Well, I felt a bit uneasy before this one. There was a small tipps & tricks section in last week’s BCC newsletter about the upcoming WPX-CW contest and being interviewed I said there’s a 70% chance of good Sporadic-E conditions that would help during the contest on the highbands. But, the (VHF) bands have been open quite nicely for 10 days already and that might become a problem. Why? Well, usually Sporadic-E follows a pattern like 1 week of excellent condx and openings up to 2 m, then 2 weeks of silence more or less. So the “silence phase” was rather overdue! It would still mean some patchy ES openings here and there but nothing for big QSO numbers, rather a kind of propagation studies. πŸ˜‰ But it seems this year is a little different and with such a massive opening on Friday and even 70 MHz still open well after midnight I was really wondering what would happen on 10 m during the weekend.

I got up the first time around 4z. The band was still silent and I was still tired so I decided to lay down for another hour. Getting up again there were plenty of signals on the spectrum display already and M2L greeted me with QSO #72. So I certainly missed at least half an hour! It was the same reflection area as on Friday so against all odds it all started westwards. But in the end it doesn’t matter. With the high ionisation present (MUF went quickly up above 70 MHz) you just point the antenna into the ES clouds center and it will work all around: forward, backward, side scatter. πŸ˜‰ The first 5 hours brought 500 QSOs into the log! Afterwards it slowed down quite a bit …

Highlight Saturday morning and the lowlight at the same time (at least concerning number of QSOs): the band was open to the U.S. East Coast after 6:30z for half an hour! But besides several skimmer spots not a single QSO. Sure, nobody’s sitting and watching for 10 m openings in North America at 2:30 o’clock local time! Really a pity, but quite interesting from a propagation study perspective as the MUF must have been quite high with most of the path in complete darkness! Certainly still some of the VHF capable ES clouds from Friday night moving around … It was of course much easier to the East, people were awake there. πŸ˜‰ We need about 4 perfectly aligned ES hops from here to Japan. The likelihood shrinks with every additional hop needed. And with that kind of propagation it’s all “spotlight”, too, meaning there has to be somebody in a very small footprint reflection area with suitable equipment! Well, it did fit, 4 x JA made it into the log and E2A from Thailand called in, too. 😎

For UA9/UN it’s only 2 hops needed, UA0 needs 3. That worked quite well several times so over 40 made it into the log over the weekend. Between 11 und 12:30z I was again spotted by US skimmers randomly but only N4XD made it into the log.

The band opened into South America every now and then Saturday afternoon and evening. It was again quite spotlight, barely 20 x PYs worked but just 1 x LU and that quite late. TO1A from French Guyana could be copied loudly again and again, the path is open regularly even during sunspot minimum. 8P5A was another Caribbean station but that was all into that direction on Saturday. ZD7BG from St. Helena was ufb loud late in the evening, too. Stopped operation around 21z with 880 QSOs under the belt, band was empty.

Sunday morning (half an hour earlier this time) started with 4 x BY but also 4J/UA9/UN were easily workable again. Beaming towards Spain I was later copied “backwards” by the VU skimmer so turned the antenna to the East and was rewarded with 4 x India in the log. 😎

The MUF went up and up and up late in the morning and finally 144 MHz opened again between West and South-East Europe. We were too close to take advantage on 2 m but made a virtue out of necessity: if it’s too close for VHF it’s perfect for shorter distances on HF! So I was able to do lots of great short-skip QSOs within Germany with propagation focussing on West and South-DL.

Between 13 and 15z the band opened randomly to North America via triple hop ES. Worked 14 x W and 3 x VE. 😎 Around 15:30z I was a bit unconcentrated for about 10 minutes as 2 m opened to EA6 from here. πŸ˜‰ The evening brought the Caribbean again, this time with HH, KP2 and KP4. Unfortunately except CE3CT nothing from South America on Sunday although the PT7ZZ skimmer spotted me with good signals for a few hours! Did I mention spotlight propagation already? πŸ˜‰

After 19z it became really slow. The band was still workable but the masses had already moved to the lower bands. I kept my butt in the chair until local midnight, every point counts! The last hour QRV it opened again to the East with quite strong signals from UA3/4. Unfortunately only one QSO, everybody else already in the log. I wondered why RT4F who were about s3 did not copy me. When they started calling W/VE it dawned on me! I was hearing their second harmonic! A quick check on 20 m confirmed it, they were there with an extremely strong signal. Half an hour later their harmonic was gone on 10 m again. πŸ˜‰

Made almost 1.500 QSOs in total. Net 50 contacts less so quite some dupes! I was spotted as BH8 and think a number logged me as DS8 instead of DH8, too. For our little bit of equipment, compared to others at least (one transceiver, one amp, one antenna), I am quite satisfied. I increased the (my) current German record quite a bit. 😎 Will see what the result is good for, the competition was quite strong! IB9T, LZ3ND, UW5U all made much more. But also Mac, SN2M/SP2XF, to whom comparison makes much more sense than to compare with Sicily, did a great job. He does have more aluminium in the air and his location 300 km more easterly certainly gave him a big advantage, too, as his skip distances to the west where all the big QSO potential is located (DL, PA, F, G, …) were much better. And then there’s the people who were not on your radar. πŸ˜€ Thus let’s see, but I think the Top10 should be okay.

Optimization potential? Clearly with the operator! πŸ˜€ I’m sure I was not the only one “fuzzy-headed” when trying to sort it out when stations like 4U9STAYHOME called me. πŸ˜€ But I also had one or another phase of weakness and difficulties concentrating and had to ask for repeats more than I cared for. And with (too) few callers I was a victim of microsleep, too. 😐

So all in all a great contest weekend with lots of fun to be remembered for a long time!

                    CQWW WPX Contest, CW - 2020

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SO(A)SB10 HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 33

 Band  QSOs
   10: 1489
Total: 1439  Prefixes = 656  Total Score = 1,092,240

Club: Bavarian Contest Club

Flexradio FLEX-6600, PA + 6 ele G0KSC OWA-Yagi @60ft.
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