WAE CW 2000

Earlier this year I've decided to make a serious attempt in WAE CW as this year’s goal in contesting. WAE CW was always the most prestigious contest for me and I enjoy the QTC traffic the most. The original idea was to get down to my friend to Agadir, Morocco and operate from his apartment on the beach. Due to the difficulties with securing a CN license and the construction of our new home in Hungary I decided to give up the plans with CN and operate from HA. I also wanted to improve my operating skills by adapting my style to SO2R and make a full-blown SO2R attempt on a major contest.

I asked HA1TJ and HA1DAE if I could operate their station as a Single Op and they said yes. To make the their station suitable for SO2R some major recabling had to be done and some repair work was required. It was scheduled for IOTA contest weekend. In July I completed the design and construction of an SO2R box, which switches the footswitch, the keyer and the headphones between the radios and is controlled by CT. I expected to spend the entire IOTA weekend with setting up the station, checking connections, preparing connectors and repairing the rotator of the 6 ele 20m Yagi. The station was ready 2 hours before the IOTA contest so I decided to give it a try and do a practice run for WAE. It was not intended to be really serious - I did not even bother to install the radials and the switching box for the 80m array. hi

The setup was as follows: The main rig was an FT1000MP with 2 warm amps connected to it (Ant A and B) MP is intelligent enough to store the last selected antenna port for every band so very quick band changes are possible this way. The band data port is used to switch the TX GND signal automatically between the two amps. The major drawback of this arrangement is that only one band on both VFOs can be listened simultaneously. For next year I’m planning to do some major reworking on the MP by installing the bandpass filter as proposed by some brilliant JA’s. The second radio was a borrowed FT990 with an other warm amp connected to it. This setup allowed two operating modes: What I was doing most of the time is running on VFO-A and doing S&P on VFO-B on the same band. Here I discovered what a neat thing the AF REV button is. The other mode is to run on the MP and look for mults on an other band with the second rig and work them. The non-mults found were stored in the bandmap. This way I had a long list of calls on the new band when I changed bands. The SO2R box has an other function for the audio mixing: With a 3 position switch I could select 3 modes: active radio in both ears, one radio in each ear and non-active radio in both ears. When I used the two VFOs of the MP simultaneously, the mixer was in the first position and the MP took care of the mixing. The reason of the third (reverse) position is that the S/N in the mixed position is not always enough for me to get a good copy and in this case I quickly turn to switch to get the call without changing the active radio (cq does not have to be interrupted). In general, I don’t use computer keying but with SO2R I'm short of one hand so with bleeding heart though but I connected the keying of CT parallel with my trusty old keyer.

During the WAE contest I found a problem with CT. Since I use the internal keyer of the MP, I always had to switch when I changed from computer keying to hand keying. When receiving QTCs CT sends an R when a full QTC record is completed. As far as I know this feature can not be switched off, so I had to keep in my not to forget to switch off the internal keyer when receiving QTCs. A solution would be an external keyer unit of course, but why to buy a keyer electronics when I have one in the radio, which perfectly fits my needs?

From EU you can win the IOTA contest quite easily in the non-island category if you do 24 hours S&P for EU IOTAs. It was not really what I was heading to so I decided to play IOTA SO24Mixed with the IARU's band change rules (10 minutes before changing band or mode) in order to force myself to think more about condx and contest strategy. IOTA was fun, ended up with some 1346 QSOs (I think this is the highest QSO figure for a non-IOTA), 4.4m points and 3 new IOTAs. Congrats to UU2JQ who managed to work over 500 mults and got the 1st place with some 5.6m points.

The weekend of WAE started as planned: Friday morning found me on the hill installing radials and beverages to East and West, retuning the 80m array for CW and re-reading my notes. The week before the contest I downloaded all the available results back to 1996 and asked my friends for their logs from previous years' contests (tax Dan!). It gave me some food for thought especially about how to set up my criteria for selecting off times.

Following last years’ trends the target could have been set to 1200 QSOs, 2000 QTCs and 470 mults (4x25, 3x40, 2x40, 2x45, and 2x40). This would have been good enough for 1.33m points. So the goal could have been 33 QSOs and 55 QTCs per hour. The 55 QTC per hour would have required a very aggressive QTC policy including scheduling consecutive QTC requests when the first request is refused.

