Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Cass Award

The Cass Award

Presented annually, the Cass Award encourages DXPeditions to maximize the number of DXers worked with a $1000 prize for the single-operator DXpedition that works the most unique callsigns within a 4-week interval. This award honors the wisdom and spirit of Cass WA6AUD (SK), whose stories in the West Coast DX Bulletin taught a generation of DXers that DX IS! The timely story below is written in WA6AUD's style.

Too Many Awards

Well, I dreamed I saw the lights on the cluster flashing,
Saying something about a spot.
There were call signs listed and
Callers calling
And alarms were going off.
There was a pileup building
On the band
That was growing like a fire.
Hear the DX station pound the key
On fourteen oh two three.
Hear the DX station pound the key
On fourteen oh two three.
One of the Local QRPers came by the other day with purpose in his stride and a glare in his eye. It was a warm, spring day, and we were sitting on the verandah with the window open. There was mostly hissing as the rig scanned a rather dead band. It was one of those lulls in the afternoon when the bands take a rest before the early evening flurry of activity. As we watched the QRPer beat his way up the hill we had the usual twinge of anxiety. We never really understood it, but we suspected it was a bit of the residual fight or flight primordial protection. For while these Local QRPers sometimes bring amusement and even a bit of newfound DX information, they often cause enough aggravation to make it wise to exit before the show begins.
We waited a bit too long, as the QRPer made eye contact, and our escape was blocked. This one was a bit overweight, sleek of head, and wearing a baseball cap. He made his way up the steps and flopped into the chair beside us, needing a few seconds to catch his breath before he began. This one seemed to be carrying the weight of a heavy load on his shoulders. "Tell me", he said, staring at us with his beady little eyes, "Why do the pileups never die down? Why is it after 10, 12, even 15 days the hordes are still calling?" We looked at him with the usual poker face and said, "How so? Things always are crazy the first few days, but after a week no matter how rare, the din subsides and the spread narrows.
It was like we threw gasoline on a fire! "Not always true!" he shouted at us, leaning closer and waving his finger in the air. "When I first started there were more DXers and more Hams than today. And now it seems that every time there is a new one on, the pileups are bigger and they last days longer! I hear the same calls on every band and every mode working the DXpedition over and over! It isn't fair. I have a tribander and a 500 watt amp, and still I have to fight for hours to try to get a contact. Sometimes for days! And I know most of the calls in the pileup have worked the DX before! Some of them are #1 Honor Roll, and still they are in there calling and calling! Why is that?
We thought about it for a bit and then said, "You missed that rare one that was activated a few weeks ago, right?" NO!!" was the quick retort, "Not at all!!" I got them on the third day on 20 CW and then a backup on 17 phone, but I spent endless hours calling and calling. He was S9 most of the time, but I heard stations calling him who I know had it confirmed from 15-20 years ago, and others who I heard work them an hour earlier on 20 phone! I checked the Internet log and some of them had them worked 6-7 times the first day! 40 phone, 40 CW, 30 RTTY, 17 CW, 15 phone, 10 CW! Why do they need to keep calling and calling and making it harder for me? They have monobanders and stacks and big amplifiers, and all that sophisticated software that sets off alarms when the DX shows on any band or mode they haven't logged them on. At the end of one of the operations last year, I saw a few calls that had 26-27 QSOs with the same DXpedition!! Why do they do this?
Are they duping them on the same band and mode?, we asked. No, but you only need one CW QSO and one phone QSO and one digital QSO to satisfy the DXCC. So what is the point of working them on 160 through 10 on CW? And on 160 through 10 on phone? And 160 through 10 on RTTY or PSK or whatever other mode they show up on? And 160 is really tough, so if you happen to get lucky enough to log them on 160M CW, why are there DX Cluster comments begging for 160 SSB? It makes no sense!
We were starting to see the point the QRPer was making and, although we were pretty sure of the answer, we decided to get a second opinion. So we hauled the Local QRPer up the hill a bit further to consult with the Old Timer. The Old Timer had his amp apart on the bench and was replacing the plate choke. Resonates on 25 MHz and I nearly burnt it out trying to tune this thing for 12, he explained, so I'm moving it up to 26-27 MHz. I need full power for all the bands and this thing was designed before we had 30/17/12.
The QRPer didn't seem interested in the amp redesign, and launched right into his story, with pacing back and forth and wiping the sweat off of his upper lip. Occasionally he stopped to stare at the Old Timer to make sure he was listening. The Old Timer was winding his plate choke and checking it with his grid dip meter.
