1997 ARRL Sweepstakes CW
K5ZD, Single Op, High Power
Randall A. Thompson, K5ZD
ARRL SWEEPSTAKES -- 1997 Call: K5ZD Section: Western Mass Mode: CW Category: Single Op High Power 160 0 0 - 80 183 366 - 40 881 1762 - 20 209 418 - 15 56 112 - 10 5 10 - ----------------------------------- Totals 1334 2668 79 Score: 210,772
- IC-765 and Alpha 76-CA
- 5-el 15 at 65′
- 5-el 20 at 100′
- 2-el 40 at 110′
- 80m Inv Vee at 90′
- FT-1000 and L-4B
- TH7DXX at 90′
- 40m sloper
- 80m 1/4-wave GP
Since W2SC operated the CQ WW Phone contest, I was excited about doing SS CW without being “hung over” from a 44+ hour effort the weekend before. Conditions sounded great with big signals on 15 and 10 meters in the hours before the contest. I was ready!
I started calling CQ on 20. I don’t like to S&P at the beginning since you mostly just work the guys who are going to be on all weekend anyway. Twenty sounded almost deserted and I was not getting many answers. At one point in the first hour I was doing better on the second rig calling stations than the main one calling CQ!
At 2154Z I decided to try 40m. From the Northeast there are always QSOs available on 40! Again the band seemed strangely empty. I started CQing on 7038 while continuing to scan 15m on the second rig. The combined rate was less than spectacular and I was getting frustrated. After 20 minutes I moved up to 7044 to try to find a clearer frequency. Then 7030. I was working stations but it was tough to listen to the western half of the country just running away. When I looked at my rate sheet from the past two years I was already falling way behind.
In retrospect, it was obvious that the good high band conditions were changing the operating preferences of the “masses”! Everyone was seduced into the fun of having 15m (and even some 10m) openings. Once darkness started to kill those bands, everyone finally came down to 40.
At this point I was having the worst start ever in 20 years. I was over 150 QSOs behind the big scorers out west. Thoughts of quitting were seriously considered. N2NT was over 30 QSOs ahead of me and K1AM was 15 ahead (and he was using just one radio!). I kept going only with the goal of continuing my streak of consecutive years over 1000 QSOs (it’s now up to 21!).
About 0040Z I move up to 7058. It was clear and the rate started to improve. This frequency became home base for the next 6 hours. All of my 80m QSOs Saturday evening were made on the second radio. I was a bit surprised to read all the comments about how 80m was the key band for many in the east and how hard 40m frequencies were to find. I think I only had one or two challenges on 7058 all night and they were from W2’s who were within the skip zone.
It was raining all evening but I only had one stretch of about 40 minutes where rain static was a big issue. The S-meter just went to 20 over and stayed there. I didn’t want to give up the frequency and take a break so I listened using my European Beverage. It was quiet, and the Europeans were loud, but it wasn’t the best antenna for hearing Q-power W6’s. The band was also experiencing some very rapid QSB so I was forced to ask for a lot of repeats. Once the rain static cleared, the rate took off. Having 87 and 84 QSOs in the 03 and 04Z hours was amazing and helped improve my attitude.
Things really slowed down about 08Z. I was so worn out from work that I just couldn’t stay awake. I tried operating standing up and while running in place. It was just too tough. It used to be that you had to keep operating until at least 09Z because rates the next day were typically even worse. This is changing with the renewed activity of the PINS program. Now the daytime hours are the most productive. Since I was so tired (and a bit demoralized from being behind) I decided that 3 hours of sleep would be worth more than a few QSOs. I took my first off time at 0820Z and set the alarm for 3 hours later.
I got back on the radio at 1155Z. Last year I had tried to CQ on 40 and use the second rig on 80 all morning. In the process I had listened to W2PV and K1AM run away from me. This year I focused on CQing on 80 and tuning 40. It was definitely better! Having a 62 hour on Sunday morning was a first for me. Usually 50 is a lot!
I kept pounding 40m while tuning the other bands. I was surprised to hear how the West Coast stations had fallen behind. This is partially due to off times but they must also struggle on the low bands. N2NT was still about 30 to 40 QSOs ahead of me.
About 1700Z I started thinking about taking an off time. I was hoping to continue until about 1800Z but another rain storm came through and the static was horrible. I took it as a sign to take a break and get a shower. 50 minutes later the rain stopped for the weekend and I was refreshed and fed. Now it was just a sprint to the finish — except for the nagging
problem of still needing VY1, KL7, and VE2!
