1999 ARRL DX CW Contest (W2SC opr)
K5ZD (W2SC opr.), Single Op All Band, High Power
By Tom Georgens, W2SC
ARRL INTERNATIONAL DX CONTEST -- 1999 Call: K5ZD (W2SC op) Country: United States Mode: CW Category: Single Operator BAND QSO COUNTRIES 160 44 29 GP 80 218 54 Inverted V 40 723 70 402CD 20 815 77 5/5, TH7 15 1044 89 5/5, TH7 10 825 85 6L, TH7 ---------------------- Totals 3669 404 = 4,446,828
This year’s ARRL DX story begins at 5AM Wednesday morning when I wake up to catch a flight to California for an important business review with my pseudo board of directors. Many days of preparation go into the meeting and it goes well but is a very intense 5 hours. When it is over, I get a page offering me tickets to the Warriors game, but I pass in recognition of a big weekend ahead. The next morning, I am up again at 5 AM for the cross country trip to K5ZD’s and arrive in Boston at about 4:30 PM. The car rental counter and rush hour traffic are relatively painless and I get to Randy’s station at about 6:30.
After the CQWW SSB debacle, I was determined to be ready for this contest and was pleased that Randy had almost everything working before I even arrived. A couple weeks earlier he picked up my AL-1200 from my old station for use with the second radio and had set up the two radio switching box I built last summer. Randy debugged the radio interface box for the second radio and I replayed the traditional ritual of remembering which LPT bit controls Radio 1/Radio 2 in which version of CT. In relatively short order, everything was working and seemed ready to go and it was time for some desperately needed sleep.
After being in bed for a few minutes, I hear some rustling but figure it is just the dog in the hall. The next thing I know something is hitting me on the head and it turns out to be one of Randy’s cats. I reach for the cat but it runs and hides. A while later, I wake up to a cat standing on me. This time I grabbed the cat, put it in the hall and went back to bed. Minutes later, another cat jumps on me. That cat was also captured, put in the hall, and I returned to bed for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning I was checking the bands for propagation in light of the disturbed conditions that were predicted. The bands indeed were as bad as the numbers would indicate. I started to set up CT (cty file, master file, etc) when I discovered that I could not key the radios. It appeared that CT could not talk to LPT2, and LPT1 was already used for the Radio1/Radio 2 switching. Several calls to Randy led to the conclusion that the port was disabled in DOS and neither of us knew how to turn it back on. Much to Randy’s displeasure, I decided to take apart his W1WEF keying interface and merge the radio control and CW bits and use LPT1 for both functions, which worked fine all weekend. As much as we try to not have to rewire the station to suit our individual tastes, it never works out that way.
It is now around 17Z and I have some personal errands to run as my old house in Massachusetts has just been put up for sale and there are a number of things to resolve. I return around 1830Z to get a nap before the contest. When I wake up, I check my messages at work and things are relatively quiet. I make a mental note that this is the first time I can remember that there were no burning crises keeping me on the phone until minutes before the contest.
As I sit in front of the radios, it seems like everything is ready. My only concern now is myself. I have not operated CW since last ARRL at 8P9JG and the time before that was the 1997 ARRL DX. I felt very rusty when listening on the bands and, particularly, when sending. I had not sent code with a paddle in two years. I did not think running would be a problem (as it wasn’t from 8P) but I figured that S&P’ing on the second radio would be an issue. Nonetheless, I would just make the best of it and hope it came back quickly.
With conditions the way they were, there was little alternative other than to start on 40. When the contest started, 40 meter signals did not sound anywhere near as strong as they had earlier in the day and the response to my initial CQ’s were sporadic but still decent. After 30 minutes, I had 50 Q’s but did not feel very strong. From there the rate dropped and I started combing 20 and 15 for multipliers. The first hour ended with an unimpressive 78 Q’s. The next hour was spent multiplier chasing combined with relatively unproductive CQ’ing on 40 and netted an anemic 68 Q’s.
In the next hour I tried 80 for the first time, and it was miserable. Signals seemed very weak and the noise was deafening, even with the beverage. 160 was not much better as the noise was equally bad on top band. While the Caribbean stations were especially loud, the noise blanketed all but the strongest Europeans. It was clearly going to be a long night on the low bands. My apologies to the stations calling on 80 that I simply could not pull through the noise.
A couple hours into the contest, the second radio started to act strange. At first I thought I had serious interstation interference but the problem persisted even when I was not sending. I knew that Randy had been having problems with the radio but never did it impact a contest. Throughout the night, the radio would work some times but not others and I could not figure out the pattern. I more or less resigned myself to the fact that it would be a one radio weekend. However, around 0730Z Randy stopped by before going to bed and I told him about the radio. He was surprised since the problem usually dissipates after a warm-up period, but he added a critical bit of information, it was only a problem on 20. This explains why it seemed to work intermittently. With that information, if I ran on the second radio on all bands but 20, I could once again use two radios.
