The 1997 CQ WW DX Contest
I was quite excited about this contest because of the high solar flux and low A and K index values of the past few days. So I started in at 0000Z with great anticipation. I thought I should be able to really do something with my minimal QRP in this one.
When I first started in DX contests a couple years ago, I could count on getting maybe 20 QSO's by working the strong Caribbean stations, and perhaps one or two European super contest stations. And that was about it with only 40 and 80 meters being in good shape. Oh, 20M might come and go also, but 15 and 10 were definitely out of the picture then. With my restricted space for antennas, I didn't (and still don't) have the antennas to work DX on 160 and 80. 40M is not a lot better.
That is in the past now. During the past couple of DX contests (CQ WW and ARRL), I had been doing somewhat better, getting around 100 QSO's. Having openings on 15M really helped things out, and this time 15M should be really good and perhaps even 10M would be open.
Well, this contest started out as a big disappointment for me. 20 and 15 were already virtually closed for the evening, leaving me only 40 and 80 to work on. Every DX station I heard had a huge pileup of big contest stations. My QRP could not break the piles at all. That first evening I only worked 6 stations before turning in for the night. All 6 were NA stations. Typical of my past success (or lack thereof) on these 2 bands.
I wasn't too discouraged though, because I knew that I had 15 and 20 meters to look forward to on Saturday. I woke up around 1345Z and went straight to 15M. A quick tune across the band showed a myriad of EU stations, none overly strong, but many at a good level. I picked out one of the strong ones that I knew was a super contest station and called. I easily worked 9A1A, and moved on. Within 10 minutes I had 7 EU QSO's and knew I was on the way. Now I had DL, HB9, SP, YU, and PA in the log along with 9A.
I stuck with 15M for a couple of hours with time out for breakfast. I worked mostly EU stations with a couple of Caribbeans thrown in here and there. Countries like OZ, SM, I, OK, LY, F, EA6, S5, G, ON, EA, LA, ZF, CO, VP5 were added to my log. Most of them were worked easily, with only a few calls to each one at the most. Some I got on the first call.
Around 1630Z it was on to 20M to see what was happening there. It was also open to EU with good signals. The first station I worked was S51BO whom I have worked in other contests. Then started a real run of stations from Finland. Virtually every Finnish station I heard was worked on the first or second call. I had a real pipeline to that part of the world. I worked OF1HS, OH2HE, OH6MRA, OF6NIO, OF5M, OF8AA, OF1AF - some on 20 and some on 15. Some other good ones I worked Saturday afternoon were AY1I for a nice Argentina prefix, TF3IRA from always somewhat rare Iceland, RZ1Z from Russia which until recently was a hard one for me to work, T49C for a nice Cuban prefix, HC8N from the Galapagos, ZD8Z from Ascension Island.
As the afternoon wore on, the Argentina stations started showing up with strong sigs on 15 and I worked a small batch of them. Also worked a couple of ZP's from that same part of the world.
It was now around 2130Z, and the JA's started showing up. JA has always been a hard country for my QRP. In fact I hadn't worked a JA until the '96 CQ WW DX Test, and although I did get a QSL from the contact, I wasn't exactly happy with the QSO, never being sure if he copied my call correctly or not.
This year was different. I called JS3CTQ, and he came right back to me with my correct call, and the exchange went smoothly. Shortly after that it was JH5FXP with the same results, although he did get my call wrong at first, but I was able to correct him easily. Two solid QSO's with Japan this time around.
Next up it was Alaska from KL7Y, followed by Asiatic Russia from RK0FWL. KL7Y was worked again on 15 and then later on 40. I also added KL7RA on 20 that day, and KL7AC later.
As 20 and 15 closed for the evening, it was back to 40, 80, and 160. Again I had very poor results on those bands, settling on just picking up some zone and country multipliers from W/VE stations plus a couple of Caribbeans.
At bedtime, I had 90 stations worked. Now that doesn't seem like much to a big contest station. In fact they get that in about a half hour of heavy activity. But remember this is with 5 watts output into simple wire antennas either in my attic or on my porch roof. I was very pleased with the totals. I only needed 16 QSO's on Sunday to beat my previous best DX contest total of 105 QSO's.
On Sunday, I got up around 1400Z, and as I did Saturday, I headed to 15M. The first couple stations I called weren't hearing me, and I was afraid that conditions had slipped away a little bit. That quickly changed when I worked SL3ZV, followed quickly by DL2DX and OZ1IOC. Now I was rolling again.
I heard RU1A, and he was very strong. This wound up being a very easy QSO. Only called him once, and he came right back to me. We exchanged the info, and I wondered why I had had so much trouble working Russia up until this year.
My first hour on 15M provided 22 EU QSO's, my best hour of the contest. Some goodies included HB6FG for a rare prefix, at least for me. I don't think I ever heard an HB6 before. Also DF4RD at 1443Z was my QSO # 106 which meant I had topped my previous high total for a DX contest. I kept working my way up the band and the activity continued well into the Novice segment where I worked some more good ones. SN8V for a somewhat unusual Polish prefix. GD4UOL from the Isle of Man. GM7X from Scotland.
My Scandinavian pipeline continued as I worked more SM, OH, OF stations easily. I also worked several Germans around this time. One interesting catch was Z38G. I hadn't heard a Z3 in the contest yet, and figured he would have a huge pileup. I set in for a long wait as I wanted him for a country multiplier. What a surprise! I got him on the first call. I guess I found him before the pileup started.