As I would tune the FT-1000 across 15m I noticed that any signal over S9 would create two additional phantom signals up and down 22 KHz from the main one. This caused me some frustration as I was tuning above 21050 and wondering why stations weren’t coming back to me (I was calling a phantom!). I never did figure out what was causing this (anyone have any ideas?). It did come in helpful later on.
About 1925Z VX2AWR called in on 40m to give me Quebec. What a relief! A bit later KQ2M stopped by to ask if I had a sweep. I told him that I needed VY1. He said he had worked VY1JA on 21027 several hours earlier. At least now I had a clue of where to look.
A bit later I heard VY1JA on 21027. He was not loud and the pile-up was a bit obnoxious. I kept coming back on the second rig but it was pretty hopeless. The op was sending slowly and seemed to be really struggling to copy. I decided that VY1 was not to be this year.
At 1952Z I was tuning 15m on the FT-1000 when I heard WL7KY give an exchange. He wasn’t loud and I thought it sounded like a phantom. Now I had to find where he really was! I quickly checked down about 22 KHz and there he was. One call and section #78 was in the log. Maybe this multiple receive thing has some value!
I spent some time in the afternoon CQing on 20m. I had pretty much worked 40 out and there were lots of guys out west that I still needed. Rates weren’t great, but 20 is a virtual bottomless pit of stations. Its also an overcrowded mess!
As I was CQing on 40m I took my last few scans of 20 during the 00Z hour. I was amazed and thrilled to find VY1JA booming in with his usual big pile-up. This sounded like a completely different operator. He was sending fast and keeping the pile-up moving. It took only a few calls to get him for the sweep! What a relief. Reading the Internet mail the next
day I now realize just how lucky I was. Still, that’s part of the game that keeps me coming back every year.
After that I just concentrated on making rate. The higher MUFs this year kept the skip relatively short on all bands which really helps on 40m. I usually try to kill some off time in the last 3 hours since rates are so low but now I am reevaluating that strategy. My rate stayed fairly constant right to the end which is a good sign that people are getting
involved in the contest and sticking with it!
The contest finished for me at 0230Z as I ran out of operating time. 1334 and 79 was a lot better than I thought I would do given the poor start. It wasn’t quite up to my previous best of 1362 QSOs, but the extra sections make this a new New England Division record (I hope). I took a break and then came back to listen to the scores on 3830. Fell out of the
chair when N2NT (op was N2NC) announced his score of 1330 and a missing section. Can’t wait to compare rate sheets and find where I caught up with John.
The efforts to put a W1 in the top ten of SS CW must continue. See you all next year!
BREAKDOWN QSO/mults K5ZD ARRL SWEEPSTAKES Single Operator HOUR 160 80 40 20 15 10 HR TOT CUM TOT 21 ..... ..... 7/4 49/22 22/9 ..... 78/35 78/35 22 . . 38/8 13/6 15/3 . 66/17 144/52 23 . . 52/1 14/3 . . 66/4 210/56 0 . . 54/6 6/3 . . 60/9 270/65 1 . 5/1 63/3 2/0 . . 70/4 340/69 2 . 12/0 66/0 . . . 78/0 418/69 3 . 4/1 83/0 . . . 87/1 505/70 4 . 13/1 71/0 . . . 84/1 589/71 5 ..... 11/0 52/2 ..... ..... ..... 63/2 652/73 6 . 10/1 51/0 . . . 61/1 713/74 7 . 9/0 29/0 . . . 38/0 751/74 8 . 8/0 2/0 . . . 10/0 761/74 9 . . . . . . . 761/74 10 . . . . . . . 761/74 11 . 6/1 1/0 . . . 7/1 768/75 12 . 52/0 10/0 . . . 62/0 830/75 13 ..... 24/0 13/0 10/0 ..... ..... 47/0 877/75 14 . . 45/0 9/0 . . 54/0 931/75 15 . . 43/0 5/0 3/1 . 51/1 982/76 16 . . 36/0 8/0 1/0 . 45/0 1027/76 17 . . 10/0 . 3/0 . 13/0 1040/76 18 . . 34/0 4/0 . 1/0 39/0 1079/76 19 . . 30/1 . 10/1 2/0 42/2 1121/78 20 . . 5/0 29/0 2/0 2/0 38/0 1159/78 21 ..... ..... 9/0 26/0 ..... ..... 35/0 1194/78 22 . 2/0 7/0 6/0 . . 15/0 1209/78 23 . 6/0 8/0 27/0 . . 41/0 1250/78 0 . 6/0 36/0 1/1 . . 43/1 1293/79 1 . 9/0 8/0 . . . 17/0 1310/79 2 . 6/0 18/0 . . . 24/0 1334/79 TOT ..... 183/5 881/25 209/35 56/14 5/0 ..... 1334/79