The 2005 CQWW DX Contest
I'm going to do something a little different with this report. Instead of waiting till after the contest is over, I'm going to write it as the contest goes along during the breaks I take here and there. I'll label each section with the approximate time of writing it.
11/26-0110Z. A constant theme of these contest stories is how very busy the first couple of hours are on the bands with the big KW contest stations working everyone they can to get off to a fast start. Tonight on 40 meters I believe was the busiest I've ever heard. With 20, 15, and of course 10 meters virtually all closed off at 0000Z, everyone congregated on 40 meters. My minimal QRP was getting completely lost in the wall of stations. I only managed 6 QSO's despite the DX stations being very strong - as much as 20 over S9. There was just too much competition so I decided to take a break until later. Oh, those 6 QSO's were from the always easiest area to work here - The Caribbean (V2, PJ2, ZF, 9Y, KP4) plus one (TI) from Central America. When I managed to catch them in a lull, they copied me easily, so conditions are definitely good. I hope they stay that way until the pileups diminish. There were many good EU sigs on 40M also, but they were too busy for me to try working them.
At the end of the first hour, I decided to check 80 meters, and as I suspected, it was in great shape with several strong zone 14 and 15 stations across the band. Perhaps when the pileups there die down I can snag a new EU country or two, but that probably won't be until tomorrow evening.
11/26-0330Z. I just put in another half hour and was disappointed. 40 meters seemed to have really gone downhill propagation-wise. I didn't hear a single EU station, and only 1 AF station - ZD8A with a huge pileup. There were a lot of EU sigs on 80 meters at a fairly good level, but every one I heard had a large pileup after every call so I didn't even bother trying. There was one brief highlight this time period, though. I worked VP2E THROUGH a huge pileup. I could hardly hear the sidetone in the 570 as I was sending my call because of the racket of the pileup. I was shocked when VP2E came back to ME! I also worked WP2Z during this half hour who had a smaller pileup. However those were my only two QSO's. I'll try again later tonight, but it's kind of useless sitting there now.
11/26-1505Z. I only tried for a few minutes last night in the 05Z hour. 40 was dead to EU here - not a single EU station heard. I did work a couple more Caribbean stations (HI, VP5) on 40, but that was it. 80 was fairly good to EU, but not quite good enough for me to try breaking the pileups.
11/26-1507Z. Disappointing (but expected) conditions the past 40 minutes. No EU at all on 15 or 10 meters. I did work P40L on 10 for my only QSO there. A couple of Caribbean stations and XE1MM was the story on 15M. 20 was fairly good, but no real strong DX sigs like on 40 meters last night. I am able to work at least western EU on 20M. A few Germans are about as far into EU as I've gone so far though. At least I got a couple new prefixes as the German hams use more of the prefixes they are allocated. My first ever DP and DR prefixes are now logged here. Time for breakfast now, then I'll go back to the rig again for a while, but I foresee no real serious effort on my part as it's just not easy and not much fun here near the sunspot minimum as it was a few years ago at the maximum.
11/26-1825Z. Another 90 minutes on the bands produced only 23 QSO's. The bands are really poor for those of us who don't have a lot of metal up in the air to catch signals. All the QSO's were from the Caribbean or western EU. There is a definite dividing strip in EU that runs down through Germany. I'm hearing quite a few strong zone 14 stations, but hardly any signals at all from zone 15 except a few very weak signals. It's just a whole lot different from the sunspot peak years. Heck, it's even different from last year. It will be interesting to compare my results this year against a sunspot peak year and against last year when the contest is over. All the EU stations are on 20 meters. I haven't heard even a very weak one on 15 or 10 meters. All I'm hearing and working on those bands are Caribbean and Central America. Oh and some South America also. I'm not bothering working any W/VE stations since I'm not going for a score.
11/26-2145Z. Yet another disappointing segment of 40 minutes. Only three QSO's (WP2Z, VP5W, PJ2T on 20M). I think one of the problems is that there are fewer good signals being heard on the bands, and those that are being heard consequently are getting much bigger pileups. I hear many that are strong enough to work easily, but I just can't break the pileups regularly enough to keep me interested. So I probably won't do much till later this evening when I see if the 40 and 80 pileups are any smaller and conditions are good enough to work more than a couple stations here and there. Otherwise, I'll just give up till tomorrow morning hoping for something better on 20, 15, and 10 at that time.
