The world came out to play in the 2017 CQWW Phone contest, October 28-29. I am not the most proficient SSB operator out there, but I have come to enjoy hollering into a microphone when rates begin to peak above 100 contacts per hour. It is a ton of fun, and during this contest I had several hours of that frantic action.
You can read about (or listen to) my contest forecast from the week prior to CQWW SSB. Using the experience from September’s CQWW RTTY contest, I had predicted that the October Phone contest would produce contacts on 15M, and it surely did.
From the North American west coast, we enjoyed long hours of activity across North America, the Caribbean and South America on 15M. The best surprise was that 15M was open to Europe for a little while on Sunday morning, too, which really helped to bump up the country and zone multipliers.
I went into the contest with a specific strategy in mind — run, run, run.
Before we look at the folly of that, I will note that running as a top priority this time was not necessarily designed to win anything. Rather, it was an experiment intended to resolve for my own knowledge what happens when you go for maximum rate at the expense of hunting for multipliers in a search-and-pounce operation.
So, what happened at VA7ST?
Simple: I had a whole lot of fun working 1,200 stations over the weekend. I had a few hours at 160 contacts per hour (averaging 2.6 contacts per minute at a sustained rate). Forget about grabbing a slurp of coffee when callers are that many deep in the headphones.
The technique I used was to work the United States mainland whenever the DX population areas weren’t producing well from British Columbia.
If Europe was workable and producing contacts, I pointed at Europe — this was my diversion on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and it’s where I picked up a majority of my country multipliers on 20M. But if it was possible to set up on a clear frequency and run, I did that instead of continuing to tune the band.
I was surprised to see that on 15M half of my country multipliers and about half of my 14 zones were from the Caribbean and South America.
But what about rate when running vs. hunting? Let’s stipulate that if I was working the US mainland (Zones 3, 4 and 5) I was calling CQ and coping with pileups of callers. If I was working any other zone, it was because I hunted around to find them — with the exception of some slow-producing runs over the pole attracting astute European stations from zones 14, 15 and 16.
US mainland zones — 3, 4, and 5 — generated 923 of my 1,200 contacts.
Removing those contacts from the total, I had just 277 contacts across the rest of the world.
Now, it is great to work so many stations in the US, even if they are worth a discounted 2 points each, while any non-North American (DX) stations are worth 3 points each. For fun-per-minute, the volume of DX stations wasn’t sufficient to make up for the volume of available callers when running “stateside.”
So, the strategy of maximizing rate seems to work out on the basis of pure volume.
Now let’s look at actual productivity — how time spent hunting multipliers can improve the overall score. I can make a useful comparison between my operation and claimed scores from US stations who had no choice but to work only DX — by searching and pouncing on non-US stations or calling CQ to Europe, Asia and South America all weekend.
I had 1,200 contacts but only 53 zones and 121 countries. A station in Oregon (south of me) had 700 contacts (500 fewer than me) but found 95 zones and 209 countries and ended up with a score that was 120,000 points higher than mine.
Quick math: that station averaged 815 points per contact.
I averaged 375 points per contact.
Now, you do that math — which strategy would you employ for the best score?
Chasing easy contacts worth 2 points apiece felt good but ultimately, it would have been more productive score-wise to spend more time getting multipliers in the log.
You still need to fill up the log, but those multipliers — and preferrably DX contacts worth 3 points instead of 2 — will make all the difference in the world.
Of course, if you are operating from the US mainland, you have no choice — working other US stations earns you 0 points each. Year after year, I am amazed at how many DX contacts the US mainland operators make and how high their scores are, considering that domestic contacts don’t count for them.
But their experience and the results they generate proves the point: work the DX and don’t sweat the small stuff.