Bill Coleman aa4lr at arrl.net
Wed Nov 28 23:11:19 EST 2007

On Nov 18, 2007, at 11:36 PM, Scott Straw wrote:

> It was a contest that really appealed to my inner-masochist.  To  
> work as hard as I did for 6.5 hours and to only have 57 contacts to  
> show for it should be down-right depressing.

My first NAQP CW, I worked 10 solid hours and made 120 QSOs total.  
That's not much better than your experience. (I was also freezing, as  
I was operating in an unheated basement which was about 60 degrees or  

> My redemption comes from the fact that I did work 34 sections -  
> including some new ones.  I used my 100W TS-450SAT and a slinky  
> antenna which was unfathomably better than the Mobile Hustler  
> attached to a magnetic base on a file cabinet next to the rig.  I  
> could heard stations from all around the US and Canada finally, but  
> being heard was still the tough nut.

You need a better antenna. (See bottom of message)

> Bottom line: I had fun but I need a better antenna set up.  I can  
> only imagine what it would be like to operate at a "real" station.  
> I'd probably be so delerious that I'd get laryngitis.

Back in 1995, the late W4AN gave me the opportunity to operate his  
budding superstation in SS Phone. I thought that winning would be a  
slam-dunk at such a station. I learned quickly that there's a lot more  
skill involved in wringing the maximum score from any station that is  
readily apparent.

Since then, I've focused on two things -- How do I make my station the  
best it can be (accepting all the constraints life gives)? How do I  
acquire the skills exhibited by top contest operators?

> Thanks to all who worked me, especially those that took the extra  
> effort to pull my puny signal out of the mud.  To those of you who  
> said, "too bad, so sad, try again later," just how much later?  When  
> I'm flush with mono-band beams?  I'm trying just as hard or harder  
> to reach my goal of 60 as you are to reach your goal of 1600.  Next  
> contest, lose the cavalier attitude or get better hearing aids.

Well, Scott, you gotta consider a couple of things. First, it is a  
contest, and the idea is to work as many stations as quickly as  
possible. If this guy is hoping to make 1600 Qs in 24 hours, that  
means he has to work about 67 Qs/hr all the way through the contest.  
The rate at the start of the contest (especially SS) is going to about  
twice that at the end of the contest.

So, you gotta put yourself in the other guy's shoes. If he thinks it  
is going to take 4-5 minutes to complete a long-complicated exchange  
with a station, it may be better strategy to work 4-5 other stations  

Second, conditions are never static in a contest -- things are always  
changing. Slow QSB occurs all the time, especially on the low bands.  
Perhaps another station a couple of kHz down is causing QRM for the  
moment. Trying later may be good advice.

Another thing took me a while to learn. Sometimes, there are loud,  
loud stations that just can't hear you. I thought it was because of my  
pipsqueak station, but I've had the experience enough times at NQ4I's  
place that I know it is real. NQ4I runs great antennas and the full  
legal limit at his M/M station.

I've seen it multiple times, perhaps on 20m just before it opens in  
the morning. You hear a loud DX station maybe in Africa, calling CQ or  
working stations in Europe. You call him, but he doesn't respond. He's  
so loud, it's hard to believe he can't hear you. You've got a  
monobander (or two) aimed right at him with 1500w out. Try several  
times, he CQs instead of coming back.  20 minutes later, you try again  
and work him on the first call.

Moderately strong backscatter stations are another case.

The bottom line is, you've got to do what you can to maximize your own  
score in a contest, even with a pipsqueak station. If it appears  
someone can't hear you, or isn't willing to dig you out, then your  
best bet is to move on to someone who can.



I don't know what your situation is either financially or physically,  
but you ought to be wracking your brain about what you can do about  
your antenna situation. The Kenwood TS-450 is a halfway decent contest  
rig, so you are probably OK there.

Lots of guys in the club have done contesting with nothing but wires.  
N4LR and KU8E come to mind right away, although Gordon may have put up  
a tower by now.

If you have trees available, particularly ones that are 50 feet or  
higher, wire dipoles can be very effective. Wire verticals can also  
work well, if you have room to lay down a minimal radial field.  
Neither of these is very expensive, especially if you can find surplus  
wire. (Copper prices have doubled in the last 10 years or so)

If you have the financial means and the room, nothing will help your  
contest station better than a modest tower and tribander. If a tower  
isn't possible, but you have tall trees, consider trying to loft a  
tribander or a few monobanders into the trees with ropes. K4OGG has  
done this with good success.

At my current QTH, I did contests with a low dipole and a trap  
vertical for seven years before I could put up a tower. You don't have  
to have a 100 foot monster tower, anything that gets an antenna from  
35 to 70 feet is very effective.

Bill Coleman, AA4LR, PP-ASEL        Mail: aa4lr at arrl.net
Quote: "Not within a thousand years will man ever fly!"
             -- Wilbur Wright, 1901

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