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The 2000 SS Contest

A couple of months ago I received a beautiful plaque for last year's Sweepstakes contest where I finished first QRP in the Atlantic Division. I knew that was about as good as I could ever do in a SS with my minimal QRP setup. Because of that and other reasons, I just didn't feel like putting in a full effort in this year's contest. Still I did want to get in the contest, so I had to figure out a plan of attack.

I thought of just getting on to finish up my 5B WAS - I need KL7, KH6 and Idaho on 80M plus Maryland and Delaware on 10M. However when I do something like that, I wind up seeing all the fun the other stations are having, and I have to jump in, so after a little bit of listening on 80M Saturday night I abandoned that plan.

I briefly thought about trying for a clean sweep, but again for the same reasons, I abandoned that plan before it even got underway.

I finally decided on the following. I thought I'd get on for a short period of time, say 5 hours, and see what I could do in that span. I'm sure some of you remember the late Vic Clark, W4KFC. He used to get in the old CD Parties (remember them?) just long enough to make 100K points. I always thought something like that was a great idea for contests when you didn't feel like, or weren't able to do the whole contest.

While I didn't have a particular score in mind, I did decide to see what I could accomplish in 5 hours. Early Sunday morning (1440Z) I set up my keyer memories for the contest, putting the SS exchange in one memory and a CQ SS in another. I figured I probably wouldn't use the CQ, but wanted to have it available just in case. While setting up the exchange, I thought I'd use the trick of speeding up sending my call letters since the other station already knew them from my answering their CQ. I set my call to be sent 8 wpm faster than the rest of the exchange.

Now I set up my SS logging program in the computer. I really like the program by N3FJP (see my Software Links), and decided to use it instead of TR.

With the keyer and the computer set, I jumped into action and made my first QSO with K4OJ at 1449Z on 15M. Wouldn't you know it, the first QSO and I have a problem already. OJ is in the new WCF section, and since I was using last year's program, it didn't recognize the new section. No big deal - I just logged it as NFL, and made a paper note to change it when I took care of the final results. The moral is: Always have the latest version of contest software. The 2000 version of the SS program by N3FJP has the new section in it. Had I been doing a full effort in the SS, I would have taken care of that detail.

15M was really in great shape and my 5 watts and dipole was behaving like a KW and a beam. I worked every station I heard with a single call, and didn't have to repeat any of my information. 13 stations in the log in the first 11 minutes before I had to QRT for breakfast (brunch?). Among those 13 were 2 Idaho QSO's - K7QD and W7ZRC from the somewhat hard to work state. Also AB0S in another somewhat rare SS state - Kansas.

After I was done eating, I returned to the contest. 15M was still acting the same way, so I stayed on that band. Some stations I worked were N5UE in MS, W7UT in UT, a 3rd ID station WO7Y, a 2nd UT W7CT, W0SD (as usual) in SD, K1PQS in ME - a very hard state to work for me at times, VE5SF and VE2AWR represented Canada.

At 1625Z I had 72 stations logged in 71 minutes of operation. Not a bad rate. I believe that was only the second time I've maintained a QSO per minute rate for that long a period of time. The other was in the August NA QP. I still haven't studied the results to see exactly what was my best 60 minute total. I did maintain the 55-60 per hour rate for another couple hours. Reaching # 173 took 178 minutes of operating time.

I took a break at that point to go for a walk. Before the break some of the other stations I worked were WB0O in ND, W3PP in DE, WP3R in PR. I was up to 60 sections worked, and thoughts of a sweep crept back into my mind.

When I got back on the air at 1901Z, I heard many stations I had already worked so my rate slowed down, and the next hour only provided 36 QSO's. Also conditions didn't seem quite as good as they were earlier in the day. I did add 4 more sections including VI from NP2B.

My next, and longer, break came at 2000Z with 209 QSO's, 64 sections, and 4 hours of operating time logged. I figured I'd come back in late afternoon or early evening to put in a final hour.

When I did get back on around 2140Z, conditions again seemed quite good and I worked 50 stations in an hour. Even though 10M was never very good all day, I did get a few 10M QSO's in this hour including KL7Y. Although my 5 hours was up, I was having so much fun, I decided to continue on to see if I could reach 300 QSO's in 6 hours. It took a bit longer - 6 hours and 10 minutes, but W8RC on 80M was # 300 when I QRT at 2347Z. WV, BC, AK, MB, RI, SJV, and SC brought my sections to 71. Hmmmm, only 9 short of a sweep - think I'll come back later and just listen for new sections.

At 0117Z I returned and mostly just listened for another hour on all bands 80-15, working stations here and there. I only managed one more section, N5RZ in WTX to finish with 72. I added 33 more QSO's to finish at a nice number - 333.

I missed KH6 (never heard) and WY (couldn't work W7TSM - pileup) for a weekend WAS.

One of the highlights was working W9IOP late in the contest. This call originally belonged to Larry LeKashman, and is now a club call in MD. Those of you who have a sense of ham radio history will know that Larry, along with the aforementioned W4KFC were two of the greatest contest operators of all time. Those two were (and are) my contesting heroes.

All in all, that was 333 QSO's in 72 sections in a few minutes over 7 hours of operation. Not a bad effort if I say so myself. I was very happy with it. Of course I had second thoughts and wished I had put in a bigger effort now. In 24 hours I might have made 700 QSO's or at least 600 for sure.

Just as a comparison, here are my '99 and '00 results. '99 figures first.

QSO's      537 -  333
Sections    74 -   72
Hours       20 -    7+
Rate      26.9 - 46.3
Best hour   41 -   60+
And my QSO's per band this year:

80 -   9
40 -  72
20 - 121
15 - 123
10 -   8
And by states:

ALABAMA         3
ALASKA          1
ARIZONA         5
ARKANSAS        3
COLORADO       11
DELAWARE        2
FLORIDA         9			
GEORGIA         4
HAWAII          0
IDAHO           3
ILLINOIS       15
INDIANA         9
IOWA            4
KANSAS          2
KENTUCKY        5
MAINE           1
MARYLAND       11
MICHIGAN        9
MISSOURI        5
MONTANA         2
NEBRASKA        2
NEVADA          3
NEW YORK       16
OHIO           18
OKLAHOMA        4
OREGON          1
TEXAS          23
UTAH            2
VERMONT         4
VIRGINIA        4
WYOMING         0
The bottom line - I had a lot of fun without really knocking myself out. A 20 hour plus effort in a contest really leaves me beat as I get older. This effort left me feeling just as good when it was over as when I started. I won't win anything for this year, but that's not important. I think that's why my favorite contests are the short ones like the WI and IL QSO parties, the NA QP's, etc.