John Devoldere
Sun, 08 Dec 1996 23:36:30 +0000


--------------------  THE STORY  ---------------------------------

Last year was the best ARRL contest so far, with 460 stations worked and
48.760 points. The DX  window  was a great invention for us, Europeans. 

This year I started at 22:00 sharp, and was surprised to find the band open
already. In the first half hour 23 stations were worked. From then on the
rate improved quickly. I had settled somewhere in the DX-window, and it was
nice and calm there. Between 23:00 and 24:00z the rate was  up to 60Q's an
hour, and it essentially remained like that (55/hour) in the next two hours.
By 03:00 I had 280 Q's in the log with 49 sections. By that time I had
worked one West Coast station, W7EJ in Ore. But I had already worked other
Mid-West states such as SD (W7XU), IA (N0NI), CO (KV0Q), KS (N0XA), ND
(W0ZTL) and MT (W7LR). At the same time, last year, I had only 130 QSO's ,
now nearly 300!

I became very optimistic. The band had been very quiet so far. Not too much
QRM, and no static to speak about. But then came the change. I started
hearing static crashes, which gradually got stronger in the next two hours.
The signals suddenly started dropping like a brick. In the next hour I
worked only 46 stations, with a couple of good new multipliers though: MN
(KJ0B), VI (WP4Z), VE5RA (very strong!), LAX (N6LL, excellent signal) and AZ

Things got worse between 04:00 and 05:00 with only 25 QSO's and not a single
new multiplier. This is also when other troubles set in. I heard several US
stations calling CQ in the window, near or on my frequency (e.g. W8KTQ and
KM8BA I think). Around the same time DK8ZB suddenly started calling CQ smash
on my QRG. I had held that frequency (1830.8) for several hours now, and had
even refrained to go to the men's room for fear of loosing the frequency! I
kindly said QRL, pse QSY. He started calling again, and took no notice of
me. For the next full, long lasting 20 minutes he called CQ, and each time
he went over, I asked him to QSY. I was determined to carry on until he
would go. After 22 minutes he gave up and moved. That was DK8ZB, a call to

The same poor conditions trend set through between 05:00 and 06:00, although
I heard a lot of very weak stations calling, and I know a lot were from way
inland. At 05:23 I had VE7WO in my log for a new multiplier.  K9JF/7 (Ore)
was very strong at that time, as well as N2IC/0, K0KE, W0CP  and K0EU (all
in Co).

The QRN had become really problematic, and every second call I was trying to
copy I missed one or two letters because of the loud crashes. 

In the final hour between 06:00 and 07:00 I went S/Ping a few times, but it
is still very difficult to break through the US callers out-side the DX
window. Only the stronger stations seem to hear us. Anyhow, signals were
quite weak, and the biggest guns from the East Coast were really only S7 on
the meter. 

A first night's conclusion: Excellent start of the contest (up till 03:00z),
followed by a disappointing second half night, with lots of QRN and weak
signals, although the band apparently opened *reasonably* well to some
selective parts of the West Coast.  With 390 QSO's and 42,000 points, I had
almost equalled last year's score in the first night. So I could not really
complain, although the morning hours were a real disaster.

The 2nd night: there were some loud signals as early as 21:00z. I started at
21:30 and worked 6 stations in the first half hour. Between 22:00 and 23:00
the count was up to a giant 12, and most were weak signals from the
so-called second layer. QRN was still there, but it seemed a little quieter
than last night. At 23:00 I already heard K0HA, which might be a sign of
good conditions? There were a lot of very weak stations I just could not
copy (just a letter here and there). It must be frustrating for these guys,
but believe me, it is just as frustrating for me! At 23:15 I had 400 QSO's
is the log. My rate had now increased to an incredible 15 QSO's per hour, of
which were 5 dupes! It seemed like a lot of stations wanted to make sure
they had me in the log and they had a second try. This situation continued
all trhough the night and I ended up with a total of 32 dupes.

At 00:00 I had to change frequency in the window. There was an SM5 just low
of me, and his noise/clicks were so loud (bad), it was just unbearable. I
found a clear spot on 1830.6 where I would remain for the rest of the second
night. The first real nice DX was NI6T at exactly 01:00z (that was very
early!). About that time S58A was trying to steel the frequency from right
under me, and it took some asking before he (reluctantly?) moved. But
nothing like yesterday with that  German LID. At 01:00 the count was up to
450. I also regularly heard W's calling CQ Test in the window. The
conditions were very flat now, I called CQ TEST for an eternity without
replies. At one moment I honestly though of giving up and going to bed....
Between 01:00 and 03:00 I barely worked 20 stations of which again 5
dupes... Exciting...  But the band was in reasonable shape, maybe I just
worked everybody???.... N7UA, AA7MH, N6FF and VE6JY are the best DX's in the
log during that time frame. Also, as the night progressed, the QRN level
dropped down, and that was a real relief!

