It was that time of year again. After last years effort and actually submitting a log, it seemed like a good reason to do it all over again. Except I really wasn’t paying attention until about noon on Saturday, so I missed the first 17 hours of the contest. But I had no other plans, and it was raining so I turned on the rig.

First I had to get out my Heil Pro 7 headset/mic and footswitch (RIP K9EID). This combo definitely helps. I suppose I could try VOX, but usually don’t like working with VOX. After so much FT8 operation the last few years, nice to spend several hours talking into a mic.

I fired up N1MM+ and I made a few contacts on 15 meters, and the band sounded pretty good. Once you get going, it’s kind of hard to stop. As you get into the swing, you develop a process of knowing what stations to try and make a QSO, and which not to. It also forces you to use features in your radio you might not get to use that often. Throughout the afternoon, I worked up each band signal by signal and would then usually switch when I got to the upper end of the band, working 20,15, and10 meters during daylight. With my modest antenna, a DX Commander Classic 40-10 meter vertical, I ran a 500 watt Elecraft KPA500 amplifier, which unfortunately puts me in the high power category, but needed to compete with the amount of activity and QRM. I did operate some on 40 meters after sunset, and I made one contact on 80 meters. My 80 meter antenna is broadside to the Yukon and Africa. Not particularly effective for this contest.

N1MM is not my regular logbook, so it always takes me a bit to get used to it. I probably don’t come close to using all the features, but I like that it remembers what frequency stations you have worked were on, so then helps avoid trying to hear if a station is a dupe. Also, if you type in a callsign that is a dupe, or you give up on a station, when you turn the VFO away, the entry disappears (though I spent most of the contest deleting them before I realized it). But it is very easy to use to do the basic logging.

The FTDX-101D really shines in a contest. Using the VC Tune, width and IF shift, along with the Digital Noise reduction really helps hearing those exchanges, especially with many of the DX operators whose first language is not English. The VC Tune just cuts out a lot of background noise, I suppose similar to using the RF Gain control or setting some attenuation, but I really haven’t compared it side by side. I just found it helpful during contest type conditions.

It is interesting to see the trends in contesting. Many DX stations are able to get a special 4 digit callsign for contests. Many of them are club contest stations, but I’m pretty sure some are just individual operators. Not sure why they don’t just assign these calls for everyday use. I also detected some stations using computer generated audio. More than voice memory, but actually creating callsign phonetics based on entering the callsign in the logger. Also many common phrases are transmitted with a mouse click or keyboard shortcut. I guess it saves the voice for stations with 3000+ QSOs.

Once I got going, my initial goal was to surpass my numbers of QSO’s (301)and total score (137K). I did that by early afternoon on Sunday. So then I wanted to get my score over 200K. I did that, so then I saw that 400 QSOs was my new goal. I did that around 6:15 Sunday, finishing with 405 QSOs and 232,065 points. At that point, most stations heard were dupes and any new stations were generating pile-ups. I wrapped it up with 35 minutes or so left in the contest.

I’m not sure I could do much better next year. If I operated some on Friday evening, that might help. Using Search and Pounce really limits what your QSO rate can be. A better antenna on 80 would help with multipliers. I also did not hear many US stations calling CQ. Some on 20 and 40 meters, but usually big contest stations. I really don’t think calling CQ is a good option, but I guess if I never try I’ll never know for sure.

So operating more is probably the only way, and the 10 or so hours in front of the radio in one weekend is likely more than enough for me. But it was fun, and I’ll likely do it again, but avoid setting goals that take up my weekend. Though Monday through Friday is essentially like a weekend these days.

K2AS in Inaction
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