2014 ARRL Sweepstakes – CW

I participated as a single op, QRP, non-assisted. I think the ARRL Sweepstakes is one of the more challenging contests from the perspective of the sheer amount of information required for each QSO. There are plenty of ways to go wrong, so you really have to be detail oriented to log each contact correctly 100% of the time.

Propagation was generally pretty good here in northern Idaho. 20, 15 and 10m were the workhorse bands this time out.

I finished with an unofficial score of just above 12,000, well down from my first place finish in the Idaho section for QRP in 2013 of 18,592. In the end, I was my own worst enemy.

Not sure why but I had SWR problems on 20. Since my antenna is a fixed loop running around my roofline it’s not clear what may have caused the issue. At any rate, my internal antenna tuner on the KX3 was unable to bring the SWR down much below 2-1 so I was probably not putting out much more than a watt or two on 20m. That probably hurt my score and I should have checked and corrected this ahead of time.

Right out of the gate I made some mistakes getting my log set up, which was caused by not being completely familiar with a new version of MacLogger on my new Mac. So, when the contest began, the first QSO logged got numbered 000 instead of 001. I would have noticed that had a reconfigured my log view to be showing the QSO number. My new Mac is a desktop, which replaced a Macbook which has a much smaller screen. Instead of maximizing my log view I packed a bunch of other stuff on the screen (DXmaps, timers, etc.) and failed to reconfigure the MacLogger display properly. Don’t get me wrong, MacLogger is a fabulous contesting application. Top notch. I even used the contest helper window which has built-in timers providing information on time between Qs and time on band. Having real-time QSO rate information sharpens your focus and makes it much more obvious when lots of time is slipping by between QSOs, making you realize it’s time to move on or get off for a bit. Live and learn.

I worked about 19 hours of the 24 allowed, but actually made another mistake by failing to check my 2013 log to see how many Qs I made in that contest. As it turns out, I decided to stop once I reached 166 Qs this year because it was getting late on Sunday for me. I believed I was ahead of my count for 2013. Wrong. In 2013 I scored 188 Qs plus nearly 10 more sections. Again, I should have checked beforehand.

My QSO breakdown was
40m – 20
20m – 54
15m – 54
10m – 36

One more learning experience for me was getting up too early on Sunday morning (1200 UTC) to try to catch the band openings. I blew 90 minutes of operating time. I should have gotten off, grabbed a few more hours of sleep and logged by on when things opened a bit later. Activity began picking up around 1330 UTC.

All in all it was a great contest for me. Consistently strong signals from the teams in Hawaii and Alaska, they were blowing my doors off. I ended with 37 sections.

For those who participated this time out, congratulations! For those who did not, I hope to see you next year or perhaps in the upcoming CQWW CW contest at the end of November.

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