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The 2001 ARRL DX Contest

Well, time to write another contest report. As those of you who read these things know, I generally always set a goal for myself before each contest. However this time was different. I didn't know how active I would be in the contest. I told a couple of my ham friends that it would probably depend on propagation conditions how much time I would spend in the contest. If they were good and I was able to work stations easily, I'd spend a lot of time in it. If the bands were poor, I'd kind of hit and run, look for some new countries, work some friends, etc.

It soon became apparent that conditions were quite good when I started out Friday evening. 20M was still good to EU and I worked OH1F to start things off. I only had the first hour to spend in the contest, then I had to QRT to spend some time with a friend who was visiting for the evening. That first hour gave me 12 QSO's on 20M, including RA1ACJ, EA8CN and MD/DL5AXX. I also worked IR4T on 40M, a preview of what was to come the rest of the weekend.

After the time off with my friend, I came back to 40M and added 6 QSO's including MD/DL5AXX, HA9BVK, and DL3GA. All QSO's were made rather easily, and I was beginning to get really impressed with 40M. I thought I'd better get back to 20M for a while and see what was going on since there are sometimes unusual conditions around that time (03Z). The only unusual thing was that I was hearing Asiatic Russians and not being able to work them easily as I normally can that time of evening on 20. I did finally catch RZ9UA and that completed my contest WAC in 20 QSO's since I previously worked KH6TO for Oceania. Just a note about KH6TO and KH7Z. Both of these stations were just booming in here every time I ran across them. I worked both on 4 bands 40-10, but couldn't find them on 80 where I would have really liked a QSO with KH6.

20M was dying out for easy QSO's around 0345Z so I thought I'd go back to 40M and see if I could work some Caribbean stations and maybe a few Europeans. A few? Would you believe a flood. I was working EU on 40M almost as easily as I do on 20M. Before I turned in for the night, I made 37 QSO's on 40M, most of them EU stations including some new band countries - OH1F, LA2QM, YL8M, and LY1CX. More interesting was that the QSO's were easy ones for the most part. I usually struggle with many repeats to make a EU QSO on 40M, but not tonight. I stuck around until 0700Z, the turned in for the night.

I woke up around 1115Z and decided to check the bands, hoping for some Oceania stuff on 40 or 20M. The only thing I heard was VK2APK on 40 and I couldn't get him. I did work some Caribbean and Central American stations plus a couple EU on 20 and 15, but the bands weren't really open good enough for my QRP yet. To digress for a moment, I do notice that my QRP seems to be less effective when bands are opening up. I can be hearing stations quite strong after a band just opens up, but not be able to work them. Conversely, when bands are closing down, I often seem able to work just about any station, even when I can barely hear them. That would be an interesting thing to study some day, but now I have to get back to my contest story.

Before I went back to bed for another hour or so of sleep, I worked HC8N on 80M which meant I now have HC8 on all HF bands except 160M. I had 72 stations in the log now, my best total at this stage in a DX contest largely due to my success on 40M.

At 1312Z I went at it full force and worked 61 station from then until 1412Z, my best hour ever in a DX contest. It slowed down a bit after that, but by the time my brunch was ready at 1500Z, I had 164 QSO's in the TR computer log. All of the QSO's from 13-15Z came on 15 and 10M. In looking at my log as I write this, I don't see any real unusual stations in that time, just the usual contest stations. I do notice several Ukrainian stations, and I sometimes have trouble working Ukraine. That's another sign of how good conditions were.

While I was eating, I started thinking about some goals. Since conditions were very good, I was thinking of possibly making it to 600 QSO's. I felt 500 was a sure thing if the bands stayed good. I kind of made several goals in stages. First would be to make it to 500, then 513 which would be my best DX test. After that I could go for my SS QSO number of 537 which was the most I had ever made in any contest.

After brunch I took another run until 1800Z when I took another break. Again nothing really unusual worked in that time except the path to Ukraine remained good for me and I added several more from there. About the most unusual station was GJ2A from Jersey which I don't often work. At 1800Z I logged HA6PN for contact # 256. With 30 hours to go, I was already half way to a couple of my goals.

20M was not my best band in the contest, but from 1930 to 2245 or so, working mostly on 20, I ran my total up to 329 when I worked F6FGZ. I did make a couple excursions to 10 and 15 in that time. One time when I tuned to 15M, I landed right on T32RD and got him with just a single call, and a quick no repeats QSO. I only wish it had been a T30, T31, or T33 instead. HI. I already have T32 verified on 15M. Still it was nice to work that part of the world which I still consider to be some very exotic DX. Right after that it was KH6TO and KH7Z on 10M as the Pacific path was very good then around 2200Z. Another side trip to 10M at 2305Z netted JH5FXP, one of only 2 JA's I would get in the contest. There never was a good high band JA opening unless it was short and I missed it.

Around 2345Z I headed to 40M again, hoping it was still hot to EU like last night. It was, and when I logged DL6RAI at 2357Z that made 342 QSO's for the first day - the most DX QSO's I've ever made in one day.

The EU QSO's came easily with stations like SP4Z, 4N1SM, SP8YMM, LZ9W, HG6N, 9A3PA, etc. all entering the log without much of a struggle.

