Monday, November 26, 2012

CQ World-Wide DX CW Contest - The Morning After

Comparing CQ WW CW 2011 / 2012
This past weekend was the annual CQ World-Wide DX CW contest and from the perspective of many, is the biggest contest of the year. From Multi-Operators to Single, many plan for this past weekend months in advance. Many operators in the US,  still feeling the effects of large amounts of good food on Thanksgiving followed by breaking their bank on Black Friday, hit the airwaves in anticipation of logging many contest QSO's. I for one, wish my holiday calorie to QSO count were much closer to one another. Sadly, it never fails that I consume many more calories on Thanksgiving Day and the days following, than I can put QSO's in my contest log. On the positive side, Thanksgiving leftovers work wonderfully at keeping the body fueled for countless hours of VFO turning and the keyboard pounding fun of this contest. 

ARS KL8DX Claimed Score & Summary
In my previous post, I mentioned working the November Sweepstakes as part of the Multi-Operator effort at KL2R. In looking at how Larry, N1TX had Win-test set up, the previous years effort in the Targets Tracking Window was a great motivator (photo above). I know, I'm one of those operators who is not using my complex software to full advantage and I had never used this function before. It did help me keep focused. I spent a little extra time setting up Win-test the night before (I know, the night before, really? When will I learn?) but I still need to get into using ESM (Enter Sends Message) mode with this software. But, I'm getting there. I'm still an F-Key abuser and it would save time and I'm sure would increase my rate. 

My score breakout summary is listed directly above and it just so happened that I beat my last years effort although, not by much! My claimed score last year was 792,396 and logging 1,852 QSO's. The main difference last year was that 10 meters was my money band but this year, that turned out being 15 meters. Had 10 meters come to life, my numbers would have looked very different. The CME that impacted Earth must have sent 10 meters packing (see graph below from HAARP's Magnetometer). I'm not a propagation guru but I do know 10 meters did not provide a fraction of the contacts it did for me last year. Last year, I worked 971 QSO's on 10 meters alone!

Magnetometer from HAARP
In speaking of the CME that shook up the Ionosphere overhead, it made for a bittersweet weekend. It obviously effected the propagation and it made the polar path on Friday night extremely tough and Saturday night was no picnic either. I'm running low power these days as I have yet to afford getting my AL-1500 repaired. Shipping to and from the lower 48 alone would be costly and that does not include the repair. It just means I have to pass up more multipliers or try harder and longer to get them, or wait until Sunday. Regardless, it was memorable working European stations on Friday night while gazing out my shack window and watching the auroral display dancing overhead! Now mind you, I've experienced the aurora overhead for several years but I still get excited and enjoy photographing it. Friday night was no exception, I had to stop what I was doing in the contest, costing me valuable 3 point QSO's with Europe (surprising we had a path with aurora being so active) to head outdoors at -17F to snap some photographs! I was outdoors for well over an hour just enjoying the light show overhead. I'm easily distracted and I needed Bonnie and Fannie here from team KL2R to keep me focused. 

Auroral display CQ World-Wide DX weekend © KL8DX
Like many hams, I have more than one hobby. My second favorite is photographing our adventures here in Alaska. I love sharing it with friends and family in the lower 48, many of which have never been to Alaska. We arrived in Healy at our friends house (KL1SF & KL1MF) on the 25th of November, 2003. We moved into park housing during December of 2003, and a few months later, we purchased our current home. Now mind you, I did experience the aurora from Northern Ohio and even photographed it a few times but such events were rare. Here, the "Northern Lights" are viewed nearly all winter long. This alone helps ease the pain of winter however, it's normally very cold outdoors during the prime viewing times. 

Auroral display CQ World-Wide DX weekend ©KL8DX
If you dress warm and have an understanding camera and tri-pod, it's not hard to capture these breathtaking events. The photo above and to the left, are those I took on Friday night showing the auroral display over our QTH. Now mind you, this is after it had subsided a bit. Our shack window (shown illuminated in blue on both photos) is the best viewing window for the aurora as I keep the shack mostly dark. I'm not one for enjoying copious amounts of light both at home or at the office. My office for years has been nicknamed, "The Cave." My wife made a rare appearance in the shack over the contest weekend to enjoy the light show to the north while I was chasing European stations on 15 and 20 meters. If only I could get her to upgrade and be interested in a Multi-Single effort. Nah, more fun for me! All kidding aside, her support and supplying necessary nutritional needs goes without saying, these contest weekends would not be successful without her support and understanding. Like many a ham, I'm lucky to have an understanding spouse. 

