I had to work for 20 hours of this 48-hour contest, leaving little time to devote to it and even less enthusiasm for sitting in the radio chair for any length of time.
But Sunday night, 90 minutes before the contest ended, I decided to give a few token contacts to those needing AE5 as a mult and wanted to do so not by S&P, but as a CQing station. And now I know what the receiving end of a pile-up sounds like.
As a DXer, I’m constantly trying to see what works to shorten my time in a pile-up and I sometimes delude myself into thinking that I’ve got things figured out. But it’s all theoretical as I can’t put myself in the other op’s headphones.
I think there was only one other AE5 CW station in the contest – a fact that made me temporarily “rare”. With the contest drawing to a close, the number of stations calling me for a new mult was large and resulted in a max run rate of 154/hour. Talk about an adrenaline rush…
Most of the simultaneous callers were zero-beat with each other. In a comment elsewhere on this blog, Guy N7UN noted that zero-beating the station of interest is often self-defeating and that a better tactic is to call slightly off freq from the main horde. Guy went on to mention that AD1C is aware of how he sounds in an innundated op’s headphones and knows exactly how to make himself heard. I thought about all that as a cacophony of contesters called me with all their dots and dashes interlaced in such a way as to make deciphering them impossible.
And then there was Joe AD1C himself – bringing a real-life demonstration to Guy’s explanation. Easy to copy and standing out in the crowd – not necessarily with a strong signal, but with a well-placed one in frequency and time.
But by far, most of the callers were on top of each other and the best I could do was to send back a partial like “PA5″ in hopes that only the PA5 station would respond. A naive hope as it turned out.
I have renewed respect for accomplished contesters like ON5ZO and others who somehow, magically, discern individual callsigns from, what to me, sounds like a one long warbling tone.
As a DXer, I will try to be more aware of where I am calling in relation to other callers – and of when. I already knew these things, but experiencing them from the other end really drives the lesson home.