I thought since 40M was so good, perhaps I'd give 80M a try. Well 80 was like 40 is most of the time for me. I could work the EU stations, but not without a struggle. TM5C came rather easily, and it wasn't much harder to work OT1T, but my OK1RF QSO was a struggle and I hated to have him waste so much time to log me, but he wanted to complete the QSO, so we did. After working F5MZN though, I decided it was too hard on 80M, and returned to 40 before going to bed at 0545Z. I was at 377 QSO's then, and sure I would make it to at least 550. I knew when I got on in the morning and tuned the bands, many of the stations I heard would be ones I already worked, and I was right.

Again I woke up in the 11Z hour and added a few QSO's like T48K on 40 and ED1RRL on 15, but still no openings to VK/ZL or SE Asia. I was hoping to perhaps catch a YB or maybe an HS in the contest, but I didn't even hear any.

Another hour of sleep, then I fired up for good at 1300Z. It was slow, but I did manage to find and work 40 new stations in the first hour and 35 more in the second hour to hit 457 at brunch time. Looking for interesting stations in the log, I see R73A, UP6P which was an easy Kazakhstan QSO on 10M, RL3A for a different prefix, ON4CAS and ES6PZ who have already QSLed the QSO's via eQSL, M4T another of the M#* calls to go with M6T and M0C, and well, I've already gone past the brunch break in the log.

Another of those quick QSO's with a somewhat rare country came on 15M. I found TZ6DX, gave a call, worked him easily. That is another new band country as my only other Mali QSO came on 30M.

QSO number 500 came at 1703Z. It was OK1QM on 15M. It was really slowing down now. To show how much, here are the hours and number of QSO's. 13Z - 40, 14Z - 35, 15Z - 16 (brunch break), 16Z - 26, 17Z - 15, 18Z - 15.

I did reach some goals in that period though. QSO # 513 breaking my best DX contest (CQWWDX) came at 1759Z from 4N7N on 15M. # 538 was 9A7T on 20M for the most QSO's I've ever had in any contest. There was no doubt at all I'd never make it to 600 now, so 550 became my final goal. I reached that with PY3MHZ on 15M at 2302Z. I struggled to add 8 more to finish at 558 QSO's when the contest ended.

I usually like to mention any unusual conditions I encountered during a contest, but virtually all the time in this contest the conditions behaved just as expected. The only slightly unusual thing was a localized opening to NW EU (F, G, EI) on 15M around 2130Z on Sunday. No other EU stations were being heard, but sigs from those countries were quite strong and easy to work with my QRP.

Some final thoughts and stats now. I find it interesting to compare the ARRL and CQ DX contests. It seems to be easier for me to make QSO's in the ARRL contest, but I don't work as many different countries as I do in the CQ contest. I believe there are some reasons for that. In the ARRL contest, the purpose for all DX stations is to work the USA/VE stations. Therefore they all have their beams, wire arrays, etc. pointed this way making it easier for them to copy my weak QRP signals. In the CQ contest, beams and arrays can be pointed anywhere since it is everyone working everyone else. Thus, I often may be off the side or back of their directional antennas, making it much harder to hear my QRP. As for the number of countries worked, I believe there are more countries active in the CQ contest because many hams who aren't really hard-core contesters become active in the CQ contest in hopes of working some new countries. The only countries those stations can work in the ARRL contest is the USA and Canada. So those stations don't get into the ARRL contest. On the other hand, many DX hams are working for WAS and USA-CA so my reasoning may not be quite right as to why I'm consistently working fewer countries in the ARRL test vs. the CQ test.

Here is a comparison of QSO's and countries for the past few ARRL and CQ contests.

                 CQ               ARRL
   Year	    QSO's Countries   QSO's Countries
2000-2001    450     78        558     71
1999-2000    502     84        512     71
1998-1999    295     74        291     61
1997-1998    170     59        179     56
In this contest I wound up getting 9 new band countries (nothing new overall) and 17 new prefixes. I put in 24.25 hours of operating time. The continental distribution of QSO's follows:

AF -   2
AS -   7
EU - 463
NA -  55
OC -   9
SA -  22
The QSO's and countries by band:

160 -   0      0
 80 -   8      7
 40 -  88     41
 20 - 104     43
 15 - 184     57
 10 - 174     51
As I've said in the past, I hope these contest reports spur your enthusiasm for contesting. If you're a minimal QRPer (QRP and simple wire antennas from a so-so location) as I am, please realize that you can have a lot of fun in contests, and be quite successful. You won't beat the big stations or even the QRPer with big antennas and a great location, but you'll have fun, and become a better operator in the process. I love competing against myself, trying to better my previous best score in a contest. When I do that, I have won that contest regardless of whether or not I beat any other QRP contester.

As I was preparing this report, I received an Email from a ham who had just examined the Contesting section of my web site. Here's an excerpt of what he said:

"Hi John - I am generally put off by the contest weekends. This evening as the ARRL cw contest was winding down I was curious as to how you felt about contests and went to your site to read your contest pages to see how you felt about them. Now I am very sorry I missed a great opportunity. I have never contested before, but there was sufficient info and positive attitude on your site to inspire me to try the next one. Your site inspired me to try QRP about 6 months ago and have never had so much fun." - K1KID.

This is what I like to hear since that is the main purpose of this web site - to encourage hams to use CW and QRP.

I hope to work you in the next contest.