The 2011 ARRL DX Contest
For whatever reason, I was up for this one. For several days leading up to the contest, my anticipation level was high. A couple of specific factors may have been involved. The Solar Flux peaked at 125 just before the contest, the highest it had been in a good long time. Also about a week before the contest, I did some work on my antenna tuner/switcher to allow me to use my RF attenuator on all bands, not just the lower ones. I thought it would be fun to work some mW DX in the contest.
When 0000Z Saturday the 19th of February came, I was there at the controls eagerly awaiting my first contact. Usually the start of a big DX contest is rough for the minimal QRP station as most all the DX stations have huge hard-to-break pileups. It is often much easier to work DX the second day of a contest when all the big KW/Beam competitors have worked a lot of the DX.
20 was still open, so I started there. As expected, the stations did have the huge pileups but I did manage to either break one or catch a gap to work P49V. That was it for 20 though, so it was off to 40.
On 40, I found Africa and the Caribbean coming through strongly and worked several stations in those areas starting with CR3L, and adding such as V48M, EF8N, CN3A among others including one that confused me for a bit.
Here's VQ5D coming in strongly. I immediately thought of something out there in the Indian Ocean, but on 40 at this time of day? Couldn't be. Anyway I thought I'd better work him to be sure I wasn't missing something good. I did work him, and got embarrassed when GenLog popped up the country as Turks and Caicos with a special prefix instead of the usual VP5. I see just now on QRZ that this was a special operation in honor of the late Hank K8DD. That's what I get for not keeping up with all the DX goings on because I just don't have the time to do so.
I worked VP9/W6PH on 80, then shut down about 0130Z planning to come back around midnight to see if I could get some EU on 40 or whatever on 80. When I did, it was 80 I went to first. What do you know. There's KH7X calling CQ. It was he last year I couldn't quite work on 80. Wonder if I can get him this year. I called and like the proverbial piece of cake, it was an easy QSO. With Hawaii being so easy, maybe this will be the year I work KL7 on 80 to finish my 80 WAS. I won't add any suspense. It didn't happen. I never even hear any KL7's on any band this year. Next up was an easy QSO with C6AKQ. After that, I found a strong SN3A, and worked Poland on 80. Not a new band country, but thrilling nonetheless to work so far into EU on 80 again. I skipped between 40 and 80 now, catching WP3C on 40 and two more Hawaii stations on 80 - KH6LC and KH6MB - my two stations from last year's ARRL DX Test that gave me so much excitement then. Now working KH6 on 80 was a little more ho-hum, but still thrilling. I wasn't positive KH6MB had the last letter of my call right as a bit of QRN obscured it. That gave me a chance to try something a bit later. I wasn't getting any more QSO's on 40 or 80 in ten minutes or so and was ready to quit and go to bed till 4 or 5 AM. In tuning across 80 for a last time, I heard KH6MB again not making many QSO's. Hey, I'm going to try him just for fun with 930 mW. If he didn't get my call right, I might get a mW KH6 on 80M. Well, I switched in the RF attenuator and called him. Zip - he came right back with K3WWP QSO B4. Although I can't really call it a QSO, I more-or-less worked Hawaii on 80M with 930 mW. Darn it, wish I'd called him the first time with mW. I should have called both he and KH6LC with mW after logging KH7X with 5 watts. Oh, well - missed opportunity. I shut down and went to bed.
I awoke a little after 4 AM (0900Z) and started out again. There was a lot of DX activity and not a lot of USA/VE stations calling it, so I figured I might have a chance to get some easy QSO's. I did.
First up was HI3CC on 80 for a new band country. Then PJ2T for another new band country since Curacao was now a separate entity as were the other former Netherlands Antilles entities - Saba, Bonaire, and Sint Maarten. Saba, Bonaire, and Curacao gave me several new band-countries in the contest on various bands. In fact after XE7S, PJ4A gave me an 80 Bonaire QSO. There wasn't much more to offer on 80, so I went to 40. There it was an easy QSO with HK1X. Colombia is not all that easy for me to work, so that was encouraging. Two QSO's later, I got KH7X on a second band. I played about an hour or so on 40 that included mW QSO's with ZF2AM, VP9/W6PH, and TI5A. The Costa Rican was another somewhat surprising QSO as Central America is another rough area for me. Well I guess not really rough, but by comparison, not as easy as the Caribbean which is extremely easy to work. I closed out the hour with an overall new country - West Kiribati - when I worked T30YA with not too much difficulty. I was hoping for some VK/ZL stations which I often work on 40 in the 09 and 10Z hours, but never heard a single one this time, nor would I at any time in the contest.
