Interesting comments about the availability of JAs in the contests. We saw
the decline already in the last solar cycle max as compared to the previous
one. There seems to be several reasons:
1. More JA big guns calling CQ TEST. In last years ARRL DX phone,
for example, 21.200 to 21.270 was mostly USA calling CQ. From 21.270 to
21.400 was mostly loud JAs calling CQ.
2. More local JA QRM. As more JAs get on, there are more QSOs to
be made, but at some point the weight of all that JA QRM collapses on itself
and productivity reverses. More local QRM, less chances for clear
fequencies, less contest QSOs.
3. Aside from the ARRL tests, the JAs, like everyone else, crave
the multiplier rich areas, especially Europe. They seem to be turning their
beams off of the Western USA opening quicker. During the higher sunspot
numbers of last cycle it was common to still get 20 over 9 reports from JAs
late in the opening, but not be able to get any runs going as the JAs had
turned their beams elsewhere. Why sit in a pile for 5 minutes to snag
another W7 or even a KL7 when the band is open to new multipliers? Many
times 15 and 10 would be just wall to wall JA pileups, but they're not
calling anybody in our direction.
4. One year we worked nearly 2000 Russians in a CW M/M. That was
about 200 more than the number of JAs. Consider that the JAs are much, much
closer to KL7 than the European Russians (bulk of Russian QSOs), the JAs
generally have better equipment, and the JAs have a ham population that is
considerably larger - I think we would have to agree that no-code licensing
does not turn out CW operators.
5. The quality of some JA operators has declined seriously. Once
models for politeness and preciseness and efficiency, the newest bunch seems
to have studied under the Italian Dxing school. Yes, you can still find
plenty of the old style JAs and they are a pleasure to work, but I'm afraid
our bad habits have rubbed off on some and they cost QSOs.
6. JA no-code licensees are crippled when it comes to working DX.
20 watts on phone can certainly work some DX, but not with the success of 20
watts on CW. I have operated from quite a few portable locations with
minimal antennas. Time after time, phone was just a frustrating exercise in
practicing my call aloud, but CW would fill the logbook. No-coders are
often in a similar situation of minimal antennas, especially in crowded
Japan, but they don't have the CW skills to enhance their success rate. How
do you expect someone to acquire an interest and skill in DX contesting if
they don't have any success with it?
Well, that's my take on it.
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