cwops_225Earlier this year, I stumbled upon the weekly CWops sprints when working the monthly NAQCC sprint. Our “quiet” section of 40 meters around 7040 kHz was suddenly invaded by high-speed ops sending CWT and working each other with names and numbers. Sometimes, as QRP operators, we can feel like ants getting squashed underfoot, but among the callsigns were a few I had worked in the NAQCC events as well as some I recognized from other contests.

I recalled seeing the CWops events listed in WA7BNM’s contest calendar, so I checked it out. The CW Operators’ Club was started a few years ago to promote CW activity and serves as a way for operators to keep their skills sharp midweek. Upon learning that nonmembers could compete too, I jumped into the fray the following Wednesday evening and had a lot of fun, making about 20 QSOs in the hour. The exchange is first name and member number, and nonmembers send their state instead of a number. I was impressed that many of the guys I worked took the time to send WELCOME after working me for the first time – a nice gesture in the sometimes cut-throat frenzy of a short sprint.

It seemed like a nice group to belong to. I’ve been a member of NAQCC and 10-10 for many years and have found on-the-air clubs like this to be friendly gatherings of like-minded hams, so I looked into how to join. With many clubs, you apply (and sometimes pay your dues) and you’re in, but CWops was a bit more of a climb. You need to be sponsored and endorsed by four members whom you’ve worked twice on CW in the past year before you’re invited to join. I looked over the membership list but only knew one or two of them well, so I thought I’d have to do some digging and lobbying.

A couple weeks ago, I posted my CWops score to the Mad River Radio Club reflector with the remark that I would join if only I could find enough sponsors. Within hours, both W1NN (in France for WPX) and KW8N stepped up to nominate me, and rallied two others, N8EA and K4BAI, to support my nomination. Within a couple days I had an invitation from Jim N3JT to join, and shortly thereafter, I had my CWops number – 1634. And in this week’s sprint I got a warm WELCOME again from a couple members as I searched and pounced 35 QSOs.

This is quite a rarefied group. Checking the weekly score postings, there are a few who consistently approach 300 QSOs in the one-hour event, running two radios and high power, but there are also many like me who just get on for a few minutes or the hour, dialing around and working whoever’s there, and following propagation down the bands.