Remembering the terrible condx of the Museumship weekend (July 16th and 17th) caused by the magnetic storm, which was exactly 28 days before the WAE I was preparing to the worst. Seeing the NOAA report on Friday night I realized that my worst suspects were about to become true. As the cream on the cake the weather was about to change. The dry hot weather of the last two months was replaced by thunderstorms with lightning causing terrible QRN.

I took a short 3 hours nap before the contest, which starts at 2 AM in Hungary. I found some signs of life on 20 so decided to start and stay there until it runs empty. A quick CQ and James 9V1YC called in and we chatted the minutes away till 0000. 20 seemed to be productive and the pileup I got seemed not to be in-line with the K-index’s 7. Found EX8W and 4X/OL7D on 80 with the second rig. Remembering the great 80m mult figures of Dan S50A last year I put the quadruple 80m mults to the highest priority. On 20m 9M2JI called from the back of the antenna. He assured me that he keeps on so no need to drag him to lower bands now. Being called by A61AR was an other nice surprise. This station operated the entire contest consistently but I haven’t managed to find out who was the op behind this call. Maybe Chris A45XR moved again? As time passed I felt the condx detoriating quickly. At 0:47 I went to 40 expecting to find NAs there on their sunset. I established myself on 7008 and started to work NA with some casual SA. The first hour resulted 57 QSOs and this was the highest hourly QSO count for the entire contest. At 0104 went back to 20 to squeeze out the latest QSOs of the dying band. Lots of SA especially PY’s called and were found there. All the North Americans were coming on skewed path from 250-270 degs instead of the usual 310. CX9AU showed up here again. At 0133 I gave up 20 and went back to 40. This station’s strength is the full size 3 ele 40m Yagi on a 24m (72 ft) long boom. It sits on a 36m (120 ft) high tower but there’s a long slope towards NA and nothing blocks the waves on their way. After a quick S&P sweep from 7.000 I settled down on 7.026 and had a nice run of NA. With the 2nd radio I worked SU9ZZ and K1ZZ on 80m. Hearing a very strong VA3UZ on 80m I gave up the run and went to 80. Hmmm. I should have thought that he was operating from VE3EJ’s place since noone else really made it through the ocean yet. I kept on CQing on 3513 and was looking for mults or possible QSOs on the second VFO. The other rig was parked on 7023 with the AM filter open and hoped that if something shows up it should be in this part of the band. The strategy worked and NP4Z showed up on 7020 right at the edge of the filter, and Puerto Rico was an easy catch then. Hearing Bill N3RD 2 minutes later on 80 with unusual 559 sigs of him I gave up and went back to 40. Funny side was hearing S50A calling N3RD as “Tine Tine”… Too bad that I let myself be fooled by VA3UZ’s good signal earlier. 40 was still doing fine, though most NA was from the 4th and 5th call area and the rest was very weak so the magnetic storm was obviously taking the condx over. Still dark outside I found EX8W and VU3VLH on 20m CQing on an empty band. Right after V26FM was spotted on the cluster for 80m… He had a true S9+ signal but the EU idiots didn’t let the guys operating. I know these guys since we did lots of contests together from PI4COM so I thought my QTC request would be tolerated. Getting 10 QTC’s on 80 from Ronald PA3EWP took some time due to QRN but at least the unruly mess on the freq learned some patience (and deservedly lost some sunrise time, too).

With QTCs my strategy was to ask for them whenever I thought the chance of getting them completed was real. On 20m I found dozens of Western Siberian Russians with good signals. Too bad, that they did not accumulated too many QSOs during the night to give out QTCs and by the time 20 opened up for me, the European Russians and Ukrainians took nearly all of theirs. After sweeping 20m twice from end-to-end I went to 15m where I found EX8W and VU3VLH again. The band was still empty and I heard some UA4’s calling UA9’s I could not hear so I went to 10m to check the band before I hit the bed. The band was completely abandoned. I was shutting down the amps when ZL2AZ was spotted on 40m. He was there with a good signal so I tailended the first complete QSO I heard. He picked up my call and answered immediately but his report was covered by the EU’s calling him (but supposedly not hearing him). DJ7.. seemed to be rather angry by the fact that he had to wait so he kept on QRMing… Unfortunately most EUs did not realize that a DX will not stop giving a QTC just because of QRM but he repeats the record until it’s completed. Those guys who kept on QRMing made their own waiting time longer. The QRN and using two radios simultaneously and the frustration with the QRMers really knocked me out so I went to the bed hoping that the alarm clock placed in a metal bowl will be loud enough to wake me up.

