1996 CQ WW SSB Contest


K5ZD, Single Operator, All Band, High Power

By Randall A. Thompson, K5ZD

Summary Sheet

          CQ WORLD WIDE DX CONTEST -- 1996

Call: K5ZD                     Country:  United States
Mode: SSB                      Category: Single Operator
                                         High Power


 160      46       97     2.11     11      29    1/4-wave GP, Inv vee @ 90'
  80     237      647     2.73     16      74    Inv vee @ 95', 1-/4-wave GP
  40     312      893     2.86     27      86    40-2CD @ 110'
  20     994     2908     2.93     34     125    Stacked 205CA @ 100'/50'
  15     728     2146     2.95     27     110    5-el 15 @ 70'
  10      74      210     2.84      9      27    TH7DXX @ 90'

Totals  2391     6901     2.89    124     451  =>  3,968,075

The Station

  • Radio 1 – Icom IC-765 + Alpha 76CA (connected to either tower 1 or 2)
  • Radio 2 – Kenwood TS-930S + Drake L-4B (connected to only tower 2)

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

  • TH7DXX at 90′
  • 40m 1/2-wave sloper to west
  • 80m 1/4-wave elevated GP with 4 radials
  • 160m Inv Vee with top at 88′

The Story

Sometimes it is far better to be lucky than good…

I had a number of very good reasons to operate this contest:

  1. It is one of my favorite contests, has fantastic world wide activity, and signals the
    beginning of the fall contest season.
  2. I had done a lot of work on the station over the summer with this contest in mind. I raised my 70′ tower to 90′. Added an Inv vee for 160 to help with the Caribbean (it didn’t). I worked on the audio switching inside the station to simplify going between radios. Rebuilt my TH7DXX to like new condition. Got some bandpass filters for the second station.
  3. My nemesis, K1AR, had a business commitment that would prevent him from operating the contest. Wow! After 3 years of finishing second to John, here was my chance to win.
  4. I had done a lot of work rebuilding K1IU (now K1AM) this summer and had all of his antennas working. I even put him together with W2SC who was looking for a station to single op from. Now we were finally going to find out which station was

I had some pretty good reasons not to operate this contest:

  1. I am involved in a start-up software company that is demanding virtually every waking moment of my time. It is exciting, but leaves me exhausted at the end of each day.
  2. My former employer threatens me with a lawsuit. Needless to say, this consumes a lot of mental energy!
  3. My 6 year old son Andrew had several competing activities for the weekend including cub scouts and his final soccer game of the year (I am assistant coach).
  4. It is the bottom of the sunspot cycle and this would be one of the better years to skip!

Those of you who are used to reading my annual contest stories know that I always seem
to find a way around these distractions. But this year, the reasons not to operate were

Tuesday night before the contest, I turn on the radio and the bands sound broken. Even a C6A station on 160 seems to have auroral flutter! The next morning before work, I listen across the bands and there is not a signal moving the S-meter at 12Z. This is about as bad as conditions can get.

They improve a little bit on Thursday, but it still doesn’t sound very good. Given the external pressures in my life, I decide that I will prepare to do the contest, but will probably not do the whole thing. I want to save myself for SS CW and WW CW.

I get home about 5PM Friday night and take a nap until 7:00. The contest starts at 8PM. I sit down, mark all the amp settings, and listen to how poor things sound. I start on 20m S&P for the first 5 minutes. Work CY0XX who is 40db over 9 plus some Caribbean. Go to 40m and it sounds OK. I settle in with the main radio on 40 and the second station on 20 beaming south.

I am able to CQ transmitting on 7189 and listening on 7088. Get a short run of about 10 Europeans. It is murder listening through all the QRM. Best catch is RA4AG for a sometimes difficult double mult. 40m kind of dies to Europe around 0130Z and then things really slow down.

When I get to 75m, ON4UN is only about S4. We work and I know it is going to be a long night if John is that weak.

Usually when conditions are poor, I can always count on spending some time on 160m picking up new multipliers. This year, 160 was very marginal. Except for IG9/IV3TAN. What a signal he had, both nights, all the time. It was amazing to hear him CQing S7 to S9, and yet not another European signal on the band. My only Europeans on 160 the first night were YU1ZZ and CU2AF. Called 9A800OS many times without success.

