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The 2002 ARRL 10M Contest

I was looking forward to the 10M test this year mainly for one reason. I think it will be the last really good 10M contest until we arrive near the peak of the next sunspot cycle. We are already sliding down from the peak of cycle 23 and conditions are starting to show it. By December 2003 it should be a lot worse.

Unfortunately I had some other things to do and didn't get a chance to really get started in the test until around 1530Z Saturday morning. By that time I had missed any possible JA opening Friday evening and most of the good EU opening in the morning.

Europe was still pretty good at 1530 and stayed that way until around 1615Z when there was more or less a sudden shut off of the path to EU. Signals were not as strong nor as plentiful as in the past couple of 10M contests. I only managed to work 26 stations from EU in that 45 minute period. I also caught P3F from Cyprus then.

After that it was mostly working USA stations with a few SA and Caribbean stations thrown in the mix. I did work EA5FV and EI3JE for two more EU QSO's after the 1615Z shutdown. EI3JE was very strange. He was booming in at 1815Z with absolutely nothing else from EU being heard at that time. That does happen from time to time. There will be one strong EU signal on a band and nothing else. Virtually it will always be from Russia, the United Kingdom, or Spain/Portugal.

At 1834Z I heard a weak ZL6QH and thought I'd give him a call although I was sure he'd never hear me. Well, he did and it turned out to be an easy QSO. I looked around a bit for some more Oceania stations, but didn't find any then.

ZD8Z was racking up QSO's at a fantastic rate and constantly having huge pileups. I put him into one of the memories of the TS-570D and came back to him from time to time, but could never get him. Then as so often happens I called up the memory again, and got him with a single call. When you're running minimal QRP as I do, you just have to be lucky and catch a lull in the pileup. That's what happened. I had no chance against all the 100W to KW stations, but a minimal signal will reach any part of the world when conditions permit so you can get those stations that seemingly always have an attendant pileup if you call at the right time.

I worked an early JA at 2149Z. He was not very strong, but apparently has great 'ears' since it was a very easy QSO. Strangely, that set a pattern for my JA QSO's later that evening. I had a much easier time working the weaker JA's, and some of the strong ones were just not hearing me at all.

At 2307 I started a string of JA QSO's and wound up working 11 of them in a row even though it was spread out over about an hour's time. There wasn't much else being heard at that time except USA stations that I had already worked.

That was it for the first day of the contest. Only 143 QSO's. I knew I wasn't going to break my personal 10M record this year barring a fantastic EU opening in the morning. I'm not sure if my lower totals were due to poorer conditions this year or the fact that not so many stations were on CW. I really wish the ARRL would split up this contest into CW and Phone weekends, especially during peak sunspot years.

I got on much earlier on Sunday morning, starting out around 1300Z. Again conditions were good, but not like previous years. 103 QSO's, mostly from EU showed up in my log before the EU opening ended for the day around 1645 which was a half hour later than Saturday.

During that period I had a couple of interesting happenings. I answered a CQ by M5X at 1443Z and heard him and another station come back to me, both sending their exchange. I copied both the exchanges and sent my 599 PA. Both stations copied my info, said QSL or TU and started CQing again. That gave me a chance to see who else besides M5X I worked. It was LY1YK, so I got two QSO's for the price of one. HI. I can only recall that happening one other time, and that was in an IL QSO Party a few years ago. This was the first time in a DX type contest.

A little later, after my QSO with F5PLC, he asked me how much power I was running so I told him 5W. He said FB and went on his way.

After the EU opening ended, there wasn't a lot to be worked. I worked the few USA stations I hadn't worked before. Also I caught some SA stations including FY5FY who turned out to be an overall new band country for me - #133 on 10M.

That pattern continued until 1959Z when I heard and worked VK4EMM. It wasn't a real easy QSO, and I had to repeat my call and info a few times, but we made it.

After that I thought I'd try some CQ's. That wasn't very fruitful as the only answer I got was from K0ZT/M.

So back to S&P again. ZL1BYZ was pretty strong so I tried to work him. It took several calls as he worked other stations, but I finally did get him. Like VK4EMM, it wasn't too easy a QSO, but a good one. Then 7 minutes later I heard a weak ZL1AIH. As with the JA's, it seemed the QSO's with the ZL's were easier when they were weak. This one was a single call, single exchange type QSO.

I mopped up with a few more USA QSO's plus HT9T and TI5N, then called it quits. I was hoping for another JA opening, but I only heard a couple that I had worked the day before.

My final total was 275 QSO's in 66 multipliers in a little under 11 hours of operating time. Far below my 460 QSO's of last year.

I think a comparison of my 10M totals will track quite closely with the sunspot cycle so let's take a look. Below is the year, my QSO total, multiplier total, hours worked, and rate per hour.
2002 - 275,  66, 10.75, 25.6
2001 - 460,  83, 18.75, 24.5
2000 - 261,  69, 10.25, 25.5
1999 - 363,  83, 16.75, 21.7
1998 - 171,  49, 11.25, 15.2
1997 -  12,   6, ?
1996 -   2,   1, ?
1995 -  10,   2, ?
A pretty good comparison except for 2000 when I wasn't able to put in that much time. It also looks like from the QSO rate that I could have done better this year if I had gotten on earlier Saturday morning and caught more of the EU opening.

Perhaps a look at the QSO's by continent will show something interesting as well. Let's try that.
        AF   AS   EU   NA   OC   SA
2002 -   1   13  129  125    5    2
2001 -   2   19  213  212    4   10
2000 -   0    2  115  130    3   11
1999 -   1    7  161  181    2   11
1998 -   0    0   65  102    1    3
And percentagewise
          AF   AS   EU   NA   OC   SA
2002 -   0.3  4.7 46.9 45.5  1.8  0.7
2001 -   0.4  4.1 46.3 46.2  0.9  2.2
2000 -   0.0  0.8 44.1 49.8  1.1  4.2
1999 -   0.3  1.9 44.4 49.9  0.6  3.0
1998 -   0.0  0.0 38.0 59.6  0.6  1.8
Well, I'm not sure just what that shows, if anything at all. I'll leave it there for you to think about.

The bottom line as always is don't think you can't have fun in big DX type contests running minimal QRP. You can. I hope these stories prove that.