The 2005 CQ WPX Contest
I wasn't really too enthused about getting into the CQ WPX Contest since I figured with the declining sunspots, conditions would be disappointing. However I had been fooling around with the GenLog contesting program, and wanted to give it a try in a big contest to see how I would like it. I had used it in a couple of NAQCC Sprints and liked it a lot in that kind of contest. So that at least gave me some motivation to get into the CQ WPX Contest, and I'm glad I did.
When I started out Friday evening, I found EU was still very good on 20M and I worked HG6N easily just one minute into the contest. That was followed by QSO's with SQ6Z, OH1F, and DK2OY in the next 7 minutes.
I usually treat the WPX contest as strictly a DX contest, but this year I thought I'd work the USA/VE stations as well with the expected poorer DX conditions. I went to 15M to see what was happening there and worked 7 USA/VE stations in 5 minutes. I didn't hear any DX on 15, and thought I'd better go back to 20M while it was still good for DX.
Nine more DX stations were logged quickly including the nice special prefix from DQ80IARU. Then I took a quick break to get my 9 PM meteorological observations. I've been taking weather observations regularly here in Kittanning since 1959 with help from my family and friends on those days when I had to be away at work. My daily records are complete since January 1, 1960.
After that little bit of non-contest info, I better get back on track with the contest story. RK9CWW was my first contact after the break and my 4th continent so far. It also was a sign of things to come in a couple of ways. Keep that in mind as I continue.
I guess it was around this time that I found 4L8A from Georgia. That was one of the CIS countries I still had never worked. I tried him a few times and found he had a large pileup so I put him in one of the 570's memories intending to come back as often as I needed to catch him. Since I wasn't going for a big score, I could afford to waste some time in trying to get my country (entity) # 204 with QRP and simple wire antennas.
I was finding it easy to work into eastern EU (S58A, 8S5A, RA3CW, OM7JG for example), so I knew I could work 4L8A when I caught a break in the pileup. However that break didn't seem to be coming and several tries went for naught. However I wasn't going to give up until he disappeared. He did grow weaker from time to time and I got discouraged then. I thought perhaps I'd have another shot the next evening if I didn't get him this evening.
I was really impressed by the great conditions. It reminded me of the sunspot peak years although the conditions on 15M were not all that good, but I figured that may have been due to the late hour and the band simply closing down for the night.
At 0146Z I punched the memory button on the 570 and went back to 4L8A again. He was still fairly strong so I gave a call, and this time I was answered, exchanged the required info, and had a new country in the log. That's the first overall new one in a good many months.
Speaking of 15M, I went back there again and worked a few WC USA/VE stations (CG7SV, CF7OO, WT7TT, N2IC). I was kind of looking for some Oceania stations (KH6, VK, ZL, etc.) but didn't hear any so I went back to 20 to continue milking the good EU opening there.
The 0200Z hour provided me with more Russian/CIS stations than I had worked all during 2004. I had a real path to that part of the world just like had existed for me many times during the sunspot peak years. Just a sample of the stations I worked were UA3TCJ, LY7A, RG9A, UA3QDX, EO3Q. Wow, this is really fun!
At the start of the 0300Z hour, I decided to try 40M for the first time. It was good also, but extremely crowded and my minimal QRP signal was getting killed there, but I did manage a few QSO's including my first AF in the contest, thanks to EG8FAS in the Canary Islands. In fact my first 5 QSO's on 40M gave me 4 continents, all but OC and AS.
I took a 90 minute break as it was too much of a struggle to make QSO's on 40M and the DX on 20M was getting less and less because I had worked so many stations there and conditions were diminishing also.
20M had not completely died though as I found out when I came back around 0430Z and worked SM6CNN, TK9A, and LI8W. I also worked AL1G for my first Alaskan QSO since back in 2003.
I was looking forward to seeing what conditions were like in the morning when I went to bed around 0500Z. I found out when I woke up and got back to the contest around 1200Z. In that hour I got stations like LX7I and LI8W on 15 as well as C6AKU, 9Y4W, and JA8RWU on 20. It looked like it might be a good day although I wasn't hearing as much as I thought I would. I thought the bands were perhaps just not fully open yet, so I did some other work around the house for a while.
I got involved in more than I thought and when I came back to the rig at 1500Z I was disappointed to not find much DX at all on either 20 or 15 meters. I worked a long string of USA/VE stations with the only DX being SM2CEW at 1557Z on 20, and 9A5RR, PJ2W, P40A around 1737Z on 15. This was certainly not like the sunspot-peak type conditions last night. Hopefully they will return this evening, I thought.
The 2000Z hour gave me among others, EG8FAS, AN5FV, EA9EU, AM6IB in a somewhat localized opening on 15M and V25O on 10M. Yes 10M was open, but not a lot of stations were there. Before the clock rolled over to the 2100Z hour, I also got the nice prefix H6 from H6C in Nicaragua.
After IH9U, 9Y4W, NK7U (ex-pro baseball player Joe Rudi's contest station), CT8T, KN5H, and IY4W on 15M in the first 17 minutes of the 2100Z hour, I went back to 20M again. Conditions were pretty good there, but not as good as last night although the great conditions then came later in the evening so there was still hope.
Some of the better QSO's in the 2100Z hour on 20 were 9A8A, LZ9W, D44AC, AN6UN, and a station I seem to work in just about every big DX contest, IK0YVV.
Now another break until 2330Z. My return found quick QSO's with OE3I, DK3GI, EA1ND, LZ1BJ, IR2C, and OM7M on 20M. Conditions to EU were better now than earlier in the day, but still not up to the caliber of last night. Noticeably different was that tonight the opening did not extend nearly as far into EU. In scanning my log as I write this, I see that T94GZ was about the most eastern station I worked this evening and he was my last EU QSO for the evening at just 0019Z. I did work a few AF stations after that including TS3B. Last night I worked my last EU (LI8W) more than three hours later at 0435Z.
When I quit for the night at 0330Z I had 236 QSO's in the log. I knew I wouldn't add much to that total during the day on Sunday because I had other things to do and I felt that conditions would not be all that good barring some major propagation enhancement which was unlikely. Plus I was going to be leaving around 2200Z to set up my portable operation with Tom, KB3LFC for the Hoot Owl Sprint. You'll have to read my story about that contest if you haven't already done so.
So only 34 QSO's were added on Sunday. Virtually all of them from USA/VE stations. I did get another Cape Verde station late in the day though when I worked the super contest station there - D4B. That was on 20M and the QSO was a struggle. Contrast that to a year ago when I worked D4B somewhat easily on 80,40,20,15, and 10 meters in the ARRL DX contest. That in itself shows how conditions have declined along with the sunspots.
All in all I had a lot of fun. I especially got to like the GenLog contesting program very much and I think it will be my program of choice from now on for my contest work. Also I was thrilled to work 4L8A for a new country after thinking I was never going to get another new one, or at least not until the next sunspot peak. I learned that there still can be periods of very good propagation even as we slide down to the sunspot minimum with Friday evening being a great example. And finally I worked at least a couple dozen new prefixes to add to my WPX total.
I hope to work you in the next big contest.