North American QSO Party, CW

I enjoy the convivial fun of the semiannual North American QSO Parties, sponsored by the ARRL’s National Contest Journal. The exchange is simple – name and state – and you can work stations again on every band. Power is limited to 100 watts so you’re not competing with the “Big Guns”. It’s one point per QSO and states, counted separately on each band, are the multipliers.

It’s kind of like a pickup game of basketball, played by a bunch of friends from various teams during the off-season. Just like the pick-up game, it’s a serious effort, but it’s mostly fun and a way to stay sharp during a lull in the major contest calendar. Clubs can put together ad-hoc teams to compete as a group – call it shirts & skins, or red vs. blue – and I was on the UltraOps team from the Mad River and North Coast Contesters clubs. And like that pick-up game, it doesn’t require a major commitment – it’s only twelve hours (1800z to 0600z), and you can only operate ten of those twelve, so it doesn’t tie up your entire weekend – a bonus during the summer season when we’d rather be outside.

The summer running of the contest takes place in August (one weekend for CW, another for phone), and August 6-7 was the date this year. I did about six hours (seemed like less), off and on, almost all search and pounce except for a short run on 80 at the end. There was too much nice weather for a change, so radio had to compete with installing a shade canopy on the deck and going out for ice cream.

Ten was dead every time I checked, but I managed to make a handful on 15 early on. Twenty was acting like 15 but usable, and later in the day 40 was alive and 80 was there but noisy (the NR in the 590 works nice!). And if 160 is this good in August, I’m hoping for a super strong winter on topband. (Gotta get that new preamp built before snow flies.)

I was hoping to have the 6BTV I bought at Dayton installed and operating by now to see how it performs in a typical contest, but this wasn’t really typical, so it’s a good thing I just stuck to wires.

Odd coincidence: When I hit 100 QSOs, I had exactly 50 multipliers. The same thing happened in both Sweepstakes last fall. Anyone else have this happen?

One tradition in this contest is that some stations or clubs pay tribute to a club member or friend who became a silent key by using his or her name instead of their own. This year, members of the Deep Dixie Contest Club sent “RON” as their name in honor of Ron, WD4AHZ, an active contester and Deep Dixie member who became a silent key earlier this year. I worked at least six stations who signed RON instead of their own names. (A few years ago, I honored John, W8NFR, an SK from the South Lyon club.)

Besides the CW version, there are separate days for phone and RTTY, and the winter dates are in January, giving you a chance to try out all those goodies that appeared around the Festivus pole before launching into the big winter DX season.