I planned 3 hours rest time to get back to the band before the JA sunset. So 2.5 hours later I took a quick shower and chewed some muesli bars and 15m sounded very promising. I took a S&P tour through the band, which resulted 8 mults and moved to 10m, where SU9ZZ and 4X/OL7D were logged but nothing else. After the mandatory 10 minutes on 10m I went to 20m, where the JA’s were louder than on 15m. I seized 14026 and kept doing S&P either on the 2nd VFO of the MP or on the second radio. At 0931 9M2JI had a very strong signal on 10m and some minutes later H2G showed up as well. Judging from the SSB segment 10m was in good shape but no station was on CW to prove it. I was just about to leave running on 20m when UK8IWW called in and was very kind to let me drag him to 15 and 10 for the mults. The successful mult dragging gave me a badly needed adrenaline boost. A minute later I bumped into A61AR on 10m. The conditions were still very poor therefore I decided to take a 4-4.5 hours break hoping the condx will return a by Sunday and then I can use the more airtime more efficiently.

I wanted to return to the radio at 14:20 but seeing and hearing the thunderstorm outside. I used the time to troubleshoot CT. For some reason CT kept crashing during the entire contest and I could not find the reason of it. I could not relate the crashes to any action of mine or any event. They just kept happening. At 1450 the thunderstorm went away and I started to operate. The SA mults on 10m very easy pickings. Hearing a weak and CQing KC1XX on 15m blew away my growing optimism about the improving condx. I took a 10-group QTC from KC1XX so I was doomed to stay there for an entire period. The only benefit of not getting answers to my CQs on 15 was that I could easily work the mults on 20. EK6LP, YI9OM and TA4/LY2FN was easily worked and the latter QSYed to my 15m run frequency for the mult. Just to correct my band change error I switched to 20 where the same situation was repeated. On 20m I managed to work FR5FD, who was spotted several times on the cluster as FR/F6KDF/T. While still CQing on 20 I found Rob PA5ET on the second radio running a growing pile-up as V26FM. During the 10 minutes I spent on 20m 15 finally opened up after going back I settled on 21026 again and kept on running and pumping up the QTC count. The QRN was terrible so I used the method I learned from the late HA1SB: Switch off AGC, set a higher pitch around 1 kHz and open the filters a bit. It works for me better than any other anti-QRN techniques I’m aware of. My eardrums were suffering but at least I was progressing. I found YB5QZ on the 2nd radio CQing on 14002 and Anton was kind enough to move to 15 for me. Before the contest we exchanged some emails where I asked him to be QRV in the contest. Both YB1AQS and YB0AVK not being there the prospective of working logging YB mult without Anton would have been very bad. I was very glad that he managed to spare time for this contest. Right after I completed the QTC traffic with Anton ZS0E called in and gave me the mults on 20 and 10 also. It was a big relief – not having second antennas finding African mults was very difficult. 15m seemed to have a dip then and while CQing my head off on 21026 I managed to work several other mults on the second radio. After a quick change to 20, which did not give too much except some QTCs and the VQ9 mult I went to 40 to establish a position on that band before it opens up for Western Europe. After some Asian goodies like 9M, HL, YI and some JA’s I went back to 15 to use the last moments of condx. USA condx seemed to be over and I ran out of South Americans. On the second radio I was keeping an eye on 40 and saw it improving rapidly. I did not expect to get any more mults on 15 so at 1837 I went back to 40, where JAs were getting through. The aurora made its effect to this path, too: besides the big guns nearly all the JAs were from their southernmost 6th district. At 1915 QSYed to 80 hoping to catch at least JE4VVM whom we arranged a sked or JH3AIU. Through the QRN I had troubles even with the UA9s. While CQing on 80 the second radio gave me VK2APK on 40 and VP5Y on 20m. 80m seemed to be the bottleneck for me this contest and I really had to concentrate not to loose focus on the high priority 80m mults. The 80m sked with JE4VVM failed, though later I heard some traces of Kaz I was not able to get the callsign he called so did not even kept calling. Kaz worked mainly EU Russia, Ukraine and I think one LZ managed to get into his log. 40 was still in good shape and the JAs peaked then. Several of them worked and lots of QTCs were collected. At 2025 I gave an other try to 80 band at this time the Asian Russians were booming in. The second radio remained a good source of mults PY1VOY/PY0F was caught on 20 and VQ9IO on 40m. After 1 hour I changed to 20 to work the remaining SAs. VK7GK was very strong but noone followed him from OC after him. Quick QSY to 40 where A61AR gave me the 4th band and the first NA stations started to appear. VK6HD had a rock solid S9+ signal on 7021 but he did not QSY to 80 saying it’s too late. This time I was doing S&P using the QMB of the MP frequently to store the QRG of possible QTC candidates. CQing was fruitless. At 2316 I QSYed to 80 again to catch the remedy of UA9s and the band gave me a nice surprise: VQ9IO for the quad-mult! After a half hour I found myself on 40 again where I settled on 7004 making short trips for those who were found on the 2nd VFO. PQ2Q called and we QSYed to 80 for the quad-mult. At 0137 I thought 80 might be worth for an other 20 minutes and the band change paid off. I found PY1NX with good signal and good ears on 3507 and VP5Y showed up on 3540 as he promised. This remained the pattern for the rest of the night: 2/3 40m and one third 80m. Around 0230 40m started to show lifesigns again. Even some West Coast station sneaked through to EU around the aurora oval. Despite the poor condx W6KQK and N6MJ had a remarkably good signal here. At 0429 left 40m to 20 and found only 3 new stations to work. I decided to take my last rest period and went QRT at 0444.

