[CQ-Contest] W4AN WPX CW 1997 Story (long)

Bill Fisher w4an at contesting.com
Mon May 26 22:32:40 EDT 1997

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W4AN WPX CW 1997

I always thought that keeping in shape helped my contesting.  Something 
about the pain of working out that makes staying awake for a contest much 
easier in my estimation.  Unfortunately, this year I managed to blow a tire 
on my bicycle going down a mountain pass while negotiating a turn.  At 35 
MPH, you can imagine what my backside looked like.  The accident happened 2 
weeks prior to the contest, but at the start I was still sitting on just 
one side of my butt and trying not to aggravate my sore ribs.

As usual, I stop drinking and eating caffeine two weeks before the contest 
and don't use it during the contest either.  It really paid off this time. 
 I had no problem staying awake or getting up when I did sleep.

The weekend before the contest I spent a great deal of time getting my 80M 
4-square ready.  This was all for about 50 QSO's the entire weekend. 
 Still, I had no problem being heard by the Europeans I called.  I tried a 
few CQ's on 80M, but with no answers.

Last year we were plagued by thunderstorms the entire weekend.  On Sunday 
afternoon, 20M sounded more like 40M and I packed it in early with the 
approach of big thunderstorm.  This year my luck changed.  Though it was 
rainy most of the weekend, there were no major thunderstorms in the area 
either night.

I have always started this contest on 20M.  This year I decided the big 
numbers come from the guys with big low band numbers.  And, though I can't 
make up for the location advantage of the guys in the northeast, I decided 
I would start on 40M this year.

After reading KE2PF (Now N2NL)'s post contest report from last year (what a 
great score he had!), I decided that it was time to put up some phased 
beverages for 40M to Europe.  There is no shortage of land here and the 
only thing holding me back was time.  I put up two beverages that are 225' 
long and separated by one-quarter wave on 40M.  They run downhill at a 
slant to the NE.  They are terminated in a quarter wave wire and a 550-ohm 
resister.  The beverages have been up for the entire 1996 and 1997 season 
and have really played great.  I use a Palomar preamplifier so I can 
control the gain to my beverages.  This prevents toxic shock syndrome when 
you switch between your transmit antenna and the beverages.  I like the 
receiver to sound the same when I switch antennas.

Looking at my points per hour breakdown is revealing.  Even Saturday night 
with the slow rates I would have been better off to operate straight 
through to morning working 2X point QSO's than taking an off time.  Next 
year I will plan to be on the air all night, both nights, and sleep during 
the day.

Hour 1 was 123.  Wow!  I figured I might be around 90 with the new 
callsign.  Most of the stuff I was working was in Europe and I felt like I 
could hear a pin drop.  Absolutely no problem copying any of the stations 
calling me.  I made 20 2nd radio QSO's on 20M.  I was surprised the first 
night how strong the signals were on 20M.  I knew I could make instant rate 
if I went there.  Instead, I stayed with 40M the entire first night.  I 
made 2nd radio QSO's on 20 and 80 when I could.  By the way, the first hour 
was the only hour over 100 for the entire contest.

The first night looks something like this?

UTC   160   80   40   20   15   10  rate total
00Z     0    0  103   20    0    0   123   123
01Z     0    0   72   18    0    0    90   213
02Z     0   12   83    3    0    0    98   311
03Z     0   13   66    0    0    0    79   390
04Z     0    2   63   18    0    0    83   473
05Z     0    0   50    9    0    0    59   532
06Z     0    5   36    4    0    0    45   577
07Z     0    0   42    5    0    0    47   624
08Z     0    0   18    1    0    0    19   643
09Z     0    0    0    1    0    0     1   644
10Z     0    0    8   32    0    0    40   684

I CQ'ed on 40M the entire first night.  I tried a few CQ's on 80M but with 
no luck.  The longer in to the contest it is, the more lazy I get with the 
2nd radio.  You can see that I make almost 20 QSO's per hour on the 2nd 
radio at the beginning but later in the contest the number drops in half. 
 Generally I think I can make between 15 and 20 QSO's per hour on the 2nd 
radio.  The key is always listening to that radio and using your mind to 
filter which radio you actually want to listen to.  I will switch to only 
one of the radios if I'm having difficulty hearing a station.

Interestingly I found that I was still running Europeans in the 0600Z hour 
on 40M.  This is well past sunrise for most of Europe.  Most of these 
stations were in far west or southwestern Europe.  I also started getting 
called off the back of the beams by VK's and ZL's.

