AA8IA Amateur Radio

ARRL SS CW 2010 Summary


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The 2010 ARRL Sweepstakes CW has come and gone. This was my first time working this contest.

Being a NA-only contest, it provides a huge opportunity for those with very modest stations to make a large number of contacts and to work many many states and Canadian prefixes. In this contest QRO and QRP operators alike, with directional antennas or low slung wires, can have tons of fun.

I’m one of those with a modest station, and I can tell you now that this contest was a blast. Going into it I wasn’t that enthused. After all, I am more interested in getting DX confirmations than NA confirmations for awards. Plus, I went into this with the mindset that there would be a ton of activity on 20/15m compared to 40/80m, despite having been told beforehand that for us in W8 40/80m would be the bread and butter bands. Don’t get me wrong, there was quite a bit of activity on 15/20m, but 80m definitely was the band for me to increase the Q-count.

As noted in a previous post, the exchange is more significant in this contest as there is [more] meaningful data in the exchange than simply an RST or Serial #. Each Exchange contains five elements:

  • Serial Number : must be given out consecutively
  • Precedence : The category you are competing in, such as low-power, high-power, QRP, multi-op, school club, or unlimited
  • Callsign : Yes, you have to include your callsign in the exchange as well
  • Check : this is the first year you were licensed
  • ARRL / RAC Section

Where a typical exchange might be 5NN MIKE OH or 005 OH, instead you’ve got 001 A AA8IA 91 OH.

Two other interesting things about this contest are (1) you can only work each station once in the whole contest and (2) the mults, which are the ARRL and RAC sections, only count as a multiplier once. This means that no matter how good you are, you’ll never have more than 80 mults in this contest. And, even the very best of contesters would rarely reach 255,000 points (I think 255K is the record). Couple this with the fact that there are so many participants, you can obviously see that it can be very competitive with many stations having scores extremely close to others.

Some reading this may already know that 10m is one of my favorite bands. Well, there was very little activity on 10m that I heard. Of course, I only checked briefly on two or three occasions. I wasn’t using packet or RBN to get spots, so if there was any significant opening on 10m to Ohio I didn’t know about it. I don’t think there was though. At any rate, I knew early on that 10m wasn’t going to yield mults and Qs so I didn’t waste my time on it. I did work 15m and 20m for periods on both Saturday and Sunday. 40m is a band I don’t really like. I can’t explain it. I just haven’t learned how to read it yet, so I’m always jumping on that band wondering what I’m going to hear. In this contest it was usually a station that i worked on 20/15m earlier in the day or that I could work on 80m later in the evening. So I made 80m my priority. It worked out well for me.

Early Sunday morning I got up the nerve to CQ on 80m, but it wasn’t very productive. I was also very tired and just felt like I wanted to sleep. I didn’t have a high enough QSO count to be satisfied, so I had almost given up on reaching 500 Qs. The only thing that kept me going on Sunday was the fact that Hal W1NN had suggested to me that if I would work 24 hours of the contest I could likely get 700 Qs. Late Sunday morning, after I had already slept 8 hours and knew I was going to spend a few hours with the family on Sunday, I didn’t have high hopes. Well, later in the evening I noticed that my QSO count was creeping up faster than I had expected. It wasn’t moving along at a pace that would allow me to make 500 Qs by end of contest though. I was prepared to be disappointed with an end result below 500 Qs. As luck would have it, somewhere beeen 1.0 and 1.5 hours before the end of the contest I decided to CQ. This turned out to be a wise thing to do. My CQing time was very productive [in comparison to all of my previous attempts at running in a contest]. I don’t remember what my rate was [and it likely wouldn’t be impressive to many], but it was damned good for me. Things were moving along nicely with stations continuing to call in, and before I knew it I was at 500 Qs. I was extremely pleased at this time. I continued on until the last available second and managed a total of 520 Qs.

