In as much as this is a diary of radio things, I thought I would collect a few thoughts on my recent weekend of contesting in New England. Specifically, Eastern Mass. I will probably follow a form of “Done Well”,” Do better”. This is written from a personal perspective. I want to collect some thoughts on contesting in CW before they fade away. I hope this may be of some value to anyone contemplating an effort such as we have just completed.
Firstly, Location, Location, Location! I now have first hand experience why YCCC (almost) always wins DX Contests. Being dedicated, methodical and enthusiastic only covers part of the story. Simply put, contesting from the Northeastern US is amazing. It was easily the best contest experience I have ever had.
Secondly, we attempted (I say we because this was a multi one with two operators) to keep a signal on the air for 48 hours. We did that.
Next, I was curious in the extreme about how well a small station could fare in a DX Test with a broad band, low Q wire antenna when mixed in with the big guys that normally populate such contests. The antenna we were using is the one pictured earlier in this blog that is capable of 160 through 10 meters on a single wire antenna structure. That is to say no towers, no beams, only the wire antenna which is made up of many wires but organized into a single wire structure. This wire is contained on a normal city lot and consumes a linear (plan view) distance of approximately 70 feet. I do not have a copy of the log as submitted but seem to recollect 46 countries on 160 Meters alone! That in itself was worth the trip. Especially considering the electrical height of this 160 Meter antenna is 20 feet. If I get a copy of the summary sheet I will post it here.
Having strangers changing shifts in your home every four hours for two days over a weekend is a bit disconcerting in any household and I’d like to acknowledge my hosts for a level of hospitality that made me feel as if I lived there. Thanks guys!
QSO styled code practice does not prepare you for CW Contesting. I have droned on here for months about how much I practice Morse each month and I am here to say it comes no where close to preparing you for a serious CW effort. Beginning this weekend I thought I had done the work to be effective. Well that didn’t work out very well. Having a QSO at 30 wpm with character mixes that are familiar in English daily use is no substitute for call sign recognition. Just because you can copy in your head at 30 wpm does not imply you have the ability to catching a strange prefix at 40 wpm. Often I would find myself copying a station through four or five Q’s to accurately copy the call sign. Further, operating a DX Test on Morse from some exotic place (in my case XE2EBE) on CW does not prepare you for a US DX Test. In my case, I was in Mexico working US in ARRL CW and had less trouble picking up callsigns because I was familiar with most US call signs and structure. In short I was unprepared for what I encountered.
Have three operators. Running Port/Starboard styled shifts with a “On” time of four hours with a corresponding “Off” time of four hours is tough on old bones. Three ops and a four on and 8 off would have made it easier.
Exercise more. Stamina is important. If you have stamina it helps with mental acuity.
Improve your personal equation. I plan to continue my daily QSO code practice but I want to supplement that practice with Rufz or other callsign recognition and preparation software. Drilling can only help.
As a final note; my last contest was a long time ago. Stuff happens to your thinking process, physical ability and habits that take a toll. Mostly I was unaware of the changes but a contest brings them out in full view. I plan to be better prepared next time. It was an amazing weekend if you are interested in DX or Contesting or both. As always, when doing these events I learn a lot, I have fun and enjoy the company of others.
Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W7MAP/5