K3WWP's Ham Radio Activities

CalendarStoriesHonor RollQRP SprintsResultsTips

The 2016 ARRL DX Contest

As I write this, I have a lot of other things I should be doing, but the further I get from the contest, the fewer things i remember that I wanted to talk about, so here goes.

I mentioned in my web site diary a few times last week that I wasn't really enthused about the upcoming ARRL DX Test. Then later in the week it turned out I had several things coming up on the weekend, so I figured a goal of 100, maybe 150 QSOs would suffice in the time I'd have available.

There were a couple exciting things somewhat involved with the contest. One, I was getting a visit from Ken N3CU who is one of the masters of our NAQCC 1,000 MPW awards. However that figure is MUCH too low for him. He has many QSOs over 100,000 MPW all the way up to around 1,500,000 MPW. Whew, talk about getting a lot of bang for your power bucks. HI. More about his visit interspersed in the story.

Also my friend and former neighbor Eric KB3BFQ (who as regular site visitors know is responsible for getting me started on my streak some 21+ years ago) recently is getting back into ham radio after several years. I loaned him my TS-570D to use until he can get a rig of his own. He was asking me about the upcoming contest, and I figured he was intending to get into it. He did with some very good results considering his long period away from working with CW. More of that in the story also.

As soon as I got into the contest Friday evening intending to just (at that time) get my daily DX QSO, the contesting bug bit and I was off and running. Or crawling actually because I just couldn't get anyone to hear me for the first 30 minutes. The start of contest frenzy was in full swing with all the KW/beam stations killing my minimal QRP signals.

At 0030Z I worked P49Y on 40 to finally get an entry in the log. Then they started coming a little faster after that. By 0130Z I had 22 stations worked. The first 15 on 40 and 7 more on 20. All were NA/SA save for IR4X, ED7P, IR1Y, IR2C, and IR4M, all on 40. Nice pipeline to Italy, eh? For the first of 5 QSOs with P40XM, he commented on my QRP signals which he also did on 80 later and one other band. I'm just looking to see who the op(s) were there who apparently know me. Well, they were DH8BQA, DL5CW, DL5LYM, and DL6RAI. I've had several QSOs with each of them, so hard to say who or which made the comments. I do appreciate them though. Anytime someone takes a few extra seconds to make comments to me, I appreciate it. Later in the contest, it was nice to exchange names with Bert F6HKA.

I mentioned 5 QSOs with P40XM. I also worked the following on 5 bands (80-10): TI5W NP2N PJ2T KP2M PJ6A. Came close with KH6LC, but he said he had bad QRN and we just couldn't quite make it on 80 or 20 although he was hearing me. There were also several stations worked on 4 bands: 6Y1D V31TPP 8P5A V26M VP2MWA TO7A NP2P PJ4X KP3Z PST2 (missed 80 in all those cases) and ZF1A T48K (missed on 10).

I returned to the bands around 0500Z and added 11 more QSOs, again mostly NA/SA except for KH6LC D4C, both on 40. Off to bed then with the intention of waking up early to see if I could find KL7 on 80 and an Asian on 40, to complete single band WAS and WAC respectively on those bands. I had heard RC9O and 5B4AGM in the evening on 40, but neither heard me.

Like other years in the ARRL and CQ DX contests, I did wake up, but unlike other years when I was just too tired to get on, this year I did make myself sit down at the rig both Saturday and Sunday mornings. I'm glad I did as both mornings were productive. Saturday morning I worked 5 stations on 80 - TO7A T48K NP2N TI5W ZF1A for extra multipliers. Skipping ahead to Sunday morning before getting back to chronological order, between 1020 and 1230Z, I worked in order on 80 - P40XM PJ6A PJ2T, on 40 - VP5K KH6J T48K NP2N ZF1A. Then around 1135Z, it was interesting to watch 20M arise from sleep. It started off with a low latitude EU station CU4DX whom I easily worked. Then I worked several NA/SA stations. I was hearing the rest of EU starting to come through, but couldn't hook up with any (except IR4X). A little too early, so it was back to bed till 1400Z when I figured the bands would be hopping.

The 1400 to 2000Z hours are always good for the higher bands, and Saturday was no exception. Between a dog walking, breakfast, and walking myself to enjoy an almost 70 degree day, I reached 76 QSOs by around 1700Z. In looking through my log I don't remember exactly when Ken N3CU arrived, but I see a gap starting at 1722Z when I had 90 QSOs and 1758Z, so I think he arrived then. After showing off my antenna "victory garden" and my old ham radio gear among other things, we settled down in the shack and talked ham radio and other subjects. All the while, I continued to work the contest in the background. Not quite like (I think it was) Trey Garlough who could read a book while racking up QSOs 100-200 per hour, but multi-tasking somewhat nevertheless. That was a lot of fun, and a chance to show Ken my station in action. I think he was surprised at the ease of working stations with my simple setup. He was also impressed with the selectivity of the KX3 watching stations on the PX3 right adjacent to whom I was working and not even being able to hear the other station. I was impressed with the KX3 speaker. I always use headphones except when I have visitors in the shack. Today unlike other times, the speaker sounded just like the best hi-fi speaker. Unlike previously, there were no crackling noises from strong signals nor any other defects. The speaker had always been the single negative about the KX3, but not today.

I showed Ken my DXCC QSL collection including the 10(?) Tugruk banknote JT1DA sent with his card. Also the one from ZS6EZ with the comment on it - "apologies for making it so easy" after I had commented either in my soapbox for an old CQWW or ARRL DX contest or on my website, that after being unable to work South Africa for many years, my QSO with ZS6EZ made it seem much too easy after all those years trying.

