dick.green at valley.net dick.green at valley.net
Fri Jun 1 02:38:22 EDT 2001

                     CQWW WPX - CW
Call: WC1M
Operator(s): WC1M
Station: WC1M

Class: SOAB HP
Operating Time (hrs): 36
Radios: SO2R

 Band     QSOs   Prefixes
  160:      0
   80:      3
   40:    368
   20:   1008
   15:   1150
   10:    112
Total:   2641 x    771  =  5,908,173

Club: YCCC


Equipment: FT-1000D+Alpha 87A, FT-1000MP+Acom 2000A, Writelog

Once again, I'm on the bubble for the top ten. So far, seven ops have posted 
higher scores and KQ2M hasn't posted yet. So that's 8th at best. NT1N went 
single band 20 (and evidently learned how boring that can be), and two guys I 
always have to watch for, KR1G and W1WEF (aka, AK1N), didn't operate the whole 
contest. Randy, K5ZD, mentioned KI1G in his write-up, but I don't know if he 
was assisted or not this time. I'm hanging on by my fingernails, and time will 
tell. I've either tied last year's eighth-place finish, or dropped lower. I 
don't like going backwards, but I don't feel too bad about it this time. Last 
year I operated using the big towers and stacks at K1RX, while this year I 
operated with my two little tribanders at 70' and 50' on separate crankup 
masts, and my 40M 4-square. Not only that, the competition was mighty fierce 
this year -- I can't remember seeing so many contest luminaries, some of whom 
rarely do single-op, fighting it out in WPX CW.

It's great to see that more and more ops have discovered what a great contest 
WPX CW can be. It's always been one of my favorites. In the old days, before I 
became afflicted with SCD (Serious Contest Disease), I loved WPX because I 
could always get a run going with my relatively rare 2x1 call sign -- even with 
a multiband vertical down the hill. But now I've learned that WPX CW is perhaps 
the most challenging contest of the year in terms of on-the-spot decision 
making and endurance.

WPX CW strategy and endurance require dealing with the combination of 
unpredictable summertime propagation, plentiful multipliers that earn credit 
only once, double points for low-band contacts, low points for US contacts (but 
the mults count), serial numbers that get longer and longer, and 12 hours of 
forced off-time. KQ2M laughed when I asked for his rate sheet before the 
contest. He says in WPX CW you can't base your strategy on what happened last 
year, and I think he's right about that. On the other hand, I did find it 
helpful to compare his rate sheet with mine and NT1N's. I got a better feel for 
the propagation and possible off times, and was able to lay down some goals for 
the contest. For the first time, I set goals for when I should reach various 
QSO and mult levels. I think this helped a lot, especially on the mults, and 
gave me something to check when I needed a break from the monotony. So far, it 
looks like my mult total is comparable with others who posted a similar number 
of Qs, so focusing on this area is beginning to pay off.

This was, by far, my best performance in WPX CW. I beat last year's score from 
K1RX by about 1.2M points. Since I had much, much better antennas at my 
disposal last year, I'd like to think that it's all due to having improved a 
lot as an operator. But there's no denying that the propagation was much, much 
better this year -- almost as good as 1999. I had forgotten how poor it was 
last year. OK, I do think I'm operating better than I did last year -- I 
remember Mark would visit me periodically and yell through the headphones (and 
my delirium), "Use the second radio more, use it more!" He'll be happy to know 
that I pounded the second radio a heck of a lot more this year. Being at home 
with my familiar automatic switching system helped, and the second autotune amp 
definitely made a big difference in removing any hesitation to QSY. At this 
point, I can switch bands and which radio is CQing with no time or effort at 
all. I can't imagine how SO2R station equipment could be improved beyond this 
(but then again, I've thought that before...) Some might recall that at one 
point I lost three autotune amps in ARRL DX SSB. One was just a flakey 
prototype that I managed to get back online, but each of the other two lost a 
tube. What're the odds on that? Thankfully, no bad tubes this time, but I was 
nervous about it all weekend. The Alliance HD-73 rotor controller shut itself 
off at one point, having overheated for some unknown reason, but it was fine 
after a five-minute cool-down. A couple of times my increasingly unstable 
Windows 98 system lost its network connection with the notebook that I use to 
backup the log, requiring a reboot. No biggie, and that was it for equipment 

I had the best start of my life in this contest: 251 Qs in the first two hours, 
followed by three more hours over 100/hr -- all on 20M. When I came up for air, 
I had 560 Qs. During the 0500 hour I spent some time S&Ping on 40M, which was 
probably a mistake -- I netted only 16 Qs to go along with 47 Qs running on 20M 
and one Q on 80M. I just couldn't get a run going on 40M that night. Others 
have complained that 40M wasn't great the first day, but I kept wondering 
whether a 2-el or 3-el at 110 feet would have let me run some. I went back to 
running 20M in the 0600 hour, and the rate bounced back to 88. I went into my 
first break at 0730 with 745 Qs, all but 51 on 20M. After that, I gave some 
serious thought to going single-band 20m, but I'm glad I didn't. I checked 15M 
and 40M frequently, and used the second radio there as much as I could, but 20M 
was king for me the first night.

I felt very good about the start and thought I had a shot at the top. But that 
was before I discovered how many big guns were SOAB HP this year. As K5ZD 
points out, the serial numbers are nice for keeping track of the competition, 
but with all the obscure club calls, you don't know who is behind the call and 
can't tell a single-op from a multi-op. Since WPX has so many categories, maybe 
we should add one for people operating under their own primary call sign 
(kidding, just kidding.) As I would encounter yet another W1 station with 50 or 
100 more Qs than me, I began to get an uneasy feeling that there were monsters 
out there, ready to gobble me up. In spite of this, the good start kept me 
motivated for the rest of the contest.