In contrast to most of the night, 40 turned productive around 07Z and Europeans were runnable to 09Z. The next 90 minutes were spent chasing multipliers and was capped with a first ever (for me) JA “run” on 40 up to 1030Z. At this point I had a disappointing 588 Q’s, mostly on 40, and it was time to see if the high bands would rebound from the storm.
Twenty was hot from the first CQ and was the start of 9 consecutive 100 hours in which 1200 stations were worked. After a quick 152 Q’s, listening on the second radio, signals were strong on 15 and it was time to jump even though the rate meter was over 170/hr. 15 proved to be even more intense and the subsequent 60 minutes were a Qrate best of 186/hr. 181 Q’s later, 1235Z, 10 started to sound good and I jumped 10 with rate meter once again hovering around 180. I was nervous about this transition since ten did not play well at all in the CQWW SSB and the new 6 element at 25 feet was unproven.
Ten performed reasonably well. It was not the frenzy of 20 and 15 but was consistent and I finished the 11Z and 12Z hours with 173 and 179 Q’s respectively. It was my best single and consecutive hours ever from a stateside QTH. I could not maintain the pace on 10 and the rate slowly dropped, but was still respectable. After 530 Q’s the band seemed to be losing some volume and despite still being runnable, it seemed time to go back to 15 so I QSY’d at 1538Z. Rate was still strong at about 2/minute and at 1635Z I made my first second radio QSO in nearly 6 hours. With more second radio Q’s finding their way into the log I went back to 20 at 1839Z. I remember contests from here where I made 2/3 of all Q’s on twenty, but this time I felt that I was neglecting the band. The rate picked up again but my string of 100+ hours was snapped at 20Z with a 97 hour.
At 2140Z it was off to 40 meters to grab the early 40 meter opening but it was not to be. Two separate trips to 40 were not fruitful as the usually big hours never materialized. At 2311Z I worked a JA on 10 but did not hear much else and could not get a run going. However, when tuning on 15 I heard a pile of JA’s calling W1WEF so I tried to run a few JA’s, while simultaneously hoping for some good multipliers to call in. As it turned out, there was an excellent opening and I ran off 170 stations plus another dozen on the second radio. This was easily my best JA run ever and had the bonus of HL, BA, DU, and KL7 thrown in.
At the half way point I had 2121 Q’s and 321 multipliers for just over 2 million points. The high band totals looked good but I had less than 100 Q’s on 80. Also, the multiplier totals were pretty poor and I was very concerned. As it turned out, I would never get my 40 and 20 meter multipliers to a reasonable level. Randy has a rule of thumb that the final score is two times the 24 hour score plus 10% which would put my estimated final score at 4.4 million.
As the second day began, I knew I had to regain ground on 80 and was hoping for better propagation on 160 as this is a strong band from here and would give me a chance to get some extra multipliers. As it turned out, the noise levels on 80 and 160 were down dramatically but signal levels were still not that good. I spent the next six hours slugging it out mostly on 80 and 160 with moderate success. However, the 07Z and 08Z hours on 40 were even better than the night before. 09Z on the second day is never a pleasant hour and this year it was no different with my only sub-10 hour of the contest. At this time I debated whether to to take one of my usual 15 minute naps but decided to just push on.
The Sunday rotation went as smoothly as the day before and 11Z, 12Z, and 13Z all produced 100+ hours. At 1555Z, it seemed like it was time to return to 15 meters but, upon returning to the band, I just could not get anything going. A similar event occurred in the CQWW SSB where I lost propagation on 15 about this time. I qsy’d back to 10 for another hour before returning to a healthier 15 meters. The remainder of the contest was spent running on 20, looking to add to my lowly multiplier total, and hoping for a good stint on 40 before the contest was over. Unfortunately, 40 never produced for me and I ran out the contest on 20.
When the contest was over I finished with 3669 Q’s, a new record for me, and 404 multipliers, which was sure to be problematic. I also felt great despite being up for the full 48 hours. I think the lack of pre-contest stress made a definite difference and I did not feel mentally or physically tired. While I was hardly 100%, it was, by far the best I have ever felt after one of these events.
When the contest was over, it was time for the 3830 ritual. However, the frequency was busy and the inhabitants were not eager to cede the frequency. This only served to incense a pack of loud, tired contesters and chaos ensued. Randy and I got a huge laugh out of mild mannered K3ZO mixing it up with these guys. Even K1AR was yapping at them. In the end, after spending 48 hours operating with 250 Hz of separation, a clear frequency was not found and the scores were not taken. In fairness to the rag chewers, had they plopped down on my run frequency during the contest, I would have been just aggressive about running them off.
About a half hour after the contest ended, the phone rings and a very tired sounding K1DG is on the other end. He drops the surprising news that he is also SOAB and wants to know my score, having already talked to W4AN and N2NT. It turns out that we are virtually tied with only 1% separating our scores. In a few minutes it was clear that I really hurt myself by not aggressively moving multipliers between bands. Similarly, I suspect Doug wished he did not take three hours sleep. Nonetheless we had a good conversation and I hung up thinking that I sure felt better than he sounded.
