I had a great time working the ARRL CW November Sweepstakes contest this year. I know that many Hams do not care for SS with the long, complicated exchange but I think it is a great challenge.
After many years of trying and hoping, I finally managed to work all 84 Sections for the “Clean Sweep.” I have been determined to get at least one Unassisted (no use of Spotting) Sweep before I think of moving to Assisted for CW Sweepstakes. After my experience this year, I will probably continue to enter an Unassisted for CW, because the unassisted Sweep is the ultimate SS challenge.
When working the Phone Sweepstakes, I increase the power over 100 watts and have been entering as Assisted. That keeps me from getting frustrated with the increased difficulty in working Phone contests vs. CW.
The Station for 2022 Sweeps
My station this year was about the same as last year. I have a basic SO2R (single operator 2 radio) station for contests. It consists of the following:
Radios – Icom IC-7600 and Yaesu FTDX-3000
Antennas – 80 meter Broadband dipole, ZS6BKW, Vertical over the Chesapeake Bay
Software – N1MM+ of course – the best free software I have ever used.
Other – DX Doubler 2-radio controller, DXDUSB interface for the DX Doubler, and WinKeyer USB for CW, Bencher paddle for CW handkeying, which I still enjoy. Elecraft KAT-500 automatic antenna tuner
It all seemed to work well this year. While the vertical is great for some of the more distant Sections, I was surprised that I had to switch to the ZS6BKW for some of the really tough ones. That antenna outperforms my wildest hopes, at only about 35′ elevation. if you can only use one multiband antenna, I highly recommend the ZS6BKW. You can find several articles about this antenna here on the KG3V.com Site.
The Sweep Story – Can only be appreciated by serious Sweepstakes Operators
As I worked the contest on Saturday, it seemed like the Sections that are normally a challenge for me just rolled in. NE, AK, PAC, NT, were no challenge this year. My approach was to just keep RUNNING (Calling CQ) as much as possible, until there were no more callers, then take a pass down the Band in Search & Pounce (S&P) mode. Many great SS contesters have always said to keep calling CQ and let the Multipliers come to you. That seemed to be working this year.
After working UT late Saturday night, I went for some sleep knowing I had only two remaining Sections to get on Sunday QC (VE7) and WV which is normally not a challenge. N8II almost always provides the WV multiplier, where was Jeff this year?? Hopefully I would see him on Sunday and I would find a VE7 to complete the Sweep.
Getting the Last Two Sections
There were several years where I came up just 1 or two Sections short of the Sweep. Hopefully this would not be a repeat of those sessions. I tried not to waste time on Sunday hunting the last two Sections, but it was hard. Anytime I heard an “8” I had to see if that was the needed WV station. I finally got back in the groove, RUNNING and not spending all of my time worrying about it.
Just before 1800Z I decided to stop RUNNING and do a little S&P on 15 meters. I spun the dial to near the top of the active part of the CW Band and immediately heard VE7XF. Really? that was too easy. Am I in for a disappointment getting WV this year? Hope not!
For the next couple hours I got excited every time I heard an “8” call – will this be the WV Station that turns the N1mm+ callsign field to RED, indicating a new Section? Worked several 8 calls but none were in WV. I decided to take a break and get a shower and generally get refreshed from the grueling contest. I came back to the keyboard and decided to do another S&P pass on 20 meters. The first station I heard was K8JQ and BOOM – RED in the Callsign box! that was the much-needed WV station. The sweep was complete. I even had “insurance” on several of the more rare Sections. I must have worked NE 5 times.
So that is the story of the 2022 Sweep. I know that nobody can appreciate it unless they are a CW Sweepstakes operator. This was great fun and this is why I work ARRL Sweepstakes. Can I get another one ever? Next year?
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