I've never been much of a contester. My participation in them has mainly been due to the DX opportunities they provide - or for their unique ability to put a radio through its paces on what amounts to an RF battleground.
But this year, I had time to explore all three facets - the competition of the contest itself, an untested radio and (hopefully!) some new band-countries.
Here are the numbers:
- Time in the seat: 18 hours
- Category: High Power (500 watts with KPA-500)
- DXCC entities worked: 110
- Zones worked: 31
- Number of contacts: 567
- QSO points: 1543
- Mults: 364
- Total points: 561,652
Throughout the contest I kept setting goals for myself:
- Work 200 mults
- Make 500 contacts
- Work all continents on xx band
As I made each goal, I upped it to another round number and a funny thing happened - the longer I operated, the more I enjoyed it.
This was due in part to the faster accumulation of points as more multipliers are worked, ie, a higher number of points for each contact. At the beginning of the contest, a contact counts for 10 or 20 points. Near the end of it, each contact contributed over 1000 points to the score.
What starts out at a turtle's pace finishes as a turbo-charged telegraphic V8. Is Sam Morse aware of what we're doing down here? I'll bet you couldn't wipe the grin off his face with all the Borax in the world. I'd love to break out a Ouiji board and hear his thoughts. He must either think we're a bunch of lunatics or the coolest thing since the Vibroplex.
Let's talk about the radio - the RGO One.
First, the negative. I wish it had a tighter filter than 200 Hz. For casual QSO's and for DXing, I don't usually go narrower than that with my Flex, but for contesting on a CQWW scale, a narrower filter is very beneficial. Some would say necessary, at least if you're gonna do this on a regular basis.
But I'm not a contester and I'm tickled pink with the numbers above. How did they happen?
The RGO One is an easy rig to listen to. When no signal is present, the background noise is low and doesn't contribute to fatigue. There is no harshness or raspy-ness. Tune to a signal and it seemingly pops out of nothingness. If you've ever used a rig from Steve KD1JV (ATS-3, MTR, etc), you know what I'm talking about. Therefore, butt-in-the-chair time increases; score increases.
The ergonomics of the radio and the clean layout of the front panel are such that everything I needed was there to operate efficiently in a CW contest. The VFO knob is weighted - a flick of the finger will spin it, hands-off, six or seven revolutions. It imparts to the radio a feeling of quality that makes you want to find out if the radio's performance matches its presentation.
This was my first participation in CQWW in 5 years. It was that long ago that I bought my Flex and sold the K3. The ergonomics of the Flex are not conducive to search-and-pounce contesting - pointing and clicking with a mouse can't hold a candle to having a weighty VFO as the navigator. That's the one aspect of the K3 that I miss. Operating the RGO One during CQWW was a refreshing return to operating a radio like a radio rather than like a computer. It was fun and productive on all bands.
One of the things I missed was having a panoramic display, The Flex has spoiled me in that regard and it would have been very helpful on 10 and 15 meters, where stations were few and far between. It wasn't until near the end of the contest that I remembered the IF Output jack on the back of the RGO One. I have an RSPduo and could have fed the IF from the RGO One into it for a pan display. All the ingredients were available except the presence of mind... Next time.
The RGO One's maximum output is 50 watts and the KPA-500 requires 35 watts to drive it to full output so they are a good match and everything worked well together, along with keying via N3FJP's contesting/logging software.
The contest itself was a fun study of propagation and an admiration of the CW skills of many of the participants.
It boggles my mind that some of the best CW ops are using Morse in an alphabet that is not their primary. I can't imagine becoming competent in Morse with the Cyrillic alphabet but the reverse is true for many Russian, Asian and other ops. Those dudes were flying along at 35-40 wpm like they were born doing it.
The bands were in good shape. Not excellent, but good enough. Low QRN levels on 80 meters and some surprises on 15. It was fun to work 3B8M and FR45C on 15 meters, and amazing to work Europeans on 40 meters at their noon.
20m was the money band for me, almost working DXCC on that band alone.
I don't remember ever walking away from CQWW thinking about next year, but this time I am. Number One on my list for 2020 is to have a directional lowband antenna for Asia, even if it's just a dipole strung 90 degrees away from my current 30-80m dipole. I have the proper tree geometry - just need to do it.
'Thank you' to all those I worked this weekend - it was a lot of fun.