The weekend of March 8-9th, 2014 became a casual participation in the SSB round of ARRL International DX Contest. Actually, the day before the contest I was not sure of the band I would choose. Still no full set of aerials were available for all-band categories. Propagation predictions anticipated excellent conditions for both 10 and 15m as well as the weather forecasts for the weekend in the Matra was promising.
The program has finally been optimized for hiking and some WAS-hunting on 10m. The weather was like in late March, perfect for a good walk on the hill, and by the time I got in front of the radio I was almost fallen asleep..
I did not spend much time for preparations prior to the contest, only a fast installation of the radio, PC for logging and the PA, no electronic voice keying as no soundcard in the PC, only my own "voice-memory" after a decent flu.
I needed to stop sometimes for discussions with goodwill neighbor hams that how terrible my audio sounds.. Finally, had some good runs, I mean relatively, as it was my first phone contest I have ever participated in my 27 years of ham radio. Managed 1.300 valid contacts and all 60 multipliers came back to my CQ. The 10m WAS target has been achieved. Heard plenty of QRP stations with no problem and received S9+20 reports several times. The setup was moderate this time; only one tribander fixed to NA, the old FT2000 and the PA set around 800W.
The band was extremely crowded and was very difficult to find an empty spot for CQing. Once found one; the rx filters needed to be set very narrow to hear a thing besides the close big signals.
I was far from the rates produced by the experienced stations in SSB contesting (HA8JV & HA3NU), but enjoyed operating a lot and understood how much important is practicing callsing reception thru contesting.
The station super location has accountably brought its benefits again (regardless of the weak operator); I was still able to hear W5/6 stations clear and loud several hours after sunset.
For me the CW part is the real thrill and will always be the priority to participate. It was fun trying something "new"; but the close two weeks difference between the two events will probably will make me focus on the first. I am planning to try in 2015 the SSB round in remote operation.