World Wide Digi DX Contest 2019

Did you operate the new World Wide Digi DX Contest? If so, what did you think?

I operated for about 11 hours on and off, mostly during the day. Having contested for 20+ years, this was the most “different” contest I’ve ever entered.

Disappearing Callers

One of the strangest things I encountered, and even disliked, until I got used to it, was the disappearing caller. Incredible frustrating, initially. If I didn’t reply immediately, the caller disappeared, only to re-appear several QSO’s later.

At first, it felt like a waste of time when my reply went unanswered. It wasn’t until I realized that my reply was probably received, that the caller would eventually answer it. This peculiar part of the contest is very different from other modes. If any caller disappears while you’re giving a reply, they won’t receive it. But in FT8/FT4, it’s possible to give your exchange once, only to complete the QSO several QSO’s later. Lesson learned – don’t reply more than once, unless it’s new mult and you want to be sure they see you.

Software Glitches

Remember the disappearing callers I lamented about earlier? Once I got over that, next came software glitches.

While completing QSO’s in between other QSO’s, the software would occasionally give me “Invalid QSO Data”. When first encountered, I was dead in my tracks trying to figure out what the program wanted. For what ever reason, the previous data wasn’t saved or properly transferred. After a few times, I got the hang of it and moved on.

Other issues included suddenly giving signal reports, or changing the contest to EU VHF without my permission. Restarting the software seemed to fix it.

Lastly, drop down frequencies in the WSJT-X software didn’t match actual frequencies in use. A 160m drop down was also absent from the software.

I know these glitches will be fixed, but when you’re in the thick of it, it’s frustrating when you feel like the next mouse click might bring some annoying, unwanted surprise.

Is FT4/F8 Contesting Your Cup of Tea?

Although I wasn’t competing for a top finish, I did find myself trying to collect 2-letter grid squares, which are multipliers in this test.

It also became clear as time went on, that FT8 contacts were equally valuable. It wasn’t all just about faster QSO’s with FT4.

Speaking of fast, nothing in this contest moves fast. Predetermined QSO time intervals of 7.5 or 15 seconds with each transmission make speed almost impossible, when compared to other modes. Pile-ups are worked over a span of time as callers constantly click their way to achieve some kind of rate. Strangely, contesters can both S&P and run at the same time, without ever changing their transmit frequency.

Here’s an example of my point about rate: LX7I(DF7EE) posted the highest world wide score for SOAB HP with 1,389 Q;s. That averages almost 58 Q’s per hour over 24 hours. Compare that to CQ WW or CQ WPX, and 58 Q’s per hour for a top world score seems completely underwhelming.

I understand this is the first time a digi WW DX contest like this has been done. No doubt, ops will innovate and find clever ways to boost rate, as will software fixes and enhancements. It’s also fair to say that many of the world’s top contest stations didn’t enter this test, which skews results somewhat.

Still, I remain skeptical. Other than clicking a mouse, I really see don’t see any true demonstration of contest skill with this mode, except maybe selecting the correct bands. The software copies, decodes, and replies with pre-programmed messages and time intervals without any skill from the operator, other than a mouse click. Heck, I can’t even hear an individual signal, nor do I want to hear the screeching of FT4/FT8.

Would I enter this contest again? Yes, I would! It was still fun, and this new mode is just getting started. Can I accept FT4/FT8 as a serious contest mode? Not yet.

What do you think?

73, Mitch, K7RL

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