The time pased all too quickly because the conversation was all so interesting. I especially enjoyed hearing about Ken's antenna system and location when he made those fantastic MPW QSOs. No it wasn't with a big beam antenna on a high hill somewhere, although it was a better setup than mine. Hopefully Ken will be joining us sometime for a parkpedition, hamfest, and/or a trip to the Requin.

Anyway, back to the contest which after all, is the topic of this story. When Ken had to leave, I reached 135 QSOs meaning I made 45 QSOs during our visit. Well past my first goal of 100 and close to the second at 150. So I decide to shoot for 200 now.

I took some time off for some eats and another walk in the nice weather. I wasn't too active until Sunday morning, but I did stand at 174 QSOs when I started again in earnest around 1400Z. So 200 looked to be a cinch. I had reached my contest WAC which is always a goal, working JA3YBK for my only Asian in the contest at 2311Z Saturday on 15M. Really nothing exotic all the time Ken was here nor any other periods either for that matter. Perhaps my definition of exotic has changed over the years. HI. Probably back in the 1990s when I returned to ham radio, things like D4C, UA2F, even KH6LC among others would have qualified, but they are commonplace nowadays.

I hit the contest pretty hard on Sunday, spurred on a bit by trying to catch my friend Tom WB3FAE who was ahead of me by quite a few QSOs then. The 20 and 15 meter bands were good as usual during the morning and afternoon hours. Ten meters opened sporadically, but not very well, and after working quite a few NA/SA stations, it became hard to find new ones to work. Tom mentioned the same thing about the higher bands. Although 20 and 15 did keep providing new ones, they also slowed down. Finally so slow that it became boring, and I headed to 40 meters at 2245Z to close out the contest there figuring to add a couple EU stations and maybe some NA/SA stations that I hadn't worked yet.

Well, I was wrong. I started on 40, needing 19 QSOs to reach 300 and I figured I'd never make it especially looking at the wall of S9+20 or stronger signals on the panadapter. However after close examination, I noticed more or less there were two levels of signals interspersed. One was the +20 signals, but there was another level of around S8 to S9 signals. I found that for the most part, those S8 to S9 signals were from EU, and in many cases they were being ignored. I started calling them, and easily worked DD2ML, then continued to look. Here's EI7M - boom, another easy QSO. On and on it went right up to the end of the contest. I was able to work (in most cases easily) over half of the EU stations I heard. And I mean heard. Without the KX3 and its razor sharp filter, I could never have heard many of them. As I said earlier, it is easy to separate stations that are even butting up right next to each other as seen on the panadapter. You can hear the one you want to work and not even know the other is there without seeing it on the PX3. Wonder what I could have done around the 2000/2001 sunspot peak years with a KX3/PX3 setup then. Probably something significantly higher than 633 would be my record for number of QSOs in a big DX contest.

I mentioned Eric KB3BFQ. He turned in a nice effort although as he mentioned in an email it was rough for him copying the high speed CW, etc.

UPDATE: Received an email from Eric with a list of the stations he worked - ZF1A P40XM PJ2T T48K KP3Z PT5A TI5W PJ4X NP3A 6Y1D NP2N NP2P HK1X P40LE 8P5A PJ6A VP2MWA KP2M KH6LC PX8I. I would say (and did say to him) that is excellent. Keep in mind also he's a Novice/Tech so has band limitations.

One final oddity. For a few hours after the contest, I had an image of the PX3 screen lingering in my eyes from staring at it for so many hours. It was the peaks on the screen that were in motion and most noticeable. Then it slowly faded away. Talk about persistence of vision!

Now let's get to my favorite things (other than actually working the stations), namely the statistics.

Total QSOs were 303 from all 6 continents and 64 countries.

QSOs by band:
10 -  28
15 - 114
20 -  87
40 -  63
80 -  11

Countries by band:
10 -   21
15 -   52
20 -   48
40 -   38
80 -   10
tot - 169

QSOs by continent:
AF -  10
AS -   1
EU - 166
NA -  86
OC -   7
SA -  33

QSOs by CQ Zone:
5 -   3
6 -   3
7 -  11
8 -  69
9 -  22
11 -  7
12 -  1
13 -  3
14 - 71
15 - 87
16 -  6
20 -  2
25 -  1
31 -  7
33 -  7
35 -  3

QSOs by hour:
00 - 12
01 - 11
05 - 11
10 -  5
14 -  9
15 - 28
16 -  1
17 - 15
18 - 10
19 - 20
20 - 12
21 -  1
22 -  6
23 -  2
00 -  2
05 - 10
10 -  9
11 -  1
12 -  8
14 - 19
15 - 18
16 - 11
17 - 27
18 - 12
20 - 11
21 -  7
22 -  8
23 - 17

Countries with 10 or more QSOs:
I  - 20
KP2- 17
EA - 14
DL - 13
S5 - 13
9A - 12
OK - 12
F  - 11
KP4- 10

Thanks for the mult to these stations whose QSO was my only one with their country:

There were 22 stations that I had never worked before. The 303 QSOs were with 173 different stations.

Surprises: The lack of Northern EU stations worked (SM, LA, OH, OZ, SP, etc.). Only one Canary Islands
station worked (or even heard). No new band countries worked. Only a couple new prefixes (CU4 XR2).
As always these stories are written to let you know that you CAN successfully enter a big DX contest and come out with some great results. Those with better antennas and location (probably the majority of those reading this) can easily surpass my results with very little effort. The small minority with worse setups can also do well and have a lot of fun in the contests. So give it a try and let me know how things turn out. Thanks for reading.