It remained slow in the next two hours (03:00 - 05:00), but the skip had
definitely lengthened: I logged K6UT, N6TR (OR), W7SE (WY), WC7M (WY), K6VX,
NJ6V, W6RJ, N6JV and N6ND. Best signal from the West Coast undoubtedly came
(as always) from N7UA. I worked WC7M after he had been calling CQ on my
frequencyn for many minutes. He was repeatedly told by other US stations
this was the DX-window. Eventually he heard my CQ and called me. Other
US-stations that were very strong and called CQ and worked other US-stations
right in the DX-window were K2DS and N2NT. I never went looking for them,
thap happened right on *my* frequency. In the same time frame one or two
other DX-stations must have started operating very close to my frequency (I
heard one, it was an XE2 station), because there were US stations calling
someone else on the same (*my*) frequency as well. This was very confusing
for a while. In that period I also heard other West Coast stations calling
those guys, but they never called me (e.g. W7RG). I am not even 100% sure
that W6RJ and N6JV called me. Problem is that many stations calling do NOT
give the call of the station they are after (the same happens frequently
when working split like on 40 m in phone). This can be very confusing. It is
of my opinion that the callers should give the call of the station he is
after at least ONCE. I hope I don't any have guys in my log that that I did
not work!  Others were so weak I never could make out their full call (e.g.
KC7?, KJ7? and W6HA?). 

Another problem is QSB. The station may be well be Q5 when you get his call,
but when he comes back he is down in the fade. Then he gives you his 599
three times (while fading further down), and when he has become unreadable
he gives you his section just once... This happened many times. Once I have
the call, all I have to copy is the section, why not just give that,... and
add 599 at the end.!

The rate remained poor for the rest of the night, but I succeeded in working
a few more multipliers: KP3W (PR), W6BPI (NV), AA1K (DE), K7UT (UT), K5AW
(NM), and KL7RA (AK), who was a honest S9 right from across the North Pole
(I only had to call once to get through a  huge pile-up, which made me feel

I spent the last hour S and P-ing but could not find much new, just a few
more stations that apparently never went listening in the DX-window.

My last QSO was at 07:40, a few minutes af-ter sunrise here. It was my QSO
number 571 (of which 32 dupes). The mults are good, I think: 68 sections,
which I think is not so bad from Europe.

A big surprise was to work all Canadian sections (except YU). I also worked
all W1, W2, W3, W4, W5 (except AR), W8, W9 and W0 sections. I worked six W6
sections, and seven W7 sections (ID and EWA were missing). Where was the
president's state?

While writing these few lines I am listening to SM5EKN on 1832.5 at 14:30z,
and he is having a ball working W7 and W6 on the long path. I stretched my
ears when he worked N7UA, but I can't hear a squeak. After all it is 1.5
hours before my sunset! 

Conclusion: last year I worked 460 W's in 53 sections (48 K points) and
though that was a record never to be beaten. This year I ended with  539
good QSO's in 68 sections, good for nearly 75,000 points. Despite all of
this I found conditions not really excellent.  The band was open in all
directions and for all states, but most signals were NOT strong (with me),
witha few exceptions (KL7RA was like a local). I am sorry I miised KH6AT,
wonder if he ever called me? 

I thoroughly enjoyed the contest. And YES, the DX-window is a superb thing.
Maybe it should be a little wider, or maybe we should have two DX windows,
one for Europe, and one for other DX (South America ??). Oh, I heard quite a
few North American non-US/VE stations in the window (e.g. the XE). I thought
the rules said the window was for stations OUTSIDE NORTH AMERICA. That
excludes the window for Mexican and other "exotic" North American stations,
I think.. Anyhow, they should be plenty strong and not require a window to
help them..

I loved it. See you all in the CQ WW 160 Contest in January.

And a Merry X-mas and the best for 1997 to all.


John, ON4UN - AA4OI - OT6T (and will be OT7T next year).


Call us in all major 1996 contests: ON4UN (OT6T in WPX)
John Devoldere (ON4UN-AA4OI)
B-9000 Ghent (Belgium)

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