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The 2002 ARRL DX Contest

I had thought of several different ways to open this story, but couldn't decide on one. One would have been I HATE LINE NOISE because I was plagued with some really bad line noise on Sunday. Another could have easily been WOW, WHAT A WONDERFUL CONTEST since propagation was really great the whole weekend. Then there was WAS I REALLY RUNNING QRP AND SIMPLE WIRE ANTENNAS? since my minimal QRP was acting more like QRO and gain antennas.

At any rate, it was a great contest that turned out to be my best ever effort in any contest at any time. I really didn't have any specific goal for the contest when I got started. I thought I'd like to get around 250-300 QSO's or so as I didn't really feel like putting in a truly serious effort. I also hoped to get a couple new overall countries since I am so close to the 200 mark now, and would really like to reach that mark soon.

It was a slow start because I had company Friday evening and missed the first few hours of the test. When I did get on around 0500Z, the high bands were mostly closed. 20M did have quite a few signals, mainly from EU, but all were weak and somewhat fluttery. I worked a J3 and a TI on 20, then headed to 40M hoping for the great 40M conditions we had last year in some of the DX tests.

My first 3 QSO's on 40 were from C6, PJ2, and ZF2. Then I started working some EU. The QSO's weren't as easy as last year, but still I was making a go of it. I added S59A, TM5C, and OZ5W to the log. Then I snagged KH7R for my 4th continent on 40M and in the test. 2 to go for my contest WAC. A couple QSO's later, I heard LA8SDA and I bet myself I wouldn't get him since I have trouble working Scandinavia on 40M. I lost - it was one of my easiest 40M EU QSO's of all. One call, exchange info, logged. That encouraged me a bit, and I figured I might do as well with EU on 40 as last year. After a few more EU's on 40 including 4U1ITU for a new band country, I went back to 20M to see what was happening there.

20M was about the same as earlier. I was hearing many EU's, but only managed to work OH0R and RU1A. So I quit for the night with just 19 QSO's in that first hour and 15 minutes.

I woke up early Saturday morning not feeling all that well. I didn't feel like lying in bed nor getting up. I decided I might as well get in the contest and get my mind on something so I fired up the computer and the rig around 1215Z and got started. 15M was really cooking and in the first 2 minutes I logged OL3A, ES6Q, EA1DAV, and OH2BH easily. Then came EA8BH for my first AF. Only Asia to go now for my WAC. The first half hour gave me 34 QSO's including MD/DL5AXX who turned out to be probably my most heard station during the test. He seemed to be everywhere at all times. Also in that 34 were UA0ANW and RA9WR to complete my WAC.

One thing that impressed me about the contest was the strength and consistency of the Asian stations. Usually they are strong here around sunrise and then again at sunset and early evening, but on Saturday they were there and strong for a good part of the day. Not so much the JA's, but the UA0's.

At one point on 10M, I heard HG0HQ and IY4W calling CQ at the same time on the same frequency. I thought maybe I could work two for the price of one as I had done before in contests and gave a call. HG0HQ was quite a bit stronger, but it was only IY4W who came back to me. I never did get HG0HQ till later in the day.

As my friend VA3RJ was saying as we talked about the contest, it's fun tuning slowly up a band and working everyone you hear. It certainly is, and that is what I was doing as everyone was copying me easily, and since that was my first trip on the bands at that time of day, there were a LOT of stations to be worked. Later in the contest, especially Sunday afternoon, it was a different story as a tour of the bands showed about 95 percent of the stations I was hearing were already in my log.

One of my goof-ups in the contest was logging FG/YL2KL as FG/LY2KL and then later hearing him again on the same band and not showing up as a dupe in TR. I worked him again and then discovered the error when I looked at the log.dat file in Notepad during one of my breaks. I should have trusted my memory and not TR, I guess. HI. That was my only dupe of the contest.

Since I'm confessing my stupidity, I might as well tell this also. When I was getting tired after having CW and noise pound my ears and brain for so long, I heard K5ZD as KH7D for some reason and called. When I got an exchange of 599MA, I said to myself OOOPS. Sorry about that, Randy.

Other than those two gaffes, it was a nearly perfect contest. I modified some of my tactics a bit in this one. When a station came back with the wrong call, say K3WWG, I'd slow down a couple WPM and send WWP WWP TU 599 PA. Or if I got N3WWP, I'd send K3 K3 TU 599 PA. Just send the prefix or suffix. That seemed to work well and saved both of us a couple seconds of time.

