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Contest Focus

2010 ARRL DX CW (February 20 and 21, 2010)

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I broke my personal record in this one -- after many years of poor propagation on the high bands (20M, 15M, 10M) this was the first contest in which 15M played a major factor. The improved conditions were due to the long-awaited arrival of Solar Cycle 24 in January and February 2010.

As indicated in the chart above (generated in real-time during the contest by Athena software) for most of the contest I was either on pace with 2009, or slightly ahead of last year.

Then, in the 1600z hour on Sunday morning I checked 15M and found an amazing mass of of European signals. Those valuable 15M EU multipliers and some good CQ rate pushed me well beyond 2009's totals by the end of the contest.

Contest preview (notes from before the contest)

This is the granddaddy of all DX contests. Morse code (CW) this weekend, while the phone version runs March 6 and 7, 2010.

U.S. and Canada works the rest of the world -- this means no domestic QSOs inside the U.S. and Canada. The contest starts at 0000z (4 p.m. Pacific on Friday afternoon) and runs 48 hours. Operate as many of the 48 hours as you can.

2010 strategy going in

This year, I think I'll run high-power again and aim for 900 QSOs and 200 mults. This is quite a jump from previous years, but takes into account rising solar flux and sunspots, which should provide very good European openings from B.C., and make 15 meters stronger than it has been since 2006 or so.

The Steppir 3-element yagi installed in May 2009 has been a great 20M performer at this location and ARRL DX will be a good test of its bi-directional capability -- late afternoons I can work JA and Caribbean, which will be wide open at the same time on 20M. Same for Africa and ZL/VK which may be open at the same time on 15M.

I am counting on some strong 80M openings to Japan both mornings of the contest using the big two-vertical 80M phased array. I am also hoping to get much better performance to Europe using the recently upgraded 40M twin-vertical array.

DX ONLY PLEASE... I love this contest, but the one bad thing about it is so many guys from the U.S. mainland call me when neither of us get any points for those contacts. If you are in the U.S. mainland or Canada, only work DX stations (not VA7ST). Good luck and have fun out there!

Post-contest summary

Here's how I've done in recent years:


Check out my contest scores for more history
(Tip: click on the "Date" label at the top of the scores page to see contests in reverse chronological order).

Here's an expanded version of the report posted to the 3830 contest archive:

Call: VA7ST
Class: SOAB HP
Club: British Columbia DX Club
Operating Time (hrs):


* FT-2000 + SB221 (~500-700w)
* N1MM Logger, no telnet
* 3 ele. Steppir @ 47'
* 40M Steppir dipole @ 47'
* 80M 2-el. vertical array, E or W
* 160M inverted-L 75' vert, 65' horizontal
* 260' short Beverage due east

* 2010 -- SFI=84, A=2, K=1
* 2009 -- SFI=70, A=4, K=1



  • 15M to Europe -- simply awesome!
  • Working Tanzania, Nigeria and R1ANB (Antarctica)

Lowlights: 80M


I published my goals earlier in the week (see preview, above), saying I would "aim for 900 QSOs and 200 mults. This is quite a jump from previous years, but takes into account rising solar flux and sunspots, which should provide very good European openings from B.C., and make 15 meters stronger than it has been since 2006 or so."

Well, the high bands cooperated in a big way, and I came so close with my prediction I ought to forecast horse races and basketball games.

The final hour on Sunday was agony trying to find anything I hadn't worked. It was slow going, but I landed QSO 900 with a few minutes to go -- and worked multiplier #200 (CE3 Chile) at 2332z, and #201 (VP9 Bermuda) at 2349z, both on 40M.

After the contest, Kurt VP9/W6PH wrote to say that he saw my posting about working my final mult at 2349z -- I was his final multiplier, too.

Sunday morning presented the best 15M opening I can remember in a very long time -- Europe was open deep and wide, and I even managed to work Tanzania and South Africa.

A few stats...

