Boy oh boy, was the NAQCC Sprint this evening a whole lot of fun. I hadn’t been hearing much activity for the last few days on 20, but saw a comment somewhere (on Twitter I think) that the band was looking good for the Sprint this evening, and was it ever 🙂 I did check 40 a few times but didn’t hear any NAQCC activity, so ended up making all my contacts on 20. Band noise was low and propagation good – even weak signals were easy to copy, and as this is a QRP event, there were plenty of those.
I know that 16 QSO’s and 744 points doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but for a 2 hour QRP sprint with me at the key, it’s quite a bit. It was so great to hear a lot of stations on – and especially exciting to have XE2IF as my very last QSO of the contest.
Another thing that makes these Sprints gratifying is the way that the results go up on the NAQCC site very quickly. Just a little over 2 hours after it had ended, I saw the first of the results posted. The logs haven’t yet been cross-checked, so the first postings include claimed scores only – these will be amended if necessary as the cross-checking proceeds, and final results posted after the log submission deadline of this Sunday at 2400z. I like how things move swiftly along. Currently I am the leading CA station, but there are still a few days to go. This immediacy of posting the results makes it fun to follow along.
I have taken part in a few NAQCC Sprints where conditions weren’t so great and QSO’s – especially for a west-coaster like me – were thin on the ground, so the combination of good conditions and the ever-increasing popularity of this monthly event leading to greater and greater participation, made this a good ‘un. You don’t have to use a straight key, but the use of one will allow you to double your points, and seeing as the majority of stations are sending at around 14 – 18wpm, there’s no advantage to using a paddle or bug.
Nearly all the stations in this contest use simple wire antennas. When band noise is low and propagation good, there is something magical about sharing a few KHz of spectrum with a whole bunch of other stations all using similar power and antenna set-ups. It is eye-opening to hear a bunch of moderate-strength and weak signals that are all easily copyable and readily workable. QRP paradise – and the K2 with it’s excellent filtering just shone.
Thanks to all at NAQCC who voluntarily put the work in to make the Sprints so enjoyable.
John Shannon K3WWP has been running a web site to promote the use of morse code on the amateur bands since about 1996. I discovered his site for the first time in around 2002 and was impressed that he was so singular minded in his devotion to the use of QRP CW on the HF bands. The only mode he ever uses is CW with a power of 5 watts or less into simple wire antennas. From his QTH, which is on a small lot in a valley in the town of Kittaning, PA he has had at least one CW contact a day – not pre-arranged, by the way. He just goes on the air and looks for QSO’s. Think about this – he has done this every single day for 15 whole years, without missing a day. Quite amazing.
John’s web site is well worth a visit. There is a lot of information and reading there, so you might want to bookmark it and visit regularly. He just passed the 15 year mark of his daily QSO streak and to mark the occasion has been publishing an interview with himself divided into 6 parts. I’ve been eagerly looking forward to this. John has been such a figurehead to me for QRP CW that I was keen to know a little more about him and about his 15 year streak. His diary is here (opens in a new browser window), and the interview starts with the entry marked Wednesday August 5th 2009. I submitted 5 questions for John and was thrilled to find that he answered 4 of them in his interview – the other one had already been asked by someone else and answered by John earlier in the interview series. I wasn’t expecting John to answer even one of my questions, but for him to answer 4 was very exciting.
John is also an officer, co-founder and member of the North American QRP Club (NAQCC). The club is free to join, and one of the benefits of membership is your own unique membership number that is good for life and will never expire. You can exchange the number with other club members in club contests and activity days. The club is not big on web-based activities – the web site exists mainly for informational purposes, and to encourage members to get on the air with CW. They really want to encourage and promote the use of CW on the bands, as does John; a read of John’s site makes this very apparent.
One of the things I love about John’s site and his approach is that it doesn’t concentrate very much on equipment or fancy antennas. The focus is very much on operating using low power and simple wire antennas. I really hope that CW is around on the bands for a long time to come.