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The 2015 ARRL DX Contest

It's that time again. Time to write a story about a big DX contest. I had a ball in this one although it was a bit mentally exhausting, not to mention getting stiff from sitting still for such long stretches.

I had no idea whatsoever how I was going to approach the contest. My ideas ranged from just using it for my streak QSOs all the way to going for an all time personal record for an ARRL DX contest. In between there were other thoughts also. Maybe using it to try to get some more mW countries and get closer to 100 - never did that. Of course looking for Asia on 40 to complete WAC on that band. Or KL7 on 80 to finish my 80 meters WAS. Finally just having fun - period. I guess the last choice was the one I went for.

I got on as soon as the opening bell sounded and noticed a ton of activity on the panadapter on both 40 and 20. I figured it would be rough breaking through the big pileups suggested by the amount of activity shown. However, I found it easy to work stations in that early period in the contest. It started almost immediately with 4O/E77W at 0001Z on 40 meters followed a couple minutes later by S51YI on 40. Hey, this could ba a really productive contest. By the time the first hour was over, I had logged 29 QSOs. That's maybe one of my best starts in any big DX contest ever. It slowed a bit in the second hour and when I quit for a while at 0148Z, I had 42 QSOs and my contest WAC with the following:
20m   CW  02/21/15  0059  KH6LC        599  PA     599   KH6    22-20m  3  KW  - Oceania
40m   CW  02/21/15  0103  C6AWW        599  PA     599   C6     3-40m   3  100 - North America
20m   CW  02/21/15  0109  NP4Z         599  PA     599   KP4    23-20m  3  KW  
20m   CW  02/21/15  0111  HC1WDT       599  PA     599   HC     24-20m  3  100 - South America
20m   CW  02/21/15  0117  EF8R         599  PA     599   EA8            3  100 - Africa
20m   CW  02/21/15  0121  MM3T         599  PA     599   GM     25-20m  3  400  - Europe
20m   CW  02/21/15  0126  HI3TT        599  PA     599   HI!            3  95  
20m   CW  02/21/15  0128  RG0A         599  PA     599   UA9    26-20m  3  1000 - Asia
Not my fastest WAC ever (9 mins my record), but 29 minutes is not bad. 20 meters was hot during that time period. It was like it didn't know it is supposed to shut down early in the 0000Z hour this time of year. It continued good to the whole world at least until I QRT and probably beyond.

I didn't get back on till 0545Z and by then 20 was pretty dead, so I stuck mainly to 40 meters and made 10 more QSOs for a total of 52 when I went to bed. I had hoped to try the bands a bit in the 1000 or 1100Z hour looking for a 40M Asian or 80M KL7. I did wake up, but was too tired to give it a try. I figured I'd wait till Sunday morning. So back to sleep until 1400Z and then on the bands at 1410Z. They were good, but not great like the were at the previous sunspot maximum. Neither 15 nor 10 had as widespread activity as back then. Roughly back then 10 was occupied up to and a little beyond 28200. This year only some sparse activity above 28125 or so. About the same ratio for 15 meters.

I stayed mostly on 15 for about an hour, then checked 10 again, and it was more active than when I first checked as soon as I got on. So I stayed there for the next couple hours or so making around 40 QSOs. The next hour or so it was back to 15 meters, then a few minutes on 20 before a break for a late (by my time frame) lunch. One interesting QSO during those few minutes on 20 was working JA7ZFN at 1804Z. I don't even need all the fingers on one hand to count the number of JA QSOs at that time of day in all my years of ham radio. And it was an easy QSO.

After lunch it was mainly 20 meters followed by skipping between 15 and 20. Then when sundown came and passed, it was on to 40 meters after a brief stint on 10 working a few KH6s and JAs as shown here from my Cabrillo log:
QSO: 21000 CW 2015-02-21 2252 K3WWP 599 PA JA7NVF 599 KW 0
QSO: 21000 CW 2015-02-21 2255 K3WWP 599 PA KH7XX  599 KW 0
QSO: 28000 CW 2015-02-21 2257 K3WWP 599 PA JH7XGN 599 KW 0
QSO: 28000 CW 2015-02-21 2259 K3WWP 599 PA WH7M   599 KW 0
QSO: 28000 CW 2015-02-21 2330 K3WWP 599 PA JA1BPA 599 KW 0
QSO: 28000 CW 2015-02-21 2333 K3WWP 599 PA KH6RS  599 KW 0
QSO: 28000 CW 2015-02-21 2336 K3WWP 599 PA KH6LC  599 KW 0
QSO: 21000 CW 2015-02-21 2345 K3WWP 599 PA WH7M   599 KW 0
QSO: 21000 CW 2015-02-21 2346 K3WWP 599 PA RT0C   599 KW 0
40 was quite productive and I stayed there until I gave 80 a try and worked DL, OK, and KP2. Then off for a couple hours for some chores and to visit my neighbor for a while and help her with the last dog walk of the day.

Back on to close out the day with an hour or so on 40 and 80. There was a high noise level of S9 on 80 which was perhaps a help as I figured I'd have a chance to work those DX stations who rose up out of the noise, and it was true. I worked DL, ZF, P4, G, KP4, XE, TI, and CR3. I was happy with that. One of my better DX contest showings on 80 meters. None are new band countries, but fun to work nevertheless.