Still there are those stations who send my call wrong, and then never acknowledge my corrected call. I really don't know if they have me logged correctly or not. It seems to always be the same stations every contest who do that. I think from now on when I work them, I'm not going to send my exchange to them until they send my corrected call. I notice many of the top contesters follow that procedure, and I think it's a good idea.

Well, back to the specifics of the contest and what I was working. Let me scan my log as I do this. No really unusual stations showed up the first few hours Saturday. Mostly the usual contest stations. I like the call sign coincidences that show up like working DL0DX and DL2DX back to back. There's my friend Adrian, YO3APJ who was my first Romania a few years ago and went to some trouble to be sure I got his QSL card at that time. I got him on 3 bands this contest. Several stations show up that I just couldn't work earlier, but finally got them quite easily. HA3MQ and 8S2F are two of those. Then there are some that I just couldn't work at all despite them booming in here. UU2JQ is in that list, although I did manage to work him on one band at last. 6D2YFM for a somewhat unusual Mexican prefix although I had worked 6D2X many times in previous contests. 9H1ZA for Malta on 15M, a new band country. I'd later get him again on 40M for another new one.

I recall a couple of years ago working so hard to work JY9NX for a new country at that time. Well, here he is again now on 15M. A single call logs him this time for yet another new band country. VP9/W6PH provides Bermuda which is a rare one for me in contests.

After spending a good part of the day on 15 and 10 exclusively, with 281 QSO's in the log at 2050Z, I decided it was time to get some action on 20M as I still only had less than 10 QSO's on that band. It still wasn't working all that good for me and after 16 QSO's in 25 minutes, I went back to 15M again. EU was still good there, and I added a bunch of QSO's before again hitting 20M at 2150Z. By now, it was getting easier to work EU so I stayed there for a while, then back to 15 again.

On 15M I got EA6SX, then scanning the band I heard what I thought was LU9C. I almost passed him by, but thought I might as well work him. Turned out it wasn't LU9, but 5U9 - Niger for my first and only new overall country in the contest. I got him very easily only waiting through one or two other stations.

A run of 4 JA's on 10M, a break, and 19 EU's on 20M brought me to the halfway point in the contest at 0000Z with 369 QSO's and 143 multipliers. I had easily made my goal of 250-300 without much effort, so I set a more serious goal now of getting to 600 QSO's in a contest for my first time ever. If conditions stayed this good, getting 231 more QSO's in another 12-14 hours of operating time shouldn't be too hard, especially since I was still low in QSO's on 20M and had 40M to play with this evening.

Just after 0000Z I got a real scare. My electric power went out in the middle of a QSO with EA7GTF on 20M. It was only off for a couple seconds, but that was long enough to shut down my computer and cause the TS570D to make some strange noises. The 570 came back quickly enough to allow me to finish the QSO with EA7GTF using my paddle. Then I turned the computer back on, fearing the worst. My very old shack computer takes a full 2 minutes or more to boot up, and the wait was agonizing. However when it finally got to the point where I could start TR again, I only lost the QSO with EA7GTF which I re-entered manually, and was on my way again. Whew.

Shortly after that, OA4O gave me a new band country on 20M. I don't know how I missed that one all these years. Later I also got OA4SS on 20M proving the old adage - You work 'em once, then the flood starts.

Three QSO's later, CN2JS was easily added to the log on 15M, then after working PY2YU, I got V73UG with a single call on 10M for another new band country. For some reason I was having trouble working KL7Y this contest. Usually it only takes a couple tries to get him on all bands from 40-10M, but not this year. I did finally get him on 10M just after the V73UG QSO.

Say, I just now noticed this as I'm writing this story. From 0019 through 0037Z, I worked CN2JS, PY2YU, V73UG, KL7Y, JA7NVF, CO8LY, KH7R, and RJ1Z. That's a WAC in 18 minutes. I think that's a record for my quickest ever WAC.

After that WAC, I spent the rest of the evening till 0530Z mostly on 20 and 40M with brief excursions to 15M for RU0LL and to 80M for 6D2YFM and G0IVZ. I worked quite a few EU's on 40M, but still not as easily as last year. My QSO total was now at 435 as I went to bed for the night. Only(?) 165 more to go during the day on Sunday to make it to my goal.

I woke up at 1200Z and immediately got on the air. As it was yesterday morning in the 12Z hour, 15M was really hopping and I started off quickly working SN3A. However there was one noticeable difference from yesterday. I had a very high local line noise which kept my S meter at S8-S9 just about constantly. Many stations were over-riding the noise, but they were mostly the stations I had worked already. It was going to be a struggle to make it to 600 if this noise didn't go away.

