I had a blast as part of the W0NA(@W4AAW) NAQP CW operation - I hope everyone else did, too.
I always like to do a "Lessons Learned" after every contest and try to figure out what I could have done better. Of course, part of the allure of HF contesting is that every contest is different - conditions and participation change so that nothing is ever exactly the same. But, in every contest I still find "coulda/shoudas" that would have improved my score.
Sometimes "more Butt in Chair" was the major issue, but that is always driven by lots of other factors. In general, I contest for fun and if it is too nice out to sit in the basement all day, my BIC time is driven by that, or the usual other obligations, etc. With Multi-2, there are only 2 chairs and we had them fully scheduled in advance with butts...
So, usually my lessons learned focus on how could my rate/hour been better. Here is the chart of our rates during the NAQP CW:
All rates discussed here are from SH5, which tells the true story - the N1MM rate meters tend to exaggerate actual rates in multi-op contests unless you look at the 100 QSO rates. People tend to look at the 10 minute rate meter too much...
In order to reach 1600 Qs, we needed to average 150/hour (or 75/hour/station) for 12 hours. To do that, obviously need hours above 150 to offset those that will be below, and usually the first 3-4 hours and 7,8,9 and 10 are the hours to "collect those acorns" like the squirrels do for the lean winter months...
We started slow, probably spending too much time on 10 and not enough on 15m. I followed my usual plan for NAQP/SS and quickly swept 10m for multipliers at the start and then went to my scheduled band, 20M and started running. Eric was scheduled for 15M but couldn't get anything going on that band, so he spent a good deal of time on 10/15 but we never had higher than a 40 hour on either band. I'll leave Eric to add his lessons learned.
For the first 2 hours running on 20, my rates were 78 and 71, not stellar. 20 minutes in I settled in on 14.042 and started running on what seemed like a pretty clean frequency. By 1906 it felt slow enough that I started picking off mults using the MultAvail window and ALT-Q - the run rate should have been higher. I think 15M and 10M were good enough for the West Cost/Midwest that many single out there were slower to come to 20.
By hour 3 it was slow enough that I took an early look at 40, but it was too early - went back to 20, found a good run freq at 14.022 and had an 89 hour that was OK for that time. After those two hour shifts, Rowland picked up the K3 position - I'll let him add his lessons learned.
My Lessons Learned Hours 1-4: Slow starts are killers in short contests, I should have either started earlier picking off additional QSOs with ALT-Q, or abandoned 14.042 and tried a different run frequency instead of making that early trip to 40. In SS, going to 40 2 hours in makes sense, but NAQP starts 3 hours earlier!
I came back on at 0000z and was originally scheduled for 40M but Bill was doing a good job of running there so I started up on 80 early - which turned out to be a lot of fun. I started with an 89 hour, followed by 79 and 85. That's pretty good for 80 that early in the evening.
By the third hour it slowed down so I took a quick trip to 160M, then came back and found a run frequency at 3525. While the first hour was good, I probably should have tried for a higher in the band frequency, maybe slowed the speed down (I usually CQ at 30 wpm in domestic contests and slow down to match callers) since I was "exposed" low in the band on .36 for the first long run period.
I augmented the slow 4th hour (59Qs 0300-0400) with another quick trip to 160 but I probably cost us some Qs on 80M. I did pick up a lot of QSOs with the ALT-Q approach.
My Lessons Learned Hours 7-10: I think I did pretty well during this segment, but I should have planned for find a run freq higher in the band to see if the rate went up. In NAQP and SS, there are part time CW ops who stay away from the lower end of the bands.
I was off for the last two hours, will let Eric and Rick add their lessons learned.
[Rowland K4XD] - 2200 - 0000, Hours 4-6
Thanks for the blog post John, I think this is a great way for us to learn from each other and improve.
I started up running on 40M at 2200, and as John points out, I was somewhat seduced by and repulsed by the 10 Minute Rate counter in N1MM+'s info window. It started quite high, in the 90's, and then after about 20 minutes it dropped to 60. The band was full of untapped Q's ("blue ones" on the band map) and a couple of mults, so I went into S&P mode. The 10 minute rate shot up, which made me feel like that was a better mode for now. Mistake! Although I averaged around 60 Q's/hour for my shift, with John's "Run, Pounce and Alt-Q" approach I'm pretty sure I would have done better. Next time...
We had the beams turned West and left them there. I did work a fair number of 1's and 2's with that orientation, but many were weak, and in retrospect, I probably would have worked a lot more by spending some time with the beam pointed more Northerly - maybe at least 330? I'd like to hear thoughts on that from the gang. Maybe swing the beam to another population area once the rate drops, and alternate between the densest areas.
In my last half hour I finished up the S&P on 40 and saw a band map full on 80 so went there and had plenty of S&P action. Again, probably would have done better with a run + pick off mults approach.
There was little to no moving mults going on to my knowledge - that's another area where I feel I should do better, and as a team, it would increase our score. I need to get my eyes used to focusing on the "needed on band X" notes from N1MM and program a key to let the caller know we are "also on 14.024" or whatever the current run freq is.
[Rick N1RM] - 0400 - 0600, Hours 11-12
As an "evolving" CW operator, this was an appropriate shift for me to develop skills without hurting the score too much. I spent about 6 hours during the day working a single op effort from my home station. By the rule, that was unassisted so I became glued to the P3 large screen display for S&P operation. When I switched over to remote operation at Mike's station, the first thing I missed was that display. I was dismayed to look at the available mults/Qs display for my assigned 80M band and notice that there were 1 mult and 6 Qs available. I did probably the worst thing - I went into "spin & grin" S&P mode tuning to each signal long enough to see it was a dupe. I kept at that for quite a while. That was also a mistake, but there were MANY stations calling CQ that we had not worked. I think I only picked up one or two mults, neither of which were the one listed on the spots. I suspect there was something wrong with the spots.
After about 40 minutes of that, I took Lady Macbeth's advice and "screwed my courage to the sticking place", calling CQ for the first time in any contest (other than Field Day). It was a gentle introduction to the art as the rates remained at about 35/hr - about what it was for S&P. There were only a couple of times where more than one person called me at the same time and I was able to get everything with almost no repeat requests. I guess all those hours with Morse Runner are paying off. It was a great confidence builder.
The only time I had any real difficulty is when someone came back to me at a very slow sounding 22 wpm and just as he was replying I started getting what John has christened "the blippies". For some reason the network started dropping lots of packets. I noticed when this started happening that it was about the time position 1 switched from run to S&P. I was actually looking for that to see if we can correlate it with increase VNC activity, which happens during S&P on position 1. I'm not sure there's a correlation there, because position 1 was still doing S&P after the problem went away, about 5 very frustrating minutes later. Anyway, when I asked for repeats, the other station naturally slowed down even more which actually made things worse. It actually got to the point where the intermittent dropouts were affecting every element he sent. It would have been better if he had sped up so that an occasional character could have gotten through in between dropouts. We finally finished the QSO, with him probably wondering when the FCC started issuing novice licenses again.
Other than that understandable difficulty, running went well, but unproductive. It's probably my lowest QSO count of any contest since starting with the K4VV/W4AAW team. But I'm now confident that I can copy stations nearly 100% at 30 WPM, so I'm ready to keep improving. I'll start trying the Run, Pounce and Alt-Q method next time around.
Thanks to John and all the other mentors in this group and especially Mike for the incredible hours he puts in so we can play.