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The 2002 CQWW DX Contest

I set what I thought was a very modest goal for this year's CQWW DX contest. I wanted to just make 300 QSO's which I though I could probably do in around 12 hours. That was all the time I felt like putting into the contest this time around. I knew that conditions were not as good now as they had been for the past couple years and I knew I probably couldn't break my personal best in the contest.

Things did not sound at all well when I started the contest at 0000Z Saturday. 15 and 20 were open to the Caribbean and South America, but the signals were nowhere near as strong as they usually are. I worked a handful of stations like HC8N, P40W, PJ2T, etc. and then checked 40M later to see if EU was strong enough to work. I didn't even hear any EU signals. I gave it up for the evening with only 7 QSO's, all from the Caribbean or SA.

I started out next morning around 1330Z. Once again, conditions were below par. I was able to work EU on 15 and 10, but nowhere near the number of stations in previous contests. They were having trouble copying my minimal QRP signals and there were very few easy QSO's among the 17 I worked in the 13Z hour and the 28 in the 14Z hour. Normally these are some of my best hours of the contests and I make 45-55 QSO's per hour. Not this year.

I did snag a couple of new prefixes - SO6Y and MD4K to mention a couple. Also I got C53M on 15M for one of four new band countries in the contest.

One benefit of the slow pace of the contest was that I took time to add in some notes to the TR log as I went along to help me recall things when I am writing this story. For instance I see I have a note after my OL5Q QSO on 15M that I beat a pileup to work him. Then a few QSO's later I got HP1XVH with a single call after trying him unsuccessfully earlier in the contest.

Actually all my QSO's Saturday morning came on 15M until 10M finally came alive around 1430 when I worked DJ7TO. Even though a German started things for me on 10M, I would find Germany very scarce in the contest, either due to conditions or less activity from the Germans. I suspect the former choice is the correct one.

Working deep into EU, i.e. LY, YL, ES, UA, UR, etc. was even harder than working Germany. I never did get any YL, ES, or UR stations and only a couple LY's and one UA. I have a note in the log after my LY1YK QSO on 15M that it was a very hard QSO with me having to repeat my info many times.

As is usual in these big DX contests, the activity spread up into the Novice segments of the band, so if any Novices are reading this and are interested in working some DX, the CQWW DX in November and the ARRL DX in February are the times to snare some easy QSO's and some rare countries as well. Often times, I'll find some of the more rare countries lurking up in the Novice segments of 10 and 15M.

Finally around 1430Z, the QSO's became a bit easier, and several are noted in my log as being worked with a single call from me. Among those were EA7RM, DJ7TO, and FM5BH. While not with a single call, but easy QSO's nonetheless came from ZA1B and G3UFY on 10M.

The 15Z hour started with another single call QSO from HA8IH, then I took time out for some chow. I was in no hurry to get back since conditions were so poor.

I did return to the action around 1615Z. Conditions were still below par, but I eked out some more QSO's on 15 and 10M. Among them, I beat a pileup to get LX5A and worked WP2Z with a single call, apparently finding him in a lull in the seemingly constant pileup he was attracting.

I was really getting disgusted with the slow pace of the contest and the work I had to expend to get some of the QSO's. So I took a couple hour break from 1720-1920Z. It surely wasn't like the ARRL DX test earlier this year when I was working stations at a rate of 60-120 stations per hour for short periods of time. This time I don't recall seeing the TR rate meter go as high as 60, let alone above 60. Though I did work 3 stations (DL6RAI, IK2UCK, PI4DEC) in the 1516Z minute on Sunday.

By the time I returned from break, EU was pretty much gone on 15 and 10M, and only very weak EU sigs were heard on 20M. That didn't leave a whole lot to work, and the pace slowed even more. One highlight though was getting D44TD with just one call on 15M. Actually AF seemed easier to work than EU throughout the contest. Of course there were a lot fewer AF stations to be worked, and those that were active had huge pileups most of the time. However, despite that, I got 19 AF QSO's in the contest, perhaps a best for me although I haven't checked yet.

