1998 CQ WW CW Contest ZW5B

ZW5B (opr. K5ZD), Single Op 28 Mhz, High Power

By Randall A. Thompson, K5ZD k5zd@contesting.com

Summary Sheet

                   CQ WORLD WIDE DX CONTEST -- 1998

      Call: ZW5B (opr. K5ZD) @PY5EG   Country:  Brazil
      Mode: CW                       Category: Single Operator
      Zone: 11                                 28 Mhz, High Power


       10     3869    11467     2.96     37     148

     Totals   3869    11467     2.96     37     148  =>  2,121,395

Operating Time: 46 hours (20 minutes sleep)

Equipment: FT-1000D + Alpha 77 to 7/7 stack @ 20m/10m

The Trip

After years of business travel in all types of domestic and foreign conditions, I deserved one like this! I had originally planned to visit our parent company in Israel and do the CQ WW CW from there. At the end of October, my boss informed me that our Brazilian distributor was holding a conference Nov 25-27 at a resort hotel on the coast. He felt bad that he was asking me to be gone over Thanksgiving… but I knew I already had my wife’s clearance for the Israel trip!

I immediately thought of CQ WW CW and hit the e-mail to track down a station. Oms, PY5EG, gave an immediate invitation and I accepted it. I really wanted to do single op all band, but Oms had already promised the station to Marcelo, PY1KN. Jim, N5FA, was very helpful in making phone calls and giving me some background info. He recommended that I do 10 meters single band as there was a real chance to claim the world record.

I flew from Boston to Rio de Janeiro on Monday night Nov 23. Plane was almost empty – everyone on board got their own row for sleeping! Most of my flying is East-West so it was a pleasant surprise to get off of a 10 hour flight and not be jet lagged out (Rio is only 3 hours ahead of Boston).

Spent Tuesday afternoon walking around Copacabana beach. Nicest beach I have ever seen and it is right in the middle of a huge city. PY1KN lives in Rio and we met for dinner. It gave us a chance to get better acquainted. Marcelo is an avid CW operator and contester who normally operates low power. 15m is his favorite band so we had no trouble deciding who got what band.

Wednesday I took a bus to the resort hotel where the meeting was. All of the first day was in Portuguese, so I went horse back riding instead. Thursday (Thanksgiving day) I went sailing in the morning. Then sat on the beach and enjoyed a book all afternoon. My two presentations were in the evening and went without a hitch. The dinner buffet even included turkey!

Friday morning I went sailing again. Wind was fairly quiet so it was very peaceful drifting around the bay looking for breeze. I know that I have NEVER been this relaxed and rested before doing a major contest.

It was 3 hours back to the airport in Rio where I met Marcelo at the airport. We flew together on the one hour flight to Curitiba where PY5EG is located. Curitiba has a beautiful new airport and Oms had someone waiting to drive us over to his station which only takes about 20 minutes. We arrived there about 7:30PM local time, with the contest starting at 10PM.

Setting Up

Arriving at PY5EG is quite impressive. You don’t see any antennas on the way. You drive under huge electric transmission lines and wonder how you are ever going to hear anything through the line noise. About a half mile up the drive way you arrive in a clearing with five towers. Each tower supports big big antennas that are perfectly straight. You immediately recognize that this is a well engineered place.

The PY5EG “shack” is a large cabana located next to the swimming pool. It is a 10m by 8m room with the radios in one corner. There is a pool table in the middle of the room (when rates get slow?…) and a fire place in one corner.

There were two FT-1000 radios with amplifiers set up and ready to go. Each had Top Ten band decoders. Either station was wired to get to any of the monobanders outside. Any category would have been easy for us to do.

The computers had Windows 98 installed and a batch file to start CT as a full size DOS window. CT was version 9.10A with an old country file. In the rush to leave home I had forgotten to bring new CTY and Master.DTA files.

We had just under two hours to get ready. Oms was away on business and was expected to arrive soon after the contest started. I listened to 10m and it sounded really strange. Signals were weak and fluttery from the US. I thought it was going to be a long weekend.

