Аrticle in CQ Amateur Radio, May 2005
 
How many QSOs can one ham make in one year? A few years ago, Z35M decided to find out. We're bringing his story this month because of how closely Vlado's philosophy matches up with the pholosophy behind the CQ DX Marathon, which we're introducing elswere in the issue. A Personal QSO Marathon: 43. 300 QSOs in One Year.

A Personal QSO Marathon:

43. 300 QSOs in One Year

By Vladimir Kovaceski, ZA/Z35M
 
In year 2001 I decided to run my personal QSO Marathon with the aim of seeing how many QSOs can be made in one year, using only my home station and  personal  callsign, Z35M. The final result after 12 months of operation was  43.300 QSOs ! This, as far as I could determine, is the European one-year QSO record (single operator, one year, one call sign) and third best in the world. The better known results are those of  VP6BR (a DX-pedition from Pitcairn Island), operated by OH2BR in 2000, with 56.059 QSOs, and  KV4AA (SK), who made 48.100 QSOs in 1978 from Virgin Islands.
I want to emphasize that thos operation was not a DXpedition, and that the Republic of Macedonia, Z3 is  not listed among the 100 most wanted DXCC entities. At the same time, it is the best result ever achieved from any main-land location. At that time I was  35 years old, had a full-time job and family obligations, and managed to fulfill other social and personal activities.
Out of 365 days in the year, I was active in 350 and spent around 1.000 hours on the air. My avarage daily rate was 118,6 QSOs, and approximately three in ten contacts were with DX stations outside Europe. The best results were achieved during the second half of the Marathon, when,  for six months (July-December 2001), a total of 25.080 QSOs was made, or 136,3 QSO’s per day on avarage. In the last three months (October-December 2001), a total of 17. 200 QSOs, or 186,9 QSOs per day, was made. The last ten days of the Marathon ended with total  of 2.740 QSOs, or 274 QSOs per day. All QSOs were made on HF bands, operating CW and SSB.
This QSO record was set using modest equipment: My transcievers were an ICOM IC-745 and a Yaesu FT-101E; power 100-400 W; 2el.Quad (14/ 21/ 28 MHz) at 10m; 3 el.Yagi (14/21/28 MHz) at 14m (2m above the roof), GAP multiband vertical 2m above the ground used for 7/ 3.5/ 24 MHz, and dipole at 10m for 3,5. Nearly all QSOs were logged on paper logs (prepared by myself from ordinary A4 format notebooks, 1443 pages).
 
Seeking a New Challange
A few years earlier, in an ordinary chat with a fellow ham from Z3–land we discussed the challenges facing our hobby. We came to the conclusion that everything we had done in amateur aadio had already been achieved by someone else. In my 20-year-long ham carrear I have manage to achieve DXCC (311 confirmed), 5Band DXCC, WPX Honor Roll, 5Band WAZ (basic), and have joined extremely hight-speed telegraphy clubs (HSC,VHSC,SHSC, EHSC) e.t.c., However, there was nothing really special and unique.
Back in 1993, when the Republic of Macedonia got its Z3 prefix, we experienced pile-ups all year long. My QSO total that year was 17 900 (using my former callsign, Z32KV). I thought I will never repeat that result (obviously, I was wrong). But in 2000, when I got my new callsign, Z35M, and put up 2 - el. quad for 14,21 and 28 MHz, I managed to finish that year with 19 480 QSOs. The next year I made the record with 43 300 QSOs.
To set the record, I didn’t make any special preparations. The same antennas and equipment were used as before. I didn’t have antennas for 160, 30 or 17 m bands. No computer, an virtualy all logging was done on paper logs (I started to use a logging program in November 2001). The DX cluster was not used (remember, no computer), nor did I use any propagation predications or check the current parameters. In fact, I don't even do that now. I operate when I have free time, choosing the best band at that time.
 
