Monday, November 30, 2009

63 Degrees Worth of CQ World Wide CW 2009

CQ World Wide CW was this past weekend and I think it has become one of my most favorite of contests. Everyone can "work" everyone and it's 48 hours of world fun. In 2008, I made 1210 raw QSO's for a score of 219,156. From the latest certificate I received from CQ, that number dropped a bit as my official final score was 218,025. I'm sure I threw a callsign or two and it is always worth an extra few seconds to make sure you have the callsign and exchange right.

With the holiday weekend, Thursday was fun as we had friends over to our humble abode and we enjoyed several hours of company. I could not help but think of what Friday was to bring. My wife shopping for bargains and me getting ready to start the CW contest. Being this far north, the band conditions are always a concern. I kept my eye close on a few propagation websites and the outlook did not look bad.

Enter Friday! I started a straight key contact which led me right into the start of the contest. While I was finishing up with my QSO I was firing up my contest program getting ready to start calling CQ. Calling CQ when I lived in northern Ohio and calling CQ here in Alaska are two very different experiences. There are many more operators calling CQ in from Zone 04 than there are in Zone 01! With that in mind, the pile-up is much more extreme here, something that it took some getting used to (and I'm still learning). Over the years I have been surrounded by great contesters and their organizations. The same applies to here in Alaska. With their knowledge and advice in many emails, listening to them operate, and having a great resource to have my questions answered, has helped me greatly in my confidence.

I was happy to work station K8AZ right from the start (2nd contact) along with N5XZ. Being from back east, I'm always looking for club members of the North Coast Contesters and the Northern Ohio DX Association. The lower 48 opening was somewhat short lived due to the time that the contest started however, I decided to focus on Japan for the first part of the contest. This would give me 3 point QSO's which I felt would help my score. I normally work JA's off the back of my beam which at my location, is normally pointed to the lower 48. This time I pointed directly to Japan and points North East toward Asia in hopes of working as many as possible before the band closed. I operated until 0330z and threw in the towel on 20 meters. I had too much noise on 40 meters due to high winds so that help me decide to operate only 20 meters. I did not come back to the radio until 0618 hrs. This was when I started to hear Europe. I worked European stations until 0930z and then finally went to bed for the night.

I was back up at 1400z and once again started to pick off European stations. I worked into Europe until around 1640z. The signals faded and I focused my efforts on the lower 48. Once again, my desire was to find a somewhat clear frequency and call CQ! I did this for a large part of Saturday until the band gave out. A contester has to make sure they have a comfortable chair as they will spend countless hours in their premium contesting operating position. Once the band closed, I spent the rest of the evening with my wife and I went to bed a bit early in hopes of getting up early.

I got up early on Sunday morning but was I bummed to find the band dead! I was hoping to see several signals on my spectrum scope on my IC-756PRO but nada! I ended up going back to bed only I was not able to sleep. I got up and paced the floor like an expectant father waiting for the bands to open. Finally, around 1600z and with the antenna focused on Europe, I was hearing some stations. I worked a much needed EF8M, CR5X, EA8URL, and 9L5A! Europe was done by 1700z! I then repositioned my beam once again to the lower 48 and started to call CQ!

As the day progressed I knew I needed a few zones down south, not to mention country multipliers. Since I had not worked Zone 7 or 10, not to mention 9, 11, 13 and most deep south, I did not want them to slip away. I decided to wait until the propagation was "hot" from that direction and then do some S&P (Search and Pounce). I started this task at about 2100z and it paid off for me. I landed PJ2T, P40W, ZY7C, P49Y, HC8GR, 6Y1V, P40A, J39BS, TI5A, PS2T, 8P5A, HI3A, P49V, KP2M, CW5W, PZ5X, PR7AR and finally CE3DNP! Wow, did I need those! It took me just about an hour to tune the band and add those QSO's to my log. I then looked for a clear frequency which was getting to be ever increasingly hard.

I called CQ and stayed put until the end of the contest. But I had one last surprise before it ended. I was called by CE0Y/SM6CUK during the last six minutes of the contest. I have read others comments about getting some juicy multipliers during the last few minutes but damn, it actually happened to me!!

I'm no speed demon on CW but I had lots of fun working on my contesting skills. My rates were not high by contesting standards but I'm happy with the rate I was able to keep (see graph above). Again, when at the receiving end of a pile-up, you need to control it and it can also be rough to get a full callsign. When the stations calling are all the same signal strength, it's not uncommon (at least for me) to even combine callsigns. I'm glad people took the time to correct me and that is the reason I resend their callsign at the end. Macros are always a contesting conversation but having my callsign busted plenty (confused with KL7DX, as I was many times again during this contest) I want to make sure I have it right. An example of my macro in the beginning is:

W1*** 599 01

An example of my follow-up is:

W2*** TU de KL8DX

This lets them know I corrected their callsign and if not, I would hope they would call me back and correct me. I also end with my callsign so nobody has to wait on frequency to see who I am. I find nothing more frustrating than sitting on a frequency and the sending station does not send their call frequently. Many just send a few "dits" or just send "TU". You wait several minutes to find out who it was and if you needed them. Heck, maybe this is a good strategy keeping your competition parked rather than working stations up and down the band. For whatever the reason, I wish a few BIG stations would send their callsigns more often. Many have short callsigns (look at the EU ones I listed above) so it is not going to cost them any more time by sending your callsign rather than just "TU".

I experienced several dupes late on Sunday. At 2309z, someone posted me as KL7DX. Wow, I had several just call me that I had worked before. I had my suspicion as to why but I confirmed it after the contest when I did a search on DX Summit.

When the dust cleared and it was all said and done, 26 hours of operating (I stepped away several times and did not turn off the timer so it's a bit less) I worked a total of 1646 QSO's before log checking for a score of 355,990. I did reach my goal of beating last years score and it gives me something to beat next year, which would be easy if I operate multiband. Either way, this little station used up some bandwidth and accomplished a new personal record. I have to keep asking myself, what would that number have looked like if I had operated the entire 48 hours of the contest? Hum...

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