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The 2014 ARRL DX Contest

I was really geared up for this contest since DX conditions had been so great of late. Friday afternoon I decided I wanted to go with a different contest program since I had found that GenLog and my panadapter program don't play well together. For whatever reason, when GenLog is running after a couple minutes I start getting image peaks on the panadapter so each station appears twice moving in opposite directions which is very disconcerting in the midst of a contest. I searched around on the Internet for a good FREE contest program and after checking out a couple different ones, I decided to try N1MM. I was very impressed with it. It was easy to learn, had GREAT documentation, and was easy to use with its simple interface. Now would it work well with the panadapter? I took my laptop up to the shack, hooked everything up and gave it a try. Perfect! So now I was set for my contest effort.

I got on just before 0000Z and the bands were alive with stations marking time and holding frequencies waiting for the starter's gun to fire. When it did, the bands absolutely came alive, and I was ready for the fight that usually ensues in that first hour when the pileups are huge and my little QRP signal easily gets lost. But hey! I'm working stations easily as if a lot of folks came late to the party and competition was non-existant in many cases. Hard to understand, but very acceptable.

I got EA6FO at 0001Z, and just never looked back. He was followed by TM6M 0003, SK3W 0005, CN2AA 0009 EF8S 0010 TI5W 0011 HK1NA 0012 V31TP 0012. Well you get the picture without me listing everything. Contacts were coming fast and furious. Of course not like the 2-3 or more QSOs per minute the big contest stations were racking up, but great for my little station.

When I worked KH6MB at 0025 and RT0C at 0026, the thought popped into my mind that I could well have a WAC in the contest already. As I was tuning and working stations, I was thinking about the WAC and realized I did indeed have one. Then a little further analysis showed that I had one from 6 QSOs in a row in just 9 minutes as follows:
0025 KH6MB OC
0026 RT0C AS
0027 NP2N NA
0031 CS2C EU
0033 CR3L AF
0034 P40W SA
Perhaps my quickest WAC ever. I'll have to research that.

By the end of the first hour, I was already up to 28 QSOs. I doubt I've ever had that good a first hour in a big DX contest before. In the second hour, the competition started to pick up and the QSO rate slowed down to where I only added 12 more QSOs for a total of 40 at 0200Z. So I decided to take a break, get my daily weather readings and watch some Olympics with my neighbor Nancy.

Back again at 0517 and hanging around until 0608 provided me with 21 more QSOs for a total of 61, probably another personal best for the first evening of a DX contest. I went to bed wondering if the high bands would be good in the morning. Actually 15 was open for my evening session until 0123Z when I worked JA7NVF which is somewhat unusual. It usually closes around sunset at the latest. But then contests have a way of bringing bands alive. Looking back through my 61 QSOs, I don't see anything really out of the ordinary. The last 27 QSOs after JA7NVF were all on 40 meters. I could work EU pretty easily on 40. 15 of the 27 were from EU. 80 meters showed nothing to me. I didn't even hear any DX there in the brief checks I made. One evening QSO I definitely want to mention was OE2S. The day before I had worked my friend Oliver OE5OHO and we chatted a bit about the contest. He said he would be operating OE2S, so when I heard that call, I definitely wanted to work him. I got a thrill when he came back not with K3WWP 599 KW, but with FB JOHN then sent the exchange. I always appreciate those little personal things in the midst of the heat of a big fast moving contest. I worked OE2S again later with the same little exchage. I also worked my friend Franki OQ5M later in the contest with the same little personal exchange.

When I got up in the morning, I quickly got dressed and fired up the rig. The high bands indeed were open, and open good. I immediately worked SP8R on 15 at 1413Z. I stayed on 15 while my QRN-making furnace was off, and explored other bands less affected by the furnace QRN while it was running. I snuck in 9 15M QSOs in 6 minutes, then switched to 10 where I stayed a good bit of the time - in fact for almost the next 3 hours I was on 10 exclusively working station after station. The furnace noise was very low on 10, and when it was off, I didn't see any other noise moving the KX3 S-meter at all - quite unusual. It sounded like I was operating from the Kittanning Community Park and its always non-existent noise. It was pretty much like if I could hear them, I could work them both on 10 and then later on 15. Oh, and I also discovered that if I listen on 15 with my attic random wire, the furnace noise drops out quite a bit. So with one hand on the antenna switch to switch between xmt and rcv and the other hand on the paddle, tuning dial, and computer I could rack up QSOs on 15 even while the furnace was running.