N5FA had warned me that I might want to bring a keyer if I had any special requirements. I didn’t want to carry the extra weight and figured I would just wing it. The radio had a Bencher paddle wired up to the internal keyer and a W1WEF keying interface, but you couldn’t use them together. I had brought some cables for getting from the computer to the radio so it didn’t take long to get where the computer could send CW. But now I needed a keyer.

PY5CC showed up to help us get set up and pulled a Morsematic MM-3 out of a closet. The setup was kind of funny so I pressed the overall reset command. Only to discover that the keyer paddles were now wired backward! No manual in sight. I recalled that this keyer had a way to reverse the paddles through the keypad, but couldn’t figure out the command. Contest starts in 45 minutes!

Above my head on a shelf were 7 rotator control boxes. Two were marked for 20 and one for 40. That left Marcelo and I trying to figure out which pair was which for the 10 and 15 stacks. I went outside, looked up at a pair of 8 over 8, and just “assumed” that had to the be the 10m stack. I figured out which box turned them and was ready to go.

With 10 minutes to go, N5FA calls on the phone to see if everything is OK. I tell him about the MM-3 paddle problem and he says, “I have a manual for one of those around here.” Wow, probably the only guy in the world that can help and he calls me! Command was something like *7612. I would have never guessed it. I couldn’t figure out how to program a message into the keyer, but decided I could just use the computer.

Marcelo set up on the second station which was about 10 feet away. He would have to get up to reach the rotator controls. We were facing away from each other so there wasn’t much visual interaction between us as we were operating. It really was two completely independent single band efforts. We probably shared about 10 sentences all weekend.

The Contest

zw5b_k5zdFinally ready to go just as the clock ticked 23:59. That gave me one minute to find a frequency and start CQing. The run was immediate even though signals were very fluttery. The USA East Cost was very weak. Had a few Caribbean stations call in that I never heard again – V47KP and FG5EY. Very quickly the band started to go to JA. 9M2TO called in for another good mult. Near the end of the first hour, RU0LL, DU3NXE, ZM2K, and BV4QW were some nice surprises.

Stateside was gone after the first hour and it was mostly JAs on the band. JA is almost at the antipode from PY5EG and N5FA had warned me that they would come in all night. I took a spin across the band and worked XX9X who had a good signal and XU2A.

Around 02Z, the band went even deeper and I worked 3W5FM, HS0AC, and a weak AT2UR. Worked about 15 BV and BY stations which is more than I even knew existed. They had great signals!

At 03Z I snagged 8Q7DV. A few minutes later A61AJ came in. In between all of this DX were more JAs. It seemed that if I called CQ they could work me. But with all the flutter, if I called them they could not get the call correct. 7W5B is not right! Only 16 QSOs this hour but they were interesting ones. A small JA run erupted in the 04Z hour. I would tune around occasionally and it was wild to hear an almost quiet band with things like XZ1N and A45XR coming in. XZ1N always had a huge pile-up every time I heard him.

During the 05Z hour, it seemed like the band was almost dead. I decided to visit some of the other bands to see what they sound like. YCCC was really pushing to make a big club score and I figured I could build up a few extra points for the club. I went to 40m from 0534-0601Z and worked 51Q/12Z/15C. The band was packed and it was a real battle to dig out calls compared to 10m. Decided that I better save my energy.

Back to 10m where I found CP6UH for a multiplier at 0612Z (that’s 0412 local time!). Not much else around so I listened down on 80m and realized why SOAB is difficult from deep South America. It was noisy and signals were weak. It would have been a real struggle to make much of a low band multiplier.

After a short break, I was back on 10m during the 07Z hour. Found JT1A with a big signal. Started a great run of Europeans about 0730Z. At the time, I thought they were coming in from the Northeast on direct path. Rates were really good in the 08Z and 09Z hours. Local sunrise was about 0750Z.

At 10Z it was like someone threw a switch. I couldn’t get any answers so had to do some S&P. The OH gang was booming in, but not much else. Worked OH0RJ for a good one. I really thought we had experienced a SID event and had no idea what to expect. At this point I felt any chance at a record was slipping away. The 11Z and 12Z hours were in the 50’s. It was obvious that the path from the USA to Europe was great! Tuning around I was lucky to find TA2IJ for a new one.

