SS SSB WB1GQR(W1SJ) SO Unlimited HP
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Wed Nov 26 09:57:19 EST 2003
ARRL Sweepstakes Contest, SSB
Class: SO Unlimited HP
Operating Time (hrs): 24
Total: 1476 Sections = 78 Total Score = 230,256
Club: Radio Amateurs of Northern Vermont
I haven't seen many score postings from stations in Vermont, Maine, Alaska and
other high latitude sections. Possibly it is because when you get your butt
kicked all over the bands, you are not apt to tell anyone about it!
It was not a fun contest from up in Vermont, halfway between the Equator and the
North Pole. How bad was it? I ended up with some 300 QSO's below average. The
last time I scored this low was 1987. I didn't even get a sweep. Last time that
happened was in 1994. In fact, I missed a sweep by 2 sections - the last time
that happened was 1980. Considering that I had the cluster telling me where KL7
and VY1 were, I still didn't get them and in fact, didn't even hear them! This
was a banner year!
The cluster spoke of auroras and storms. Later, I read that high sun activity
was carried by the solar winds and caused a Geomagnetic Disturbance - also known
as death to high latitudes.
I started out on 20 meters and got moidered. I hit the panic button, and jumped
right to 80 meters where I always do well. Not this time. The awful hours
started to stack up. After 3 hours, I was 100 behind everyone in VT and most
every competitive station in New England. Things weren't looking very rosy.
I stayed on 80 meters, simply because 40 was in awful shape and I didn't have
any other pressing engagements. Fortunately, the rate did not drop but stayed
constant as the evening wore into morning. From what I heard, everyone else got
killed with bad rates overnight. But, it was no picnic. It seemed like everyone
was weak. Most of the Northeast stations were skipping over my location. There
were lots of West coast stations, but also very weak. Unfortunately, the QRM was
very loud (isn't it always?). It seemed like every contact had stations asking
me to repeat information. I aged about 10 years. I also managed to catch up to
the rest of the competition.
Sunday was no bargain. I knew things were weird when I found myself starting up
on 80 meters. I jumped to 40 and stayed put for a long time, while other NE
stations went up to 20 and got killed. I was very gun shy of 20 meters from my
experiences on Saturday and waited a long time before I gave it a try. It was
clear that something was going on - all of the northern stations were quite
weak. Knowing how weird the propagation was, I made some changes in how I
selected bands and "lived" with the conditions. Sunday's results were about
normal for me. However, the long struggle took its toll. By the end of the
contest, I was screaming, "never again!"
Lots of folks tell me how being in VT adds 10 dB to my signal. Ha! That may have
been true 10-15 years ago, but no more. This year we had 4 VT stations putting
1200-1400 stations in their logs and a few others with several hundred. We ain't
rare on SSB, that's for sure. However, any geomagnetic activity kills us up here
(unless you are a 6-meter operator!). My heart goes out to the KL7, VE8 and VY1
folks - I know you guys had it a lot worse this time!
I just thought of one good thing this year. I can't recall at any time anyone
jamming, playing SSTV, making catcalls, playing music, etc. on me. Is this sign
of a more genteel age? Nope, likely my signal stunk so bad even the jammers
couldn't hear me!
73, Mitch W1SJ
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