11/27-0045Z. Things seem to be getting worse and worse. C6AUR and PJ5NA the only 2 QSO's in the past 40 minutes or so. I was surprised at the lack of a pileup for PJ5NA as that country seems to be rare in the contest. Perhaps I found him just as he was starting up. At any rate, it was an easy QSO, as was C6AUR. I wasn't hearing any EU on 40 this period. FP/K8DD was on 80 without much of a pileup, but still I couldn't get him. I figured 40 and 80 would be good for me this weekend with the sunspots down, but so far, it's not so. I don't even think I'll check the bands again till around 0500Z or so. I'm just disappointed at my results so far and I don't think they'll get much better. I'll be lucky to make it to 100 QSO's just like I used to do near the last sunspot minimum.
11/28-0310. Well, I got busy both with the contest and other things today so I didn't get to update my story here in real time as I was doing earlier. I made a brief check of 80 and 40 around 0530Z, but didn't work anything as there was really nothing much being heard that I thought I could easily work.
Sunday morning proved to be much better than Saturday morning. I just wish I had gotten started earlier. I didn't get on till around 1515Z, and when I did I heard some EU sigs on 15M and managed to work DQ0Q, DR5Z, and F6KHM. Either it was a short-lived opening or I just got in as the path was closing as after that the few EU sigs on 15M were too weak for me to work.
I tried 10M, but there was nothing to speak of there. So back to old reliable 20M. I ran off 13 EU QSO's in a half-hour. That was good for this year, but nowhere near what I could do during the sunspot peak. I got another 13 EU plus TI5A in the 1600Z hour. Then I got my first of only a very few AF stations at 1703Z when I easily got CT3EN on 15M. That also turned out to be my last across the pond QSO for the day except for working CT3EN again on 20M about 45 minutes later. Oh, there was one more, but I'll get to that later.
The rest of the afternoon was spent jumping back and forth between 15 and 20M working what Caribbean, Central and South American stations I could. I set as my goal to make 100 QSO's. That's a very meager total when you consider I have gotten as many as 633 QSO's in a DX contest, but hey, this is near a sunspot minimum and was close to what I was doing at the previous minimum. When I got my 100th QSO thanks to P40W, I thought I'd try to improve my score a little bit and go for some zone 3,4, and 5 multipliers plus the countries of W and VE which I had ignored thus far. That didn't last long though as 15 and 10 were already dead so I couldn't get my mults there, and 80 wouldn't be open before I quit for the day. That only left me 20 and 40 for additional mults so after working VE7GL and N0NI I gave up on that idea.
I thought I'd close out on 40M, and when I tuned in there, I found EU to be quite strong. That was around 2150Z. I thought I'd try to work some of them, and was encouraged when the first one I tried (OM7M) was an easy QSO at 2153Z. However after that any other EU stations didn't seem to be hearing me at all, and I was getting tired so I gave up on that idea, and went back to 20M and caught KP3Z and CW5T. CW5T reminds me that I seemed to work into SA quite good this contest. For some reason SA is often not all that easy for me, especially on 20M. I didn't work all that many SA stations, but the QSO's came rather easily for the most part.
Also on 20M about that time, I heard my first and only AS station, JA3KYB (if I remember the call correctly). I tried just for the fun of it, and it seemed he did surprisingly hear me, but we couldn't complete the QSO.
One last check of 15M gave me my final QSO at 2254Z - AY8A for possibly a new prefix.
Wrapping up, I made 107 QSO's in about 47 countries. I worked no new overall countries, and probably no new band-countries either. I believe several of the prefixes I worked were new. I know DP4, DQ0, and DR5 definitely were. It wasn't as much fun overall as the sunspot maximum years, but I did have brief periods of fun when in the 15 and 16Z hours Sunday I could work just about any EU signal I heard on 20M, even some very weak ones. I also, as always, enjoy beating a big pileup to get a station. I did that a few times, although in most cases I had to wait for a lull to work the station.
I was disappointed that 80 and 40 meters didn't give me better results. I still have to match the great 80 and 40 results I got a couple years ago when we just started down the slide to the sunspot minimum. I thought those bands would be better the nearer we got to the minimum. Perhaps conditions are better, but they are also more crowded as more folks are forced to go there when 20, 15, and 10 close down much sooner now. EU signals were quite good on 80 and 40, but everyone seemed to have a pileup I couldn't break.
Here are some stats comparing this contest to one from 1999 near the sunspot peak.
2005 - 107
1999 - 500
20M 15M 10M 40M 80M
2005 56 22 3 26 0
1999 87 111 256 44 2
2005 - 47
1999 - 83
And this table that shows QSO's, Mults, Hrs, Rate:
2005 - 107 98 8.0 13.4
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 ?
You can definitely see the sunspot cycle in the stats. I just hope that anyone making this their first QRP DX contest realizes that better times are coming in a few years. Don't get discouraged and give up on QRP DX. Just take another good look at the above stats.