The Wakes I Leave…

Three years in the ARRL DX CW, with 5W and a small wire antenna


The past weekend (February 20-21 2016) while operating in the 2016 ARRL DX CW Contest as VA3PCJ, 124 contacts were logged with 85 stations in 4 HF bands (10m, 15m, 20m and 40m) with clear preference for NE-E and S-SE directions:

One station was contacted in all the 4 bands, 7 in 3, and 14 in 2 (25 stations were contacted in more than one band) while 67 contacts were with stations contacted only once.

Although for only 5 Watts and some wire, 124 QSOs may not seem too bad, in the same contest in 2015 the total count was of 174, and in 2014 it was of 197. Within the Ontario East Division, in 2014 operating as VE3DTI I finished 2nd QRP and 5th overall (click here); and in 2015, 3rd QRP and 10th overall (click here).

Assuming that the different callsign used had a negligible effect on the result, and since the equipment and the participation strategy were the same (casual, manual CW with paddles and manual logging using the same software program – RCKLog), the decline in QSO numbers may be attributable to a decrease in propagation in the higher bands, although to a certain proportion it may be also attributable to the mere passage of time…

Operating QRP, it is likely that the stations being contacted would mainly be larger stations and with the best antennas. In fact of the 124 contacts, 80 were with stations reporting 1 KW of power, and only one was with a 5W station. That being the case, one would also expect the same stations to recur in the log year after year. In fact, of the 307 different stations contacted in this same contest during the last three years, 37 were contacted in two of those years while 15 appeared in the log three years in a row:

9A1A, CR2X, EA5RS, ED7P, FY5KE, IR1Y, IR4M, KP2M, LX7I, OL7M, PJ2T, PJ4X, TI5W, V26M and VP9/W6PH

Not surprisingly, most of these are indeed powerful contesting stations that always have finished among the first within their countries and categories.

More surprising is perhaps the fact that of the 85 stations contacted 19 were located in IOTA islands, most in small islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. A factor involved might be the positive effect of saltwater on HF propagation, but more likely, it is because powerful stations have been built and tend to be favoured in these locations (particularly during the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere) by some of the best and most dedicated contest operators.

Reversing the inference process, a nice corollary to this analysis is that if in a future ARRL DX CW Contest your station were to log a QSO with VE3DTI or VA3PCJ, according to these statistics, you should have a greater chance for a “podium” placement in the results of the contest…