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[3830] WPX CW VE7FO very long

To: <3830@contesting.com>
Subject: [3830] WPX CW VE7FO very long
From: jimsmith@home.com (Jim Smith)
Date: Sat, 02 Jun 2001 00:13:49 -0700
Will post score later.  Wanted to get this out while it may still be of
some interest.

The next chapter in the continuing saga of VE7FO's attempt to create and
operate a credible contest station, given the following constraints.

                I live on a 33x120 city lot
                I live with a woman
                I'm getting old.  Outsiders might say that my view of myself is 
the times and that my use of the present participle is inappropriate.
Chapter WPX CW 2001


          I had hoped to move the shack from the 2nd floor (1/4 wave on 20 from
ground) to the basement by now but didn't quite make it.
          Disconnected the printer from the parallel port and hooked up the
TRLog keying interface which is haywired on an old SK10 breadboard
                I finally got around to getting the TRLog contest simulator to 
through my earphones so I could get some much needed cw practice.  I
dumped all my contest logs (6 month's worth in my present contesting
incarnation) into the TR database so I could practice with real calls
that have come through my radio.  After a few hours WB6 sounded natural
(in my last ham incarnation there was W6 and a only a few K6) and I even
stopped putting 7L into ZL land.  I prefer the simulator to other code
practice programs that I have tried because you have to get the call
right or the simulator complains, and you log the call just as you would
in a real contest (once you have dealt with it saying, "U got my call
wrong.  It is .......".)  All the while you see the QSO completion
hourly rate.  i.e. the more mistakes the worse the rate.  While using
the simulator I had an epiphany, if not a downright religious
experience.  With the speed set to a modest 23 wpm (yes, that was me
methodically grinding out Qs in WPX CW at 20 wpm) I was up to short
periods of 120 completed Qs per hour over a 2 or so hour period.  In a
blinding flash of light I realized 3 things.  (OK, everyone but me
already knew these.)
                1.      I'm never going to get a good score by sifting through 
the bands
using S&P, I have to call CQ a lot, however boring.
                2.      I have to do whatever I can to make my CQ hearable (see 
city lot
and woman above).
                3.      The ops at the high rate stations who can maintain 
these rates for
hours are to be greatly respected.
What actually happened

All times are PDT

If you are going to call CQ a lot, it helps if you have a frequency to
do it on.  I noticed in a number of phone contests that some high rate
stations start chatting people up before the contest, thereby
establishing their claim to the frequency once the contest starts. 
Squatters' rights, I guess.  I decided to use the same technique but
wasn't sure how to to do this on cw.  So, a few minutes before the
start, I chose a frequency which seemed to not have any activity close
to it and sent a few Vs, the word "testing", and the like, along with
many repetitions of my call.  Someone actually called me a minute before
the start which was great, because now, as soon as 1700 came, he would
be my first contact and I would have a log entry at 1700 instead of the
usual 1715.  Well, one of my normal practices when calling CQ in a test
is to hit the lock button on the MkV so accidental bumping of the VFO
knob doesn't cause me me to QSY.  I had forgotten to do this so, in the
middle of the QSO, right at 1700, I went to hit the Lock button and
managed instead to transfer whatever frequency was in the memory to the
VFO, causing me to lose the QSO and the frequency, not having written
down what it was.  Sigh!

20 seemed pretty dead at the start, so started on 15.  After an hour or
so 15 seemed to die down so went to 20 which now had more activity. 
Periodically checked 10 to see if there were more than 3 signals, which
there weren't, and also 15 but stayed with 20 where I worked ZS2E, my
first ZS since getting back on the air.  The only mainland African
station I ever hear is the CN8 contest station so this was pretty neat. 
20 started to die at 2330 so then went to 40.  Found my socks
spontaneously rolling up and down when I was called by both FO8DX and
ZK1EFD.  Amazingly found 20 had picked up again at 0100 so went there
until 0300, working mostly JAs.  Qs on 20 started to fall off so back to
40.  Heard a bunch of hounds baying and found BY1A.  Waited until most
of the baying died away after his ID and dropped my call in.  When he
came back to me after just this one call my socks jumped right off my
feet!  Took me 5 minutes to settle down again.  At 0400 TRLog vanished
from the screen.  AAArrrggghhh.  Oh it's the virus checker running on
schedule.  Dump that and make a note that station preparation must
include turning off scheduled items.  I know, I know, anyone who runs
TRLog under Windows is nuts.  To bed at 0450.  Yah, yah, gray line about
to come through, but I'm an old fart.

