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Sun Jul 12 09:36:08 PDT 2009

                    IARU HF World Championship

Call: WC1M
Operator(s): WC1M
Station: WC1M

Class: SO CW HP
Operating Time (hrs): 15

 Band  CW Qs  Ph Qs  Zones  HQ Mults
  160:     3            2        1
   80:    13            3        9
   40:   328           18       35
   20:   903           26       45
   15:   108           14       17
   10:     7            3        0
Total:  1362    0      66      107  Total Score = 889,566

Club: Yankee Clipper Contest Club


Thunderstorms and jet lag combined to reduce my effort to a little over half
time. Nonetheless, it was great fun while it lasted. My sense is that
participation was good, especially by HQ stations. I beat my personal best for
HQ stations on 20 and worked several I had never heard in past years, such as
A7 and VU. As always, EU activity was great. Russians were plentiful, too,
including lots of UA9 and UA0. Worked a couple of JAs, but otherwise no other
deep Asians except the VU. US activity seemed to be very strong as well. Thanks
to all for the QSOs and mults.

I wasn't sure I could make it through the contest this year. We arrived from a
two-week holiday in Spain late Thursday night, and I figured the jet lag might
make it difficult to stay up for 24 hours. I had to try, of course. I'm pretty
sure I would have made it, had it not been for time lost due to thunderstorms.

I was doing quite well until about 2330z, averaging almost 100/hr despite poor
propagation on 15, virtually no propagation on 10, and a couple of dedicated
sweeps on 20 to find mults (I was CQing on 15, but it wasn't producing much.)
The rate on 20 was waning and I had just started a dedicated sweep for HQ
stations and mults on 40. I was racking up lots of them at high S&P rate --
really fun. 

There was a 50% chance of rain with thunderstorms, so I kept an eye on the
radar maps. Also, my shack window looks out to the west over the CT River
Valley, which is the direction most of our weather comes from. Usually I can
see the lightning from across the river well before it gets here, but all I saw
was dark clouds, so I kept operating. Then it started raining hard and a few
bright flashes suddenly appeared on our side of the river. The arrival time of
the thunder indicated the strikes were only half a mile to a mile away, so I
quickly shut down the station and ran downstairs to the basement patch panel to
unplug everything -- and I mean "everthing". A $10,000 disaster two years ago
resulted in a project to build a patch panel where I could quickly disconnect
every wire coming into the shack from the outside world. I have an extensive
ground system and suppressors on every wire at the towers and shack, but I'm
now a belt and suspenders guy. There are so many wires, however, it takes at
least 10 minutes to unplug or plug everything. 

Unfortunately, I had to stay off the air for two hours during the sweet spot on
40: 2330z-0130z. Luckily, the rate was still strong when I got back on the air
and I was able to rattle off about 300 QSOs in 2 1/2 hours. It was a pleasant
surprise because the band doesn't always stay open that late. Also, the rate
was probably a function of 20 shutting down, 160 and 80 being pretty poor and
me being fresh meat (my full-size Cal-AV 2-el is pretty loud, too.) I figured
the lost time precluded a win, but maybe I could work enough stations on 40 to
make the top 10 or even the top 5.

Then, at about 0400z, the rate on 40 dropped off. At the same time, I realized
160 and 80 were so noisy that they wouldn't produce a competitive number of
mults. The stations could hear me, but I couldn't hear many of them despite a
good beverage. A run on 80 was out of the question.

That's when the jet lag hit me like a ton of bricks. Probably largely
psychological due to the receding chance of posting a good score, but very
rough nonetheless. I got fuzzy-headed and started nodding off between QSOs. But
with less than 10 hours left, I thought it would be silly to quit. I probably
would have pushed on, had it not been for the second wave of thunderstorms.

Before and during the first wave of thunderstorms, I monitored the local
weather radar. But after the first wave passed, I made the critical mistake of
not checking the larger regional map. Had I done so, I would have seen the
second wave. Also, it was dark so I couldn't see it coming across the river.
All of sudden, I was stirred out of my jet-lagged stupor by torrential rain and
series of bright flashes and thunder so loud the windows shook. It was really
close! Once again, I shut down the station and dashed downstairs to unplug.

At that point, I threw in the towel. I was so tired I didn't bother to check
the radar map to see how large the front was. I went to bed and fell asleep to
the sound of rain and thunder, and slept through the end of the contest. I
think the second wave lasted a couple of hours, too.

All in all, glad I did the contest. I'm still learning to optimize use of the
various antenna combinations here, including the SteppIR stack, and still
learning how to make the K3s sing. This was good practice, which is always
needed by this op.

Since my contest itch hasn't been fully scratched, maybe I'll try WAE for a
change. Otherwise, see you in the Fall. 

73, Dick WC1M

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