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The 1998 CQ WW DX Contest

I went into this contest knowing it could go one of two ways. Since the Sun had been quite active the past few days with solar flares and other disturbances, I knew that could either ruin the bands or improve conditions dramatically. Fortunately it was the second option, and conditions turned out to be the best that I have seen since becoming active in ham radio again about six years ago.

I set out in the contest with two goals in mind. First, I wanted to milk 10M for all it was worth and get as many new band countries as possible there. Second, I wanted to hit the 200 QSO mark for the first time ever in a DX contest. The second goal had to be revised upward not too far into the contest. Also I added a couple of goals as I went along.

As expected, the start of the contest found the higher bands pretty much closed for the evening, forcing me to try 40M most of the time. The pileups there were just tremendous, and my minimal QRP signal didn't stand a chance.

I struggled to get what I could from what openings were left on 20M. My first QSO was EA8EA. Well, at least that's Africa out of the way in my quest for another weekend WAC. Next I worked 6Y2A for another new Jamaican prefix. The third QSO was KH7R. 3 QSO's, 3 continents. I figured my WAC would be a cinch. Continent # 4 came from my 7th QSO in the form of HC8N. Only EU and AS to go now. I went to bed Friday night with only 11 QSO's, but that didn't disappoint me, as that was about what I expected.

I woke up early (for me) next morning around 1215Z, and decided to head for the bands. They were just starting to awaken also. The Caribbean was strong, but EU was still weak. After 3 QSO's on 20M, the third being EA4ML to leave me only needing AS for my weekend WAC, I headed to 15M. I stayed there about 45 minutes and watched the signals gradually picking up in strength. I worked 15 stations, mostly EU with EA9EA from AF, as well.

Since the signals on 15M were now quite strong, I thought 10M must be open as well. I was right, and got 22 QSO's in about an hour. All EU except HC8N. The rest of the day, I jumped among 10, 15, and 20M, racking up QSO's on each band. I hit 100 QSO's at 1839Z with OM8A, and knew unless the bands collapsed completely, my 200 QSO goal was a cinch. Although I got several new band countries on 10M and many new prefixes, I didn't work anything really notable. Had I not gotten a QSL from 9H1EL just a couple weeks before, my QSO with 9H0A would have excited me more, but....

Oh, there were memorable QSO's. KL7AC on 10M for a new band country, band zone, and band state. Working EA8's and EA9EA easily on the bands when AF is my tough continent. At 2228 on 20M I caught 5V7A in a lull in his huge pileups, and worked him for a new overall country, # 151. My weekend WAC finally came with QSO # 155 - JA7FTR.

At 0545Z, I closed up shop for the day with 161 QSO's, just 17 short of my best DX contest ever. My last QSO of the day was S53M on 40M.

Sunday morning I was up at 1245Z. It took just about an hour to get to 179 QSO's and break my previous high in a DX test. I knew now my goal of 200 QSO's would have to be revised, so I thought I'd go for 300. Also I noticed my score creeping toward the 100K mark, and I added that as another goal.

I should say that I was using the TR contest program for the first time in a big contest, and it certainly made things a lot easier than hand logging as I had been doing for the past year or so since my older computer hung up on me using CT. I had been afraid to use it since then. My new shack computer and TR performed flawlessly.

QSO # 200 came at 1501Z as I worked EA1FBU on 10M. I'm not sure just when now, but I crossed the 100K points barrier also, and had to revise that goal to 150K.

I spent most of Sunday on 10M with excursions to 15 and 20 to get the stations I hadn't worked there. One such excursion to 20M provided me with country # 152 overall - DU3RCM. He was quite strong and I worked him fairly easily.

Near the end of the contest, I decided I'd better get my US/VE and Zone 3,4,5 multipliers so I worked just enough US/VE stations to do that. However, of my 296 QSO's (including one dupe), all but 14 were DX stations.

I came up just short of my 300 QSO goal, and could have gotten it easily by padding with US stations, but I didn't want to do it that way. I also didn't count a handful of QSO's along the way when I wasn't sure the station had my call right.

Disappointments? Of course, there always are, but not very many. The biggest one was having A61AJ with strong signals all to myself on 20M and not getting any sign that he was hearing me at all. Other potential overall new countries I missed were A35RK, VK9LX, TX8A, KH8/N5OLS. All of those had huge pileups or were quite weak at the times I heard them.

Let's look at the stats now. First of all total QSO's, countries and zones by band:
160M - nil
80M - 1 / 1 / 1
40M - 9 / 9 / 6
20M - 79 / 45 / 14
15M - 90 / 49 / 18
10M - 116 / 45 / 13
TOTAL - 295 / 149 / 52
Overall - 295 / 75 / 22

QSO Points - 824
Total Multipliers - 201
Final Score - 165,624 points

Countries worked - number of QSO's:

Canary Is - 4
Ceuta - 2
Morocco - 1
Senegal - 1
Togo - 1

ASIA - 2:
Japan - 2

EUROPE - 202:
Aland Is. - 2
Austria - 4
Balearic Is - 2
Belarus - 1
Belgium - 4
Bosnia - 1
Bulgaria - 3
Croatia - 7
Czech Rep - 5
Denmark - 1
England - 14
European Russia - 1
Finland - 16
France - 5
Germany - 26
Guernsey - 1
Hungary - 14
Ireland - 1
Italy - 23
Kaliningrad - 2
Lithuania - 1
Luxembourg - 2
Malta - 1
Netherlands - 2
Northern Ireland - 3
Norway - 2
Poland - 3
Scotland - 6
Slovak Rep - 7
Slovenia - 10
Spain - 11
Sweden - 4
Switzerland - 1
Ukraine - 1
Wales - 3
Yugoslavia - 12

Alaska - 4
Antigua - 1
Bahamas - 1
British Virgin Is - 1
Canada - 10
Cayman Is - 3
Costa Rica - 2
Cuba - 1
Dominican Rep - 2
Grenada - 2
Guadeloupe - 1
Jamaica - 3
Mexico - 2
Panama - 1
Puerto Rico - 7
St Lucia - 2
Turks & Caicos Is - 5
Trinidad & Tobago - 1
USA - 4
Virgin Is - 1

Hawaii - 6
Philippines - 1

Argentina - 4
Aruba - 5
Bolivia - 1
Brazil - 3
Chile - 1
Ecuador - 1
Galapagos Is - 3
Suriname - 1
Uruguay - 1
Venezuela - 1

Not too bad for a minimal QRP operation with 5 watts output into a random wire in the attic (80, 40, 15) or an attic dipole (20) or a sloping dipole on the porch roof (10). You too can have fun in a DX contest with the simplest of setups. Give it a try in the ARRL DX contest in February. Conditions could be even better then.