About 1245Z the band started to recover and I could get a run going into Europe again. 9G1TB and HZ1HZ called in. Plus 4K7Z, TZ6DX, GD4UOL, and 5H3US (my only zone 37) during the 14Z hour.

Things slowed down during the 15Z hour so I took the opportunity to run up the band looking for multipliers. 3V8BB and CN8WW were easy. Back to running Europe during the last half of 15Z and all of 16Z. GM0TTY gave me Shetlands. ZB2EO caught my attention in the pile-up for another good one.

The first USA stations started to come through about 1645Z. I kept the antennas on Europe figuring I would have plenty of time for USA later. 17Z was a mix of Europe and NA. With Europe going out, I took from 1745Z to 1800Z to scan for multipliers. I was rewarded with ZP9X, EA9EA, HI8/DL1HCM, and P40W. The Caribbean guys were weak all day and there were many of them that I called that I just could not break through the big NA pile-ups.

18Z and 19Z are when the real fun began. Having 199 and 192 hours back to back was a thrill. No question that the USA ops are the easiest to run in the world. They send things only once, they are loud, and they are fast. 5N3CPR and VP5M each called in to give me new ones. At 1911Z VE2/N6ZZ helped me out with zone 2. That was a relief. At 1941Z KL1R gave me zone 1.

The 20Z and 21Z hours continued to be big. I had Geoclock running on my laptop and could almost watch the band close as darkness moved across the USA. JJ1DJW became the first JA of the evening at 2133Z. The next hour was a mix of JA and USA signals – all about the same strength.

The 23Z hour was mostly USA West Coast plus JAs. V29QQ gave me a very good multiplier.

Somewhere during the 23Z hour, Oms walked into the shack and noticed that Marcelo was turning the “wrong” rotator. I could have died – we had just worked the first 23+ hours with me turning the 15m rotator and Marcelo turning the 10m rotator. What a low point. I think it was just coincidence, but immediately upon recognizing the problem the JA signals came up and a nice run started!

I felt really bad for Marcelo. Since he had to get up to turn the rotators, he usually pointed them at Europe and NA and left them. Since I was sitting right next to them, I would often turn the high beam in some unusual direction just to see what might be out there. When you are dealing with such big antennas, the wrong direction is like putting the lights out! What was amazing to me is that I had not missed a multiplier that I had heard up to that point.

Side note: I knew my competition during the contest was LU5CW at LT1F. We did not compare any scores until the end of the contest, but I was worried that I had lost at this point. It took all my concentration to keep pushing. I actually tried to use it to my advantage as a motivator. At the end of 24 hours, LT1F was 289 QSOs ahead of me. I am very happy I did not know this!

Day 2

At the half way point I had 2208/35/125. The record required something like 3750 QSOs and I didn’t see any way this could be reached. Since I usually do all band where there are lots of multipliers, it was agony to realize that in a single band effort, each QSO was only worth about 480 points. Nothing to do but keep running and looking for countries.

The 00Z and 01Z hour were mostly JA with a few West Coast and some Pacific. I got YB5QZ at 0148Z. I took 30 minutes out during the 02Z hour to go take a shower. This is midnight local time and I was still surprisingly awake. I figured I would catch a few hours of sleep after the shower.

Back on at 0245Z with big signals from 9M6NA, B7K and BD4EG. Just wild to hear all the loud Asians in the middle of the night. The next two hours were slow, but JAs kept calling so I postponed going to sleep. Worked N5XT at 0446Z so you never know when the band will be open to where. Now that I knew where the antennas were really pointing I could get a better idea of where the openings were actually coming from.

During the 05Z hour the band began to open to the middle of Asia. Mixed in with the JAs were EX8MZ, AT2PTT, and UK8OM. Then it went deeper into European Russia about 0530Z. I finally figured out that this opening was via the long path beaming over the South Pole. The next two hours were good rate and had a very interesting sound to them. The log is almost all zone 16 and 17 with a few JAs mixed in.