This time I did try the 1000Z hour, but it was totally unproductive. I heard a couple stations working Asians on both 80 and 40, but couldn't hear a trace of the Asians themselves. Also no trace of a KL7 on 80, so back to bed till 1400Z. Later nearby WB3FAE (see later in the story) confirmed the conditions in that hour.

I found conditions better on Sunday on both 15 and 10. However I had already worked a lot of stations on those bands and it wasn't all that easy finding new ones to work. I did a lot of jumping among 20, 15, and 10 all day Sunday. All three had things to offer. One new band-country in PJ7 on 15M. There were new prefixes in RG0, 4V1, SI5, LY97, UX4, SB3, LO5, PW0

I closed out the day and the contest on 40 meters. I wound up with 450 QSOs although I seem to have lost the last one probably by not finishing to enter it in GenLog which shows only 449 QSOs, and darned if I can remember now who it may have been.

That pretty much sums up how I approached the contest. Next up I'm going to provide some stats about the contest.

First I'd like to honor and thank those stations who copied and worked me on 5 bands and 4 bands:

On 80,40,20,15,10 were: CR3A, DL0WRTC, G4A, KP2M, NP4Z, ZF1A.

On 40,20,15,10 were 9A1A, ED7P, GM7R, HG7T, IR4M, KH6LC, OL4A, OM2VL, OM5ZW, P40L, PJ2T, PJ4X, PY2ZXU, S57AL, SN2B, TI5W, VP5S

Thanks. Great job copying my minimal QRP signal.

Every time I was on the bands, DL0WRTC was booming in here. Surprising to see PY2ZXU among the 4 banders as I wasn't having all that much success working PY overall. Another country that gave me problems was Cuba. I probably worked fewer than 10 percent of the Cubans I heard for whatever reason.
QSOs by band:
10 - 110
15 - 137
20 - 120
40 -  71
80 -  11

QSOs by continent:
AF -  16
AS -  13
EU - 316
NA -  63
OC -  10
SA -  31

Countries by continent:
AF - D4, EA8, CT3, CN = 4
AS - UA9, JA = 2
EU - OH0, OE, CU, EA6, ON, E7, LZ, 9A, OK, OZ, G, ES, UA1, OH, F, DL, HA, EI, I, UA2, YL
     LY, LX, 4O, PA, SP, CT, YO, GM, OM, S5, EA, SM, HB, UR, YU = 36
NA - KL7, V2, C6, VP9, V3, ZF, TI, CM, HI, HH, HR, 6Y, XE, FM, KP4, PJ7, VP5, KP2 = 18
OC - KH6 = 1
SA - LU, P4, PJ4, PY, CE, HK, PJ2C, HC, PY0-F, FY, YV = 11

Most often worked countries:
DL - 38
S5 - 23
I -  20
9A - 18
HA - 17
OK - 16
G -  15
SP - 15
YU - 15

QSOs by power:
 KW - 327
100 -  38
500 -  33
400 -  29
 99 -   6
150 -   6
700 -   3
 95 -   2
 55 -   1
200 -   1
300 -   1
750 -   1
800 -   1

QSOs by hour:
Day   1    2
00 - 29    7*
01 - 13*   5*
02 -  0   29*
03 -  0   11*
04 -  0    0
05 -  5*   7*
06 -  5*   4*
07 -  0    0
08 -  0    0
09 -  0    0
10 -  0    0
11 -  0    0
12 -  0    0
13 -  0    1*
14 - 33*  34
15 - 18*  17*
16 - 31    4*
17 - 40   27
18 -  5*   9*
19 - 33    0
20 - 15*  15*
21 -  0   12
22 - 16*   8
23 -  8*   8*
Tot 251  198
An asterisk indicates partial hours (49 minutes or less). Gee, wonder what I could have done with more full hours? Look at the 1900Z hour. I may have missed a lot on Sunday when I had to take some time out to go grocery shopping before the very cold weather during the upcoming week.

As always, it was interesting not being able to work a station seemingly for ever and ever, even though he was quite strong and with no competition. Then later on work him easily with a single call even with competition. There were several this contest. One that comes right to mind was YO3JR. Also interesting to work so many weak stations easily when I could barely copy them. Of course much of that has to do with local conditions like QRN of which I have a lot.

All in all, a very enjoyable experience. My furnace QRN hurt a lot. At least it wasn't bitter cold on the weekend, and the furnace only had to run something like 10 minutes on and 7 off. I had to make hay during those 7 minute periods, especially on 15 where the noise is worst. Sometimes I'd go to 10 or 20 during those times as they are less affected by the noise. On 10, I could use my 6 meters dipole for receiving which really cut the noise down and let me hear stations (and work them with the 10 meters dipole) that I couldn't even hear on the 10 dipole.

Another interesting experience with the contest is coming up in a few days when Tom WB3FAE and I get together to compare our efforts. He lives about 20 miles from here, and is really the only avid contester who lives anywhere closeby. He is also now a QRP devotee.

Of course these stories exist for one main purpose - to show readers that you don't need a big antenna farm fed with a great amount of power to have fun working DX. Remember everything here is done with QRP and simple wire antennas in a valley location as described more fully elsewhere on the web site. You can do the same, and even better with a better setup and location.