The rules are simple: contact as many stations and collect their call prefixes (multipliers). A typical exchange is the signal report and the serial number...599 001, 599 002, and so on.
You earn points for each contact: 1 point for a contact within your own country, 2 points for a contact in foreign "country" within your hemisphere, etc, and 3 points for a "genuine" DX contact. If you score a unique prefix, you get a multiplier bonus.
2014 was the second year that I have only concentrated on the 10m band, and ran QRP while doing so. Having compromise antennas and low power make for a very lousy experience when competing against "All Band" entries. So, doing well in ONE area makes much more sense. It also allows one to do some SERIOUS contesting, but also have a life at the same time.
The contest always begins on the Friday night (0000z), but in reality, it's midnight UTC.
No problem there.
A quick check 30 minutes before the contest began showed that 10m was still open, as I was able to hear QRP and QRPp CW beacons in the midwest. While I wasn't expecting miracles after local sundown, I was hoping to work at least ONE station.
Before 10 was COMPLETELY closed for the evening, I managed to work 5 stations...and the momentum continued the next morning. Cuba. Luxembourg. Argentina. Canada. Aruba. Suriname. Canary Islands. Germany. Hawaii. Hungary. ITU Geneva (4U1ITU). Brazil. Mexico. Croatia. Slovenia. France. Serbia. Italy. Bulgaria. Sweden. Cayman Islands. And of course, more of our fellow Americans.
65 contacts, 57 multipliers (which means that I only had 8 stations that were redundant...EVERYONE else was for big points)...giving me a 7011 point total. This may not seem like a lot, compared to the 25,000,000 that the Multi/Multi stations can achieve, but for a rig like the Alinco SR8T, an antenna like the LNR Precision EF-10/20/40, and just under 5 watts, this is pretty substantial. I managed to beat last year's score by more than 5000 points...and I had a much better antenna last year.
The 10m propagation gods were certainly smiling on me...
I did have an issue that took me off the air on Sunday...which probably was for the best, since I wasn't willing to cook my finals for a contest. I have an LDG AT-100 autotuner...and on 10m there is a known-issue with RF getting back into the tuner. I managed to locate a ferrite choke form that fit onto a piece of RG-58A/U coax that I was using for the link between the SR8T and the LDG. It worked all day Saturday, but the RF issue returned Sunday. There was substantial icing on the antenna during the night, and I suspect that that was more of the culprit. In Springbrook, we had about 5 inches of snow overnight, along with a little freezing rain...so it may have added to the lack of a low SWR.
I plan to add some more ferrite chokes to the power cord and the coax runs to try to block more stray RF...as well as adding some better grounding scheme to the tuner and the radio. But, I still had a great time, and even my new YL was impressed with some of the stations I was able to work. (My ex-XYL had no interest whatsoever...so THAT'S a win right there)
The HIGHLIGHT of the contest...hiding in the JT65 subband:
As of this very moment, I and one other station (whom scored about 100 points higher than me) broke the CQ WPX RTTY 10m QRP U.S. record...while I won't be the record holder, it's nice that I still BEAT it by triple.
Who knows? I scored 3rd U.S. last year...maybe I'll do the same.