At the end of last year, I was asked to make some predictions about the 2019 DX Marathon. That seemed like a simple request, so I predicted that we would have about 10% fewer participants, as much as a 20% drop in total QSO’s and only a few minor records would be broken – I could not have been more wrong!!! When the numbers were tallied, it showed that participant and log levels were identical with last year and QSO numbers were only slightly under last year. Participation increased in Europe and North America although there was a drop in participation from South America. New records? We had an almost 50% increase in new all-time records! 2019 was an incredible year considering we had some of the worst band conditions in many years. The DX Marathon is really helping to keep the bands active. Almost more amazing is that the average score of all participants, across all classes, bands and modes increased by 17% over 2018! It is truly amazing that even poor band conditions can produce some incredible results. Figures 1 and 2 show that overall DX Marathon participation remains strong despite the lack of sunspots.
FIGURE 1 FIGURE 2
With the lack of sunspots, DX signals are weaker, but the multitude of digital modes have allowed anyone to work DX. The weak signal capability of the digital modes has kept activity high in the DX Marathon. Digital modes accounted for 60% of all QSOs in the Marathon – an incredible increase from less than 20% in 2015. The FT4 and FT8 modes accounted for most of those digital contacts. As a result, Phone contacts have dropped to only 16% of the total QSOs submitted. CW has fallen as well but only by a few percentage points. Figure 3 shows the change over the last few years. As a result of the growing interest in FT8/FT4, we also had an increase in the number of participants seeking single mode awards, specifically digital. See Figure 4. With almost 20% of all participants going after the Digital only award, competition was significant.
FIGURE 3 FIGURE 4
The maximum possible score in 2019 was 327, a slight drop of 6 entities from 2018, but still very impressive considering the band conditions. Even with the drop in the maximum possible score, 30 All-time records were broken! Some happy hams now have their calls in the DX Marathon record books. The new records were quite varied with only seven of the 30 new records related to Digital. As expected, the top scores on the higher HF bands were low, but for the first time, the top 160 meter score was higher than the top scores on the 6, 10, 12 and 17 meter bands!
And the Winners Are….
Winning the DX Marathon takes a lot of time and patience. Missing a single entity can cause a lot of frustration. Serge, R6YY, has been a big supporter of the DX Marathon for years and has placed in the Top 5 of Unlimited Class for each of the last 4 years. 2019 was the magic year for Serge and his total score of 322 placed him number one in Unlimited Class! In second place was Marvin, VE3VEE, with a score of 321 – done completely on 20 meters! Oms, PY5EG and Eduard, OM3EY, both previous DX Marathon winners, tied for third at 317. John, K2ZJ, finished in 5th place at 315, improving from last year’s 6th place finish. Only 3 points separated the finishers in positions 6 through 15!
In the Limited Class category, congratulations to Jim, K1PTF, who moved from Unlimited Class in 2018 to Limited in 2019 and took the top spot with a score of 288. Jim uses a hex beam plus wire antennas. Second and third place positions went to E76C at 279 and TA4RC at 276. In Formula Class, 100 watt option, the winner is once again James, K2JL, with a very impressive score of 297 points! Jim was the Formula Class winner last year and increased his score from last year. Karel, OK2FD, came very close to Jim in second place with a score of 295. Karel was last year’s winner in the 5 Watt category. Working the Marathon with wire antennas is a real challenge with no sunspots. Even more difficult is working DX with QRP power. Surprisingly, we saw a big increase in the number of QRP submissions in 2019. Congratulations to Milan, OK2AP, for winning the QRP category with an impressive score of 279 points! Bruno, ON6QRP, finished in second place with a score of 238.
Each year about 25% of the DX Marathon participants choose to submit scores for a single mode. In 2019 there was an overall increase in single mode submissions, including a big jump in Digital only submissions along with an increase in CW submissions. Phone only submissions continue to fall. Lada, OK2PAY, continues his love of CW and is now a five-time CW plaque winner. Lada topped the world with his CW only score of 311. Dick, PA3FQA, came in second with a very impressive score of 289. The top North America CW score went to Norm, W4QN, who is a consistent Top 5 finisher. Both Lada and Norm will soon hold a beautiful DX Marathon plaque for their efforts. The Digital only category again saw increases in total scores, coming very close to the top CW scores and easily surpassing the top Phone scores. The ability of FT8 to work with weak signals clearly was responsible for the score increases. This year’s Digital winner is no stranger to finishing at the top. Bill, K2TQC, the Unlimited Class winner for the last two years, decided to concentrate on Digital for 2019 and came out on top with a score of 307. In addition, he set a new all-time high score for Digital only submissions. Last year’s Digital winner Jan, OM5XX, came in second at 298 points. Phone only submissions continue to fall, but the top two scores were separated by only one point! Gert, PA2LO, who has finished second the last two years moved to the number one position with a score of 269. Julio, W4HY, came in second at 268. Thanks for keeping Phone DX alive!
In addition to the overall and Mode plaques, each year we award plaques to the top score on each Continent plus the highest score on each of the 10 through 80 meter bands. Top honors for Africa went to CT3MD with his top score of 292. The next four positions all went to ZS stations – nice the see the activity from Africa. In Asia, JE1FQV, with a score of 310, narrowly beat last year’s winner JA0DAI by only one point. The battle for the European top score is always close but R6YY and OM3EY always seem to be fighting for the top spot. This year R6YY, our Unlimited Class winner finished on top at 322, closely followed by last year’s winner, OM3EY, at 317. In Oceania, YB5QZ took top honors with a score of 310, after finishing second last year. ZL2IFB finished in second with a score of 294. The North America plaque this year is awarded to Marvin, VE3VEE, who not only finished number one in North America with a score of 321 but also had the top 20 meter score. Marvin will add to his collection of DX Marathon plaques. K2ZJ came in second at 315. Oms, PY5EG, one of the top DX Marathon winners since the beginning of the Marathon, took home top South America honors with a score of 317.
