I’m jotting down some notes about this year’s ARRL DX CW, with the hope that I’ll remember them next time I operate the contest (although that will probably be from the other end, as DX from Cyprus next year). First a summary, then some bullet points.

I worked through the weekend, but with time off for errands and sleep. My rig was a K3 running 95W into a dipole up about 13m fed with ladder line into a 4:1 balun fed with about 2 meters of 9913F7 coax to an LDG AT100pro2 tuner. Overall, after de-duping, I had 503 contacts (1 each on 10m and 160m, 64 on 80m, 144 on 40m, 199 on 20m, and 94 on 15m) and 225 multipliers. I worked a bunch of new ones, and hopefully we got each others’ calls right and those contacts will eventually match up in LOTW.

Some lessons from this year:

  • Get ready for cut numbers in the exchange for DX stations, most sent “K” or “KW” for 1000; the next most common was 5TT for 500, 1TT or ATT for 100, and NN for 99. I heard only a handful of stations running 5W.
  • It’s helpful to know the legal power limit for common countries, including 400W for the UK and Netherlands, 500W for Italy (at least in theory), and 120W for Australia.
  • The noise blanker is my frenemy. I have S7-9 power line (or similar) noise on most bands so I lean heavily on the NB, but for senders about about 35wpm, I hear nothing but keyclicks. Sometime’s it is worth an earful of noise to hear strong but very fast code.
  • Get narrow. I almost never use the 200Hz filter, particularly when sweeping a band, but it was the way to go this weekend.
  • Focus on S&P: I tried calling CQ a few times, but return on investment was low. Generally, this contest seems to work best with overseas stations calling and lower power US stations responding. I might feel differently if I had more power or a more directional antenna. Given the smorgasbord of DX stations and the many holes in my DXCC count, I think operating with spotting assistance is the way to go. In netted 88 DXCC entities in this contest.
  • Timing and frequency win the pile up. For some pileups, I listened for calling stations to each side of the overseas station and followed their pattern, effectively operating very narrow split. I’ve been on the other end of this, and it’s a relief to pick stations off the end of the pileup rather than to dive into the fray. The other technique that worked well was waiting until the bellowing masses shot their wad and then inserting my callsign, breaking off immediately if the DX station started their reply.
  • Test the waters before the contest. Many stations, particularly in the Caribbean are operated by guest operators on vacation. In the week prior to the contest, I worked a lot of them, some on multiple bands, so at least we’re familiar with each others’ call signs.
  • Next year, some kind of antenna for 160m and more night-time operation. At this point in the solar cycle, it’s a shame to miss the low band contacts because of an inefficient antenna. Consider a receiving antenna on 160 as well with as much wire as I can manage.
  • Different location? Some of the stations remarked in their debrief that one of the most sought-after locations in the US was DC. It is very tempting to operate from DC next time, if I’m in the US during this contest.
  • Some day: SO2R. But not next year.

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