Thursday, February 16, 2012

ARRL DX Contest this weekend

This has been a bad week for me as far as the QRP Fox hunts go.  On Tuesday night, I was only able to hear both Foxes at ESP levels.  I "knew" where they were; but they were much too weak to even bother calling - no way they would have heard me. Tonight is a rare QRN free night on 40 Meters, but alas, same problem as Tuesday night.  I can't hear the Foxes for anything.

So instead, I headed down the lower part of the band and was picking off Caribbean stations that are flexing their CW muscles for this weekend's big DX contest.  I got Curacao, and Bonaire and Aruba among others. And I even got a "brandy-new" entity for me via QRP. I worked PZ5RO in Suriname on 40 Meters.  I heard him call "QRL?" and he gave out his call and I nabbed him on my first shot. Sweet!

If you're new to QRP and you're hesitant about jumping into this contest, don't be.  Have no fear, jump in and have fun.  But (there's always a "but", isn't there?) you have to be sensible about it.  For the first half or so of the contest, don't get frustrated if you don't get the results that you want.  Remember at the beginning, you will be competing with a ton of QRO stations.  As a beginner, you might want to stay with "hunting and pouncing" and working the loudest stations.  If you try and try; but can't get an answer within a reasonable amount of time - move on.  Work what you can.  As Kenny Rogers sang, "You have to know when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em".  Contests like this will really help you learn the capabilities and strong points of your station.

QRPers stand a better chance during the last half of the contest, if my experience means anything.  Towards the end, stations that are still hungry for points seem to hear sharper as they eke out those weaker signals in order to inflate their point totals.  On Sunday afternoon, I would try working just about anyone that you can hear.  At this point, even the weaker stations without super antenna arrays seem to respond to QRPers.

Don't be surprised when you find out you can work a lot of DX with low power and modest antennas.  A few years ago, as a personal experiment, I decided to get on Saturday night and work the loudest DX stations that I was hearing, while the K2 was turned down to 1 Watt.  I think I earned the "1000 Mile per Watt" award about thirty times over that evening - and that was when we were in the middle of the sunspot doldrums.

And speaking of the "1000 Mile per Watt" award - you should be able to earn that this weekend without breaking a sweat.  And if you're working on your DXCC - just starting,  in the middle, or near the finish line, this is always a great event for that.  Also keep in mind Diamond DXCC for this year. I am hoping to inflate my country total big time towards that award.

The contest is also a good way to increase your code speed a bit.  Don't get frustrated with the guys who seem to be sending at 50 WPM,that sound like a buzz saw.  Pay them no attention - move on.  But don't fall into the trap of only working slower speed guys either.  Work the ones who are a bit faster than you're comfortable with.  It may take you eight or nine times to get their call correct; but what they hey - it's not like you're in this to take the whole shebang, right?

Bottom line is to have fun - be a "Giver of Points", relax and have a good time.

On quite a different; but sad note ....... I heard on the radio, on the way home from work today, that Gary Carter passed away, losing his battle with cancerous brain tumors.  Gary "Kid" Carter, along with Johnny Bench may arguably have been two of the greatest catchers the National League has ever seen.  His coming to the NY Mets in 1985 was a catalyst that started a series of winning seasons that lasted until the early 90s.  I had the great fortune to meet him at a baseball card show after he had retired from the game.  Not only was he a great baseball player, totally worthy of his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he was also a total gentleman.  The world of baseball (and NY Met fans) is poorer today for Gary's passing.  But I'm sure he's being more than welcomed on Heaven's All Star Team.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

2 comments:

Bert, PA1B said...

Hello Larry,
I found out many years ago, that this contest is great fun for QRP stations. I often use the lowest possible power in each QSO, when answering a CQ.

Notice that every QSO from the USA to Europe with 3W, is good for 1000 Miles per watt. hi
DX stations give their power, so with 2.5 watt, my exchange will be 599 3.
Good luck and have fun in the contest.

73, Bert

VE3WDM said...

Good afternoon Larry, very good run down on getting into contesting with a QRP signal. I love it and try to set some realistic goals for myself as well. In the last contest I was in I operated at 500mW's and wanted to break my 1000 mile per watt record. This contest it is to work on Diamond DXCC count, work QRPp and last but not least have fun. Oh and I too find at the beginning of the contest the code speeds can be out of this world. Not sure if these op's would get more points if they just slowed it down. I am like you I just tune past them and they loose out on points or maybe a multi. Have fun in the contest Larry and I hope to hear you in there.