This left 75m as the only place to hang out. I settled in around 3820 calling CQ and listening down around 3648. The rate was slow but steady. I would CQ for 10 or 15 minutes, then go to another band for S&P. Kept the second rig on 20 all night picking up each new LU station as they showed up. Had a good run of Europeans on 75m from 0330Z to 0530Z. Managed to work some good multipliers that called me — UA2FJ, RA4CC, ES7RE, LY1DQ, OH3RB, HB0/DL6FDB, IT9THD, SL3ZV, UT4UZ, and GU3HFN. This is why calling CQ is so important on the low bands. Had an even better run on 75m during the 06Z hour. The next morning on 15m, OH1EH tells me that only a few US stations were coming through – me, KC1XX, W1FJ. Wow. Those guys have lots better antennas than my inverted vee!

Meant to go to bed at 07Z but kept finding just one more QSO. Then decided that 08Z would be bedtime but kept finding more QSOs. Worked JF1IST and JA1YXP on 40m. Finally at 0845Z, it slowed to the point that I decided to get some sleep. This is the point that I “quit” the contest as I would normally never sleep during the first night.

Got back on at 1030Z (90 minutes of sleep). Surprised to find 20m open so I did a couple of quick sweeps across the band. It must not have been runnable because I went to 40m at 11Z and caught some good multipliers — UA0JQ was the best.

Back to 20m at 1110Z and sat down on 14157. Stayed here for an hour of 113 QSOs. Started checking 15m with the second radio about 12Z. Worked some Caribbean stations and then noticed that the Europeans appeared to be coming in direct path. Tried to run on 15m for 15 minutes but not very good rate. Went back and amazingly recaptured 14156! Ran there for another 30+ minutes.

Finally 15m warmed up enough to do something. At 1252Z I settled on 21238 and had 100+ rate for an hour and then did more S&P. I don’t know if I was not loud or if there was low activity, but I just wasn’t able to command a frequency.

Some time later, it was really depressing when I chatted with K1DG at KC1XX and he was 200 QSOs ahead of me for the morning and said N6BV had a 200+ hour. Wow… We were talking up on 21392 which was the first clear spot I had been able to find. It was good to me as 9H1DE and W4WET/TF7 were two new mults that called in.

About 1440Z I was starting to lose interest in the contest. Its amazing how the drive to continue goes away once you think you are out of it. I stopped for a moment to talk with W2SC at K1IU. I told him I was going to quit and wanted to know his line score so I could see how I was doing. I don’t think Tom really wanted to trade numbers and asked if I was sure I was quitting. He told me he was at 438K. I made a surprised comment and told him I was looking at 800K+ on my screen. I think this mentally destroyed Tom for the next few hours (sorry OM). It also made me give some thought to continuing…

I scanned 15m one more time and then went to 20m at 1450Z. Wedged my way in on 14196 and had a pretty good run of Europeans. The rate meter was well over 100 when my wife came in to ask me about something at 1509Z. I had 900 QSOs exactly.

I left the radio and helped her with a project. Then I had some breakfast and fell asleep on the couch. After another 90 minute sleep break, it was time to get my son ready for the soccer game. While he was getting dressed, I sneaked into the shack and did a little high speed S&P. From 1757Z to 1820Z (23 minutes) I worked 55 stations and 13 multipliers. Most of them were on a virgin 10m band. If I had a dollar for every LU that commented on my signal during this period I could afford to buy some more antennas!

I took Andrew to the soccer game (another loss). The weather outside was fantastic. A perfect sunny, crisp fall New England day.

Got back on the air around 2005Z and tuned across 10 and 15m chasing QSOs. Finally got to 20m and started to run on 14176 about 2039Z. Had a good hour or more and then discovered JAs were coming in. Kept moving the beam between Eu and JA.

About this time I got into a rather juvenile frequency fight with K7RI. I had heard him come on the frequency so I knew I was there first. But he was working JA and I was beaming Europe so we coexisted for awhile. Once I started trying to work JA, he moved down exactly on top of me and we traded senseless CQing for awhile. Then we yelled at each other and finally I “won”. This is the kind of stupid thing I would never waste time doing if I was serious. As it turned out, I felt rather silly and embarrassed when it was over.

