Last year in 3B8 (Mauritius) I entered the BERU contest, not really understanding the rules, and being scared out of my skin when I was was the bottom of a CW pileup for the first time ever, apart from not being capable to operate cw I came last. This year the 71st RSGB commonwealth contest took place over the weekend of 15th-16th of March and I operated from home (UK). The guys behind it state that “The commonwealth contest promotes amateur radio contacts between stations in the Commonwealth and Mandated Territories A more relaxed contest environment gives the opportunity to work some choice DX”
Although not being an avid cw contester or operator I am a fan. It is not often that I get the change to work DX stations on cw. The pile ups will always tend to be rather large when DX is heard and especially in contest the big guns will always tend to work the DX first and the qrp stations will just have to wait there turn. BERU is great in one way as there is less of a EU Zoo to contend with, some obviously don't understand the DX stations saying BERU only... ho hum...
Even with a simple antenna if the station you are calling can hear you they will work you. Amazingly I worked nearly every one I could hear some times the pile up’s meant a 45 minute wait and I just had to wait a little longer but in the end I made the QSO my station was qrp or very close to it and made up of a Norcal-20 on 20m, a Softrock RXTX on 40m and 80m, I also had a little c10W PA, built at the builathon FDIM 2008. The antennas were a Hustler 6BTV vertical used on RX. A Dipole on 20m, a 1/4 wave vertical with 3 radials on 40m and a W3EDP on 80m. The last antenna was not connected properly so I used the Hustler on 80m.
Win-Test was used to send cw using a simple PTT interface. Sometimes sending way above the speed I could read, I used a sound card to capture cw and replay it much slower to establish the callsign, so managing contacts as at 10-12 wpm noone responded.
Hoping to reach 100 qso’s but this was not to be. Not all QSO counted for BERU. I never made any contest contacts on 15m or 10m but I have been told I was heard so the bands are not all dead! I had fun in the BERU, from UK this time and I am looking forward to next time perhaps from a rare country as far as BERU is concerned. With some practice I may even be able to increase my qso rate and work some new countries.
Just a little under 12 hours operating in the 24 hour contest.
Didn't run contest with a power meter in line as separate antenna feeds to the rigs but I am 100% sure everything was at or beow 10W as the shack rig usb mouse freezes above that power level, I have got to deal with that problem! All the 20m contacts were qrp with Norcal-20. Last time I checked it's output is just below 5W.
A QSO with 6Y8XF on 40m was definitely achieved qrp as I made a second attempt at contacts Sunday am after contest. Contest contacts already on 80m and 40m.
9H3JT on 40m and 80m were qrp too likewise 5X1NH and P3J on 40m.
Not a terribly impressive tally but then I know I am a poor cw op. If it had been SSB that lot might have been inside an hour hihi...
I think c15 or so DXCC commonwealth although I doubt all the stations were qrp and think most had very good ears. Sunday am most seemed desperate for the contacts, so that is hint if 2 day contest and want to work dx qrp, wait until second day! To be honest especially for VK/ZL I was above qrp level somewhere around c10W (homebrew pa from buildathon FDIM 2008) as they couldn't hear me well enough at 5W. I could hear every station callsign clearly and most managed to respond to my call without too many repeats.
Commonwealth stations worked:
9H3JT, J88DR, VE3ZI, VY2SS, VE3UTT, P3J, VE3OI, K1WT, VE3FU, VC3A, VE3TA, 5B4AGN, VA3RAC/HQ, VO1HP, 6Y8XF, VO1MP, ZC4LI, VU2PAI, VE3QAA, VE3DZ, VE3KI, VU2PTT, VE3EJ, VQ9JC, VE3RZ, VE1RGB, VE3OBU
ZC4VJ, 9H3JT, VK6LW, P3J, ZL4CT, VK2KM, VU2PTT, VK2AWA, ZC4LI, 5B4AGN, VE3OI, VY2SS, 5X1NH, VE3UTT, 6Y8XF, J38CW, VE3EJ, VE3QAA, VK7GK
6Y8XF was Nigel G3TXF
Some might know some of the stations well.