I have been working to improve my CW skills for some time now as well as working towards a number of operating awards including the CQ WPX Award of Excellence. The CQ WPX Award of Excellence requires quite a range of confirmed contacts with CQ recognized prefixes including 600 using the CW mode. I was able to move both of these goals forward by operating in the 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest recently.
I again used the N1MM Logger along with FLdigi as a CW decoder in this contest. I am not yet proficient enough with CW to operate without a decoder but I did find that working a contest with the aid of a CW decoder like FLdigi helped me to improve my CW skills by practicing them. I found FLdigi to be a fairly effective CW decoder. I set up FLdigi as a Digital Interface Window in N1MM which allowed me to click on call signs and contest exchange information that it decoded to enter this information directly into the N1MM logging window. This saved time and reduced errors during contest operations.
I also used the MorseDec CW Decoder on my iPhone as a second decoder and the FLdigi/ MorseDec combination was effective in this contest. In some cases, one would successfully decode the received CW when the other did not.
Another tool that I used for the first time in this contest was the Online Contest Server website. This tool allows one to post and compare your score in real-time during the contest to those of other operators. It was very easy to enable this capability using the N1MM Logger – all I had to do was to create an account on the Online Contest Server website and enable N1MM to post my scores which it did every few minutes. Anita (AB1QB) learned about this interesting tool during her participation in Contest University at the 2013 Dayton Hamvention. I found that being able to see how I was doing relative to some of the other operators was good motivation to keep going during the contest. This also gave me an indication of how others with scores close to mine were balancing adding to their score via more QSOs vs. searching for additional prefixes (i.e. multipliers). It also shows each operator’s statistics by band which is helpful for comparison purposes.
Unfortunately, band conditions were less than ideal during this contest. A series of solar storms started on Friday evening just about the time the contest began and continued through the entire contest period. This made for some challenging operating conditions during most of the contest period.
In spite of my limited CW skills and the band conditions, I was pleased with the results that I was able to obtain working the contest. I probably worked about 60% of the available operating period during this contest. I mostly operated in Search and Pounce mode due to my limited ability to decode CW by ear. I did run briefly on 160m and 40m late at night to get some experience with running in CW mode. As you can see from the above, I was able to work 86 DXCC entities during the contest – not quite a DXCC but I was very happy with these results given my limited CW abilities.
I was also able to make a little over 500 QSOs and worked 344 prefixes during the contest. This brought my total prefixes worked towards the CQ WPX Award of Excellence in CW mode to 550 of the 600 required. While all of these prefixes will probably not be confirmed, I am now within striking distance of completing this aspect of the award and I should be able to snag the final number of prefixes required to reach 600 confirmed via non-contest operating.
The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest was a lot of fun and it helped me to improve and build confidence in my CW skills. I would encourage our readers to try CW if you do not currently use this mode. It is challenging to learn CW but there is a great deal of DX available via this mode and I believe that some of the finest operators in the world use CW as their preferred mode.
– Fred (AB1OC)