A Matter of Style
Why search for DX when you can become DX? It’s not necessary to be in rare location to be DX! Every station is DX on the other side of the world. So stay at home, stay comfortable, and at the same time have tons of stations calling you (even from the semi-rare DXCC countries).
Your operating style, along with the combination of a relatively strong signal and an interesting callsign, especially if you are in a semi-rare country (althought solid results can be achieved even if you live in a country  with large ham population), can capture the attention of a lot of stations who will want to call you.
If you are going after the numbers, do not make long contacts and leave many stations waiting for you. Many of them will QSY because you are not very rare. The majority of my contacts were made with a DXpedition style (only exchange callsign and the signal report, periodically giving other details). The QSO can last only few seconds, but the good feeling and memories may last much longer. A long QSO does not guarantee good feelinga and a long memory. Remember your feelings when you work rare one - the QSO lasts only a few seconds, but you still remember that QSO.
 
Some Tips for Raising Your Numbers
Be on the air more! Some preparations are necessary, but they are required in order for us to be active on the air. Presently, we lose too much of our time making endless preparations and missing the opportunity to be on the air more. The ratio of “preparations vs. on the air activity” must be in favor of the latter.
Don't  “lose” time checking the cluster and propagation data! Turn on your radio, quickly check the bands, choose the band that seems to have possibilities for making contacts, find a free channel, and start to call CQ. Even those bands that, at the first glance, may  look dead, can become very productive after short time of CQ-ing. I’m not against using the DX Cluster and other helpful tools, but my intention is to show that we can also live without them. Our hobby is older than the DX Cluster.
Skip the contest. You can often make more QSOs outside of a contest than in the contest! That’s especially true for modest stations that are not competitive in overcrowded bands. Sometimes I decided to give up low-rate operation in small contests and QSY to a different band or mode. I continued my operation outside the contest an ended up with higher QSO rate. If you can operate during the weekdays, do it. Off the weekend, you can operate with very high rates when nothing else interesting is on the bands and you are the only attraction. I discovered a new ham radio rule during this QSO Marathon: “Nobody needs you, but everybody likes to work you”. More than 100.000 QSOs were logged with my personal callsigns from Z3-land before the QSO Marathon, but the stations were willing to call me again and again.
I never called CQ DX! Out the total of 43.300 QSOs, 12.542 were with DX stations (stations outside Europe). Nearly every third QSO was with DX station ! Such a hight percentage of DX stations worked is similar to working in the major DX contests. It’s much easier to be called by DX than to enter in the pile-up of other DX stations. Of course, most of the very rare DX stations and DXpeditions will never come and call you on your channel, and you must to go and call them. The goal of the QSO Marathon was to make as many QSOs as possible, regardless of they were DX or local. If you are looking to complete your DXCC total (especially if you are looking for very rare stations), this operating strategy is not a good choice. My most productive band was 14 MHz, especially on SSB.
Transmit! Instead of the golden rule of ham radio: “Listen, Listen and Listen”, I used the opposite philosophy: “Transmit, Transmit and Transmit”. This doesn’t mean not to ask “Is this frequency is in use?” and to carefully to listen between CQ calls to pick up the stations that are calling. Bit when the rest of the world is listening, very good results can be achieved if you transmit.
 
A Few Cautions
My approach during the QSO Marathon was extreme and  cannot be applied in general to all situations. The operating strategy was set to serve my specific goal. If you do not have the same goals, do not try this. Some of the correspondents were not very pleased with short contacts and complained. In the worst case, some frustrated operators started to make intentional QRM to disturb my operation.
Such a large number of QSOs later creates an enormous income of QSL cards. My all-time QSL collection counts 50.000 received cards (a pile of about 13m, or nearly 40 feet!) which results in problems for storage, sorting and answering. In my case, dealing with the QSL cards required more time than making all those QSOs. The managers of the Macedonian QSL Bureau  (Zlatko, Z33AA and George, Z33A) informed me that  40% of all incoming cards in the national bureau are for me!
I announced my QSO Marathon one and half months before the end of the year.  In the last few weeks I started to search the internet to find any existing Year QSO Records. This was not an easy task. I also sent a series of e-mails to some stations which in that time (or in the near past) were very active (e.g. 9K2ZZ, VP6BR, JX7DFA) and to various DX bulletins to find out whether any record of this kind exist. After all the responses, I am sure that my result is European One-Year QSO Record.
Could I have done even better? I think yes. I decided to run QSO Marathon in the middle of April 2001, after I saw that my QSO total for the first few months of the year was more than 10. 000. I was curious to see if it would be possible to make 30 000 QSOs  in a single year. Yes, 30.000 QSO’s was my initial goal. Honestly, I didn’t expect such a  result.
 
