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The 2018 ARRL DX Contest

It was one of those times which are becoming more numerous as I get older that I was not in the mood for serious contesting. It was unfortunate because the ARRL DX Test has always been a favorite here. I achieved my best result ever in any contest in the 2002 ARRL DX Test when I made 633 QSOs 203 Mults 385,497 Points - and all of the 633 passed the strict ARRL log cross-checking with flying colors.

This year it was a far different story. After making just 7 QSOs in the first hour mainly just to get my DX streak QSO and then just fooling around the rest of the hour, I didn't even turn the rig on until 0000Z the second day of the contest. I was a bit more interested then and added 18 QSOs in that hour before quitting again. So far virtually all QSOs were with regular contesters. KU1CW provided the most different QSO as E7/KU1CW.

One more segment before going to bed Saturday night came from 0522 to 0533Z when I added 5 more QSOs for a total of 30 QSOs, all on 40 meters except the very first two overall on Saturday on 20 meters (TI7W ZF1A). I thought EA9LZ might have been a new 40 meters entity, but when I checked my records, it wasn't. I also checked 80 meters before going to bed. Signals were fair there from Europe, but I never got as much as a ? from anyone I called, so I gave up and turned in.

I woke up a couple times during the night, but was too tired to even turn the rig on. So my next period of activity wasn't until 1330-1420Z at which time I had to QRT for a shopping trip with my neighbor. Those 50 minutes got me up to a total of 57 QSOs. I think SD6E from that latest group is a new prefix. Yes, I see it is, and only my second ever SD prefix, the other being SD1S in 2012. Most QSOs were European plus several Caribbean and CT3.

I was gone just about exactly two hours as my next log entry is at 1620Z. I stayed until I hit 100 QSOs at 1752Z. I worked LY5W which was my first time working that deep into Europe in a while. I heard a couple UR stations and a UA2, but couldn't get them. It seemed my Hawaii pipeline sprung a leak as I wasn't able to complete any KH6 QSOs.

I thought I might quit at 100 QSOs, but with my interest restored somewhat, I had to go back and see what else I could work, if anything. So it was back to the rig at 1958Z until 2052Z for a very slow hour. Only 9 QSOs, but three deserve mention. I got KL7RA easily with just a couple calls as his pileup must have eased for a bit then. I heard he had big pileups earlier in the contest. Another of my pipelines is working just fine, thank you. I mean my Scandinavian, especially Finnish one. With the rest of Europe gone I can continue to hear and work Scandinavia many times. Such was the case today. I hadn't heard a single European for quite a while till I caught and easily worked OH8X. Mostly that's a 20 meters only pipeline and it was again today. I'd love to know just how these pipelines work. Finally in the group of three was HC2AO. I hadn't worked him for over a year or maybe more and I think I recall seeing on QRZ that he was off the air. Hopefully he's back and it was really him I worked and not someone just using the call.

I went for one last session from 2255Z till contest end at 2400Z. It was not very productive but I did add 6 more QSOs to finish at 115.

Surprising things. Not a single EA8 QSO and only heard one EA8 the whole time. Tried him several times with no luck. The strongest unworkable signal was T48K. Almost got him once, but I wasn't sure he had me logged right so I didn't log him. Next best unworkable station was FM5BH. Very surprising as I generally always work him easily. A tale of declining conditions? Perhaps even a better sign is the loss of my Hawaii pipeline. No Asia or Oceania QSOs at all. JA3YBK strong, but couldn't get through the wall of mostly West Coast stations.

Despite only a laid back effort, I'm happy with the results and I did have fun when the contesting mood moved me. I wish there were more of these big contests like the ARRL and CQWW DX tests. Others come close like the WPX, IARU, and ARRL 10 Meters (in sunspot peak years), but don't match the two biggies in my opinion.

Let's look now at some stats and compare this year to my 2002 effort to show what can happen at non-peak and peak sunspot years.

If there are two totals in a category, the first total is this year, second total is 2002:
Total QSOs - 115 - 633
80M -  0 -   2
40M - 33 -  54
20M - 66 - 119
15M - 16 - 214
10M -  0 - 244

AF  -  5 -  10
AS  -  0 -  15
EU  - 58 - 514
NA  - 36 -  61
OC  -  0 -   5
SA  - 16 -  28

0000 -  7
0000 - 18
0500 -  5
1300 - 14
1400 - 13
1600 - 20
1700 - 23
1900 -  1
2000 -  8
2200 -  1
2300 -  6

80M -  0
40M - 28 (P4 V2 CU C6 VP9 V3 PJ4 E7 PY ZF EA9 TI PJ2 G FY F I 6Y LX CT3 VP2M YN CT KP4 EA V4 VP5 KP2)
         SP CT GM OM S5 EA V4 SM VP5 KP2)
15M - 13 (P4 PJ4 ZF TI PJ2 FY 6Y XE VP2M KP4 V4 VP5 KP2)
10M -  0
OVERALL - 48 - 77

7/16.4 - 22.75/27.8
I think considering I basically only participated on Sunday and even then for only 6 hours (plus the one on Saturday) total, it still shows that you can successfully contest and chase DX with a very minimal setup like mine - even at this near minimum stage in a sunspot cycle. If you've never done a big DX contest or perhaps this was your first one, imagine what it will be like at the next sunspot peak - or read my 2002 ARRL DX Contest report to see what I mean.