With my interest still at a high peak, my next session started around 1400Z when I thought I'd explore 20, 15, and hopefully 10. Many of the usual suspects in DX contests were worked, and I won't bother talking about them, but I will mention a couple special catches in this session that lasted about 90 minutes. VP2MMM was perhaps the most QRQ station in the contest and also drew some of the bigger pileups. I think Montserrat must be one of the rarer Caribbean countries. Anyway I did work him on 20. LY5R on 20 was about as far into EU as I would get in the contest which indicates while good, conditions are still short of what they could be. When they are at their peak I can work many of the former Soviet Republics easily. 15 provided CR2A whom I later on the second day would call with 930 mW only to get his exchange, then realize I worked him before and this time I had to say SRI QSO B4. The whole exchange both ways was solid, but again like KH6MB, not really an official QSO. If only.... HK1R and II9T did give me mW QSO's on 15. It was about this time I decided to go mainly with my 930 mW except when it didn't work and I really wanted to work the station. Then I'd go to 5 watts. When I did, the QSO often came easily proving to me that the attenuator was really attenuating. HI. One such station was HG2011N whom I really wanted for the special prefix. Other mW QSO's this session were P49V, DK3QZ, G5W, OM7M. I was really increasing my mW band-countries total as well as my mW countries overall total. More about that in the statistics wrap-up at the end of this report.
I took another break until 1800Z when I returned with a string of mW QSO's interspersed by DD1A whom I wanted for the prefix, so just got him with 5W without trying the mW. I guess the highlight of the string was D4C on 15. Cape Verde with 930mW pleased me greatly. I remember how thrilled I was getting it with 5W on 80 through 10 several years ago in either the ARRL or CQ DX contest. Now with mW power, it was just as exciting on one band. It would become two bands later in the day when I also got D44AC on 20 with mW. Other highlights included PY2YU on 15. SA is always a bit difficult for me. Often times I will work EU easier than SA, especially in Southern SA. That's why LP2F later in the contest with mW was really surprising. I did get my Hawaii mW QSO, but on 15, not 80 when I worked KH7X. 9A4WY was a surprise as he was fairly weak, but the mW QSO came as easily as any other. For some reason, the new Bosnia prefix still excites me when I work it, and E7DX on 20 was no exception. OK, here we go. Generally in a DX test in mid-late afternoon, Finland will come in strong due to some propagation quirk. Saturday was no exception and OH8X provided me with a mW QSO on 20. Got him easily, but OH8A a minute later required 5W to get my QSO.
I only took short breaks now and then up until 0130Z or so. Nothing really out of the ordinary save for UW1M on 40. An easy 5W QSO despite not hearing him all that well.
I returned to the shack about 0530Z. I thought conditions were not as good as last night, but still acceptable. I racked up 16 QSO's in 90 minutes, mostly with 5W. Some EU/AF on 80 with II9T, G6PZ, F2DX, and CR3L being the guilty parties. I was up again in the 09 or 10Z hour to find nothing workable. Not much heard and all were either worked before or very weak. That was disappointing.
When I came back in the 14Z hour, some PJ stations provided new band-countries. Conditions though were definitely not up to Saturday's. I didn't stay long and didn't come back till 1800Z when the first station I worked was KH6LC on 15 with mW. Now I started in earnest to look for new mW band-countries, passing up some stations that weren't. CS2C was an unusual prefix which I thought I might need, so after trying mW, I did get him with 5W. I thought OE3K would be a new mW overall country so I stayed with him a few minutes till I got him. Some stations are always easy to work with 5W and were easy to work with mW in this contest. IR4X, DL6FBL, and G4BUE fell into that category. NP4Z was the lowest power station I worked in the test. He was running 3W, so a total power of 3.93 watts made the QSO. Not something that makes the electric companies happy. HI. The aforementioned VQ5D was worked again, this time on 20 meters with less excitement. A couple other good mW catches worth mentioning were CS2C and CW5W. After that I took a break.
I didn't come back again till the final half hour, not expecting much, but being wrong again. I think this half-hour provided the longest continuous excitement of the contest. After dabbling a couple minutes on 20, I went to 40 to close things out. EU was absolutely booming in, and the final 20 minutes of the contest provided 11 EU QSO's, all but 1 at 5W. It almost felt like I was running a KW with the ease I was making contacts. In order it was TM6X, OL4A, F5NBX, TM6M (mW), LZ9W!, CR6K, TM0R, 403A, HB9FAP, HA6P, OM3BH. There should be one more but I didn't catch the call. I called a S5 station at the very end. I thought I'd work him then get his call. Well, we exchanged info, but then time ran out and he went QRT without sending his call again. I wasn't quick enough to ask him for his call. (ADDENDUM: Turns out it was S53F. I found out his call when I checked my eQSL's and found one from him for QSO. So he's been added to my log and my totals updated below.) The exclamation point after LZ9W is there because for some reason LZ9W will not hear me, even when he is booming in and I'm working other LZ stations easily. At other times, he will be weak and I will work him. Strange, but true.
I love working with stats, so let's see what I can analyze from the contest and present here:
Total QSO's - 145
mW QSO's - 62
Total countries - 57
mW countries - 37 (2 more than I had before the contest)
80M QSO's - 18
40M QSO's - 43
20M QSO's - 41
15M QSO's - 37
10M QSO's - 6
AF QSO's - 13
AS QSO's - 0
EU QSO's - 57
NA QSO's - 43
OC QSO's - 8
SA QSO's - 24
Overall new countries - 3 (T30, PJ2, PJ4)
New mW countries - 21
New band-countries - 16
I think all the above proves you too can have fun in big DX contests with a very minimal QRP setup if you use CW. So give it a try next time. Next up will be the CQ WPX in May and the CQWW DX in November, but there are a lot of smaller ones in between also.