At 0707Z my first JA called me with the antennas still pointing to Europe. 
 This is also interesting because at 0700Z the sun is still not down in JA. 
 I quickly turned the top antenna to JA and began a run of JA's.  I take a 
30-minute off time at 0810Z (big mistake in hindsight).  When I get back on 
I continue to run more JA's on 40M.  I continue this run until 0900Z when I 
take another off time of 1 hour and 15 minutes.  I think I should have 
gutted it out the entire first night and stayed with whatever rate there 
was to JA on 40M even if 20M were opening to Europe.   After that I 
operated straight through until 0600Z Sunday morning.  I really didn't have 
much problem staying with it.  The motivation seemed to stay with me this 
time.  I knew I wasn't going to win the contest with KQ2M at K1TTT and N2NL 
and N2RM, but the motivation came from doing the best I could.  Maybe I 
could set the W4 record.  Maybe I can beat KT3Y and K3ZO this year.  Maybe 
it's just fun.

The morning hours are filled with working JA's and Europeans on 20M.  I 
pointed the 5 element 20 at Japan and used the stack of 204BA's for Europe. 
 I power divide between the antennas.  It really makes a difference when 
the bands are open to both JA and Europe at the same time.

By 1300Z it starts to slow down.  Only 33 and 35 QSO's on 20M during the 
1300 and 1400 hours.  The only thing that saved me were 2nd radio QSO's on 
15M of 28 and 16 respectively.  I'm feeling really good and decide to stay 
on regardless of the rate.  Even now I feel like that was a pretty good 
idea.  The first day is always better than the 2nd.  At some point in the 
morning I wonder across N2NL on 15M.  He is running Europeans that I can't 
even begin to hear and at a good rate.  This is pretty demoralizing and I 
decide move on rather than listen to him doing well.  J    Later in the 
afternoon we get a pretty decent opening on 15M to Europe that occurs after 
European sunset.  During 2000Z and 2100Z I work a total of 100 QSO's with 
mostly Europeans.  I believe the rate suffered some due to people not 
actually checking to see if 15M were open.

At 2200Z I find the bottom of 20M's vacated by KQ2M and decide it's 
probably worth leaving 15M for the choice frequency  I think it worked out. 
 I managed 65 QSO's during the 2200Z hour on 20 and another 50 during 

I started Cqing on 40M at 0000Z.  Before that I don't think I could have 
gotten anything going.  This seemed to be the case on Sunday night also. 
 The band really didn't start producing QSO's for me until the 0200Z hour 
and stayed fairly consistent through the 0500Z hour.  At 0615Z I decide to 
take my first major off time of the contest.  Again, I know now that I 
should have stayed with it and worked the JA's until sunrise but I was 
feeling pretty tired at this point and felt like I needed the rest.  I got 
back on the air at 1045Z and started calling CQ on 20M with very little 
luck.  I could tell conditions were not the same as Saturday and felt like 
it might be a long day.  I was glad I had saved 5 hours of off time for 
Sunday (day).

1100Z were only 40 QSO's and all but two on 20M.  1300Z were worse with 
only 14 QSO's for a full hour's effort.  This is really when it sunk in 
that I should have stayed awake both nights.  With only 28 QSO's in the log 
for the 1400Z hour I decide to take the last of my off time in one big 
chunk until the afternoon.  This worked out pretty well because when I got 
back on the air 20M sounded like a totally different band.  Signals were 
strong from Europe and runs were again possible.  I finished the contest 
with almost 5 hours of nothing but Cqing on 20M.  The 2100Z hour was only 
28 QSO's because of OH6HA who blatantly attempted to steal my frequency 
with total disregard for my having been there.  Only after some very heated 
exchanges did he move.  He seemed to indicate in our exchange that we 
Americans feel like we own the band or some such.  Never mind that I had 
been there for an hour.  It must have been his turn.

I tried Cqing on 40M during the 2300Z hour but with absolutely no luck.  It 
was frustrating to hear K3ZO and KT3Y working Europeans that I could barely 
hear but that I knew would not answer my CQ's.  So, I stayed at 14.000.4 
for the entire afternoon right up to the end.  I worked a few Europeans on 
the 2nd radio on 40M but mostly it was the same crowd.

Great contest.  Great conditions.  Still think 30 hours was more 
interesting though.


Bill, W4AN

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