During the rest period I looked through the QTC’s and found Tine S50A and S51TA disappearing from the QTC’s before Saturday evening. I heard later that S51TA had problems with his amplifier and went to the beach. It must have been the right choice – 48 degrees C was measured on the sun and in the shack it was over 30.

I returned to the radio at 0857 and started on 10 again doing a quick sweep through the band. VK2APK sounded lonely on 28016 despite of his 599 signal. I spent some time on the band assuming that it is my last chance to work JA on 10. At 0912 I found JA3YBK on 28020 coming on skewed path, right over VK6, some 80 degrees off the great circle bearing. The problem was that FR/F6KDF/T was also on 020. Having the 6 ele long boom Yagi perpendicular to the direction of Tromelin I did not really notice it. I heard some signal traces but did not realize that it was the FR/T. Anyway I gave a quick call to JA3YBK who got it and gave me the report. Here came the sad part of the story. Some policemen started to jam immediately. I asked them to QRX – I just wanted to get my3 digits and they did not let it. They jammed even when I asked the JA to QSY. For some hardneckness I don’t have to go to store, too so I kept on trying and got the 422 number at 0921. Gee – It could have been a simple 6 seconds contest exchange plus a QSY request had they let it…

After this entr’acte I switched back to 15m and the next half hour I was engaged with S&P and QTC traffic. The Quick Memory Banks (QMB) of the MP and the Dual-VFO aids effective S&P and QTC hunting a lot. Not to be slowed down by those who are just giving QTCs I just put them to the second VFO and kept on looking. When they finished with the QTC traffic I just swapped the VFOs and got the QSO. After swapping the VFOs again I continued with the S&P up in the band. A nice surprise was finding Mirek HL4/VK3DXI high in the band. By 1000 the condx improved a lot so I started a run on 21007. The second radio was very productive: found VQ9IO on 10m to complete the 5-band sweep with him and a bit later VU3VLH. During this hour I monitored KC1XX on 20 and at 1100 I changed to 20 to work East Coast and improve my QTC total. The band was not in a good shape and the second radio remained the major source of score increment: worked TZ6DX on a cluster spot on 10 and successfully moved 4L1UN to 15m. 1200 found me on 15m again where the JA’s were still getting through with good signals. YI9OM appeared on 10m and I managed to work him on “abbey scatter”. Then the 10m antenna was set to PY (240 degs) and on 28016 I found a very weak YI9OM. When I turned the antenna to YI (90 degs) I could not hear a bit from him. The reason of this a strange scattering, which occurs on 10m. There’s a hill about the same height 10 km away with one of the oldest Hungarian abbeys (founded in the early 11th century) on it. This hill acts like a scatterer and pick up signals from God knows where. Regardless where I turn the 6 ele Yagi to, the direction of the abbey produced the best signal. This phenomenon was efficiently used for short to medium range contacts effectively. Back on 15m at 1233 the first NA called in: W4SKW who often manages to be the first NA on high bands. On the second receiver I found HG6N running JA’s on 10m, which completely got me by surprise. I made quick 10-15 minute periods jumping between 10 and 15m. The last JA period on 10m was at 1300. This time only southern JA made it through showing a clear end of this opening. The next couple of hours were spent on 15 with a short side-trip to 20 and with continuous use of the second RX or the second VFO. The QRN was extremely strong again – the crashes were so frequent the Auto AGC often could not really recover. AGC had to be switched off again and I hoped my ears would get through this afternoon without getting permanent damage. At 1438 V26FM was logged on 10 completing the 5 band sweep. Bedankt Rob!