About 10% of DX Marathon participants submit single band scores each year and 2019 was no different. For the 2019 single band competitions, there were very few entries for the 10, 12, 15, 17 bands, but the winners for those four bands were all from Brazil! 10 meters was won by PY2TMV with an amazing score of 142! PY2LCD had the top 12 meter score of 160. The 15 meter winner was PU2WSQ with his winning score of 243, narrowly beating PU2WDF at 239 – a repeat of last year’s top two positions. Top score on 17 was from PY2TUA with a total of 196 points. VE3VEE was once again the king of 20 meters with the very good score of 321. 20 meters was the hot band for 2019, as Marvin’s 20 meter only score put him in 2nd place overall worldwide. EA1DR switched to 30 meters this year and continued his winning ways with the top score of 270. PP5JR and W9KNI had a tie score of 289 for 40 meters. In a tie situation, the winner is determined by the earliest date of the last point scored. PP5KR will win the 40 meter plaque for 2019. Bob, W9KNI, came very close to continuing his 40 meter win streak and we congratulate both on their excellent 40 meter scores. The 80 meter plaque was won by PY7DJ with a very impressive score of 247. AA9A came in second at 205. Congratulations to all the single Band plaque winners. The top 160 meter score of 214 will earn K9RX a nice certificate for taking top honors on top band. I4EAT was once again king of 6 meters with his score of 130. New in 2019 were two submissions for 60 Meter single band. We want to recognize W1NG who took top honors on 60 with a score of 156. Later this year we plan to formally announce DX Marathon awards for the 60 Meter band.
In addition to the 2019 Plaque winners, we will award 110 Certificates of Achievement for various categories. Please consult the listings for the calls of the certificate winners. Certificates are awarded for the highest 6 meter and 160 meter scores, top Continental score for each of the three modes, top score in each country, top score in each CQ zone, top score in each Canadian call district, top score in each USA call area for each of the four DX Marathon classes plus the top single mode score in the USA. Congratulations to all the 2019 certificate winners!
Despite the conditions, 30 All-time records were broken in 2019. New records included nine new country records, seven new USA Call Area records, six new Continental mode records, three new Zone records, three new USA Mode records, a new 160 meter record and a new Digital record. Even with reduced conditions, breaking records is still very possible.
In the popular Club competition, the CDR Group in Brazil once again took top honors with an aggregated score of 10,597. The battle for second place was very close, with the Araucaria DX Group beating the Northern Illinois DX Association by only 33 points. NIDXA is the sponsor of the top three DX Marathon plaques. Don’t forget to include your club name on your 2020 DX Marathon submission.
Each year the DX Marathon website publishes a large amount of information to help participants minimize errors in their submissions. The Helpful Hints page can be accessed from the DX Marathon home page. In 2019, we published approximately 1,300 callsign exceptions and notes to help every participant reduce the number of errors in their submissions. We also recommend that you regularly update your logging program callsign database if it has one. Unusual callsign prefixes seem to multiply every year, so updating your program’s database is critical to properly determine the DX location and/or Zone.
In 2019, the number of participants with no errors was about the same as 2018 - 22%, but we did see a significant drop in the overall QSO error rate to 1.5% - the lowest ever recorded in the DX Marathon since electronic scoring was initiated. Perhaps more participants are using the information we provide on the DX Marathon website, plus there is less chance of callsign errors when operating on FT8. The highest error category in 2019 was Wrong Zone at almost 29% of all errors. This is a significant increase from 2018. Confusion with USA Zones is one of the biggest sources of Zone errors. It is very important to note that USA callsign numbers are no longer required to match their QTH. A W6 could be in New York, or a KL7 could be in Puerto Rico. In addition to the USA, there are many special callsigns in Russia that do not follow the traditional callsign mapping, thus creating many errors in zones 16,17,18 and 19. Zone 2 also continues to be a problem. Very few VE2 stations are located in Zone 2 – most are in Zone 5. The DX Marathon website does list the most active Zone 2 stations. The next highest category was Invalid Callsigns – callsigns that were entered by participants, but do not actually exist. These callsign errors were 25% of all errors. Wrong Country accounted for 24% of all score reductions, a nice drop from 2018. Busted Calls remained at the 19% level. There were many unique callsigns used in 2019 so it is critical to review your DX Marathon submission carefully. The number of bad spots on the DX Clusters remains a big problem.
When logging a QSO from a DX spot, listen carefully to the DX station to make sure the callsign is logged correctly. 45% of all point subtractions were due to Busted or Incorrect callsigns. Some Invalid callsigns may have been busted calls that were so bad that we could not determine the real callsign. Once again there were many mix-ups between “0” (Zero) and “O” (Oh). The computer is not forgiving, so check your log carefully! There are also mix-ups in Dates, with different parts of the world using different Date formats. The database that is used for scoring the DX Marathon includes start and end dates for all major expeditions, so please make sure that dates and times are properly logged along with the callsign, country and zone for each QSO. Not In Log reductions dropped from 2018. With more logs being posted online, it is easy to check if you are in the log before entering that QSO in the DX Marathon. We do publish a lot of helpful information on the DX Marathon website, but there is nothing we can do to make sure you are in the log.
As part of this issue you will find a complete listing of all scores plus a listing of the Top Scores in all available categories. The DX Marathon website will include additional information and details on the 2019 results plus photos of plaque winners as they become available. For any questions or comments about the DX Marathon, please contact the author. Thank you for your participation in 2019 and best of luck in 2020.