Now getting back on track with the contest, my goal was to log over 2,000 QSO's and beat my previous year score. I did beat my score (claimed) however, I did not break the 2,000 QSO mark. As I had mentioned before, had 10 meters been great, I would have easily manged that goal. As it was, attempts to get a run going on 10 meters was in vain and it worked out best for Search & Pounce only (S&P). The 3 point contacts were nice but I wanted more. But like with any contest, there were highlights and low lights. Me complaining about 10 meters was a low light but I'm thankful for my 199 QSO's on that band. Lots of radio friends encountered along with so many familiar callsigns. My low band antenna's stink and to those who pulled my signal out on 40 and 80 meters, hats off to you and your station! I took some notes during the weekend contest and here are a few unedited I had listed -

  • Getting to hate Saturday and Sunday mornings. I can't seem to get the attention of anyone on the East Coast as they are still pointed to Europe.
  • My morning strategy, chasing "Bleeps" on the Spectrum Scope while consuming copious amounts of decaf coffee. Yea I know, I get more out of the bleeps than I do the coffee. 
  • Saturday morning, 10 meters opened up briefly but then closed back down. 
  • Gray Line propagation working well and added some much needed multipliers.
  • Seriously PY3DX, I've been on this frequency for well over an hour! If you want it that bad, go ahead and take it! I'm working PY's right and left so I know you can hear me! Ugh!
  • Full break-in is a bit tough to get used to but necessary with as quickly as some stations call when I'm CQ'n.
  • Sunday, the return of propagation (somewhat), thank you!!!!!!
  • Is it me or does it seem like CW ops increase their speed by 50% on Sunday? Tryptophan must be wearing off, goodness!
  • EL2A, on 15 meters and logged?!! What just happened? That did!
  • Aurora is beautiful and I'm still able to work Europe? I must be dreaming!
  • Trying to understand why DX stations don't ID more frequently. If you work more than 5 stations and don't ID, I'm gone! If I was Assisted, I might know who you are but for now I don't, and really don't care.
  • Well, here come the DUPES so someone must have spotted me as something other than my callsign. Probably as KL7DX again. Surprising how many click on the band map and pull the trigger!
  • EF8M, you want me in your contest log but just don't know it.
  • Seriously Sunday? Normally I can work these multipliers today and they are no easier than Saturday! WTH?
  • Enjoying Twitter and the #WATwitter Hashtag spearheaded by Connie, NR4CB. She is the Bionic Nerd!  
  • 10 meters, where are you??
  • Pile-up's...I'm trying everyone, please have patience! I'm drinking decaf, remember?
  • It's 1655z and I'm at 1,355 QSO's and 554,222 points! I think I can, I think I can...
  • Damn, there are some strong stations out there! Size does matter!
  • I wish my score could count towards NCC!
  • Contest is over, I need Motrin!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • LOTW will probably need life support after this weekend...and next...and the weekend after that...LOTW might need Motrin!

That is my 2012 summary of the CQ World-Wide DX CW Contest as I experienced it. It was tough but enjoyable. My fellow Alaskan's were out in force and from the preliminary posts on 3830, not many should be missing Zone 1. I on the other hand, missed Zone 1 on 40 meters. I could not break the KL7RA pile-up. A huge thanks to all those that make this contest (and all of them) possible. I would write more but the 5 day deadline for log submission is here and I gotta get to my soapbox and log submission! Thanks for all the contacts, sorry to those I missed, and I appreciate everyone's patience as I still am learning pile-up management. Add many calling at the same time and the effects of the aurora washing out their signal, it can be extremely tough to just get a partial callsign, let alone a full one. I'm thankful for each and every contact and if I'm running and you don't get me the first time, please come back! Like my paycheck, my pileups are normally short lived.  


  1. I certainly enjoyed your write-up of the contest, very humorous and informative.

    I only dabbled a little on 10m. Only worked a couple of stations, but had fun all the same.

    73, Pierre ZS6A

  2. Hi Phil, enjoyed your writing and the unedited notes. Great aurora photos as usual. I see you have the HRDLOG ON AIR status gadget implemented as well. 73, Bas

  3. Great post, Phil! Love the aurora photos too! I'm so glad I was able to get you in the log TWICE! Stay warm, my friend and I'll look for you in the ARRL 10m Contest!
    VY 73 de Glenn K3PP

  4. Have you submitted any Aurora pictures to solarham in the past ?

  5. Pierre, many thanks! Same here, I'm in it to have fun and I love 10. So even a few contacts on that band makes my weekend!

    Bas- Thanks so much! Yes, I really like HRD and once they release the latest version, I may upgrade. I'm excited about FSK within DM780 and some other features.

    Glenn, it's always a pleasure. So good to hear you in the saddle again. I'm hopeful to see you many more times during the winter contest season. Don't work to hard and yes, I will also be looking to hear you call on 10 meters!!

    W7DTG - I have not but that is a great idea, thanks!