I got to 40m about 2300Z. The band was rocking and rolling with 40 over S9 signals from
one end to the other. It was obvious that I was a little late. I started CQing on 7182 QSX
7057. Had a nice string of 65 QSOs. Best multiplier was 9K/YO9HP for a double! It definitely seems that split frequency on 40m phone is getting more productive each year.
Less broadcast station QRM or better radios?

At 2330Z it was dinner time. Had a wonderful spaghetti dinner with my wife and son. This must be how “normal” people ENJOY contests. There is a lot less pressure when you can just walk away at any time.

I came back at 0015Z and started CQing on 7193 QSX 7093. I ran another 36 stations with the best being OX3SA for a very rare double mult. Things slowed down around 0100Z and it became a game of search and pounce. 160m and 75m conditions were better the second night but the activity was not (or I had already worked most of the loud stations). Kept checking 160 but not much was happening. Worked M6T, EA8AK, CT3FN and ZD8Z among others.

I compared scores with KM9P about 05Z or so. We had exactly the same QSO total but he
was over 50 multipliers ahead. I figured it was up to him or N6BV to win.

I made only 4 contacts between 0500Z and 0534Z and decided that I had enough. Went to sleep and set the alarm for 1045Z. Didn’t actually hear it and don’t wake up until after 11Z. Getting 5 hours of sleep on Saturday night in a DX contest really gave me a new view of Sunday!

I woke up with the goal of seeing if I could make the top ten and get in the band breakdown box. Comparing to previous year’s rate sheets I could see that I was in good shape on the LF bands, but needed lots of QSOs and mults on 15 and 20. I dug out the results in CQ Magazine for the past two years to see if I could guess what it would take to make the top ten. It looked like 2.5M would be enough.

Took me 15 minutes to find a frequency on 20m and started to run about 1127Z. It was OK, but the band had a funny sound to it. Almost like it does at the top of the cycle when the MUF has risen way above the band. Signals were hollow sounding and some of the deep Asians were pretty loud.

Turned on the second rig and checked 15m. The band was already wide open with excellent European signals. First signal I heard was S01M at 1143Z for a new multiplier. Immediately switched the main radio to 15m and started searching for a frequency to call CQ. Took 5 minutes to land on 21287.

Thus began the best hour of rate I have ever had in a DX contest from the USA. I worked
310 QSOs in the next 106 minutes. QRATE calculated the best hour at 203! Interestingly, it was the ‘perfect’ kind of high rate — usually only one or two stations calling at a time
with very few repeats. Opening the morning with this kind of rate really got me going.

Strangely, the next 2 hours were not very good. It was almost like the band took a dive
or the arrival angle passed out of the hot spot of my antenna. I even went back to 20m to
CQ for awhile it was so bad. Started running again on 21248 about 1430Z. Best call was
from VU2PAI for a double mult. The “low” rate gave me a chance to chase Africans on 10m. This really started to help the multiplier total. Called stations almost all of the 15Z hour.

Finally settled into 14198 around 16Z and started the run that would eventually decide
the contest. Four solid hours in a row (1602Z until 2002Z) on the same frequency produced plenty of QSOs AND mults. Plus it gave me a base of operations I could do the second radio stuff from. Some of the interesting things that CALLED ME included: HS0ZAA, VU2PAI, HS1BV, UK8IW, some JAs and UA9s, UN0G, VU2HDA, HL1CW, VU2MTT, EA6JN, 4S7RF, A45ZN, 4S7OF, some 4X4s, ZC4EE, T88T, 8Q7BT, 4WET/TF7, OD5NJ, CT3HG, GD4PTV, GM0ILB/Shetlands, 9J2BO, and UK0A.

I keep talking about this second radio stuff. What’s it really worth? Well, during the same 4 hour period when I was running on 20 and had 367 QSOs plus all those great multipliers call in, here are some of the mults I worked on 10m and 15m using the second rig: HC0E, 3DA0DX, V51GB, 8R1K, V59T, AH8A, 9J2SZ, 5C8MC, D44BS, VP9ID, 9L1MA, KP2BH, and ZD7SAS. This is all without ever transmitting on two bands at the same time! It is amazing how easy it can be to find pileups and opportunities to call stations even with rates over 1/minute on the CQing frequency. All made possible by our friend the DVP!

