Monday, February 18, 2019


"Elementary, my good man!"
Prior to going to bed last night I turned on the ceiling fan in the bedroom to low speed. Despite its being very quiet, I could decode CW contained within the soft swooshing sound. QRZ? TU 5NN and other bits of CW were quite clear to me. Such is the effect of 9 hours of almost non-stop CW operation in this year's ARRL DX Contest.

I'm really not much of a contester but this was the best time I've ever had in a contest and the hours went by like minutes. Two reasons for that: excellent low-band conditions and a new antenna configuration.

And I had not planned to participate at all. Friday night, when the contest began, was dinner with the little lady followed later by an episode of Sherlock Holmes - the old series, with Jeremy Brett - the only actor portraying that character worth watching. Saturday morning was a motorcycle ride. The contest was not even a remote consideration.

Recent episodes of Sherlock had put my mind into a deductive mode regarding my inability at being able to hear XX9D, the DXpedition currently operating from Macao, and it was this that I'd been pondering of late. I deduced that the orientation of my dipole was such that Macao was in a null and decided to try feeding the dipole as a vertical. This is its standard configuration on 160 meters. As such it is 110 feet tall (feedline) with 138 feet of top loading (the 80m dipole).

I had never tried it on other bands - never had a reason to. The tuner had no problem making the rig see a good match on both 40 and 80 meters. I had only one radial - a 125-foot wire running along a wooded fence about 4 feet above the ground. Surely this can't work...

The first contact with the antenna configured as a vertical was on 40 meters with OP4K - at 2:30 in the afternoon! This was followed with numerous other stations in EU, including Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and other stations in the eastern part of the continent. All of this and still almost four hours till sunset.

Operating conditions: Flex 6300, Elecraft KPA-500, triband Yagi (10-20m), top-loaded vertical (40-80m)

At this point, I was in the contest.

I switched to 80 meters about half an hour before sunset and continued working stations all over Europe, effortlessly and with almost none of the QRN typically associated with the low bands. No repeats needed, on the far end or mine. It was fast-paced and fun.

On 20m the next morning (with the Yagi), VK's and ZL's were coming in long-path, mingled in among European and African stations. Turning the antenna toward VK and ZL confirmed this - they became weaker.

By the time my participation in the contest ended, I had 8 new entities on 80m (now 202) and 7 new ones on 40m (now 266) including Brunei on both bands.

Alas, still no joy with XX9D. They were being spotted this morning on 7026 and I thought my chances were good with conditions being what they are and my new dipole-becomes-a-vertical antenna. But not a peep was heard from distant Macao.

What sayeth now, Sherlock?


  1. Good morning John, I too had a blast in the contest but due to other things going on during the weekend I did not have a solid run as you did. I understand and have had it happen to me with the code going off in your head once the contest was done and your having a quite time.
    I did on two occasion hear AE5X 599 TX as you were searching and pouncing. On Sunday I had to cut things short even though things were hopping on the bands. Being up 180 feet and facing the lake we can at times get very high winds and yesterday afternoon that was the case. My MFJ1788 was rocking and moving around so it was time to shut down and take it in off the balcony.

    1. Hey Mike, glad you were able to enjoy at least a bit of the contest. The activity level surprised me - with FT8 taking much of the CW away from the bands I was not looking forward to much and was happily surprised. FB on your loop antenna - they seem to be gaining in popularity. The March QST has an article on one as well, but man, so expensive!

      I quit the contest an hour before it ended. Dinner was ready and I was hungrier than a part-time contester ought to be!

      73 - John