The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 40 from the DX University™*
This hint is primarily for DXpedition leaders, but can also help DXers understand why a DXpedition is asking for a specific area. This topic is the result of questions asked during the recent Clipperton operation.
Many contemporary DXpeditions are the target of messages on the various spotting networks. (The rationale for these messages is that DXpedition operators themselves often post on spotting networks.) These messages often ask “When are you going to work [my area] on [my favorite band].” Often these questions can be handled by communicating with DXers in real time via an Internet page and on the air. Of course, DXers would like a DXpedition to be on the bands open to them. Just how does the DXpedition leadership determine who or what areas its operators will work during their operation? Do the DXpedition operators take all comers at all times? Should some sort of plan be in place? Most often, there is a plan.
Normally, the goal of a DXpedition will be to work a large number of stations in all areas of the world. The relative number of stations to be worked in each area and on certain bands is driven by the demand for the entity on each band and mode. Part of the DXpedition leader’s homework to review the worldwide need to the proposed entity before the expedition begins. Those areas with a greater demand will usually receive a greater proportion of attention during the operation.
If a preference is given to certain areas, how is it determined? There are three primary population centers in the world, Europe, the USA/NA and Japan/Asia. Of these three centers, at least one will be the most difficult from almost all DXpedition destinations. (Occasionally, there will be two areas that are equally difficult to work.) The most difficult area that the DXpedition has to face is often determined to be the target area. Having defined a target area, how does the planning proceed?
The purpose of a target area is to help the DXpedition reach the goal of distributing its QSOs as equally as possible among all the world’s DXers. The primary procedure is to note band openings to the difficult areas and concentrate on working stations in that area whenever these openings occur. Potential openings should be determined from propagation prediction programs and refined by the actual propagation that is being observed.
Once at the DXpedition destination, it is essential to work each and every opening to the target area as long as possible. For example, twenty meters might be open to the USA West Coast for one or two hours each afternoon. The DXpedition operator should concentrate on USA sixes and sevens exclusively – and maybe a few western zeros – during this time. Conditions being reasonable, no other areas should be worked by this station. It might be possible to work the whole quote of western USA on a band during these short periods.
Note that this may mean ignoring closer and easier areas at these times. This is acceptable. Almost without exception, it will be impossible to work too many stations in the target area. Throughout the day, more and better openings are available – by definition – to the other areas. If too many stations are worked in the target area, it is likely that an error has been made in defining the target.
At this point one might ask what constitutes an opening. Should the DXpedition work stations at a rate of perhaps one QSO every five minutes? Does this constitute an opening? Common sense should rule here. Certainly it would be a waste of valuable time to concentrate on a target when conditions are so poor that only an infrequent QSO will take place. A rate of even one or two QSOs per minute might be reasonable if it is one of only a few openings. Rates on the low bands might be even lower.
If the DXpedition is to an all-time new country, every effort should still be made to work the target area, along with all of the other areas. DXers must understand that under some conditions, it might not be possible to work everyone on all possible bands in the time available. Such a sacrifice might be a necessary in the case of generally poor propagation. In such cases certain bands might be dedicated to one area only. As an example, a new country close to Europe might have forty or eighty meter stations dedicated to working Europeans, while separate stations might concentrate on twenty meter openings to North America and Asia. A rare entity in the Pacific will tend to work Europe during all openings to Europe. No difficulty will be encountered in keeping the QSO totals high for North America and Asia, as there are more than enough openings when the bands are closed to Europe.
Frequent monitoring of the results in various areas should be carried out in order to make sure a desirable QSO balance is obtained. Software can be utilized to point out deficiencies in QSO totals. Pilots are frequently utilized to field complaints and explain the DXpedition’s strategy. A competent operating manager, with adequate resources can produce excellent results, however.
Careful attention must be paid to the QSO balance during an expedition. The DXpedition must have a strategy to work the most difficult areas of the world, and it must communicate its strategy to DXers.
* These weekly articles published in the WeeklyDX™ are archived in the pages of The DX University. For more information on these topics, seewww.dxuniversity.com The DX University™ is an in-person learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. The next scheduled sessions will be at the International DX Convention in Visalia California, April 19, 2013. Register for the DX Academy at www.dxconvention.com