ARRL DX CW 2005 – K3LR
ARRL DX CW from WPA
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the K3LR multi-multi operation for ARRL DX CW this year and, once again, had a great time! DX contests are a LOT more fun from back east than out west when the sunspots are low. They also have a much different character, as we'll get to later. First, the particulars…
K3LR is located in West Middlesex, which is just east of the Ohio border and immediately (and I mean IMMEDIATELY) north of I-80 (you can see the semi on this picture…). It's about an hour's drive north of Pittsburgh through some pretty good-sized hills. The station has stacked monobanders on 40 – 10 plus a pair of 4-squares on 80 and a wire 4-square on 160.
We called the pair of 80-meter 4-squares "The Big Lumber." Inside, each band from 40 – 10 has a pair of stations, including an interlocked amplifier for each. 80 and 160 are set up for a single operator each. The panorama photos show the arrangement; 160, 15, 10, 20, and 40 around the outside with 80 in the middle. It rocks! I shared 20-meters with Pat N9RV. Unlike out here, we were able to stay on round-the-clock, although things got a mite slow between 0600 and 0900. Also unlike out west, JA's were fairly few – we didn't get that second layer on 20. Yeah, boo-hoo, I hear you say. Of course Europe made up for it! A little bit after their sunrise, you'll hear a couple of stations trickle through, but about an hour before K3LR sunrise, things start to perk up. Although the 20-meter rate doesn't get as blistering as on 15 or 10 (when it's open), it's very steady and far deeper than anything you'll hear out here at any time. There are a LOT of Little Pistols that don't cross the Rockies from Zone 16, 17, and 20. The antennas on 20 are 5-over-5-over-5 at 170, 110, and 50 feet. The multiplier station has a 5-element at 100' on a separate tower. Needless to say, we didn't hang around in any pileups very long. So much for old news – propagation is better from the East Coast…ho hum. What's more different is the style of operating. We'll all been frustrated at the wall-to-wall CQ-ing from the aluminum curtain. You really have to be more aggressive to hold those frequencies and, by golly, the results justify hanging on to them. It can be really tough to hang on after the higher bands start closing and the single-ops start "frequency shopping" on 20. If you hear a "?", you had better respond quickly or you're in a frequency battle with another loud station. With K3LR-sized lumber, you generally prevail, but it's wasted time. There is also a different style to running and breaking pileups. Out here, that weak caller is much more likely to be a new mult, whereas in WPA, they're just weak. Take the loud guy in one call every time. Out here, we generally tend to wait until the packet pileups thin out before wading in. Back there, you had better pounce quick because KC1XX and W3LPL and NQ4I and K3WW and others will be there in a big hurry, too! There's a lot more "mashing" in pileups on the East Coast, too. I think N7TT with W7RM's hardware is about the only guy out here that has a chance to go toe-to-toe with the East Coast big boys. When we tend to slow our CQ's down because of flutter as the band closes, you just keep rolling there because there isn't any flutter to Europe, just on the JA's much later. It's a very, very different environment. Pat showed me a lot of good things – not that they'll do me a whole lot of good out here 🙂 So anyway, the final damage was 11.56 M for the team, #3 in the US behind KC1XX and W3LPL. Tim has never won ARRL DX CW, so maybe next time! The team was N3GJ & W2AU on 10, W2RQ & K9VV on 15, me and N9RV on 20, Post Contest Mostaciolli KL9A and N2NC on 40, K3UA on 80, and Hizzoner K3LR on 160. Pat and I managed to best the 20 meter teams at LPL and XX, so that was a feather in our caps – most of the heavy lifting was done by Pat.
If you've never operated at a multi-op, I strongly suggest that you give it a try, even if it's just you and buddy sharing a barefoot radio. Especially in these times of poor conditions, you can share the hours and keep the spirits up. It really is a lot of fun – there are a number of good stations around, too! Just put a note out on the club reflector and see what turns up!