Alter at 1507 I found 5N3CPR very high on 15m and Bogdan was kind enough to move to 20 and 10 for the mults as well as NP4Z. At that point of the contest I started to worry about my mult count so I tried to move as many DXs as possible. VP5Y showed up on 28050 at 1600 as announced with a good signal and gave me an other 5-bander mult. 5 minutes later I found a lonely KC1XX on 10 coming over the Caribbean. Brett VR2BG called me on 15m and QSYed to 20, too. Working W7’s and 0’s made me optimistic for a short USA opening on 10. Knowing that most NA wouldn’t leave 15m for a 10m run period but work the mult only I had to poker a bit. Knowing that 3 other HAs were active (HG4I, HG5A and HG6N) with good signals I had to be the first one for NA on 10 to be the HA mult. I continuously monitored N4AF on 28009 for a while and at 1636 I decided not to wait any longer. The gambling with the condx paid off and within minutes most of the serious NA contenders called in. VA3UZ and HP1AC helped me to reduce my worries about the 10m mult count. The strategy seemed to be right: HG6N who appeared on the band 20 minutes later did not work these NAs.

Back to 15 the situation became a bit hectic: the band was open to NA but there were several mults around. I estimated 700 QSOs and 1200 QTCs at the end (1900 QSO points) and 400 mults. Working and moving a mult to an other band gave me 4 or 6 new mults, being equal of 3600 or 5400 points. For the same score increment I should have worked 9 or 13 no-mult QSOs. Moving 5C8M to 10m did not work out but someone else moved Ben to 20 where I could manage to catch him.

While running on 15m I found VK9XY on 20m but he seemed to mix up WAE with WAG… I kept on running on 15 and picked up the mults on the other bands. I found Ray HS0/G3NOM on 10 and successfully dragged him down to 20. Seeing my low QSO figure on 20 and knowing that I missed several Asian mults there I left 15 at 1816, which could be too early. I was told by Anti HA3OV, who operated HG6N that they remained on 15 till 1930 and still had a good rate. After working Asians I returned for a last period to 15 just to find 9M2JI and PY0VOY/PY0F there. As it’s common here in the summer, from 15m I changed to 40 directly. JA’s were very strong but all but 1 have been worked before. While calling VK9XY on a mult-move attempt (he did not appear on any band change request of mine despite his promises) I was stunned by being called back by FK8HC having a super 599 signal. We repeated the QSO on 20 SP and on 15 LP within 3 minutes. Thanks! At this time 20m seemed to be improving rapidly so I decided to set up a position there with frequent detours to 40m. My last 40m detour was at 1950 when 9M6AAC called in and BV3FG and JY9NX were caught on the second VFO. The last 4 hours of the contest were spent on 20m running on 14029. The rate was very comfortable and allowed me to take maximum benefit of the 2 radio setup. A61AR and JY9NX was found on 80m and the latter had a very good signal despite the fact that his antenna was only the coax as he wrote later. While working JY9NX on 80 I lost my run frequency on 20. What a heck, even now it was easy to find a clear spot, which allowed me to use 500 Hz filters. I managed to get a good run and 10-group QTCs were often given. I had to maximize on QTC total. The only disadvantage of getting long QTCs from weak stations is that other stations who can not (or don’t want to) hear the DX transmitting QTCs jump on the frequency and start to call CQ. The worse of all of them was S57DX who really behaved very badly while trying to steal 14025.5. Normally I would just let him get away with it, but this time I saw myself being spotted in the USA so I really did not want to leave. The rate went down a bit and finally S57DX gave up and went out from my filter bandwidth. Around 2200 I found VK6HD on 80m but could not manage to get through. The last two hours went away very calmly, having a comfortable rate of both QSOs and QTCs and finding some mults on the second radio.

