The 2004 CQWW DX Contest
Gee, I haven't done one of these contest reports in a while. Why not? Well, I haven't really done much serious contesting this year because of the declining conditions on the bands due to the decrease in sunspots. Also some other reasons I won't bore you with here.
What brought about my desire to do some serious contesting again? Mainly the new North American QRP CW Club (NAQCC) and more specifically it's Thanksgiving special event, You're A Real Turkey. In that event, created by President Tom Mitchell, KB3LFC, you had to work six different stations containing one of the letters in the word TURKEY. I decided I'd try to do it with DX stations since I knew there would be ample DX available from stations setting up for the CQWW DX Contest. In hunting for the stations with the specific letters, I re-discovered how much fun hunting DX was, and decided then and there I was going to put in a serious effort in the CQWW DX Contest.
I set up the computer and the CT contest program on Friday afternoon, and I was ready to go when the bell rang at 0000Z on the 27th. 15M was closed for the night already with the now lower sunspots, so I went to 20M and started there. There was an awesome amount of activity making me wonder what those who claim CW is dying are thinking of. With all the QRO stations working each other at the beginning of the contest, it was rough with my minimal QRP, but I did manage to work a few stations. My first QSO was with 3E1A, who was my 'E' for my Turkey earlier in the week. Then came V31RM and VE5SF. I wasn't going to work many W/VE stations, but I thought I'd grab VE5SF for a country and zone multiplier. I wasn't doing much on 20M against the pileups, so I went down to 40M.
Well, the pileups there were even more awesome. It was a long time between QSO's there, but I did find a lull in some of the pileups and struggled to get 6 stations in 45 minutes. After that, I danced between 40M and 20M for a while before taking a break, hoping the pileups would be smaller and EU would be coming through on 40M well enough for me to work. Before the break I did work F6ARC on 40M, and also caught a nice prefix on 20M - 5K5Z.
I came back around 0300Z and found 20M was good to the Caribbean and I worked 7 stations from zones 7-9 easily on that band plus J7OJ and TO4A on 40M before quitting till Saturday morning. I only had 21 QSO's at that point.
I got up around 8 AM on Saturday, but spent some time on the computer before getting around to the contest about 9:15 AM. I hit 15M, hoping it would be open to EU. It was, but the stations were few, far between, and weak. However, I found I could work the stations rather easily. In fact, it seemed that often they were copying me easier than I was copying them. I made 26 QSO's in the first hour. Definitely not up to my 50-60 QSO hours in contests from a few years ago at the peak of the sunspot cycle, but then I expected that, so it wasn't really disappointing. Among the 26 QSO's were a couple nice prefixes - HE3RSI, which my friend Dave, VA3RJ later told me was a special event station for Radio Swiss International, and 9A80A.
I operated on and off for the next several hours, mostly on 15M. Late in the afternoon I worked KH7Q easily on 15M. He was booming in, so around 5 PM I figured I'd check 10M to see if any Pacific stations were coming through there. I didn't find any, but I did take time to work W7ZMD for a country and zone multiplier on 10M.
One thing I got a kick out of was the operation of D4B this contest. He was operating at around 50 WPM and had the 'ENN' (599) portion of his exchange being sent at around 80-90 WPM I would guess. It was fun listening to the QSO's rolling along so rapidly. He never got all that strong here, and I couldn't work him through the pileups like I did in the ARRL DX contest in February when I got him on 5 bands. The very high speed apparently upset one person who had some kind of mental problem and kept sending over and over with his keyboard right on top of D4B something like "You guys can't possibly be copying him at that speed. Jerks." Then a little later he started sending some language I won't repeat here.
Now I jumped between 20M and 40M meters for the evening. 40M was not as good as Friday evening. Well I mean by that, the EU stations didn't seem as strong to me. But I did work a couple of them - IR4X and ON4AEK, as well as African CT9L before I went off to bed around 0545Z with just 78 QSO's. That was probably my lowest total in a CQWW DX contest at that point in several years.
Sunday started off around 1400Z with another venture on 15M. GI1W was first in the log. HG8I was next. I thought at the time both were new prefixes, but after checking I see they weren't. CT7B, whom I worked a little later did provide me with one of only a few new prefixes for the contest. I went back and forth between 15M and 10M until around 1615Z. 10M was open to Latin America mostly. I did get one African - CT9L - but nothing from Europe.
One thing I noticed throughout the contest was how popular Montserrat was. Every time I heard a VP2M station, there was a huge pileup. I did manage to break the pileups a few times to get 5 or 6 VP2M QSO's, but it wasn't easy in most cases.
My best EU experience came on 20M starting around 1615Z. I worked YZ9A followed immediately by DJ5MW, both easy QSO's. I thought to myself, hey this is great. It seemed like my 20M experiences from the sunspot peak years. Well, it wasn't that great, but I did mange 16 EU QSO's in the rest of the 1600Z hour. Then suddenly the EU opening ended.
I spent the rest of the contest jumping among 10M, 15M, and 20M. Earlier I was having trouble working some stations like 4M5X, but as often happens with changing conditions, I snagged 4M5X on 20M with just a single call. That also happened with a few other stations.
The final hour of the contest provided some interesting QSO's. At 2226, long past sunset in Finland, OH7M came fluttering through on 20M. I figured I'd never get him to hear me, but I tried and surprisingly he came back to me. It took a couple exchanges to get all the info across, but we made it. Another station with a huge pileup for just about the whole contest was 5U5Z, but at 2312Z, I worked him very easily on 20M. Another station coming through on 20M well past their sunset was RW1ZA. Like the OH station, I figured he would never hear me. Well, he did, but it took a couple minutes for him to get my call correct with all the polar flutter on my signal.
Now with only 45 minutes left in the contest, I was wondering if I'd get an Asian station for my contest WAC. There were many JA's on 20M and 15M, but they were weak and fluttery and not hearing me at all, until finally JH4UYB did hear me, and had the patience to stick with me for a couple minutes till he finally got my call right. I hate to slow stations up like that, but I do appreciate those who do take the time to pull my minimal QRP signal through.
Let's get down to stats now. First let's look at my number of QSO's, multipliers, hours of operation, and QSO's per hour in each of the CQWW DX contests for the past several years. You'll see a relationship to the sunspot cycle, I'm sure.
2004 - 168 154 13.5 12.4
2003 - 226 184 14.5 15.6
2002 - 247 175 14.5 17.0
2001 - 276 141 10.3 26.9
2000 - 450 213 17.3 26.0
1999 - 500 261 24.8 20.2
1998 - 295 201 23.0 12.8
1997 - 170 145 ?
1996 - 77 94 ?
1995 - 85 99 ?
1994 - 47 34 ?
It looks from the QSO's per hour figures that we are at the same type of conditions as in the 1998 contest. If you look at the sunspot cycle graph on my propagation page, you'll see that indeed the SF level is almost identical for 1998 and 2004. I don't know what next year will bring, but I'm almost certain it will result in an even poorer performance on my part without the high SF levels to aid my minimal QRP signals. Still it will be fun, no matter the conditions.