I went back and counted up my second radio QSOs for the contest. I had only 128 of them. 25 were new zones. An amazing 63 were for new country multipliers! As you can see, I don’t waste much effort on working contacts on the second rig but I do make a big effort to chase multipliers.

My wife came home from the store at 2002Z so I had to take a break to unload groceries from the car and eat lunch. Back on about 2040Z until the end of the contest. Did some more S&P for awhile chasing multipliers then back to CQing on 20. Got 14172 about 2123Z and had some more good rate and mults. Called by 3A2HB and then the shock of the weekend — SU1ER! Too bad I didn’t have all those other zones you need for WAZ.

Got down to 40m about 2230Z and it was even better than the night before. The band was packed! When searching for a listening frequency I was surprised to hear the big USA multi-multi stations listening on frequencies like 7012, 7014, and 7020. I had always tried to stay above 7040 if possible (and certainly above 7030 at the lowest). I listened down and they were getting plenty of answers.

Worked OD5NJ while looking for a spot. I found a transmit frequency just off of K3LR at 7182 and started listening on 7014. It sure is easier to run stations when they are in the clear rather than under some loud Italian or Slovenian! Called by JY9QJ and EW4MM for few multipliers. Had to give up on 7014 when V59T started calling CQ there! Decided to listen up at 7075 to capture some of the guys who were obeying the band plan and was rewarded with GI4VKS and LX1NO for new ones.

Things really slowed down in the last half hour. Even tried CQing for VEs on 75m with no luck. Finally decided to try 160 at the end. Heard 9A800OS the loudest he had been all
weekend and managed to get his attention for a new multiplier at 2357. Two kHz down was TK1A for another new one at 2359Z. Great way to end up!

Went to 3830 to listen to the scores. Heard K3ZO check in with 3.0M and was a bit surprised to be ahead of him. As the multi-single scores came in, I started to get excited. Then N6BV was below me. When KM9P checked in with 3.6M I was really thrilled because it meant I may have gotten lucky! Is there anyone with a bigger score hiding out there? Guess it will have to wait for the high claimed scores to come out.

According to CT, I operated 34.1 hours. This is just about right as a I had set the off
threshold to 20 minutes. I was pretty serious when I was on the air, so all I really gave up were the sleep periods and short breaks. The 4 hours off on Saturday afternoon may have been worth as much as 200-400K on the final score. On the other hand, if I had not taken
the breaks I may have made more mistakes and even finished worse!

In an ironic twist, I can say that if K1AR was going to be on, I probably would have skipped the contest completely. They had a major power failure at K1EA’s station for a number of hours on Sunday, so there is no guarantee that John would have overcome that. But if he had been on, I wouldn’t have been there, so… If you want to win, you have to operate the best you can as much as you can. There are no sure things!

Some general comments…

Bad conditions in the days leading up to and during the contest really seemed to have hurt activity. Especially on the second day. It was obvious from the big pile-ups that the serious multi-ops were on, but not the casual entries.

The packet pile-ups were as instantaneous as ever. Very frustrating to get there first and then not make a QSO as a pile of packet assisted ops show up. The packet piles weren’t as deep as past years so it was easy to come back in 10 minutes or so and make a QSO.

My pet peeve regarding packet is what it has done to split frequency on 80 and especially 40m. I listened to ZD8Z on 40m for 8 minutes (all while vainly searching for his listening frequency) without him announcing it. Just as I found it, he gave it out. When we worked, I told him about it and he replied that with the packet pileup he didn’t need to give it. That’s great for Jim, but a pain in the butt for those of us doing it the old fashioned way! I don’t mind waiting a bit but 8 minutes seems a little long.

I did not hear a single station going by call areas all weekend. Overall, the operating
that I observed was excellent. Not many lids on either side of the pileups.

It was also amazing after the contest to read the reports by various DX stations that made thousands of QSOs, yet I had never heard them all weekend! This contest is just getting too big.

See you in WW CW!

