There’s an old saying that goes: “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.” I think that was the case for me 23 years ago.
As I was submitting my meager entry for last week’s QRP to the Field (QTTF) Contest, it made me think back to the very first QTTF contest in April of 1995. I’ve never considered myself a serious contester; not by a long stretch. Somehow, though, I actually placed 1st overall in the NorCal QRP Club’s inaugural QTTF. I actually did it with a most unlikely setup, too.
A local ham, Rolf N3LA (SK), graciously allowed me to operate my modest QRP station from his rural property. I operated from my truck with my antenna supported by one of Rolf’s trees.
My antenna was simply a 40M inverted vee that I made from #22 stranded hook-up wire. I fed it with about 30-feet of RG-174 coax. The center of the antenna was only about 12 to 15 feet high. One end was tied off to a bush about 4 feet off the ground. The other end ran into a fenced-in area that was home to a ram with a bad attitude. I had to wait until the ram was otherwise pre-occupied to tie-off that end of the antenna. That end was only a foot or two off the ground.
My rig was a Small Wonder Labs SW-40 running 950mW. This was from the first batch of kits offered by Dave Benson’s (K3SWL) former company. I was also using a keyer built from an old NorCal kit, which used the classic Curtis keyer chip. I used a set of paddles that I had cobbled together from stuff in my junk box. The whole station was powered by a 7 A-H gel cell battery that was almost as big as the rest of the equipment combined.
Over the course the afternoon, I worked a steady stream of QRPers. I was in QRP heaven. Even Rolf, who was monitoring from inside his house, was amazed at the number of contacts I was producing with less than a watt.
QRP to the Field 1995 - WB3GCK (950mW) 40M CW ----- 1615 K4XY VA 1641 WA9MTO MD 1646 KG8FL OH 1653 KI2L MA 1655 VE3VAW ONT 1659 W2RPH NJ 1W 1701 K2SJB NY 1706 VY2MP PEI 1710 N1OZL MA 1715 VY2MP PEI (DUPE) 1723 WQ1T NH 1728 VE3FRF ONT 1740 KC1FB CT 1743 W3TS PA 1W 1745 AC4WC VA 4W 1749 K1PUG CT 1W 1807 WK8S MI 1810 WA8IBT OH 1827 N7ANT VA 1836 W3EEK PA 1840 W2TFL NY 1841 VE3UWL ONT 1844 KB8GAE OH 1848 AA3GN PA 1851 K2MV NJ 1855 WA0JTL MI 1858 WB8EEL MA 1903 N4JEO VA 1905 NO1E NH 1913 AA2PF NY 1915 K4XY VA (DUPE) 1917 N2CX NJ 1929 AA2NL NJ 1930 AA4YZ/8 OH 2038 W2QUV NY 5W 2048 KD4PUP VA 2050 KT3A PA <1W 2054 KA4GVA VA 2056 W03B MD 250mW 2101 W8MVN OH 4W 2117 AA2WJ NY 2129 KZ4D VA 2W 2137 WA8LCZ MI 2139 AA1EX NH 2141 WQ1F VT 4W 2144 KC1FB CT (DUPE) 2146 K2JT NJ 2204 K0JPL MO 2209 KA3WTF PA 5W
I specifically remember a couple of the contacts. I worked Joe N2CX, who was testing a new antenna over in New Jersey. Joe later mentioned that QSO in an article about his antenna in QRP Quarterly. I also remember working Ernie W8MVN (SK) in Ohio. Back in the day, Ernie ran a pair of phased, full-wave 40M delta loops on top of a 60-foot tower. He called me with an ear-splitting QRP signal that had me scrambling for the RF gain control on my rig. I think my ears are still ringing from his incredibly loud signal.
Even though I only operated on one band with my 950mW rig, I managed to log 46 contacts (plus a few dupes) that day. With my QRPp multiplier, I ended up in first place out of a field of 50 stations.
I haven’t done that well in a QRP field contest since. (I did, however, place 2nd in the New England QRP Club’s QRP Afield contest using the same equipment later that year.) Rather than skill or prowess as a contester, I have always attributed my win to a combination of great propagation and lots of plain old dumb luck.
If your callsign is in the log above, thank you for helping this blind squirrel find a nut!
72, Craig WB3GCK