I didn’t get a clean sweep — meaning, I did not work all 80 sections. I missed NWT and NL. I had heard VY1EI a couple times during the contests and attempted to reach him, but he was having pileup troubles and appeared to be overwhelmed. Everybody and there mother wanted him for a mult.

520 Qs, 78 sections — I don’t think that is too shabby for my first SS CW. I think 520 Qs is my all-time high QSO count in any contest thus far. And, I did it in 17 hours. Based upon those figures, I think Hal was spot on when he predicted I could work 700 Qs in 24 hours. So, happy as I may be, I’ll be kicking myself until next November because I didn’t push myself to work 24 hours.

This contest was pure fun! I worked a dozen or so of the MRRC gang. I worked all states. achieved my highest QSO count in a contest ever. I reached my highest sustained hour rate when CQing. My modest station had no problem working anything I heard [except for VY1IE’s pileup]. And, I was able to sleep and spend time with the family. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

For next year I’m going to set a lofty goal. I’m not sure what it will be yet, but it’ll be at least 700 Qs. That’ll require me to be feeling my best. I’ll also need to work 24 hours of the contest. And, I’ll just have to take every opportunity to learn from every contest between now and Nov 2011. It’s doable though, even on my wires.

Thanks to all of the stations who worked me, and thanks to the ARRL for putting on such a great contest. In two weeks is SS SSB – I’ll be there, but it won’t be the same as SS CW!

My Results:

ARRL Sweepstakes Contest, CW

Call: AA8IA
Operator(s): AA8IA
Station: AA8IA

Class: Single Op LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 17

Band QSOs
160: 0
80: 325
40: 75
20: 60
15: 60
10: 0
Total: 520 Sections = 78 Total Score = 81,120

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

November 10th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Contesting

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2 Responses to 'ARRL SS CW 2010 Summary'

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  1. Nice go in the SS this year.

    Even a mediocre station can do well in the SS if you keep your butt in the chair. You have to make plans way ahead of time to lock down that weekend for SS only. Next year I bet you will be doing the full 24 hours but lamenting that you took the wrong 6 hours off. There have been tomes of discussion on when to take your breaks. I operate solid until 2 AM or later and hit the rack when the rate falls off. I roll out of the chair onto a couch in the shack and crash for about 4 hours and get up to catch the last rush on 80M. That leaves me 2 hours to use during the day. I have graphed my progress over the years and try to wedge the breaks into times when the rate drops and I need a break. The last few years I have finished early due to having used my breaks.

    The next big jump in score will come when you go SO2R and SS is perfect for doing it with the rates are so low on Sunday. Good to have you in the log.

    Earl Morse N8SS

    22 Nov 10 at 5:11 PM

  2. Thanks, Earl. Nice to have you in the log also. I’m still beating myself up over the fact that I gave up too early on. I tried to recover in the end, but you can’t make up for the time you gave away.

    Ithink you’re right about 24 hours next year. I’m not eager to try 24 hours in all contests that allow it, but definitely the SS. As you stated, even a modest station can do extremely well if the op puts in the effort and does his/her homework. Well, I’ve got nearly a year to learn some more tricks, so I definitely have a goal higher than 700 for next year.

    Working SS SSB made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to operate in CW contests. I need to step it up a bit.

    I don’t have a problem operating solid til 2 am. It’s the part about catching only 4 hours of sleep and then being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the second half! As for basing my breaks upon when the rate goes south, that’s difficult for me so far since I never have a decent rate to begin with. Maybe by next year I’ll be doing things more efficiently and will actually have a decent rate for periods of the contest.

    SO2R? To be honest, i don’t think I’ll ever do it. I might try it if I were ever at a station with a beam for 20-10 and a wire and something else for 40-160, but right now with just a couple of wires I doubt I could realize any benefit from running SO2R. It certainly would be an interesting challenge to even try SO2R though.

    I definitely plan to get much more serious about SS CW for next year though!


    23 Nov 10 at 1:23 PM

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