Dreaming of the "Big One"
A Real Story told by the Author
As seen in NCJ May-June 1998
Renato Bellucci ZP5XF

When I first got involved in contesting in 1993, I did not suppose that a few years later my hobby's main goal would be to win plaques in all possible contesting events.
Competing in a contest and not aiming at the top positions, is like going out fishing and not dreaming of catching a big game fish. When you consider that in order to take part in a Contest you have to sacrifice such things as time with your wife and children, a few good meals and many precious hours of sleep, you understand that at least the illusion of winning the sought after plaque is the only thing that can make up for all these privations!

ZP5XF's Shack
My biggest Odyssey ever, was the preparation and participation for this year's CQWW SSB. The preparation and the participation are equally important and add to one thing in the final score. Many things have to be taken into consideration when preparing for a contest. The choice of the best possible contesting QTH is perhaps the most important. Also, when you consider that during the 48 hours of a major contest your station has to adapt to the most varied propagation conditions to all and any parts of the world, and that many times you'll be working stations just above the noise level of the band, finding a "silent" QTH has to be a top priority. There are hours during a contest, when you can bet there will be no propagation to anywhere...you still hear the stations calling as a mysterious echo and you know you are being heard out of pure strength.
My present contesting QTH is definitely the perfect contesting QTH. The location is Villa Elisa, a small country town just 15 miles to the South of Asuncion. The family farm is located in a beautiful valley at just a few hundred yards from the Paraguay River. On the opposite shore is Argentinean territory. My family bought the land to build a weekend home (and fishing in the Paraguay River can be quite rewarding). At the time, I hardly realised that 20 years later it would also prove to be the perfect contesting QTH.
Professional studies conducted by a crew from RCA, which had been hired by the Government to spot the best places in Paraguay to locate repeaters and all different kinds of antenna systems, showed clearly that the Villa Elisa Valley was the perfect place.
ZP5XF Antennas
So, here I am putting up my 15 meters stacked array in "Contesting Paradise". Tower and antenna work started the week prior to the 1997 CQWW SSB contest and ended only a few hours before the beginning. The final setup looks impressive and is definitely a landmark in this isolated part of the country. Two things proved to be a lifetime lesson for future endeavours: lacking the time to put up a lightning protection system and reasonable pre-contesting activity, I was forced to unplug every coaxial for over 6 hours due to a major lightning "El Niño style" storm.
You can't imagine how frustrating it can be having to go QRT in the middle of a JA pile-up due to a total lack of lightning protection!
Lack of pre-contest activity proved to be a major disadvantage too because I was not prepared for the unique operation characteristics in the Villa Elisa Valley and I found myself learning as I was competing.
48 hours and 3665 contacts later I was still dreaming of the plaque...I do know now that whatever is left unresolved, will leave a door open for Mr. Murphy - of "Murphy's Law fame - to show up. And so he did. My only consolation is having broken my country's all time score in the CQWW and knowing that next year is still free to keep dreaming.

Renato Belucci, ZP5XF

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