Well, it never did go away all day Sunday, and it was very aggravating to have to dig signals out of it. I kept with it however, and even though my rates were way down, I only needed about 14 per hour to reach 600. Working SP4TKR on 15M at 1300Z put me at 454 down and 146 to go.

10M became quite good around 1300Z, and I added 31 more QSO's in that hour, almost all on 10M. I was feeling better about my chances for 600 now. A rate of 11 per hour would get me there now. QSO number 523 at 1500Z was HB9FAP on 10M. Now I could do it with around 9 per hour, and if I couldn't do that, even with the noise, I didn't deserve to hit 600.

At 1555 I worked my friend Oliver OE5OHO on 10M, and we had our usual chat. I told him he was QSO number 529 and I was shooting for 600. He said congrats and GL. He told me he was just giving out some QSO's and not really going for a score.

I heard a very strong JA at 1616Z on 10M which didn't make sense till I heard his full call - JA6WFM/HR3. I worked him for a new multiplier. Another goal was now to make it to 200 multipliers. The HR3 was number 182, and the next QSO with CT3KN made it 183. Then a long drought till EW8EW added 1 more.

QSO number 570 was Z35G at 1816Z, number 580 was OT2L on 15M at 1953Z. The contacts were really coming slowly now and the line noise was really getting on my nerves. I made it to 590 at 2125Z with KL7Y, and he and the previous 7 QSO's gave me 6 new multipliers bringing me 8 shy of my goal of 200.

Number 599 came at 2156Z from SP8UFO. He was actually 600 on TR, but I knew by now I had the one dupe I mentioned earlier. Now the next QSO would give me my one goal. It took 18 minutes to make it though. After a couple aborted attempts with a couple of the stations who had been having trouble copying me at various times during the contest, I finally hit 600 when I worked EA4NP on 20M at 2214Z. What a relief that was. Now I wanted to at least get a couple more just in case there were other dupes in the log. The first insurance QSO was 9A2RD, followed by XE1ZOI and EA3AR, all on 20M. Now I was sure I had my 600.

I continued to tune around working stations here and there until 0000Z. Included in the final stations were TT8C for only my second Chad, and RA0BA on 20M who was rather weak and fluttery, but copied me easily. And oh yes, multiplier number 200 was KG4DZ on 15M at 2336Z.

My final line score is 633 QSO's, 203 mults, 385497 points, 22.75 hours. Not too shabby for 5 watts and simple wire antennas. Proving once again that contest operators are the best in the world at digging out weak signals. I'd say that about 85-90 percent of my QSO's required no repeats from me, and only less than a couple percent were what I'd call real tooth-pullers. Actually with my line noise on Sunday I was maybe having more trouble copying some stations than they had copying me.

Before I close with some stats, I'd like to state the purpose of these reports. I do them to show what can be done with QRP and simple wire antennas. Don't think you can't enjoy contests unless you run a KW and have huge beam antennas on gigantic towers. That's simply not true.

Here's a breakdown of QSO's by continent:

Africa - 10
Asia - 15
Europe - 514
North America - 61
Oceania - 5
South America - 28

And by band:

80 - 2
40 - 54
20 - 119
15 - 214
10 - 244

77 countries were worked with the top 15 as follows:

Germany - 48
Czech Republic - 39
Hungary - 38
European Russia - 31
Yugoslavia - 28
Italy - 27
England - 25
Slovenia - 25
Croatia - 22
Poland - 22
Slovakia - 20
Spain - 19
Finland - 16
France - 16
Austria - 14

The top 5 band countries:

Czech Republic 10M - 19
European Russia 10M - 18
Germany 15M - 17
Germany 10M - 17
Hungary 10M - 16

QSO's by hour, total (Including my 1 dupe):

0400   1    1 
0500  14   15
0600   4   19
1200  41   60
1300  50  110
1400  30  140
1500  10  150
1600  39  189
1700  13  202
1800  42  244
1900  32  276
2000   9  285
2100  31  316
2200  35  351
2300  19  370
0000  21  391
0200  20  411
0300   5  416
0400  11  427
0500   8  435
1200  18  453
1300  32  485
1400  38  523
1500   9  532
1600  25  557
1700   9  566
1800   4  570
1900  12  582
2000   2  584
2100  16  600
2200  17  617
2300  17  634

I could go on and on since I love working with statistics here, but I won't keep you any longer. If you got this far, I appreciate your reading the whole report. Let me know what you think about it and let me hear any suggestions you have for future reports. Thank you. Have a great time in the next contest. I hope I can make it into your log.