When I took a break for lunch at 1740Z, I had 200 QSOs in the log, and firmed up my goal of reaching 500 for the contest. I had set that goal tentatively earlier - actually after opening with 61 QSOs Friday evening. Now it looked like it wouldn't be that hard if conditions held and I didn't run out of stations. I returned at 1807Z and resumed making QSOs rapidly. However things did slow down as the afternoon wore on. There were fewer and fewer stations that I hadn't already worked plus propagation seemed to drop off somewhat. So with 238 QSOs logged, I shut down around 1930Z, and didn't come back till a couple hours later. I hoped by then propagation would be changed somewhat opening up other areas of the world to explore.

By that time, 20 meters was the band of choice and I made the most of it, while only occasionally checking 15 and 10 where I did make QSOs now and then. I was disappointed I wasn't hearing more JA stations on 10 and 15. I only heard perhaps a half dozen or so and only worked two of them. 10 and 15 did provide me with a few KH6 QSOs and a lot of Caribbean and South American stations. At the same time 20 stayed open to EU pretty late. By 2400Z on Saturday, I had 282 QSOs. So if I could get 218 on Sunday, I'd have my goal of 500.

I opened up Sunday at 0051Z with back to back Alaska QSOs from KL7RA and KL2R on 15 meters which was still open. Not a lot was to be had though and I again shut down around 0145Z to get my weather readings and watch some more Olympics.

Returning at 0500Z for another late night session for an hour or so, I opened with ZM1A and KH6LC on 20, then worked KH6LC again several minutes later on 40. I closed with DL1A on 40 at 0556Z. My total was now 303 QSOs as I went to bed.

Up a little earlier on Sunday than on Saturday, I found the bands not as good as the day before. 10 and 15 especially seemed down, and some doubt about my goal crept into my mind if things didn't pick up. They did pick up somewhat and by lunch break at 1612Z, I had added 73 more QSOs, all on 15 and 10 for a total of 376. Then returning at 1651 and continuing virtually until 2330Z except for a supper break, I found the going getting harder and harder. Virtually every time I typed a call into N1MM the dreaded "Dupe!" came up in a red font. Then if I did find someone I didn't work, they always seemed to have a big pileup. It seemed like everyone was pretty much doing the same thing I was doing and looking for those new stations to appear. Almost like the usual first hour pileups were now occuring in the last couple hours of the contest.

Anyway, my rate did slow down so much I pretty much threw the goal of 500 out the window. I had to settle for 480 QSOs from 76 countries. My band-countries or multipliers totalled 191. So I didn't make my goal nor come anywhere near my record of 633 QSOs in an ARRL DX test, but boy did I have the fun even though it was exhausting and I was pretty beat at the end.

I didn't work any overall new countries. The closest I came was hearing a KH0 station who was very weak. I wish I could remember who it was now, but one station really impressed me with his courtesy and consideration in the heat of battle. As he was trying to work me, several other stations were trying to break in, but he told them to QRX and he continued doing that until they did quiet down enough to get me in his log. I was appreciative of that and somewhat disgusted by those other stations and their interference.

One thing I always like to see is how many stations I worked for the first time ever during a contest. It's easy to always work the same BIG contest stations over and over again in contests, but there are always a lot of first-timers also. I think the percentage this time was higher than usual. This time it was 68 stations that got a first QSO mark in my log during the contest. I don't know offhand how many different stations I worked during the contest, but I did work quite a few on 4 different bands, so I would say maybe 300-350 different stations altogether.

How about a list of those worked on four different bands:

And those worked on three different bands:

To close out the stats, QSOs by band:
80 - 0
40 - 41
20 - 98
15 - 174
10 - 167

Bottom line: This report is dedicated to those who say they can't work DX because of their poor antenna, low power, etc., etc. Yes you can! Just give it a try and believe.