Saturday, November 03, 2007

2007 CQ WorldWide DX SSB Contest

Last weekend was the CQ WorldWide DX Contest (Single Sideband; the CW version takes place in November). Regular reader know that I "fool around" in contests (and occasionally actually win an award here and there), but rarely take things very seriously. CQ WW DX is considered one of the "big" DX contests annually, so there's a lot of activity. As I've previously mentioned, I often shy away from the really big contests because with my "peanut whistle" station ("peanut whistle" is a term used in ham radio to refer to a relatively small station; the other end of the scale is "big gun", like K3LR or W3LPL [my pictures taken during his 2005 open house] or dozens of others), it's very difficult to even make contacts, much less even pretend to be competitive. On top of that, being at the bottom of the solar cycle makes things worse, and very often it's tough for me to devote any considerable amount of time over a weekend uninterrupted. (I know; contest purists would tell me to make time. I try, but family and other obligations take precedence.)

As it turns out, last weekend I had a bit more time to devote to the contest that I originally expected. Sharon was in Florida visiting her Mom for the weekend, and I needed to be at home pretty much the whole weekend (fortunately, I pretty much just need to physically be around the house, most of what I was home for didn't require me to be doing anything other than just being here). As a result, I wound up spending a lot more time in front of the radio (probably around 14 hours total over the weekend) than I'd planned.

I had originally meant to take some notes during the contest so that I could write a bit about it here, but that just didn't happen. As a result, I'll try to rely on my memory (which means that this won't be nearly as long as I would have liked.)

A few interesting thing that I do remember are that I was surprised at the number of stations that I was (eventually) able to work on 15m, and even 10m, at this point in the solar cycle. I worked 5H3EE surprisingly easily early Saturday afternoon on 15m. He was not very strong, and I guess a lot of folks didn't hear him. I called him once and he responded to my call. That was fun. Late Saturday night, I worked two stations on 160m, which is unusual enough, but by doing that, I think this was the first time that I've ever worked stations on all 6 (10, 15, 20, 40, 80, and 160) bands available during a DX contest.

I also manged to work V4/NE1RD from St. Kitts, though the conditions were so rough that I could barely hear him. As it happens, I'd set up my logging program to record the audio from each contact, because I thought it would be fun to go back and listen to it later, and to show just how tough it was to copy Scott, I've upload a portion of the audio here. It's pretty tough to hear (you'll probably want to turn up the volume a bit), but you'll hear Scott CQing, me answering (sorry for the mis-match in the audio levels), we exchange reports, and things pretty much go downhill from there, unfortunately. This was a reflection on how the conditions were the whole weekend, though things improved dramatically on Sunday.

I tried to set a goal for the contest, and I figured that if nothing else, I'd try to beat my score from last year. I had about 53,000 points (which isn't very much, but I don't recall if I had a lot of time last year). After working the contest for about 4 or 5 hours Friday night and Saturday afternoon (ok, I slept in and didn't get on the air until the afternoon!), I had serious doubts that I'd even come close. I don't recall where I was at the end of Saturday, but I was seriously considering not even bothering to get back on the air on Sunday, because there's only so many times that I'm willing to try to work a run-of-the-mill non-rare DX station without them hearing me. It can get quite frustrating. A few friends who I spoke to who have relatively small stations had the same results, so at least I knew it wasn't just me.

Fortunately, things were a lot better on Sunday, and it actually became fun to contest again. As it turns out, I wound up more than doubling last year's score, although it was nowhere near a personal best for that contest. (To be fair to myself, I think my best effort was in 2002 or 2003, when the sunspot cycle was a lot more cooperative, although I've certainly got a lot more experience now than I did then.)

Here's to hoping that the conditions are improved for next year!

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