This weekend is the CQ WWDX Contest, one of the "Big'uns". This is one where a lot of folks travel to distant destinations, just for participation in the contest. So all during the week, visitors as well as indigenous Hams have been tweaking their equipment, and have been getting on the air to try things out. As a QRPer, this is a good thing to take advantage of. The bands are full of DX and now is your chance to work it. Pickings are good and I have worked Cape Verde Island, Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Dominica, Morocco, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Bermuda - all with 5 Watts in just within the last few days.
The bands are expected to be in good shape for this weekend. So if you have the time, you can get on and you can net a lot of DX. If you've never started your QRP DXCC, now is the time to begin! If you go all out, I am willing to bet that you could conceivably earn it this weekend.
For the new QRPer, there are some things to keep in mind. At the beginning of the contest, code speeds are going to be fast. Some of these guys will sound like a buzz saw! Don't get discouraged. The DX will keep on sending their calls a lot, so if it takes multiple attempts for you to copy, you'll get plenty of them. Towards Saturday night into Sunday, when some of these guys get tired, they tend to slow up a bit, too. A tip to keep in mind is that the slower speed DX stations tend to congregate UP, towards the top edges of the CW bands, so that's a good place to start. However, if you make a good effort to copy code that is faster than what you are used to, I can pretty much guarantee a 10% or better improvement on your copy speed by the time the contest is over.
The loudest stations are probably running the most power, but they probably also have the best antennas. Cherry pick those, and they'll probably have an easier time hearing you, rather than the guy half way around the world who is running 100 Watts to a dipole only 25 feet up. You may work him too, but it will probably be a bit harder. Another thing to keep in mind, is that as the contest winds down on Sunday afternoon into Sunday night, the hard core contesters will be desperate for points. It's more likely they will take their time with you, if you happen to have a weak signal on their end . REMEMBER - QRP does NOT necessarily mean weak signal! If propagation is favorable, and your antenna is decent, there's no reason that your signal can't be 579 or better on their end.
The exchange is super easy - RST and your CQ Zone. For those of us on the East Coast, I believe that is 5. Most Amateur Radio maps and/or logging programs will provide that for you. I'll provide one here:
Don't get hung up on not being able to work someone. If you're trying to work a loud station, and he can't hear you, don't be afraid to turn the dial and move on. Maybe props aren't the best between you and him at that moment. Go work someone else and come back to him in a bit if you can. With enough experience, in no time you'll be able to tell who you have a reasonable shot at working and who you don't.
The most important thing is to have fun! Don't get discouraged or frustrated. If you end up working 100 DX entities, that's great! If you only end up working 5 - so what? The bottom line is to enjoy yourself.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!