  • Made 908 contacts with stations in 82 countries (DXCC entities)
    including 5N7 Nigeria, 5H3 Tanzania, and ZS South Africa
  • There were 754 unique callsigns in the mix
  • I managed 3 contacts per minute 43 times
  • 171 Qs (19 percent) from JA Japan
  • 70 Qs (7.7 percent) from DL Germany
  • Was spotted 10 times during the weekend, including one by the DX-pedition team at 9H3TX Malta who noted that I couldn't hear their weak signal on 15M -- sure wish I had though. Great (but missed) rare multiplier there!

Murphy's Law: water heater leak at the worst possible time

Friday night I came home from work at 2350z (10 minutes before the 0000z 4 p.m. contest start time) to find a wet basement floor -- the hot water tank had sprung a leak, so had to contend with that during the evening. The tank is near the radio "area" in the basement.

Fortunately, the most important part of the basement (radio "area") was nice and dry, so once I got the water shut off I was able to operate while supervising the kids as they operated a mop and bucket. I told them they were building valuable job skills. I've seen their report cards.

The bands in great shape, mostly

40M was great to Europe both nights -- had hoped the twin vertical array would play well, but found the Steppir dipole to be better, and I didn't have to be concerned when pouring all the amplifier's oomph into it. Best-ever 40M outing in this contest.

I didn't realize until after the contest was over that among the many stations I worked on 40M was Ivan 5N7M in Nigeria -- at 0355z on the first night. A wonderful surprise!

What didn't work well was 80M, where few DX signals were heard. I did manage to work G England, CT Portugal, and S52 Slovenia stations, (the first Europeans heard or worked in a few months on 80M) but the twin verticals don't hear nearly as well to the north/northeast as they do east and west. Should have found JAs aplenty, but they were not present in great numbers either morning -- managed just 15 JAs on 80M. Gena UA0FAI on Sakhalin Island was the only other Asia station in the 80M log.

Had phenomenal pileups on 20M EU both mornings. Calling CQ produced nothing at first. Then I'd work two or three in a minute -- and suddenly, there would be a wall of sound so dense at times I couldn't pick out an element, let alone a character of a callsign. The unbelievable pileup kept my rate down, but it was fun. I can say that extended Morse Runner practice pays for itself when you find yourself drinking from a firehose like that.

Saturday morning I had to cut short my 20M EU run at 1830z to help the plumber install a new tank. Two hours of prime time lost, though I did sneak in a few Qs, when the plumber didn't require my assistance. He was impressed when I explained from the far end of the room that "this station is in Germany, using the equivalent of a 100-watt lightbulb.... Got him. And this one is in Hawaii... There. Got him. And this one is in Brazil..." All in a minute or two. The band was truly remarkable.

Sunday morning 20M was hot again to Europe, but on a hunch I switched over to 15M at 1642z (about two hours earlier than I usually check it) and was amazed at the activity -- LOUD European stations from top to bottom of the band. I knew I was missing out on the 20M frenzy, but the mults were like gold on 15M and I didn't lose much for rate with so much to work on what felt like a whole new band.

Most thrilling contact

I was about to call CQ low on 15M and sent "QRL?" on what sounded like a clear frequency. A modest signal popped up in my headphones. A rapid string of beautifully sent dits shaped themselves into H53EE.

No, that's not right. Must be S53EE. Slovenia, it looks like.

He called CQ, gaining strength, and I realized it was not Slovenia at all. It was Mike 5H3EE in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. A quick call and we had it in the log.

A few minutes later, once I had established a run frequency, ZS2NF called in. That was really great, and I wasn't aiming at 58 degrees (his bearing); rather he was sandwiched in between Qs with IZ, IK, F5, and EA4 stations with the beam at less than 30 degrees. The band was in great shape all the way through to 1830z. I tried 10M after that, but just three stations heard and worked, all in South America, and none very strong here.

Only about six Stateside stations tried to work me this weekend, so the word must be getting out that BC isn't actually DX :)

Now, back to regularly scheduled Olympics programming. See everyone in the next one!

-- Bud, VA7ST