webform at b41h.net webform at b41h.net
Tue Feb 23 12:56:59 PST 2010

                    ARRL DX Contest, CW

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

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

 Band  QSOs  Mults
  160:   57    46
   80:  432    58
   40: 1388    79
   20: 1156    82
   15: 1113    84
   10:   19    14
Total: 4165   363  Total Score = 4,532,418

Club: Yankee Clipper Contest Club


I think the theme of this contest has to be "They're baaaack!" (sunspots, I

Congrats to K3CR, VY2TT, K1RX and the rest of the field for outstanding scores.
I can't recall seeing as many QSO totals over 4K or in the high 3Ks. When I see
QSO totals like Mark's and Ken's, I have to wonder if it's only a matter of
time before a W/VE SOAB HP breaks 5K Qs in this contest. 

As for me, it's the first time I've worked over 4000 QSOs in any contest, the
previous high being 3578 in this contest back in 2001 at the peak of the last
cycle. Unfortunately, this time my mults weren't good enough and at the moment
I'm barely hanging on to 8th place. There are a bunch of reasons for that, but
skill level tops the list. I've gradually improved my mult performance over the
years, making more and more use of the second radio. But I simply wasn't
prepared for the huge rates. The rate meter was between 180-200 virtually all
the time for the first 24 hours, and above 130-150 most of the second day. I
failed to make good use of the second radio and couldn't bring myself to break
away from the rate for dedicated S&P more than a handful of times on the first
day. By the end of the first 24 hours, I knew the mults wouldn't be up to
snuff. It was a good wake-up call that I need to operate differently in this
part of the sunspot cycle.

40 was so good the first night that I got to 80 late, and failed to do an S&P
sweep of the band before settling in to run. Ran 40 and 80 at high rate all
night, so never got a chance to sweep 40 for mults. 40 was open so late that I
got to 20 about 45 minutes to an hour after it opened, with no sleep (made up
for it by catching the 20m openings just right on Sunday.) Anyway, the
resulting fatigue and extremely high rates made it even harder to work the
second radio on the high bands during the daylight hours on Saturday. By the
time the rate dropped enough on Sunday for me to make good use of the second
radio, the mults I needed weren't there. Also, I didn't turn my antennas enough
while running to check for mults coming in from other directions. When the
pileups are smaller, I can usually hear weak stuff like that off the back of
the beams. But not this time. Even QRP stations were really loud.

So, I made a lot of mistakes. My take-aways are:

1. Learn to work the second radio even when the pileups are huge.
2. Remember to turn the antennas when running (e.g., Asia during the morning
20m EU runs).
3. Sweep a never-worked band for mults before running.
4. Learn to S&P faster.
5. Don't be late for openings!
Still haven't figured out whether I should ever leave high rate and do
dedicated S&P. 

The other excuse is that I wasn't real motivated to do this contest. I had put
in a lot of late nights on my antenna switching software (AntennaMaster), which
needs some work if it's going to be suitable for a larger group of users. I was
pretty tired when the contest started. Fatigue and lack of motivation always
make it harder to work the second radio. But those are just excuses. My
mistakes were the real problem.

As for the station, I'm convinced that the antennas on 40-10 are plenty good
enough, especially when we get a few sunspots. During the low point of the
cycle, I found that having a single multiband stack that takes significant time
to tune can be a disadvantage. My low monoband antennas weren't good enough to
detect openings on 15 and 10, so I had to use them to hold the run frequency
(sometimes barely) while I retuned the SteppIR stack to the other band. The
rate would drop when I did this, so I didn't do it as often as I needed and
probably missed some openings. I had been considering replacing the monobanders
with 2-stacks (easier said than done), but if this contest is any indication I
don't need to do that. The low monobanders did just fine detecting the openings
on 15 and even on 10. 

For the first time in a long time, there was no apparent advantage on 15 or 10,
or on any band, for stations south of me. This is also the first time I've been
able to assess how the SteppIR 3-stack works on 15, and was very pleased
(running JAs in the late afternoon, no less!) Can't wait to see how the stack
does on 10. The Cal-Av 2-el on 40 continues to be my best antenna, as the
numbers show. No problems holding a frequency, even down low in the band. K3
Diversity reception with the beam and 4-square makes for an unbelievable RX
combination. Low band wire antennas are the weakness here, but they did OK in
this contest. My mults on 160 were competitive, and they were only low on 80
because I didn't play the band right. Still need to build a 4-square for 80 and
a vertical for 160.

All in all, a great experience, though quite taxing at times. It's great to see
so much participation from Europe and Japan, and it's fantastic to operate with
a few sunspots to help out. In addition to the high rate, there were tons of
QRP stations, most of whom were as loud as 100W and KW stations. I'm sure
everyone has been aware of how dismal flux levels have been for the past three
years, but scores were surprisingly good and I think many of us got used to
only one band being open at a time, no 15, no 10, etc. This is only my third
sunpost cycle as a ham, but I don't recall 15 being completely shutdown for so
long at the bottom of previous cycles. 15 opening up in this contest was like
seeing an old friend after a long absence, and reminded me that we're in for a
lot of fun in the near future.

Beefs? Well, I can do without the fancy cut numbers. Stations always repeat too
many times when I ask for fills. Once is enough, unless I ask again. Seems like
people are getting a little better at zero-beating -- didn't need to use RIT
much in this contest. Only a few cases of stations plopping down on my
frequency and calling CQ without asking if the frequency is in use. Had one or
two frequency fights, at least one of which may have been my fault for not
realizing I had bumped the VFO (probably with the mouse scroll wheel, which
maybe I should disable.) Only one really disappointing moment, when the 40m op
at K3LR plopped down on the frequency I had been running for some time, and
refused to acknowledge my presence (I'm sure I was as loud down there as he was
up here.) Someone on frequency laughed at my futile efforts.

To all the DX, thanks for the Qs!

73, Dick WC1M (station details follow)


160M  -  trapped vee @90'
 80M  -  delta loop @75, trapped vee @90'
 40M  -  Cal-Av 2D-40A @110', 4-square
 20M  -  4/4/4 SteppIRs @96'/64'/34' on TICs, C3E @50', 4-el @72'
 15M  -  4/4/4 SteppIRs @96'/64'/34' on TICs, C3E @50', 5-el @50'
 10M  -  4/4/4 SteppIRs @96'/64'/34' on TICs, C3E @50'
Tower#1:   Cal-AV 2D-40A, 4-el SteppIRs, 160/80 trapped vee
770-MDP:   Force-12 EF-420
AB-577 #1: Force-12 EF-515
AB-577 #2: Force-12 C3E

Delta loop hung from a tree

dual 580' beverage aimed 20/220 degrees


Elecraft K3 + LP-PAN + CW Skimmer + Alpha 87A, Elecraft K3 + Acom 2000A,
Writelog, K1XM YCCC SO2R Box, homebrew Windows antenna switching/tuning
software ("AntennaMaster"), Hamation Relay Drivers, TopTen and KK1L SO2R
switches, Green Heron and Hy-Gain rotor controllers, microHam Stack Switch and

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