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The Holy Grail of CW SS!

Greg Fields (K0OB) on April 11, 2001
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The Holy Grail of CW Sweep Stakes!

The Holy Grail of CW Sweep Stakes!

Ever since my first SS CW as a teenager, I have been fascinated with this contest. The strategy and the iron man like endurance that is required to make it through the Sunday doldrums are all part of it. For the past several years, I have been part of a multi op effort from Dave’s, KT0R, well-equipped station. The camaraderie of doing SS as a team with Dave and Jeff, K0MX, has been one of my memorable contest experiences. Last year I put up a real tower, so I really wanted to see what I could do in CW SS as a single op. I've also put in some improvements for the second radio that I thought were key to the efficiency of two radio contesting. To me the Holy Grail of SS CW has always been breaking 1000 Q’s and a sweep, which I have never achieved. The year 2000 SS CW would be my quest for the Holly Grail!

I started the contest the first hour on 10 but that was a mistake. I could only work the West Coast and could not get much of a run going. After a disappointing first hour of 59 with five Q's made on the second rig I switched to 15 for second hour of 75 which turned out to be my best hour. One of my top three thrills of the contest came Saturday night when VY1JA called me on 40 meters! Thank you Jay! I ended Saturday night only needing MAR and WY. No problem I thought. I will surly find them sometime on Sunday either CQing or on the second rig. No problem? What was I thinking!

Since I have been over at Dave's the last three years I had forgotten how painful Sunday is on SS as a single op! The pain of endless Cqing is eased only somewhat by finding more Q's on the second rig. I had a low hour of 28 Sunday morning and a high of 57. By noon I was in pain! I took a one-hour break to eat and shower. I started to feel human again until I realized I had 8.5 hours more of operating. (Why does this always seem like so fun before the contest and so painful Sunday afternoon?) I returned to the rigs to continue my search for MAR and WY. I had not heard either of them and was starting to get worried. I have never gotten a CW Sweep by myself but with two rigs, I thought this would be easier. I started to question my logic. In between copying CW in both ears, I had to talk to my 5-year-old son countless times as he enjoyed coming to the basement to see how Daddy was doing. He seemed to delight in making as much noise as possible so improve his Father's copying ability. A major moment came late Sunday afternoon when I broke 1000 Q's for the first time ever as a single CW SS op! Now all I needed was a sweep to make it complete! Where was MAR and WY?!!!!

At 23:30Z a possible SS first happened! I heard a knock at the door and my wife came down to the basement with a worried face. Oh no, not the dreaded neighbor complaint I thought. Not quite! A visitor to our neighbor had backed out of their driveway and hit the side of my car, which was parked in the street! I was having a great run on 20 for this late in the contest and I was really doing well on the second radio too. I briefly thought about asking my wife to handle it but then I remembered I wanted to remain married to her after the contest so I went outside to look at the car and exchange insurance information. I bet this lady is still wondering why I seemed in such a hurry and not too concerned about the car. This only took 10 minutes but it rather blew my concentration. I then contemplated taking my last 30-minute break but I had promised my son I would take time off to put him to bed. Not wanting him to tell consular years later how traumatized he was by his Father's Ham Radio hobby (And still wanting to be married after the contest.) I decided to press forward and loose the 10 minutes.

I took my last 30 minute break at 0130. When I returned I was sweating bullets. Why couldn't I find MAR or WY? It felt like the two-minute warning of a football game and I needed two Hail Mary passes! I started CQing on 40 meters reasoning a had a good chance at both of these mults on 40 while at the same time I scoured 20 and 80 looking for them. Within 5 minutes WY called me! I could start to taste the sweep now. It was at this time I realized that if I had a good hour I could break the 1100 Q mark. I was a driven man! By now, my efficiency on the second radio had really improved. I was furiously tuning the second rig looking for those golden new ones while desperately listening for a MAR to call on the run rig. With 24 minutes to go VE1GN called. It was hard to copy him with my heart pounding so loudly in my ears but he sent MAR!!!!! I now had 23 minutes to go and 15 Q's to reach the 1100 mark. These last minutes were a blur as my fingers flew over the keyboard checking dupes on the second rig while still CQing on the first. With two minutes left QSO number 1100 called me to finish my best CW SS ever!

I started doing SS in the late 70's as a teenager. I remember doing 600 Q's using a Drake TR4CW and dipoles. I dreamed of the day that I could have a real SS station. Well, almost 20 years later, after getting back into the hobby 8 years ago, after countless hours of working contests, after many station improvements, I have finally achieved what was unimaginable as a teenager by breaking the 1000 Q's mark. This left me on a high all day Monday even while being exhausted. I couldn’t seem to get my wife to understand how huge this is for me but then again she's still married to me even after this weekend. And my son isn't traumatized so I guess I should count my blessings. (Although he kept going around the house saying Oscar Bravo. I think he was warming up for the phone portion.)


Greg K0OB

Member Comments: Add A Comment
The Holly Grail of CW SS! Reply
by k4oj on April 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Agreed - SS rules.

Yes the DX compnetitions have a lure to them because it is DXing and the calls are from far away places we may never ever go to, but SS is just plain fun. After 30 years as a ham I get to QSO the many friends I have made throughout my contesting career from my first Elmers to fellow club members.

What is it about the sweep? It is not crucial to your score as many have pointed out before - my own favorite finish was a #4 when I was the only one in the box without the sweep...but...the finality of a clean sweep is satisfying, probably because as contesters we set goals and this one you can say was met when the dust settles!

Good writeup!

Jim, K4OJ
The Holly Grail of CW SS! Reply
by kr1g on April 12, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
Hmmm, I've never operated SS - although I once spent about an hour in CW SS playing around. Always been interested in DX contesting, but after this article, I will try to do a full effort in CW SS next year.

W1 is a great QTH for DX Contests, I wonder if it's as good for SS :)
Ted KR1G
The Holy Grail of CW SS! Reply
by K5ZD on April 22, 2001 Mail this to a friend!
SS CW is my favorite contest as well. It takes skill and endurance. But the biggest challenge is having to conduct a multi-band scavenger hunt for every new station that shows up on the band. No easy multi-band QSOs in this contest. Not everyone likes this aspect, but it is one of the reasons this contest is so different and enjoyable (in a very different way) than DX contests.
The Holy Grail of CW SS! Reply
by ks4du on September 19, 2007 Mail this to a friend!
My favorite contest also. I have fond memories of west coast ops thanking me over and over again for giving them SC near the end of the contest. Come to think of it, the east coast stations were glad to get SC too. I guess there weren't many SS SC ops back in the 90's. MAR was a hard one for me to snag too. I never got the sweep. My 100 watts and dipole couldn't cut it. Congrats on a fine job.

73, Jim, KS4DU (now living in the Rocky Mountains of central Idaho...literally, in a soup bowl surrounded by 12,000 ft peaks!!)
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