At 0900Z it stopped. Instantly the band just went away to Europe. Signals from zone 26 were still booming in, but not much QSO volume there. I took a quick spin up the band and caught 3A/N9NC just before he faded out. Heard VQ9IO but could not figure out what path he was coming in on. He was the same strength in almost every direction! This was the only multiplier I heard and could not work all weekend — and it would have been a double.

About 0915Z I decided there was little I could do except put the CQ repeat function on and wait for the band to recover. Must have dozed off because 20 minutes later I wake up to find Z31RB calling me. NH0E is my only QSO for the next 30 minutes. For those scoring at home, that is a 6 hour during 09Z!

Things finally return about 1030Z and I get a run started to Europe. The 11Z and 12Z hours are great and give me some hope that I can still catch the record. UA2AW and OY1CT give me a lift.

At 13Z things die again. Probably the result of the USA to Europe opening. I tune around and work D44BC and the loud Europeans who are CQing. Decide to do a serious multiplier sweep and start at 28000 and go up. 6V6U, 3DA0CA, TU2MA, and JY9QJ are the reward. Again there are a lot of Caribbean guys that I can’t break through. I know there are 10 easy multipliers that I am missing. Work my last QSO up on 28160.

Probably wasted some good rate time because had no trouble getting a run going at 14Z. Worked Europe the next few hours. SP1NY/MM gave me zone 40. As loud as the OH’s were all day, I was surprised it took so long.

Took another multiplier sweep at 16Z and got 4U1VIC with a nice signal, JX7DFA who was working split, and ZF1A. That took 10 minutes and I was back to running.

The 17Z hour was a mix of Europe and USA. I was prepared to just run out the contest since my math indicated that QSOs were the only hope of getting to the record. With 6 hours to go, I had 3494/36/141. Still needed about 350 QSOs for the record so I was hoping for some good USA runs like the day before.

At 1803Z I just about fell out of the chair when a very loud 5A1A called and gave me a double mult. I quickly switched the antennas to make sure he was coming from the correct direction. He had the right sound. Wow, never expected that. Ten minutes later GJ3YHU hands me another surprise. At 1830Z I decide to search for Caribbean stations again. Work P40E, 8P9Z (beautiful job of digging me out on a tail end), and HK6KKK. I heard TF3DX calling the HK6 in the pile-up. So as soon as I worked KKK, I moved up half a KHz and called the TF3. TF3DX came right back. You have to love it!

Decide I better get back to CQing and am astounded when OX3SA answers my first press of F1. Four new countries in 10 minutes.

The next several hours aren’t fast but they pull me closer to my goal. It is almost all North America stations in the log. At one point, I can actually watch my appearance on packet as it moves around the country. First there was a little burst of W8’s, then some W9’s, then some W3’s, and finally up to W1. Really cool to hear.

Band almost dies about 22Z. Ernesto at LT1F stops by to ask how I am doing. I tell him 2 Meg. He tells me he has 1.9M. Because of the low points for each QSO, I figure this puts me about 200 QSOs ahead of him with 2 hours to go.

Band doesn’t seem to be quite as good to JA as it was on Saturday. First one in the log is JO1VRL at 2218Z. I am getting anxious and bored and get the crazy idea that I would like to get one big rate hour on 20m before the contest is done. I toy with this thought for awhile, and then at 2253Z make the decision to go for it. From 2254Z to 2311Z I work 52Q/8Z/9C on 20m. It wasn’t as much fun as I expected and I started feeling guilty that I might loose the contest while I was playing.

Made 51 QSOs on 10m in the last 45 minutes of the contest, mostly JAs, and realized that I should have never left. Lesson learned!

Finished with 3869/37/148 for 2,121,395 points. Breaks the 1990 world record of 1,890,607 set by CX0CW (op CX8BBH). The high country count was the difference for both the record and beating LT1F.


