DXCC In 10 Hours…Almost
2013 CQWW SSB Contest @ K1ZO


Since finishing the new tower and antenna project 2 weeks ago, I was anxious to put the new hardware through its paces in the CQ Worldwide SSB contest. Testing had shown it to be very capable during day-to-day DXing. I was hoping for similar results in a contest environment.

I don’t have the physical or mental capabilities to keep my butt in the chair for an all band effort in a 48 hour contest. And to keep peace in the household I like to keep my evenings free. I decided to do a single band operation. I immediately ruled out 20 meters. Even with the new setup, I’m just not that loud on 20. The antenna is just a shade over a wavelength up and that’s a little low. Couple that with a band that has quite a narrow phone section.

Although 10 meters had been incredible for the better part of 2 weeks, I just wasn’t convinced it would hold up the entire weekend. Since I had done so well on 15 meters during the past WPX SSB contest, that became my choice.

The best laid plans…

I fired up the equipment about 90 minutes before the start of the contest. Since I knew this would be prime time for Asia and the Pacific, I pointed the new antenna at about 330 degrees. The lower Mosley TA-53M @ 43 feet was headed South to grab the South American and Caribbean stations that I knew would be present.

Tuning up from 21.200 Mhz, the JA and other Asian stations were plentiful and very loud. I worked an HL with one call, as well as a JA, WH0, KL7 and a couple of KH6s. A recording of the JA QSO is here: Pre Contest QSO w/JA3BOA

I was pleased with my band choice and ready to fill the log at contest start.

0000Z - Off and running or should I say crawling. I couldn’t buy a contact. The JA I worked 90 minutes earlier was now S3 and I just could not break the KL7 pileup. I’ve never regretted my antenna/tower choices or my lack of an amplifier but at that moment I sure wanted a lot more aluminum, higher in the air and at least another kilowatt of power.

I struggled for an hour and put 8 Qs in the log…three of those from the low antenna. To say the least, I was frustrated. Ham Radio is supposed to be fun and relaxing…this was neither. It was depressing. I shut everything off. Time to rethink…regroup. I watched a little TV and went to bed. Sometime before drifting off to sleep I decided to start fresh on Saturday morning…on 10 meters.

Saturday AM - 1130Z - I’m ready to go with the new plan. 10 Meter Single Band Assisted Low Power. I like the Assisted category. Feeding the DX Cluster into the N1MM band map shows me what’s been spotted as I tune up the band. If the call is any other color than grey, I need it. If I come across a station that has not been spotted yet, typing a few letters of the call into the program shows me the possible calls and whether I’ve worked them or not.

The band is already open to Europe and the South when I start. From 28.300 I slowly tune, watch the band map and listen…yes you still have to listen. The band is loaded. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Tune, call and log it. Over and over. I go all the way up to 29 Mhz and never run out of CQing stations.

Several ops take the time to tell me how loud I am, or what a “big signal” I have or make a comment about “great audio”. That feels good. I don’t spend time in pileups. If I can’t work the station in 2 calls I move on. If the station is a badly needed multiplier (Zone or Country) I do a quick VFO A to B and I’ll check back later.

I watch the Q total climb. I don’t display a Rate Meter but know I’m doing well. After contest log analysis shows that my best 60 minute rate was the first hour of the contest…84 Qs. My best 120 minute rate was the first two hours…143 Qs. This was all Search and Pounce.

It takes me an hour and 15 minutes to reach 29 Mhz. I punch in 28.300 and start over. There are plenty of fresh stations to work. I go through this whole routine 2 or 3 times and decide it’s time to call CQ myself. Multipliers are great but to make a good score you also need a good QSO count. Plus it’s fun to have stations calling me instead of me calling them.

I find a relatively quiet spot high in the band. I know that with low power I won’t be able to hold a frequency forever. It won’t be long before some “big gun” moves in real close. But I accept that and have at it.

The rate isn’t steady. It comes in waves. Generate a pileup, work through them and a break. And then it starts over. My best 10 minute rate was 28 Qs. Best 20 minute was 38 Qs. I haven’t done the analysis but I assume my “waves” came after I had been spotted on the Cluster.

The day just flies and I certainly don’t run out of stations to work. By dinner time, 2130Z, I have 380 Qs in the log and I decide to stop for the day. It’s been good. No, it’s been great!

And my quest for DXCC? I come up 2 short with 98 countries.

Sunday is going to be fun…

Postscript…

Here are some final numbers…

752 Qs
30 Zones
118 Countries

Total operating time - 21 hours

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73
Doug - K1ZO