The raw score at 2359 was 739 QSOs, 370 mults (14/56,31/93,44/88,37/74,29/58) and 1235 QTCs, totaling 729 270 points. The log contains 423 unique calls including 221 USA, 54 JAs, 45 UA9/0s, 18 PYs and 13 VEs.

After shutting down at 2359, I managed to dismount the station within half an hour. Computer, TNC and other accessories went back to their metal closets and I went to bed for some hours. At 6:00 local I woke up and went out to pick up the Beverages and radials and to brake the Yagis. I left the station an hour later and after having a quick lunch with my parents I jumped into my car and drove back to Maastricht (Holland) to start working after having nearly 6 weeks of holidays…

Some general conclusions I found about the contest, SO2R and in general:

Using packet cluster in WAE is allowed to everyone. In my opinion it’s very wise since noone can check if someone was packet assisted or unassisted. On the other hand packet is so generally available that where you can’t have it you don’t need it. I connected up to the ha6dx cluster, which hardly gave me any benefit. Using the second radio I found most of the multipliers myself. The serious contenders never spotted any multiplier not to help the competitors. It seems to be a European tradition – I saw many spots of all the top NA contesters all the time. Maybe if the condx and the pileups had been better, I could have used less of my attention to the second radio and I should have relied more on cluster spots. Besides these, the old EU 80m packet rule was found to be very true: If you don’t want your competitor to work a multiplier just put in to the cluster and the mob, which gathers would prevent anyone making any more QSOs with him. It was completely true for 80m.

What I found a bit irritating is that some people were trying to speed up their pileups by spotting themselves on the cluster. An example was S51TA, who spotted East Coast Top Guns on his own 40m run frequency several times. I don’t really know what his purpose was with that since no DX in WAE would jump to a K1VR spot. What then? Maybe he just wanted to call those guys to his frequency. Some others used a not known or a VHF call to spot themselves. I find both unethical.

First time in my life I had a station for my SO attempts, where I did not feel to be “technologically handicapped”. Though I had to realize again that the 2 ele vertical array with 1500W was not not really competitive on 80m even for the WAE. Several mults were lost here like YI9OM, VK6HD, LU1DZ etc.

For next year I should look for an other contest software. CT (9.50.001) crashed about 20-25 times without any particular reason. I lost 2 or 3 complete QTC sets due to CT. 11k points could be kissed goodbye!

QTC’s are always a fun and a real challenge, too. I collected from 160 different stations 1225 of them and 1220 were valid. I lost one because my own QSO was QTCed back to me, three others because I took them before the 10 minutes period expired on the other band, and 1 (the last one) was incomplete. In the QTC’s 477 different European calls were reported. The most frequently found calls are HG6N and DL0CS (22), DL1IAO (20), S57DX (19) and 9A5Y (18).

Finally about SO2R. I operated both radios for all 36 hours and actually it made the contest a great learning experience. The first period was really exhausting but later I got used to it and the band and VFO swaps became a routine. I’m convinced that it gave a boost to my score and I consider it the way to do single op contesting in the future.

Regardless of the band conditions WAE is the most challenging and enjoyable contest for me. Hereby I’d like to say a big thankyou to all who contacted me and made this contest a nice memory!

73 de Zoli HA1AG

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