After my breakfast or brunch, I decided to try 10M and see what was going on there. It was open to EU. The sigs weren't that strong, but they were there. I only worked PI4COM and TM2Y, but they were my first ever EU on 10M. There wasn't a lot of activity on 10, so I came back to 15 and continued working EU there. I finally got Hungary from HG1S. Unusual for me not to work Hungary easily in a contest. At least lately. It used to be a tough country till a couple years ago. Now I seemingly always work a couple in any kind of DX contest.
15M also gave me my only overall new country in the contest. MJ0AWR is the first ever station from Jersey for QRP country # 132. It wasn't the best QSO, and I hope he has me logged correctly. I also worked a couple other M prefix stations from Great Britain as those calls become more prolific now.
Remember how easy my QSO with RU1A on 15M was? Well, I found him on 20M, and this time it was a different story. It took a couple minutes for him to be sure of my call. I give him credit and thanks for sticking with me, however.
Shortly after that, I worked my first Portugal in CT1BQH, who thanked me by name. As always, you work one, and another one follows shortly. 4 minutes later, I got CT1FJK for another Portugal.
KH7R on 15M completed WAC for the weekend. It took several calls to put him in the log, but I wanted that weekend WAC so I waited him out.
I had been trying and trying to work 3E1DX at various times throughout the contest, but couldn't beat the pileups. I found him again on 15, and was determined to get him this time. Well, you guessed it, I worked him the first call this time around. It's hard to figure these things. And wouldn't you know it, 3 minutes later, another Panama, HP1XBI.
I was running out of stations on 15, so it was off to 10 again. This time I stuck around about a half hour or so. I worked N7FE and VE5RI for my USA and Canada on that band. Then I heard KH7R, and went after him. Another success on the first call. My first ever Oceania on 10M, and it was so easy. I worked some more 2 point Canadians, and some LU's, then started hopping around the bands, going from 20 to 15 to 10, etc. I mainly picked up some missing zones or got some Caribbeans I had missed earlier. Back on 10, I got CX5BW for a somewhat hard to work country. That gave me 8 countries on 10M, more than I had worked previously since I started using that band about 3 years ago.
The QSO's were coming slowly now as the contest wound down late Sunday afternoon. I did manage to get two more JA's, one a solid QSO, the other not so good because of fluttery sigs and QRM.
To close things out, I worked VY1JA on 20. Sure could have used him in the SS. Also HC8N on 20M for a new zone and country on that band. Then CT3BX for Madeira, and the final QSO was with VE4VV.
I was very happy with my results, and am looking forward to the ARRL DX Test in February now. I think I'll shoot for 250 QSO's in that one if conditions are the same or better. In that one, I only have to compete with other W/VE stations in the pileups, as it's the world working W/VE.
The only regrets from this contest are that I didn't work more overall new countries. I heard ones I needed, but the pileups remained huge throughout the contest. I heard 3V, 5X, 5V, 9G, EW, and VR9 - all of which would have been new had I worked them. Also I was unhappy being unable to work JA on 15M Sunday evening. I heard many, but none were quite strong enough to work. I think one JA did hear me, but just couldn't get past K3??P as my call.
My continent totals by band:
160 80 40 20 15 10 ALL percent
North America 2 3 9 20 21 5 60 35.3
South America 0 0 2 3 12 4 21 12.4
Europe 0 0 0 13 63 2 78 45.9
Asia 0 0 0 5 0 0 5 2.9
Africa 0 0 0 2 2 0 4 2.4
Oceania 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 1.2
And the countries I worked:
COUNTRIES WORKED - WITH CALL OF ONE STATION WORKED
PRFX 160 80 40 20 15 10
6Y 6Y4A 6Y4A 6Y4A
9Y 9Y4H 9Y4VU
C6 K8DD/C6A C6A/N4RP
CM CO2JA T49C
EA8 EA8ZS EA8ZS
F F6AUS TM2Y
G G3TXF G3UFY
HC8 HC8N HC8N
HI DL1HCM/HI8 DL1GKG/HI3 DL1HCM/HI8
HP 3E1DX HP1XBI
KH7 KH7R KH7R
KL7 KL7Y KL7RA KL7AC
KP4 WP4JXD KP3Z
LU LW2DFM LU9AUY
OH OF1AF OF1HS
ON OT7T OT7T
PA PI4TUE PI4COM
P4 P40E P40J P40E P40E
S5 S50K S51BO
SM SL3ZV SM5CEU
UA RU1A RU1A
V2 V26KW V26KW
VE VE3EJ VE1JF VE3TDG VE4VV VO1MP VE6BMX
W K8CC N6BV K8CC K4VX K6AW N7FE
YU YU1ZZ YU1KX
ZF ZF1A ZF1A ZF1A
I hope this report encourages you to try your hand in a DX contest. You don't need a super station to have fun. With my 5W and simple wire antennas, I got 59 countries, and heard at least 25 more. Remember my setup here is very minimal, and those with better setups could have worked (and I am sure, did work) enough countries for the DXCC award this weekend. If you have been hesitant to enter a DX contest because you run QRP or don't have the best setup, give it a try anyway. I GUARANTEE you WILL have fun. Plan now for the ARRL DX Test in February.