Sunday, 11 March 2018

Commonwealth Contest 2018 and QRP

My multiband fan dipoles in the loft.
Only used with QRP for EMC reasons.

I took part in the 2018 Commonwealth Contest this weekend on HF CW. This was always going to be a casual entry as I had other things to get on with over the weekend, not least was helping tidy the house for Mothers’ Day on Sunday!

I decided to enter the QRP category with a maximum of 5W. One reason was I knew that my good friend Dave G3YMC had won the category last year with 30 QSOs. I mean, how hard can it be to beat 30 Qs with 5W? Answer: very hard apparently!

I got going with 20m and quickly worked four stations in Malta and Cyprus. I also cracked off some of the UK HQ stations on 80m for 25pts apiece.

The afternoon saw openings to Canada, which brought in a few VEs. I was also happy to work the Cayman Islands and G3TXF on Mauritius.

Ionospheric propagation conditions were lousy with no sunspots and a geomagnetic disturbance the night before.  Fifteen metres was closed so it was a 80, 40 and 20m only event.

What you quickly realise is that many stations are using the full legal limit, so might be running 400-1,000W. If they aren’t very strong they probably won’t hear your 5W QRP station - fact of life!

So there were lots of “NR?” being sent for repeats, if they came back at all.

I went to bed about 23:30hrs and set to again at 06:45hrs. At that time 20m was dead, but there were some 40m and 80m contacts to be had and I managed to get VE in the log again. I also swept up the remaining G, GD, GI, GJ, GM and GW HQ stations as these were quite easy with 5W.

The antennas were my loft-mounted fan dipoles for 40-10m, which beat the outdoor multiband 80-10m end-fed half wave and W5GI dipole on 20m - go figure. I used the EFHW or W5GI for 40m and 80m, depending on which gave the best signal.

The “nearly” category included QSOs with Singapore, Australia, Gibraltar, New Zealand and Zambia - I just wasn’t loud enough. But hey, Cayman Islands, Canada, and Mauritius on 5W will do me!

Next year if I do it again with 5W I might put up a monoband 20m EFHW and perhaps use my Yaesu FT-817 (I don’t currently have a CAT cable for it), although the IC-756 Pro3 band scope is handy and it is an excellent rig, even when backed off to 5W. Logging/keying was with N1MM+, which worked flawlessly.

All good fun and 30 Qs won’t win it ( the highest QRP entry so far is C6AKT with 92 QSOs), but my unconfirmed overall score was higher than the 2017 winner’s, so not too shabby.

The Commonwealth Contest is a great one-weekend opportunity for UK stations to work DX with no big pileups.

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