ZD8A was also worked easily on 15M and if I recall correctly, he was up in the Novice segment when I worked him. Other AF stations that showed up in the log Saturday afternoon were CT9M and EA8ZS, both on 20M.

Afternoon turned into evening and things dragged even more slowly now. A couple of Argentinians on 15M with a single call to each, and 5 easy QSO's in a row on 40M with J3A, 6Y4A, P40J, J75A, and V26K were pretty much the highlights of my Saturday evening. I closed out the first day at 0406Z with but 109 QSO's in the log, my poorest start in a big DX contest in a few years except for the 2001 CQWW DX when I wasn't very active at all the first day of the test.

I sure hoped the morning would find things better on 10 and 15M. I'd find out in 8 or 9 hours.

Day 2 started out at 1305Z on 15M. The EU sigs were just a little better than yesterday, but still it wasn't all that easy to work them. Only 20 QSO's in the 13Z hour. Some of my TR notes show I beat an EA to work VP9/W6PH on 15M. I have a note at 1325Z that says 10M still not fully awake yet. QSO's with SQ6Z and OK1FDY are marked as easy. OZ1LO and DF9OX were worked in the Novice segment. Some of my very few deep into EU QSO's came in that hour from RW2F, EU1DX, and LY2IJ.

32 QSO's came in the 14Z hour. All of them on 10M. In fact all my QSO's from 1401Z through 1614Z came on 10M as I took advantage of some fairly good conditions there. Russia at last came from RN6BN who was very strong, the only Russian to be anywhere near so strong. Fairly rare TK5EP came from a single call surprisingly. Another EP - OK1EP - came easily after trying him many times earlier. No real unusual QSO's in that time period on 10M. I left for an hour or so after 1615Z.

When I came back it was mopping up time on 10M. Most of the activity had shifted down to 15M now leaving pockets of activity on 10M. I got D44TD for a new band country then a couple QSO's later C53M for another new one. At 1833Z I was surprised to hear someone sending a zone 14 exchange as I figured the path to EU should have been down now on 10M. I assumed it had to be an EA or CT which are usually the last EU areas heard on 10M. I was close - it was CU/DJ9RR in the Azores. I worked him easily. Some other 1 call QSO's were had from ZP6T, ZF1A (beating a pile), and CT8T despite the fact he was very weak. KP4US was also very weak, but worked. Rare prefix HT9T was added to my WPX totals. He was another station up in the Novice segment. One of my last QSO's on 15M before concentrating on 20M for a while was HI8RV. I was surprised that he didn't have a pileup as I hadn't heard any other HI's in the contest.

My journey to 20M provided me with my best moment of the contest. I ran across S9MX seemingly just starting up as there was no pileup. I was determined I was going to sit on his frequency till I got him even though he wasn't too strong. He worked a couple stations, still with no sign of a pile. Then he came back to K3 W W P ? I couldn't believe it and sent my info. There was a little hesitation so I sent it again and got the confirmation back from him. That is country #201 worked with my minimal QRP, so despite a poor overall showing in the contest at least I got one overall new country out of it.

Some of my closing notes from the TR log: WP2Z was worked on 20M, but with my 15M antenna as I forgot to switch when changing bands. C56JHF worked with a single call on 20M. XE1MM likewise after many failures earlier. CW4A worked with a single call on 10M after calling CX5BM seemingly for ever with no luck. There were some nice sunset gray line conditions on 10M and 15M with many sigs peaking nicely as the sun set here.

My next to last QSO was JH7PKU on 10M, the only Asian station I worked in the contest. I never worked nor even heard any Oceania stations. Where were the KH6's this contest? Or again was it just the poor conditions. Another country that was missed was KL7. Not only missed in the contest, but missed otherwise as well. With the passing of Dan, KL7Y a couple months ago in an accident in Hawaii, a fine contest operator is missed. I didn't know Dan personally, but worked him many times in contests for that KL7 multiplier.

The bottom line was just 247 QSO's from 175 multipliers in 14.5 hours of operating for a score of 120,575 points. A disappointment? Yes, but still it was fun and it provided a reality check for what we will be going through during the next few years of declining sunspots.