Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November Sweepstakes SSB Version

SSB contests have not thrilled me much since I became deeply involved with CW and Digital. I am spoiled by the filtering ability with these modes and lets face it, there are more SSB operators than there are CW. Anyone with a voice can operate SSB but CW is basically learning to speak another language. I tend to shy away from these contests (SSB) for this reason but also in most of the major contests, Alaska is well represented in SSB versions anyhow. I do like to search the bands for friends or other stations that I frequently work just to give them a point or two and maybe even a multiplier.

With that said, I decided to concentrate on something other than 20 meters. I have lived on 20 meters for several years as it is by far my strongest band. It's a great band to work but I am really looking forward to 10 and 15 meters being open day after day for several hours. Not sure we will be in Alaska for those openings, if they are more than a few years out, but I'm always watching and listening.

Just prior to the SS, I was on 10 meters and working stations on SSB. I end up doing SSB on 10 meters ONLY because there is very little CW during band openings (exception is the beacons of course). I saw some 10 meter activity was posted to the DX Cluster so I tuned around a bit and darn if I did not hear stations. So, I headed to 28.405 and after making sure the frequency was not already in use, I called CQ. The fun started from there!

I ended up working several states on 10 meters and I was chatting with stations until the start of the contest. Once the contest began, I was able to make an additional 22 QSO's, a few stations I had already worked just before the contest (thanks for stopping back). Once 10 meters gave out, I shut down the rig and went on to other duties.

I turned on the rig on Sunday and I found some activity on 15 meters. It was slow to open but when it did, wow! The band became crowded quickly but I was able to find a hole and call CQ and the rates began. As you can see from the graph, I peaked briefly at 126 Q's per hour but I was able to stick pretty steady at 104 to 112, for the most part. Due to the information that was passed (much more than your average RST - Really Shouldn't Tell, and a ZONE or State) it took a bit longer. When dealing with a pile-up, it can take a bit extra time to pass onto the next station. Being a small station myself, I'm always looking for smaller stations or somewhat weaker stations. I was surprised at how many QRP stations were in this contest. Some contesters will complain about QRP in contests as often times, it can take twice as long to pass a contact along. If I'm running a 1000 watts the QRP station is probably hearing me pretty darn good but if the QRP station is running 5 watts or less, it could take several attempts to correctly pass information between our stations. Add in the fact that the band is normally crowded and you have another high power station nearby adding "splatter", it makes for a tough time now and again.

By the time 15 meters dropped to a handful of stations, I had made 358 contacts. Not a lot but for the few hours I was on and considering the band, I was super pleased. I decided to vacate 15 meters even though it was not totally closed and head to 20 meters. It was wall to wall with splatter and was rough. 20 meters is not for the faint of heart especially during SSB contests! But I was in search of a few other multipliers that I had not picked up on 15 meters just to see how close I could get to my "sweep". Well, as luck would have it, I did not come very close but I only missed the following:

NH, NNY, DE, VI, SD, NL, MAR, QC and NT.

Not too bad for a few hours and not really hunting down multipliers. Once the dust cleared, I had around 7 hours of operating in with 402 contacts overall with 71 sections worked. Again, I'm in it to have fun but it has made me think of maybe trying to see what I can actually do if I try! I have never worked a contest from start to finish staying up the entire 48 hours. Being that I have a smaller station, winning is something I don't comprehend. But, from a "little pistol" perspective, it could be fun to see what kinda of damage I could do if I actually tried. I am more apt to work an entire contest of RTTY or CW than I would SSB I'm afraid. Maybe working at a MULTI and helping another station out is just the ticket for those contests.

Little or not, contesting is always fun and a quick way to rack up contacts that count for numerous awards. It's easy to work DXCC or WAS in a weekend if you apply yourself and just get on and operate. I have never referred to my station as a "contest station" but more of a DX station looking for new countries and chasing various awards. My goal is to give out Alaska as much as possible while we live in such a beautiful but propagationally challenged place. It makes me feel good when I'm told I helped someone complete their sweep in a contest or have given someone a new state or DXCC country. That's what I enjoy most about making contacts and with my log containing over 24 thousand contacts to date, I have enjoyed each and every one of em. My log has been submitted and it also has been uploaded to LOTW and e-QSL. You don't have to be a contester to enjoy a contest and almost every contact is worth at least a point. If it were not for us "little stations", the contests would end well before the 48 hour clocked stopped ticking.

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