I napped for 3 1/2 hours, getting back on at 1100. I ran about 20 stations on 
20M, then switched to 15M for the next six hours.The rate was OK, with a couple 
of hours at 100 and a couple around 90. I took an hour and a half off at 1700, 
then stayed on the air for 12 1/2 straight hours. At the time, I didn't know 
that I was on that long without a break, and only just realized it as I write 
this. No wonder I was wiped out after that! The first 4 1/2 hours were spent on 
15M. I must have been doing some serious S&P during the 1900 and 2000 hours, 
because the rate was pretty poor. Starting at 2230, I spent about an hour and a 
half on 20M before finally hitting 40M for some serious runs. There's nothing 
quite like those 6-pointers to get you pumped up. I really enjoyed watching my 
score go up by over 4,000 points every QSO! Kinda makes me long for the solar 
minimum (*not*.) The band was decent, but noisy enough that I had to use the 
beverage most of the time. I spent the last five hours hopping between 40M, 20M 
and 15M, working the second radio hard and sometimes just doing focused S&P on 
one radio.

I tried a couple of interesting SO2R experiments in this contest. If at least 
two bands were open and the rate was low, I tried S&P with both radios at the 
same time. That works pretty well because you can be tuning one radio while you 
wait for a QSO to clear on the other radio. It's not appropriate when the bands 
are hot, but it's not bad during the slow periods. I also tried 
manually-controlled "dueling CQs", where you alternate CQs on the two radios. 
That has some potential, but I have to refine my technique. I think it would 
work better with a shorter CQ than I was using. I believe TRLog can do it 
automatically, but Writelog can't.

The next break was 3 hours and 15 minutes, from about 0700 to 1015. I had a 
decent 45 minutes on 20M during the rest of the 1000 hour, then headed off to 
15M for 3 1/2 hours. I had one of two productive runs on 10M for a half hour at 
1400, then back to 15M for 2 1/2 hours before taking a two hour break. At this 
point in the contest, I realized that I had too much break time left. Like 
many, I had heard the propagation forecasts before the contest and gambled that 
it would be better the first day. But 40M and 10M were significantly worse on 
Saturday than they were on Sunday. A couple of brief but very productive 10M 
openings on Sunday, and some JA's finally popping up on 15M, made me wish I had 
more operating time left. I took a two hour break, worked 10M for about an 
hour, then took another 1 1/2 hour break. These were strange breaks -- I wasn't 
tired and didn't sleep. I just paced around the house like a caged tiger 
itching to get back on the air! To keep busy I cleaned up all the food and 
debris from the shack so I wouldn't have to do it after the contest. I kept 
eying the radios with deep desire (well, maybe not quite that bad, but you get 
the idea.) When I jumped back on, the 2200 hour produced very good rate on 20M 
and lots of second radio contacts. Some S&P on 20M yielded 7 more mults just 
when I needed them. The last hour was a bit slow, but I managed to squeeze out 
5 more mults. I thought the last hour would produce more last-minute mults and 
I regretted hanging around for it. I would have been better off working the 
1800 hour.

Many have commented that when the propagation to Asia opened up on Sunday, the 
JAs were nowhere to be found. I experienced that, too, and think it might be 
because many got discouraged by the weaker propagation Saturday and just didn't 
turn on the radio Sunday. Then again, Sunday is usually slower because most JAs 
are off to work well before we're done. Multiple causality, I think. I sure 
wish I had about 50 more JA prefixes...

I didn't feel real good through most of this contest, especially on Saturday. I 
felt better in ARRL DX, and I'm sure the difference is the amount of sleep I 
got before the contest. I made a real effort to sleep as much as I could in the 
two weeks before ARRL DX, and took a long nap on Friday afternoon. This time, I 
followed my more typical schedule, which has me getting only 5-6 hours most 
nights (yeah, I know that's bad.) Worse, I ended up with only 45 minutes of nap 
time before the contest. I decided to use caffeine at my usual intervals. It 
was much better than going cold turkey, but I got the jitters the first 
morning. Half the usual amount would have been plenty. I think I'll try a 2-3 
day withdrawal next time, then have one cup of coffee Sunday morning and a soda 
if I need it that afternoon. One thing I've discovered is that I always feel 
better on the second day of a contest, after my body and mind have a chance to 
adjust to the impact. This is backwards, I guess. While I feel better, I don't 
necessarily operate better -- probably much worse.

Speaking of operating, I was happy enough with my copy on call signs, but I 
dread the UBN check on the serial numbers. For some reason I had more than the 
usual trouble with 7s and 8s this time. Even if my raw score makes the top ten, 
that could bump me right out. If I had it to do over again, I would have asked 
for more fills. The good news is that it seemed like fewer Europeans used cut 
numbers this year. Allow me to applaud them and encourage more to do the same. 
Cut numbers don't save time because they result in a higher percentage of fill 
requests. I worked 70 dupes in this contest, though I turned a few away this 
time (especially those who had worked me *twice* before on the same band.) I'm 
not sure if working dupes is the right way to go in this contest.

Finally, the antennas, or the lack thereof, really got to me this time. I try 
to stay in a state of denial and pretend that I can win with this modest setup, 
and I think that pushes my score higher. But reality is beginning to set it. 
The only improvement I can possibly make on this property (and in this 
marriage) is to use the rest of the portable military masts I have and replace 
one of the tribanders with three monobanders, each on its own 50' (10M and 15M) 
or 70' (20M) mast. It's worth a shot, but I'm thinking seriously about a 
dedicated contest QTH with a tower per-band, 40M-10M, on top of a nice hill 
across the river in Vermont...

Thanks for the contacts and see you next time!

73, Dick WC1M

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