  • ZW5B is not the best CW call in the world. Didn’t seem to be much of a problem when I was running but it was funny in pile-ups. You could almost see the other op as he tried to figure out what was calling him. They almost always came back to Z? or ZW? or 7W? Then it would take as many as 10 repeats to get the call correct. I really appreciated the good guys who could copy it correctly on the first try.
  • I don’t think I sent faster than 38 WPM all weekend. I felt that people would really blow the call if I went too fast. I usually sent my call after every QSO. At one point on Saturday into the USA, I finally had the pile-up to the point I felt I could send my call every other time. So after a QSO, I just sent TU. Sure enough, my next QSO is N2MM who asks me for my call!
  • PY5EG is about the same south latitude as Orlando, Florida is north. Why don’t we see these all night openings and long path from W4? Brazil has the fortune to be almost due south of both major radio population centers and at the antipode of the third. When you get great conditions like this, it is a hard place to beat! (see comments below)
  • Neat trivia: The beam heading from PY5EG to Europe is 30 degrees. For the USA/JA it is 330 degrees. Almost like being at home in W1!
  • All night, when the band was really open to zone 24 and 26, I felt like I was operating a CW contest in the middle of the phone bands! SSB, AM, and FM signals were everywhere. Didn’t really cost me any QSOs, but there were a few times I had to move my run frequency a kHz or so to get away from a heterodyne. I suspect we are going to discover new levels of encroachment this sunspot cycle – even greater than we could have imagined.
  • Oms has an awesome station. There was no interference between Marcelo on 15m and me on 10m. There is no local noise. Running JA on Saturday night I was amazed at how weak signals could be easily copied. One of the quietest places I have ever operated from.
  • I was surprised at how awake I was during the contest. Other than the 20 minutes where I crashed, it was really easy to stay awake. I suspect this is due mostly to the relaxed nature of my week leading up to the contest. It also could be due to only using one rig on a very quiet band — didn’t have to waste much brain power digging weak stations out of the LF QRN.
  • Am I hooked? The experience of operating outside the US is a seductive one. I can’t get the thought out of my head that I want to do something like this again!
  • I don’t handle any QSL cards for the operation. Send them direct to Oms.

View a photo tour of PY5EG.


Randy Thompson, K5ZD

Continent Statistics

                    160   80   40   20   15   10  ALL   percent

North America   CW    0    0    0    0    0 1432 1432    36.3
South America   CW    0    0    0    0    0   63   63     1.6
Europe          CW    0    0    0    0    0 1805 1805    45.7
Asia            CW    0    0    0    0    0  574  574    14.5
Africa          CW    0    0    0    0    0   26   26     0.7
Oceania         CW    0    0    0    0    0   46   46     1.2

