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2015 ARRL CW Contest — a comparison to 1966.

The 2015 ARRL CW Contest has come and gone.

Prior to this year, the last time I competed in this contest was from Fallbrook, California at Dale Hoppe’s mystical and magic multi-multi contest station, W6VSS (K6UA). I was one of the 20m operators banging away at a keyer.

This year I dabbled in the contest from Arizona with a less-than-modest rig running 100 watts to a barely-off-the-ground G5RV Jr. snaked around too many Juniper trees. But it did give me a chance to play contest again. It was fun.

To follow are my reflections of this year vs. the old days:

  • First and foremost Europe has matured. The average station is no longer 100w and a dipole. So many of the signals coming out of Europe now are 1,000w + and big yagis or sophisticated wire antennas on 80 and 160. 40m amazed me. S9 + signals from Europe before the sun had set here in Arizona (and I have almost no antenna). The same can be said for the Caribbean, Central and South America. There are a lot of sophisticated contest stations down there. Lots of JAs running high power too these days.
  • The U.S. presence has grown a lot. That includes way too many clueless hams who think they are real contest DXers, but simply sit on a frequency and call CQ Contest over and over again. No, I’m not talking about the big guns. Big guns can effectively stake out a frequency and sit on it productively for hours at a time. The stations I’m talking about are the wannabes. I guess they just like to hear themselves call CQ Contest. They didn’t receive replies that frequently.
  • Via automation many stations are trying to contest at CW speeds of 35WPM or faster. This seems like a good idea, right? The faster you send, the more stations you work? Or does it? If you have to repeat the exchange over and over again due to a station’s inability to copy you sending that fast or QRM, etc., then you’re really slowing yourself down.
  • Some DX stations with huge pileups (and some quite rare ones) chose to operate higher up in the bands — into the U.S. General Class license area. While this gives them more exposure, the pileups can be enormous. The larger the pileup, the harder it is and the slower you go. Why not move down into the U.S. Extra class part of the band which will make the station much better copy? Listen 5-10 up.
  • Modern logging/contest/rig-control software has changed the face of contesting forever. And for the better. In the old days we simply had hand-written log sheets and a 24″ sq. sheet of paper divided into blocks to help with dupes — each little block was a country. Work a station, log it, then record it on the dupe sheet. So inefficient, but that’s all we had.

Next month is the Phone contest. I won’t be participating. These days, even when there is no contest going on, phone DXing has degenerated into fights, insults, vulgarity and intentional QRM in large pileups just to mention a few problems. And the frequency police. This list goes on and on. I simply won’t waste my time.

And to you old timers wondering…at Dale’s:

  • No, we didn’t run coal.
  • It was Dale’s huge investment into 100′ + towers, long-boom yagis and Collins gear that made the difference.
  • AND some of the best operators I’ve ever known.
  • Alert for the Brian Williams’ police. I think it was 1966. Could have been 1965. Or both. I simply can’t remember and there’s no way for me to easily go back and verify. In any event, R.I.P. Dale. I was just a teen at the time. He was my idol — my mentor.