A QRP CW Sweep Over One-Half Clean…

The ARRL Sweepstakes (SS) are very old and unique North American radio-amateur competitions. Its first occurrence goes back 1930 (the last year in which my father was still a professional telegrapher).

The ARRL SS It is also unique in not requiring the exchange of RST reports. Instead it calls for an exchange of five elements. This peculiarity stems from the header of radiograms in the National Traffic System (NTS). The header or preamble of a radiogram consists of a message number, the precedence, a handling instructions code, the station of origin, the check number and the place of origin, followed by the time and date that it was filed. The handling instructions and the time of filing are optional. Thus, the exchange in the SS has a serial number, a precedence, the callsign, a check number and the ARRL/RAC Section, or as they are referred in the CW exchanges: NR, PREC, CALL, CK and SEC. Although they share the same names and almost the same arrangement as in a radiogram, their meaning in the SS exchange are different: the Precedence refers to the operating category (A, B, M, Q, S or U) and the Check Number is made of the last two figures of the year of having been first licensed. In my case the exchange I was expecting to provide was: “### Q VE3DTI 04 ONE” where “###” would have been the serial number of each particular contact.

I decided I would use the ICOM 703 at a maximum output of 5 Watts (i.e., QRP) together with my best QTH multiband antenna (a 50+ Ft. end fed wire up a maple tree in my backyard, tuned remotely by the LDG RT-100). I also decided that I would try to interpret every exchange in my head without the benefit of a CW automatic interpreter. Many contesters transmit in the order of 25-35 words per minute (wpm). This is too fast for my top continuous receiving of about 15 wpm. However, I found out that if I could hear the other station exchange several times in previous QSOs, I would then be able to correctly interpret all the characters and be ready for them when the exchange was sent in reply to my call. It was going to be a slow process, but if I was attempting to break any record, it would have been just one of my own…

I also decided that I wanted all my exchanges to be sent out manually for which I chose the BY-2 Bencher Iambic paddle. My initial exchanges were sent at 20 wpm, but I later found myself comfortably transmitting at 25 wpm, way above the speed at which my brain is able to receive. However, I also found out that at the speeds of some of the fastest contesters I was able to interpret 1-5 contiguous characters at a single transmission, enough to know when I was being asked AGN, PR? NR? CK? or SEC? and also TU and 73.

At the end of the weekend, after deducting all breaks of 30 minutes or more, my total operating time was of about 9 hours, during which I was able to log 110 entries. However I have since figured out that one was a “dupe” (sorry Joseph W1AO, you were right… it was dupe!) and that at least two others were likely to have been copied with the wrong serial number. So I am aiming at some 100+ valid QSOs and 43 ARRL Sections as multipliers (83 would have been a “clean sweep”, so I guess I had it just over one-half clean…). It is the closest I could get to what my dad would have been doing at work 87 years ago when the first SS started raging over the NA continent…

Since 1999 the ARRL offers SS contesters claiming 100 or more QSOs the possibility of ordering a commemorating pin. I don’t think I will order one, but it is nice to know that someone in ARRL thinks I deserve it…

Here is the plot of the 100+ QSOs logged in 4 HF bands (80, 40, 20 and 15m) with the power and equipment described above:

ve3dti-arrl-ss-cw-2016-2

Advertisements