Finding the Time
How did I manage to find enough free time to run the QSO Marathon? I previously mentioned that around 1000 working hours were necessary to make this possible. Is this too much? Yes and no. That works to an average of  two to three hours per day. According one serious study, people  in my country in 2001 spent an average of five hours per day watching TV programs. In order to find free time for the QSO Marathon,  I decided to watch TV only two hours per day, and to spend the other three hours on the radio. Smart solution! 
Some days when the propagation was poor it was very difficult to make even 50 QSOs after few hours of calling CQ. Good days (outside  of contest) ended with 500 QSOs. The key strategy approach was to call CQ and make short QSOs. During good propagation and high activity it took just one hour to make needed 118 daily QSOs.
It’s very important to maximize on-the-air time. I know many operators who spent more than three hours per day in their radio rooms, but they are not on the air. Rather, they are watching DX clusters, preparing different ham-related programs, tuning the bands looking for rare DX, scanning “magic bands” where propagation is exception - hi -  e.t.c. I notice that we are talking more about ham radio than practicing it. We are shifting our attention to activities other than the classic making QSO’s. All those radios, antennas and other equipment are for making radio contacts.
"If the QSO is the backbone of our hobby, than let's do it - be active and make QSOs." - Z35M
 
Reactions of the Ham and Non Ham Community
The reaction to the results I achieved generally was very positive both in the ham and in the non-ham communities. Some of the ham magazines and DX bulletins in different countries published the results in association with positive comments. I’m aware that some of my fellow hams think that my effort was crazy and that it is pointless to make such a number of QSOs without caring about DXCC totals, ignoring long conversations on the bands, e.t.c.
The non-ham community in my country doesn’t know much about amateur radio, despite a 60-years-long tradition (the Radio Society of the Republic of Macedonia, RSM was founded in 1946), but feel that this hobby  is something special. After a short article in one of the national newspapers, Macedonian national TV, MKTV come to do a short interview with me, taking images of my station setup, antennas, a short demonstration of making QSO, e.t.c. On the micro-local level, I feel changes of the treatment of my hobby in the eyes of my neighbors (TVI victims,hi!), my family members and friends. After this result, my 2-el. quad in their eyes is not only a “spider net for catching birds”, but a useful tool to communicate world wide and to set records. Some of my closest friends and family members visit me, together with their kids, and ask for QSO demonstration. Before that, they refused to talk about this “crazy hobby”. Here in the Balkans, where the standard of living is not as high as in the western world, to be a ham means “to lose valuable time of daily survival for unnecessary activities”.
I’m still very active on the air. In the last five years a total of 140.000 QSOs was made using my personal callsigns from Macedonia, Z3, and from Albania, ZA, where I temporary live and work. (This works out to an average of  28.000 QSOs per year, five years in the row, since 2000).
My all-time total (as of 31 December 2004) is 169.271 QSOs using my personal callsigns from Macedonia (YU5KV, 4N5KV, Z32KV, Z350KV, Z3100M and Z35M), and 61.500 QSOs from Albania using ZA/Z35M (June 2002 – December 2004).
Since 1984 I have made an additional 25.000 QSOs as a guest operator at various other stations, including ZA1MH, ZA1B, ZA1A, ZA1AJ, ZA1UT, YU5FCA, Z37FCA, Z30SVP, Z30A RZ4FWA, YU0HN, YU6GAH, and LZ1RDF. My overall total for 21 years is approximately 260. 000 QSOs.
 
Again?
Can I repeat this kind of effort? Yes, but not in the near future. My callsign Z35M, is in too many logbooks. Maybe in a few more years... semi-rare country, interesting callsign, sunspot maximum, modest equipment, plenty of free time, and I can go for 60.000, even 100.000 in a single year. This is not an easy task, but it is not impossible. Just one request: Please do not tell my wife about these plans!
It’s not easy for the rest of the family to have a ham living with them. Imagine having one of the most active operators under the same roof. I would like to thank my wife Dijana (non ham), my daughter Mihaela (9) and son Gorjan (3), who was not born at time of the QSO Marathon, for their tolerance than and now. I dedicate this QSO Marathon to them.