed to be getting weaker and it was getting more difficult to pull them through the QRM. All the while 10 was swimming in African multipliers which I just could not work with the second radio. With rate failing on 15 I gave up and took the main radio to 10 to pick up 5A, 9J, and FR which I had been trying to work for a half hour. Upon returning to 15, I could not build any rate so I tried 20 but it was too early.
At this point, I totally lost my grip and tuned the bands for a while trying to figure out the propagation. In the 16Z hour, I relinquished my QSO lead which I had held for nearly 40 hours. I went back to 15 and simply CQ’d at slow rate while I sought multipliers on the second radio. During this period, K3LP/J6 actually moved *me* to 10. I simply could not buy a QSO as the rate plummeted. Looking at the post contest results, it does not seem as though anybody else suffered to the same degree. In retrospect, I wonder if fatigue took over or if the propagation simply did not favor any of my available antenna combinations. I wish I had this period on tape for review.
Ultimately, 15 never recovered for me and I QSY’d to 20 at the normal time and some semblance of rate returned. I tried one QSY to 40 later on but it was not productive and I mostly ran out the string on 20.
When it was over, I knew I was desperately short of multipliers particularly on 10. On 3830 I listened to the multi scores trying to figure out how I did but nothing made me feel positive about 10. Randy had food on the stove upstairs and was running down to hear the scores. Finally it was time to report single op scores and with the confusion, K1AR slipped in ahead of me to report his score. As he ran through his breakdown I was doing OK until he got to 20 meter mults and it was downhill from there. He took me by about 100 Q’s and 1 million points. I dumped my score in next and I am sure he sweated a little over my low band scores but he got the last laugh in the end.
Contemplating the results, there was a lot of fault to be found. My preparation was poor. I should have swapped amplifiers, I should have fixed the audio problem before going to bed Thursday, and I should have prepared myself better for the 10 meter openings. Likewise my operating technique was not good, many bad decisions and not enough use of the second radio. It was going to take a super effort to compete with ‘AR and I did not even measure up to last year. No excuses, I did not do what it took to win and the better operator prevailed. Congratulations John!
The next morning I left early for the airport just to be sure. Upon arriving at the counter, I was informed that my flight had been cancelled but I had been rescheduled on an earlier flight and they would still honor my free upgrades. I muttered that I finally caught a break this weekend and it is after the contest is over. The guy behind the counter did not understand but I just shook my head without giving an explanation.
Once again I would like to thank Randy for the use of his fine station and for allowing people the privilege of guest op’ing. I especially wish to thank Randy’s wife Connie for allowing me to hang around the house and operate the radio even though Randy was away. Their collective hospitality takes the stress out guest operating and makes me look forward to the next one.
Tom Georgens, W2SC
160 80 40 20 15 10 ALL percent North America SSB 28 49 35 103 52 36 303 9.7 South America SSB 2 10 16 53 24 34 139 4.5 Europe SSB 23 270 240 795 927 168 2423 77.9 Asia SSB 0 3 6 59 45 5 118 3.8 Africa SSB 6 5 9 34 13 18 85 2.7 Oceania SSB 0 1 11 17 10 3 42 1.4
HOUR 160 80 40 20 15 10 HR TOT CUM TOT 0 ..... ..... 35/17 21/14 3/3 ..... 59/34 59/34 1 . . 44/11 20/15 . . 64/26 123/60 2 . 46/23 22/4 8/5 . . 76/32 199/92 3 1/1 78/17 . 7/3 . . 86/21 285/113 4 4/3 53/4 . 13/6 . . 70/13 355/126 5 22/10 . . 2/1 . . 24/11 379/137 6 2/2 48/4 1/0 4/2 . . 55/8 434/145 7 3/1 10/8 22/8 4/0 . . 39/17 473/162 8 1/1 8/6 26/9 ..... ..... ..... 35/16 508/178 9 2/2 12/6 12/9 . . . 26/17 534/195 10 . 1/0 1/0 70/18 12/7 . 84/25 618/220 11 . . . . 133/22 6/5 139/27 757/247 12 . . . . 88/7 14/4 102/11 859/258 13 . . . . 54/3 62/18 116/21 975/279 14 . . . 5/5 3/0 98/10 106/15 1081/294 15 . . . . 91/5 4/4 95/9 1176/303 16 ..... ..... ..... ..... 92/8 11/7 103/15 1279/318 17 . . . 121/14 26/1 1/1 148/16 1427/334 18 . . . 151/7 . . 151/7 1578/341 19 . . . 119/6 9/9 . 128/15 1706/356 20 . . . 80/3 9/8 . 89/11 1795/367 21 . . . 66/1 7/4 4/4 77/9 1872/376 22 . . . 64/8 4/1 6/3 74/12 1946/388 23 . . 15/1 5/1 23/2 1/1 44/5 1990/393 0 ..... ..... 54/6 8/0 ..... ..... 62/6 2052/399 1 6/4 11/0 13/2 2/0 . . 32/6 2084/405 2 2/1 4/0 18/3 4/2 . . 28/6 2112/411 3 2/1 6/2 7/1 . . . 15/4 2127/415 4 2/0 15/1 5/2 . . . 22/3 2149/418 5 9/5 23/2 . . . . 32/7 2181/425 6 3/2 12/1 3/0 2/0 . . 20/3 2201/428 7 . 4/2 21/6 . . . 25/8 2226/436 8 ..... 4/2 8/2 1/0 ..... ..... 13/4 2239/440 9 . 3/3 5/3 1/0 . . 9/6 2248/446 10 . . 4/2 29/0 . . 33/2 2281/448 11 . . . 13/0 55/7 1/0 69/7 2350/455 12 . . . . 139/5 1/0 140/5 2490/460 13 . . . . 92/2 3/3 95/5 2585/465 14 . . . . 86/1 3/2 89/3 2674/468 15 . . . . 38/1 15/6 53/7 2727/475 16 ..... ..... ..... 8/0 14/0 5/2 27/2 2754/477 17 . . . 3/0 40/1 14/2 57/3 2811/480 18 . . . 2/0 20/4 10/3 32/7 2843/487 19 . . . 60/2 6/4 . 66/6 2909/493 20 . . . 43/1 . 4/3 47/4 2956/497 21 . . . 71/2 4/3 1/0 76/5 3032/502 22 . . 1/0 22/2 13/4 . 36/6 3068/508 23 . . . 31/3 9/2 . 40/5 3108/513 DAY1 35/20 256/68 178/59 760/109 554/80 207/57 ..... 1990/393 DAY2 24/13 82/13 139/27 300/12 516/34 57/21 . 1118/120 TOT 59/33 338/81 317/86 1060/121 1070/114 264/78 . 3108/513 BREAKDOWN in Hours/QSO's per hr DAY1 1.5/23 3.8/68 3.2/55 7.5/102 5.6/99 2.2/95 ..... 23.8/84 DAY2 1.3/18 2.7/30 3.2/44 5.9/51 6.4/80 1.4/40 . 20.9/53 TOT 2.8/21 6.5/52 6.4/49 13.3/79 12.1/89 3.6/73 . 44.8/69