Back at it on 15 at 1200 on Saturday where I worked BY1A again as well
as HZ1AB, 9H1ZA and 9M6XG, all new ones for me.  Occasional forays to 10
and 20 yielded ZK1EFD and BY1A again.  A while later I heard a local
calling BY1A without success.  I was tempted to work BY1A again just to
choke up the competition, especially when I get back, "Sri QSO B4," but,
as hams aren't mean spirited, I didn't.  Qs on 15 started to fall off so
back to 20 at 2340.  Shortly after this, to my horror, the display on
the MkV started flashing and lighting up seemingly random parts of it as
well as various LEDs flashing on and off.  While I sat there in stunned
paralysis my daughter came in looking for the print job she had sent
over the network!  Next time, station preparation will include not only
swapping the parallel port from the printer to the radio, but also
turning off print sharing for the laser printer.  It was pretty exciting
for a couple of minutes (if you view a heart attack as exciting).  I
know, I know, anyone that doesn't have complete control of the network
during a contest is asking for it but this is a household, not a

Finally, at 0030 the JAs start showing up.  In the last few contests I
have been expecting to run JAs but it never happened.  This time it
did.  95% JAs from 0030 to 0300.  Never a lot calling at once but work
one, CQ, work one, CQ, CQ, work one, work two tail enders, CQ, etc.  In
past contests I don't think I ever got the rate meter above 40.  This
time it got up to 54 then 60 a number of times and, for two magical ten
minute periods, 66.  I know that many of you would consider a rate of 66
a disaster but it's the best I've ever done including my salad days in
the late 50s.  Rate started to drop after a while, so moved to 40.  More
JAs.  Those 6 pointers are so sweet.  Eat your hearts out you guys who
complained that there weren't many JAs on (a bit of west coast revenge
here).  Then again, I'm new (born again might be a better description)
to contesting so maybe the 163 JAs I worked don't stack up to the 300
you worked and the 800 you were expecting, so please hold back on the
derisive comments.  During the JA run I realized I was closing in on 600
Qs.  As my best raw Q total to date since I started 6 or so months ago
was 601 I was getting pretty excited.  After I completed QSO #599 I
fully expected that the band would die and my CQs would go unanswered. 
It was particularly sweet that #600 was P29IO.  To bed at 0425 (here
comes that grey line again) and happy with 675 Qs logged (in spite of
all the people I worked with 3 to 4 times that number).  

Back again at 1130.  Keeping an eye on 10 but not much doing there
(other than FO8DX again).  Back and forth between 15 and 20 to the end. 
When I first got up I thought I might make better than 800 Qs and 1
MPoint but the rate I was making disabused me of that conceit pretty
quickly.  In the doldrums there is plenty of opportunity to play, "What
if", as in "What if I hadn't gone to bed?  After all, I wasn't falling
asleep before I went", or, "What if I just quit.  I'm not going to make
800 Qs anyway".  This is, of course, quite different from the late
night, "Why am I doing this?  Am I crazy?"  A little stern self-talk
accompanied by images of dealing with the XOL after saying one is
quitting after spending all that time and money generally provides the
needed motivation.  

Towards the end I noted that some people were so desparate for Qs that
they would even QRS when I asked them to.

This was probably the wildest contest I have been in from a propagation
point of view.  15 and 20 were FABULOUS into Europe.  In most contests I
don't seem to have much luck into Europe so I pick up the easier
countries and don't worry about it but this is WPX and there are a lot
of mults there.  To work 229 Europeans is not something I would have
thought possible for this station and op.

I'm puzzled as to why so many people answer a 20 wpm CQ at 30 wpm.  They
sure don't save any time cuz they have to do it all over again, several
times if they don't QRS.  I get the impression that there is some
difficulty in changing speeds because often, when I requested QRS, I
would get back an R followed by a significant pause and then the
response at a more appropriate speed for me.  Seemed to me they were
adjusting something or, maybe, hunting for the straight key.  I have
been presuming that everyone is using software like TRLog.  Maybe only
TRLog has keys assigned to QRS and QRQ but I can increase or decrease
speed in 3 wpm increments just by hitting PgUp or PgDn.  So why can't
others do that?  

For some reason I had absolutely no trouble copying some people at 30
wpm.  To try to save them a little time I would hit PgUp 3 times while
sending my exchange.  This was a mistake.  It seems that increasing your
speed by 50% while sending something totally throws the guy at the other
end, resulting in requests for fills.  Lots of people did come back to
me at my speed and I thank you for that.  Anyway, I would really like to
receive comments from anyone who can enlighten me as to why matching the
sender's speed seems to be so difficult or undesireable for so many
people.  As 3830 isn't really a discussion forum please send any
comments direct to me.

I guess you can tell I'm excited by all this.  Some of the excitement
was even better than sex, at least as far as I can recall (see old fart
above).  A personal best and maybe even in contention for VE7.  Possible
problems here, though.  I heard several locals with way more Qs than me,
but maybe they are multi op or single band.  Also, it wouldn't surprise
me if I got a number of busted calls and incorrect serial numbers, thus
reducing the score.  Anyway, it doesn't matter.  I'm pleased with what
happened, I know I can do better, and I even have some ideas of what to
do to raise the score next time.

Thanks everyone.  Hope you had as much fun as I did.

73 de Jim Smith VE7FO

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