Sunday, November 5, 2017

Patience is a Virtue

I spent part of the weekend in the ARRL Sweepstakes contest. A serious effort was not in the cards since I not only have little in the way of antennas for the moment, the contest itself has become as exciting as watching paint dry. That's a shame since back in the 1970s this contest was the focus of my contest season, since as a VE4 with a small station I lived in a DX black hole and in Sweepstakes I had an easy shot at the US eastern seaboard where my section was often in demand.

The weather was quite bad this weekend so I had an incentive to spend time in the shack, no matter my antenna situation or the antenna work waiting to be done. Rather than the contest my excitement on the bands was chasing DXpeditions. On that front I had success, working VK9CZ on 40 meters, VK9MA on 3 bands, and putting a few other DXpeditions in the log. That was fun.

My first QSO with VK9MA was very nearly scrubbed because of my impatience. Impatience drives a lot of the bad operating in pile ups, whether due to mistakes or calling out of turn. The result of my impatience was in a way humourous, as you'll see.

I had a good shot to VK9MA despite a modest yagi and no amplifier. Late afternoon the long path to VK (via Africa) on 20 meters can be quite good from eastern North America. They were pretty loud and the pile up wasn't unbearably deep or wide. The operator was turning over contacts as a steady clip, though not as fast as the best DXpedition operators.

Thus there were fewer opportunities to call, triggering my impatience. I barely listened between sending my call again and again. His pattern was predictable so that I (and everyone else) could figure out where he was listening with good accuracy. I didn't want to wait around so I tried to make every call count.

But I was too fast on the trigger. Often while calling I would stop to spin the VFO to find a quieter frequency to try my luck. This can be a good strategy. Unfortunately it can also backfire.

Spinning the VFO after a few rapid calls with no response from the DX I was horrified to hear him sending my call. Yes, horrified. Think about what I just did: I spun the VFO! Because of my impatience I was no longer on the frequency where he heard me. What to do?

Luckily I have good short term memory, a valuable attribute for a contester. I thought a moment to develop in my mind a picture of the numbers on the display when I called. He called me a second time. Desperately spinning the VFO I sent my call, hoping the frequency was close enough for him to hear me. A third time he sent my call and a report. I responded with my call again and this time added "5nn tu". With a "tu" in return the pile up resumed.

Was the "tu" merely a polite way of signalling he was giving up or did he really copy me? Luckily I showed up in their online log a few hours later when they started uploading to Club Log.

Of course it is very likely that even had I failed I would work them on that band again soon enough with their good signal and the many days left in the DXpedition. I could only laugh at myself and my poor discipline leading to unnecessary impatience. Patience truly is a virtue. Remember that should you, too, spend too much time calling and not listening in the next pile up. You'll likely get through faster with just a little patience.

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