Monday, February 18, 2013

ARRL DX Contest

Once again, and especially in a contest like this, I resumed my role as a "GOP" - giver of points.

I went into the contest with several goals in mind, one of which I did not accomplish. But I'll save that one for last.  The vital statistics are such that in about an accrued (approximate) 5 hours of operating time, by cherry picking, I made 69 contacts and of those, I worked 39 different DXCC entities.  Hence, my earlier post that if you are just embarking on your journey towards DXCC, this is a wonderful place to start.  In only five hours, I got 39% of the  way there.  If you could devote even more time, there's no reason that you couldn't end up 1/2 to 3/4 of the way there - even with "average" antennas.  If you are fortunate to have a directional antenna? I think you could complete DXCC in one weekend, if your butt can stand a stint in the chair for that long.

My first goal was to really check out the legs if the KPA3 that I recently installed in the K3.  "What?" you say?  "A 100 Watt Amp in W2LJ's QRP rig?"  Yes, but don't get all crazy on me, there's a method to my madness.  I am a dedicated QRPer; but I also like to work DX.  I am currently at about 140 DXCC entities worked. When I hear a new one out there that I have never worked before, or there's a DXpedition to an entity I never worked before, my goal is to get them in the log - period.  My theory is that if I know they're in the log, then the pressure is off and it will be easier to get them via QRP.  And if I shouldn't be able to work them QRP - oh well, them's the breaks, but at least I have them in the log.  When it comes to DX, I am definitely NOT the caliber of someone like Dan WG5G (who should be in the QRP HOF, by the way) who is in the DXCC Honor Roll - all QRP.

All that being said, using the 100 Watt setting on the K3 was like shooting fish in a barrel, in most cases.  If I was able to hear 'em, I was able to work 'em.  Comforting knowledge to have in the back of my mind when I'm fighting it out in a DXpedition pile-up, even though I know that in those circumstances, maybe even 100 Watts might not be enough!.  But getting back to matters at hand, I now know the 100 Watt setting works well.  While it was fun to bag countries like that in one shot, the same thrill and satisfaction of doing it with low power wasn't there.  It was fun, neat and cool; but it wasn't quite the same. So in the end, the 100 Watt setting will not be the norm for W2LJ - the 5 Watt setting will continue to be my normal state of affairs.

I also wanted to try and work a few countries at QRPp power and I did - among them being Bonaire, Brazil, Martinique and a few others.  QRPp was anywhere from 100 milliWatts to 900 milliWatts. Depending on how strong the station was on the receiving end, determined how low I turned down the power.  It was fun, scads of fun, but I doubt I will ever be on par with the like of George N2JNZ who has DXCC using milliWatt power.

Antenna comparison continues to be one of my goals and practices.  Which antenna works best and where. I spent the overwhelming majority of my time on 15 and 10 Meters, but when I went to 40 Meters for a brief stint on Saturday night, the Butternut HF9V turned out to be the best arrow in my quiver in a few instances.  I would have thought the wires would have been the best choice, but the Butternut got me through when the wires weren't.  Lesson learned - I HAVE to get more radials down this coming Spring/Summer!

My biggest disappointment was that in the time I was on the air, I didn't hear any VKs, ZLs or anyone from Oceania (besides Hawaii, which I worked).  I was hoping to try getting someone from that part of the world via QRP - but no dice.  I was looking for them on 15 Meters; and I got an e-mail this morning from my friend Bob W3BBO, that he was able to work them on 20 Meters last evening as the contest was nearing its close.  Once again, W2LJ was at the wrong place at the wrong time, my conventional wisdom let me down, once again.

I wish I could have dedicated more time than I was able to.  But at the same time, I was lucky to put in as much time as I did.  Due to pre-planning, I was able to avoid some routine chores by getting them out of the way early.  It was a lot of fun and I had a blast during my time behind the key, and that's the main idea behind all this anyway, isn't it?

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


  1. Anonymous12:58 PM

    I agree with your DX philosophy. If I'd had worked exclusively QRP this weekend, I'd have never worked Uganda. It was tough enough to work them once with my modest wire antenna. Glad you had fun and thanks for the cool blog! 73 Franklin KA8SYV

  2. Franklin,

    Congrats on Uganda. I worked them many years ago. Next time will be QRP.

    I agree - get them in the log first, worry about the "niceties" later!

    72 de Larry W2LJ

  3. Hi Larry,

    Same impression here - not too many ZK/ZL stations on the air. It seemed mostly a NA/EU contest. Even the two major DXpeditions (5X and 9U) stuck to the WARC bands or RTTY during the contest.

    I guess you'll be going after 9U (on now), XT and TX5 (next week) now that you have that 100W afterburner.

  4. I have to offer my congrats although tempered with a "Shame, Shame" wag of the finger for the QRO operation! ;)

    I also was cherry picking but kept it all at 5 Watts from the FT817 and for a brief time the HB1B/10 foot high delta loop and a random wire...Put in a approx. 8 hours time total and ended up with a total of 60 contacts and 40 countries/entities.

    The sweetest and most surprising contact was Saturday night on 20 meters with ZL3IO via the HB1B and random wire ant. from the kitchen table while having a late night snack!

    Biggest disappointment was not completing WAC, Asia eluded me this time...

    I give all 60 of my Q's credit for putting up with my 14 wpm straight key fist! My goal for 2013 is to finally gain the coordination to use a paddle!!!

    Jim K2MIJ