When the cone of silence is lifted from K1ZM’s score, I suspect that he will be the winner and I offer my congratulations. It was also great to see many class op’s return to SOAB and dramatically increase the competition.
All in all, despite the rust and mild disappointment in my score, I had a great deal of fun. I would like to thank Randy (K5ZD) for the use of his fine station and his wife Connie and son Andrew for their tolerance and hospitality. Also, thanks to the other fine operators who continually raise the bar on the competition and, especially, all of the stations who took the time to give me a QSO.
73 and I also love this game,
160 80 40 20 15 10 ALL percent North America CW 16 22 20 23 23 22 126 3.4 South America CW 2 2 5 13 19 20 61 1.7 Europe CW 25 188 633 732 766 749 3093 84.3 Asia CW 1 1 50 33 224 22 331 9.0 Africa CW 0 1 5 5 6 6 23 0.6 Oceania CW 0 4 10 9 6 6 35 1.0
HOUR 160 80 40 20 15 10 HR TOT CUM TOT 0 ..... ..... 76/29 2/2 ..... ..... 78/31 78/31 1 . . 44/5 20/15 4/3 . 68/23 146/54 2 . 8/6 66/6 . . . 74/12 220/66 3 3/3 20/14 26/4 . . . 49/21 269/87 4 . 23/6 9/6 6/3 . . 38/15 307/102 5 7/5 10/2 40/1 . . . 57/8 364/110 6 . 17/5 36/1 . . . 53/6 417/116 7 5/5 5/4 53/4 . . . 63/13 480/129 8 1/0 7/4 52/2 ..... ..... ..... 60/6 540/135 9 2/2 . 24/3 1/1 . . 27/6 567/141 10 1/1 4/3 10/0 67/22 . . 82/26 649/167 11 . . . 91/13 82/27 . 173/40 822/207 12 . . . . 100/11 79/32 179/43 1001/250 13 . . . . . 146/10 146/10 1147/260 14 . . . . . 137/6 137/6 1284/266 15 . . . . 50/3 67/1 117/4 1401/270 16 ..... ..... ..... 1/0 112/3 4/4 117/7 1518/277 17 . . . . 98/3 10/3 108/6 1626/283 18 . . . 45/2 57/1 4/1 106/4 1732/287 19 . . . 114/4 10/3 . 124/7 1856/294 20 . . . 91/1 . 6/4 97/5 1953/299 21 . . 16/0 14/0 16/10 7/1 53/11 2006/310 22 . . 26/1 . 15/4 1/1 42/6 2048/316 23 . . 2/0 2/2 68/3 1/0 73/5 2121/321 0 ..... ..... ..... 1/0 77/1 ..... 78/1 2199/322 1 3/2 13/2 6/0 . 38/0 . 60/4 2259/326 2 4/3 8/1 21/0 5/2 . . 38/6 2297/332 3 8/5 17/1 1/0 . . . 26/6 2323/338 4 2/0 15/1 18/0 . . . 35/1 2358/339 5 8/3 20/3 . . . . 28/6 2386/345 6 . 47/1 20/0 . . . 67/1 2453/346 7 . 2/0 72/2 . . . 74/2 2527/348 8 ..... 2/1 63/1 ..... ..... ..... 65/2 2592/350 9 . . 6/3 . . . 6/3 2598/353 10 . . 1/1 78/2 . . 79/3 2677/356 11 . . . 28/0 82/0 . 110/0 2787/356 12 . . . . 85/2 27/3 112/5 2899/361 13 . . . . . 101/6 101/6 3000/367 14 . . . 3/1 . 92/1 95/2 3095/369 15 . . . 1/1 4/1 53/3 58/5 3153/374 16 ..... ..... ..... ..... 18/2 60/2 78/4 3231/378 17 . . . . 70/3 12/1 82/4 3313/382 18 . . . 4/1 42/2 7/1 53/4 3366/386 19 . . . 72/1 9/1 . 81/2 3447/388 20 . . . 60/0 1/1 10/4 71/5 3518/393 21 . . . 49/0 5/4 . 54/4 3572/397 22 . . 35/1 14/2 1/1 1/1 51/5 3623/402 23 . . . 46/2 . . 46/2 3669/404 DAY1 19/16 94/44 480/62 454/65 612/71 462/63 ..... 2121/321 DAY2 25/13 124/10 243/8 361/12 432/18 363/22 . 1548/ 83 TOT 44/29 218/54 723/70 815/77 1044/89 825/85 . 3669/404 BREAKDOWN in mins/QSO's per hr DAY1 0.8/25 2.3/41 7.7/62 4.0/115 5.3/115 3.8/122 ..... 23.8/89 DAY2 1.4/18 2.8/44 4.0/61 4.9/74 5.2/83 4.3/84 . 22.6/68 TOT 2.1/21 5.2/42 11.7/62 8.9/92 10.5/99 8.1/102 . 46.5/79