As most readers know I got bit by the QRP bug real bad when I bought my FlexRadio 1500.
In fact, I liked the QRP results so much that I sold my ageing IC-756 and all the various interfaces and cables and stuff.
Over the last few years I’ve been tweaking the antennas and resoldering the coax fittings and adding things like QRP auto tuners and dedicated QRP watt meters.
At Dayton this year I bought a Rig Expert AA54 antenna meter and I’ve been busy tuning antennas ever since. (I even bought two more PAR end-fed antennas for field work and a full-size Carolina Windom for 80 which won’t properly fit on the property but sure came in handy this field day.
QRP contesting is challenging but not all that hard. That is if conditions support working around the world on 5 watts of power.
Those sort of conditions call for active bands or very quiet bands. What really screws up QRP contest is conditions which have a lot of fading. You can seriously upset contesters from around the world and frustrate yourself no end if there is QSB on the bands.
Now if there is no QSB and if you’re operating CW and if you pretend you’re QRO instead of QRP and you’re using a resonant antenna at height then you’ll be amazed at how well you can do.
In the July issue of CQ magazine there was a visual comparison of what a one-watt SSB signal on 20 meters would cover compared to a one-watt CW signal at the same time and all else being the same.
The SSB signal had virtually no reach while the CW signal easily covered all of North and most of South America.
The article showed that it would take a 100-watt SSB signal to cover the same area as the one-watt CW signal.
A 100-watt CW signal in comparison covered all of North and South America and most of Africa and Europe.
So when critics of QRP claim that it’s the quality of the operator at the receiving end that’s critical to the success of the QRP contester that’s not quite right. A one-watt CW contester has the same reach as a 100-watt contester all things being equal.
So if one-watt is so great, imagine what you can do with the QRP gallon of five watts!
And that’s what I did 🙂
While reading my just arrived August 2012 QST I was floored to see my call in the highlighted box for W/VE Regional Leaders by Category where, if I read this right, I led Ontario Section in the 2012 ARRL International DX Contest – CW with a QRP score of 229,917.
This score in comparison to other W/VE Region Leaders is a medium, middling score but it’s a huge improvement in comparison to my past efforts. When compared to DX QRP leaders I would have been included in the top submissions.
Now let me be absolutely clear about running QRP. If I had a 100-watt station or an external amp I’d be too tempted to use it and would have to change my category where I’d need one-milion points just to anti-in to play with the top operators in the country. 😦
So for me, QRP is a much less competitive but more winnable category and it’s more challenging to boot.
I find on CW when conditions are good to excellent I can work everyone I can hear (and the Flex 1500 has one of the best receivers at any price accordion to Sherwood Engineering) and the percentage of requests for repeats is no greater than at higher power levels.
It’s also possible to contest on SSB but conditions do have to be at least very good to excellent, It’s possible to break big pileups into the Caribbean but it takes some pretty aggressive calling and some audio tweaking to do this on a regular basis.
One the other hand the Russian station I worked last winter on 40 meters around dusk was amazed to hear I was QRP SSB after he’d given me an S9 report and he was the same, if not better, at this end.
Now the next hurtle is to improve my CW. You get big scores by calling CQ and letting the boys come to you. You can call CQ only when your CW is up to the job.
Regardless, for today, I’m basking in old glory and looking forward to the fall contesting season.