Thoughts on the CA QSO Party

AD6SF’s contacts plotted

By Stu Forman-AD6SF

I don’t consider myself a contester, but there are a few weekends each year that I let my family know that I plan to be unavailable.  Don’t include me in any plans, as I intend to hole myself up in the office for most, or all, of the weekend, leaving only to grab a quick bite or use the bathroom.  I might not come to bed, so don’t wait up.  I might not shower, so don’t get too close.  This was one of those weekends.   This past weekend was the California QSO Party.

The night before is always the same.  Did I export last year’s contacts from the contest log to my regular log?  Yes, I did.  Do I have the latest version of the contest log?  No, I don’t.  Uninstall.  Download and install the latest version.  Done.  Okay, now I’m ready to go.  Then I take a moment to look at the logging screen.  58 “Counties Remaining.”  By the end of the contest, how many of those will have moved into the “Counties Worked” column?  50 states and 8 Canadian provinces are in red, showing that they have not yet been worked.  How many can I turn from red to blue?  It’s a little daunting.  I start to wonder. How much activity will there be on the air?  What will band conditions be like?  What’s the point of all this?

Saturday morning at 9 A.M. it begins.  Before long I had made 20 contacts, including CVARC members Norm Campbell-AB6ET, Stu Sheldon-AG6AG, and Bob Hughes-K6HHW.  It’s nice to hear familiar voices.  We took a few minutes to visit, and then it was back to it.  By the end of the first hour I had worked 4 counties and 7 states.  I was feeling pretty good.  Norm reminded me to login to contestonlinescore.com so I could track my progress with other CVARC members and hams throughout Ventura County.  I had first used this for Field Day, on Stu Sheldon’s suggestion, and it’s a great way to share the contest experience.  If you participate in contests but haven’t used it, I’d encourage you to create an account.  Some of the more popular logging software will automatically upload your progress to the website.  It’s simple to set up.  Stu Sheldon has a video explaining how on his YouTube page.  Here’s a link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwxphCWpi_Q&t=374s.

Throughout the contest I bounced between the 20- and 40-meter bands mostly, with the occasional check on 15 where I was able to nab 2 contacts.  I spent most of the time hunting and pouncing, and a fair amount of time calling CQ and fielding calls.  It was all phone.  Along the way I logged a few more cohorts, Brad Ormbsy-W6VO, Ray Biederman-WB6L, Keith Elliott-W6KME, and Craig Grimm-KD6NFD and Rick Slater-NQ6X.

As the hours passed, it became apparent that I wasn’t going to make a huge dent in the list of California counties.  There were plenty of “6” call signs up and down the band map, but I couldn’t hear most of them.  That’s okay, I was making great progress on states and provinces.  By about 9 PM on Saturday, midnight on the east coast, things had really slowed down.  At least for those of us who can’t get onto 80 meters.  I called it a night.  By the end of Day One I had logged a total of 96 contacts.  I had worked 7 California counties, 5 Canadian provinces and 32 states.  32!!!

I started Day Two around 7 A.M.  There was plenty of activity, but I had already worked many of these stations.  And it was becoming harder to get new states and provinces.  Still, by noon I had picked up one more California county, one more Canadian province, and 10 more states.  10!  42 states and counting!  Wow!  Three hours to go.  At 1:30 I got New Mexico.  Sweet!  At 1:39 I got Rhode Island.  Awesome!  And at 2:57, with only two minutes remaining in the contest, I made my last contact and added the state of Nevada.  In all, I had a total of 154 contacts, including 11 counties, 6 Canadian provinces, and 45 states! 

AD6SF’s contest Log, just after the contest concluded

Some of the stations I worked gave me serial numbers that were much higher than my last of 154.  More than a few stations gave me a contact number higher than 400.  Some over 500.  A station in Napa gave me number 890.  I can’t compete with that.  But I don’t have to.  Again, I’m not a serious contester.  You won’t find a power amplifier or a waterfall display at my QTH, just a simple 100-watt radio, an end-fed antenna, and my N3FJP logging software.  For me, anyway, it’s not about winning anything.  I’m really only competing against myself.  It’s about the chase.  How will I do this year?  How many states will I get?  I’ve already worked all states, but it’s amazing to think that someone just starting out can, in a single weekend, work all states.  Or, at least, get close. 

So what’s next?  Well, if you’re working your way toward the DXCC Award, for having confirmed contacts in 100 countries, or want to get started, there’s an excellent opportunity coming up in less than three weeks.  It’s the CQ World Wide DX Contest.  To give you an idea of what you can do in a weekend with just 100 watts and a wire, last year I had 102 contacts in 35 different countries, including 14 new ones that are now confirmed.  In a weekend my DXCC count went from 35 countries to 49 countries, so I’m basically halfway there.  The journey continues Friday, October 23.  I hope you’ll join me.

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