Randy Thompson, K5ZD

Continent Statistics

                  160   80   40   20   15   10   ALL   percent

North America      33   57   33   62   32   10   227     9.5
South America       4   21   30   63   66   57   241    10.1
Europe              5  152  223  740  592    0  1712    71.6
Asia                0    0    6  102   15    0   123     5.1
Africa              4    8   13   11   20    7    63     2.6
Oceania             0    0    7   16    3    0    26     1.1

Hourly Rate Breakdown

HOUR      160      80       40       20       15       10    HR TOT  CUM TOT  

   0    .....     2/2     45/26    17/14    .....    .....    64/42   64/42 
   1     2/1     14/12    20/13    14/5       .        .      50/31  114/73 
   2     5/4      8/1      8/3     14/5       .        .      35/13  149/86 
   3      .      29/19     9/5      4/2       .        .      42/26  191/112
   4     7/6     35/10     3/2      5/2       .        .      50/20  241/132
   5     4/3     34/7      5/2      3/1       .        .      46/13  287/145
   6     3/2     57/7       .       1/1       .        .      61/10  348/155
   7     5/4     15/8     14/5       .        .        .      34/17  382/172
   8     1/1      1/1     15/7      1/1     .....    .....    18/10  400/182
   9      .        .        .        .        .        .        .    400/182
  10      .       1/0       .      29/14      .        .      30/14  430/196
  11      .        .       6/4    105/21     6/6       .     117/31  547/227
  12      .        .        .      72/5     41/22      .     113/27  660/254
  13      .        .        .       6/2    127/17      .     133/19  793/273
  14      .        .        .      26/3     55/10      .      81/13  874/286
  15      .        .        .      26/1       .        .      26/1   900/287
  16    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....  900/287
  17      .        .        .       6/1       .        .       6/1   906/288
  18      .        .        .      12/1       .      37/11    49/12  955/300
  19      .        .        .        .        .        .        .    955/300
  20      .        .        .      34/7     43/15     9/0     86/22 1041/322
  21      .        .        .      62/3      5/3       .      67/6  1108/328
  22      .        .       1/1     45/7      1/0       .      47/8  1155/336
  23      .        .      60/7       .        .        .      60/7  1215/343
   0    .....    .....    39/3     .....    .....    .....    39/3  1254/346
   1     1/0      5/3      1/1       .        .        .       7/4  1261/350
   2     5/3     11/2      6/1       .        .        .      22/6  1283/356
   3     3/2      8/2     10/1       .        .        .      21/5  1304/361
   4     6/1     13/3      2/0       .        .        .      21/4  1325/365
   5     2/2      2/0       .        .        .        .       4/2  1329/367
   6      .        .        .        .        .        .        .   1329/367
   7      .        .        .        .        .        .        .   1329/367
   8    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....    ..... 1329/367
   9      .        .        .        .        .        .        .   1329/367
  10      .        .        .        .        .        .        .   1329/367
  11      .       1/0      2/1     33/1     52/3       .      88/5  1417/372
  12      .        .        .        .     203/7       .     203/7  1620/379
  13      .        .        .      14/0     77/6      1/1     92/7  1712/386
  14      .        .        .      25/3     44/3      3/3     72/9  1784/395
  15      .        .        .        .      29/5     12/11    41/16 1825/411
  16    .....    .....    .....    78/6     .....     5/1     83/7  1908/418
  17      .        .        .      91/6      8/5      2/0    101/11 2009/429
  18      .        .        .      89/3      9/6       .      98/9  2107/438
  19      .        .        .     109/5      2/0      5/0    116/5  2223/443
  20      .        .        .       4/1     20/1       .      24/2  2247/445
  21      .        .        .      55/6      4/1       .      59/7  2306/452
  22      .        .      24/2     11/1      2/2       .      37/5  2343/457
  23     2/2      1/0     42/4      3/1       .        .      48/7  2391/464
DAY1    27/21   196/67   186/75   482/96   278/73    46/11    ..... 1215/343
DAY2    19/10    41/10   126/13   512/33   450/39    28/16      .   1176/121
TOT     46/31   237/77   312/88  994/129  728/112    74/27      .   2391/464

BREAKDOWN in Hours/QSO's per hr

DAY1  1.3/21   3.6/55   3.6/52   5.7/84   2.8/101  0.4/121   .....  17.3/70 
DAY2  1.4/13   1.5/28   3.2/39   6.2/83   3.9/114  0.6/46      .    16.9/70 
TOT   2.7/17   5.0/47   6.8/46  11.9/84   6.7/109  1.0/74      .    34.1/70