THE OCEANIA CONTEST
A QRP CW OP’S FIRST TIME PARTICIPATION
MICHAEL J. CHARTERIS
At 08:00 UTC, on the evening of October 12th 2019, I began sending “CQ OC TEST”, as a first time contestant in the 2019 Oceania CW Contest. I decided to enter as a QRP Operator, for the simple reason that all the big gun stations out there with their large antenna arrays would probably hear me as they searched for numbers. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. A bit of intuitive thinking suggests that the Oceania Contest fundamentally sees the rest of the world turn their stations to Oceania to work “Us”. Now there are a lot of scarce entities out there in this vast area of sea covering Oceania. Many only venture out for Contests and this alone is a great opportunity to add to your Country & Prefix count. Some of the biggest signals emanate from our back yard here in Australia and New Zealand. The other thing to realize is that the more VK’s who are contesting, the more contacts you will be likely to capture as a QRP Operator. Take the maths associated to easily work stations from VK1 through to VK9 as Band points as well as multipliers and the numbers soon start to add up.
Now that I have established that there’s a very good chance that you’ll be heard, at least locally, we need to add the vagaries of band conditions and the potential for DX contacts. This in itself is an amazing thing to experience whereby the Local VK’s are supplemented with contacts into ZL, North America, Japan, and other exotic locations within Oceania. Consider also the “Take off Angle” of your antenna, be it a Dipole, Yagi, or simply a quarter-wave ground mounted Vertical. All this adds to the Fruitcake that is you interacting with Propagation. The consequences of which see QRP operators achieve contacts that simply blow you away. If you have ever experienced a contact from North America or Europe with only 5W and a Vertical, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
So, where was I,.... Yes that’s right, its 08:00 UTC Saturday evening, My QTH is Maryborough Queensland, and the bottom end of 40m is alive with all and sundry calling CQ OC TEST. I’ve scanned the band and found a spot to start my own Mantra of “Please Contact Me”, ie CQ OC TEST. My station consists of a Yaesu FT-DX-9000, wound back to 5 Watts. The Key I used for the event is a WW2 German Kreigsmarine Junkers, with a history all of its own. This Key is a joy to operate and could have been used during the war on anything from a U-Boat through to a Mine Sweeper, by a Naval Wireless Telegraphist some 80 years ago. The antenna in operation is a 40m band Quarter Wave Vertical, with radials, fed with coax and spaced 10 metres from a second 40m quarter wave Vertical with a shorted stub in the SO239, orientated NE/SW.
Now I am the first to admit that as a QRP Op calling CQ, let alone CQ OC Test, can be very testing to the point of frustration. I called for 30 minutes before I received my first response from Mike, VK2IG at Gundaroo. We exchanged the mandatory 5NN (599) and in my case 001, to be given 5NN-T12. The “T” saves sending ZERO. Then, Four minutes later, I into South Australia to work Theo, VK5IR at Mansfield Park, South Australia. And just like I mentioned previously, like a Bolt from the Blue at 08:37UTC I am called by Willie, WJ9B, from Middleton, Idaho. This contact is in the order of 11,911 Kilometres and that’s Short Path. And this is exactly the Magic that blows my mind when it comes to operating QRP, especially in a Contest. You can bet that all of these contacts had no idea I was operating QRP, they just worked me. Of course we owe most of this to the magic of the Ionosphere, the “X” Factor that makes QRP so attractive.
My next contact was Tony, VK3TZ, from Vermont South, and Official of the Oceania Contest. It took 15 minutes of calling before my next lucky break with Guy N7ZG, from Shelton Washington who called back at 09:00 UTC. Once again the Short Path distance is 11,638 K’s. Bloody Amazing!!! It’s hard to come down from such fantastic QRP contacts like that. In fact it’s a bit addictive and interstate contacts come as run of the mill in anticipation of your next giant leap across the Pacific. The rest of the evening up to 11:21 UTC saw me work a few more VK’s with some nice ZL Contacts from our brothers across the ditch as well.
Next morning the bands were pretty much dead at this QTH, so other activities took priority. Then at 23:25 UTC I ventured up to 15m for a crack to see if the band was actually open. To my great surprise after briefly calling CQ OC Contest I was rewarded with a call from Stephen, KL7SB, from Nikiski, Alaska at a short path distance of 10,824 Kilometres. No other contacts were made on 15m and the band just seemed to die. My two last contacts for the morning were with Martin, VK7GN, an Official of the Oceania contest, and ZL1TM, Andrei in Auckland. My final two contacts for the Oceania Contest saw me work Lawrie, VK5LJ and Theo VK5IR on 20m. And that was it. I calculated my score of 760 points having made just 17 contacts in my first Oceania and submitted it for scrutiny by the contest managers. In the end, this article is about the opportunities of operating as a QRP station during the Oceania Contest and others. It’s also potentially about You and Your QRP journey, and what you can all achieve in contest like the Oceania. If you give it a go with simple antennas and 5 Watts CW, you might just amaze yourself.