Rate Sheet

HOUR    160      80       40       20       15       10    HR TOT  CUM TOT  

  0    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....   115/41   115/41  115/41 
  1      .        .        .        .        .      51/13    51/13  166/54 
  2      .        .        .        .        .      27/10    27/10  193/64 
  3      .        .        .        .        .      16/4     16/4   209/68 
  4      .        .        .        .        .      47/9     47/9   256/77 
  5      .        .        .        .        .       5/1      5/1   261/78 
  6      .        .        .        .        .       1/1      1/1   262/79 
  7      .        .        .        .        .      85/22    85/22  347/101
  8    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....   141/8    141/8   488/109
  9      .        .        .        .        .      93/5     93/5   581/114
 10      .        .        .        .        .      65/7     65/7   646/121
 11      .        .        .        .        .      50/7     50/7   696/128
 12      .        .        .        .        .      58/3     58/3   754/131
 13      .        .        .        .        .     107/2    107/2   861/133
 14      .        .        .        .        .     139/6    139/6  1000/139
 15      .        .        .        .        .      58/3     58/3  1058/142
 16    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....   164/3    164/3  1222/145
 17      .        .        .        .        .     101/5    101/5  1323/150
 18      .        .        .        .        .     199/3    199/3  1522/153
 19      .        .        .        .        .     192/4    192/4  1714/157
 20      .        .        .        .        .     156/1    156/1  1870/158
 21      .        .        .        .        .     166/1    166/1  2036/159
 22      .        .        .        .        .      95/0     95/0  2131/159
 23      .        .        .        .        .      77/1     77/1  2208/160
  0    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....    79/0     79/0  2287/160
  1      .        .        .        .        .      37/1     37/1  2324/161
  2      .        .        .        .        .       5/0      5/0  2329/161
  3      .        .        .        .        .      28/0     28/0  2357/161
  4      .        .        .        .        .      25/0     25/0  2382/161
  5      .        .        .        .        .      59/3     59/3  2441/164
  6      .        .        .        .        .      92/0     92/0  2533/164
  7      .        .        .        .        .      90/0     90/0  2623/164
  8    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....    92/1     92/1  2715/165
  9      .        .        .        .        .       6/1      6/1  2721/166
 10      .        .        .        .        .      66/0     66/0  2787/166
 11      .        .        .        .        .     172/1    172/1  2959/167
 12      .        .        .        .        .     142/1    142/1  3101/168
 13      .        .        .        .        .      21/4     21/4  3122/172
 14      .        .        .        .        .      73/1     73/1  3195/173
 15      .        .        .        .        .     103/1    103/1  3298/174
 16    .....    .....    .....    .....    .....    78/3     78/3  3376/177
 17      .        .        .        .        .     118/0    118/0  3494/177
 18      .        .        .        .        .      71/7     71/7  3565/184
 19      .        .        .        .        .      56/0     56/0  3621/184
 20      .        .        .        .        .     122/1    122/1  3743/185
 21      .        .        .        .        .      50/0     50/0  3793/185
 22      .        .        .        .        .      25/0     25/0  3818/185
 23      .        .        .        .        .      51/0     51/0  3869/185
DAY1   .....    .....    .....    .....    ..... 2208/160    ..... 2208/160
DAY2     .        .        .        .        .    1661/25      .   1661/25 
TOT      .        .        .        .        .   3869/185      .   3869/185

Top Countries

    K           1303        
   JA            405         
   DL            331         
   UA            191         
    G            122         
   UR            115         
    I            103         
    F            102         
   OK            101         

QRATE Report

1704:    5 per minute (300/hr)
1819:   41 per 10 minutes (246/hr)
1912:  223 per hour


  • Mike W4EF

    Your comments about the incredible propagation from down in Brazil, brought to mind something I read in a book recently. Because of tilt in the magnetic equator, it turns out that the intensity of the ionosphere isn’t evenly distributed between northern and southern hemispheres (even at solstice) or even with longitude. There is a region off the east coast of South America called the South Atlantic Anomaly which is a Bermuda Triangle of sorts for spacecraft due to the heightened presence of charge particles in the ionosphere over this region. Perhaps this might explain why you don’t see the same hot propagation when you go to the equivalent northern latitudes, population concentration notwithstanding. Check out the following URL for a quick explanation and a Topex/Poseidon image of the ionospheric electron density (note that it shows lots of electrons over PY land).


    73 de Mike, W4EF……..

  • Fred K3ZO

    The reason that the band stays open all night down there (besides the fact that it’s summer down there so the sun is shining on the ionosphere above you all day a lot longer than it is here, giving it more reflectivity once it gets dark) is that the Geomagnetic Equator runs roughly through Lima, Peru whereas the Geographic Equator runs through Quito, Ecuador. And for propagation purposes the Geomagnetic Equator is the important one.

    There is also something else going on. When I was in Cordoba, Argentina as LU5HFI I had to coordinate the visit of a US Navy Earth magnetic field mapping plane which was spending some time in Cordoba calibrating the plane’s measuring instruments with a local geomagnetic observatory there before going on to the Antarctic to make measurements. The scientific crew told me that for reasons that up to that point were unexplained, the atmosphere over Argentina (and presumably over Southern Brazil as well) is about 10,000 feet thicker than over any other point on the globe. I always felt that’s why the LUs seem to “own” 10 meters. I am also aware that during the LUs’ Sporadic E season in December/January they routinely have 2 meter short skip openings around Argentina whereas such openings are pretty rare up here.

    de Fred, K3ZO