He looked at the choke with a slight smile of satisfaction. Then he turned to the QRPer and said, "How many have you got worked and confirmed?" The QRPer stopped for a second, and then replied, "It is number 281 worked and I have 277 confirmed. Why?" The Old Timer added half a turn of wire, made a final measurement and put the choke down on the bench. "I've got all 340 confirmed, and with deletions, I think I'm somewhere around 366. Know why I'm working on this amp?" The QRPer stopped pacing and answered, "So you can work DX on 12 meters." "Right", the Old Timer replied.
The QRPer scratched his head and said, "But if you have all of them worked, why do you need them on 12? You have them on other bands . . . wait! I get it! You are after 12 meter DXCC, right?" "Nope, got that with 100 watts 5 years ago." "Then why work them on 12 if you already have 12 meter DXCC?" The Old Timer looked back and stated the obvious, "The DXCC Challenge. Only have 168 on 12."
Enlightenment! The QRPer jumped up and exclaimed, "I get it! The reason for the big pileups on every band is because everyone is chasing the DXCC Challenge! OK, it still makes my life difficult, but I see the reason." Then his face took on a puzzled look and he said, "But wait a minute! Red-Eyed Louie has well over 300 on 12, and I hear him in there chasing every DXpedition. Chasing stuff I know he has verified by the DXCC Desk on 12 meters. Why is he doing that?" We had the answer for that, and before the Old Timer could speak, we simply said, "CQ DX Marathon.".
The QRPer stepped back and looked at us. He wasn't happy. "That's the one that starts over every year at zero! Another award to contend with. OK, so that adds to the pileups too. But why are there DXers in there calling on every mode on every band?" We spoke in unison with The Old Timer "Leader boards."
Son of a Gun! The QRPer threw his baseball cap on the floor, clenched his fists and screamed, "So I have to compete with the regular DXers, the DX Challenge guys, the CQ DX Marathon and now this Leader board thing!! That's not fair! There are too many awards.
We thought for a moment and said, "There is no award for the Leader board. It's just a competition to see who can get their call into the on-line logs the most, and who can do it the fastest.
"This is ridiculous!", the sleek-headed QRPer yelled. "All you bored old fellows are tying up the DX to get awards that are less important than the basic DXCC! And in some cases, there is no award at all! No wonder I can't get through for a week." He glared at us and let out a growl of exasperation and frustration. "How can we fix this?" The Old Timer shrugged and said, "It isn't broken. There is nothing to fix. DX IS! Who told you that the basic, mixed DXCC was the most important award? Just remember, son, that DX IS!
"What do you mean? You two have been saying that forever and it makes no sense! DX IS! DX IS! What does that mean? I want to work everything on the DXCC list, and that's what is important. He threw up his arms in frustration, stomped, out and ran down the hill. The Old Timer looked at the crumpled baseball cap on the floor, "Hope he doesn't sunburn his head.
We turned to the Old Timer and said, "Good thing we didn't mention WPX. Lot of those DXpeditions get new prefixes. Some of the fellows are looking for new zones too." The Old Timer picked up his plate choke and looked at it carefully. Then he said, "Lot of the DXers who have thousands of QSLs never send in for any awards, either." We nodded in agreement, "For many of the QRPers, this is the hardest of the Eternal Enigmas to understand, and one of the biggest Mysteries of the Ages. It isn't the chase to work them all, or to fill in bands and modes. Or to get an award to put on the wall. It's to understand that DX IS!
And with that we left the Old Timer to work on his amp. We walked back down to the house and into the shack to wait for the polar path to open to Asia. Some times things can't be put into words, and this was one of them. DX IS! Follow the advice of Lord Baden Powell, the Hero of Mafeking, and Be Prepared. Be prepared for big pileups. Huge pileups with a lot of familiar calls!
by Paul VE1DX

Hugh Cassidy - WA6AUD
Hugh Cassidy, or "Cass" as he was known, began the West Coast DX Bulletin (WCDXB) 1968, publishing it for 11 years, every week, without missing one . . . and he and his XYL Virginia did it alone! That's right, a two person publishing team who used the cover "The Marin County DX Group." At its peak, the WCDXB had a circulation of 3200 . . . 2600 in the US, Canada and Mexico and 600 overseas. This was all done by hand by these two people! Their equipment in the shack consisted of a Multilith 1250 offset printing press, a big camera and a processor for making the paper printing plates.
The WCDXB had the usual DXpedition information and propagation forecasts, etc. However, what made it unique was Cass's editorial every week where he put a humorous spin on the DX events of the day. He did this by inventing a unique writing style, along with a number of fictitious characters that argued about DXing, DXpeditions and almost anything else that was controversial at the time. In the limelight were the Local QRPers. They were not QRP operators in the true sense . . . in fact many of them had respectable linear amplifiers and a few even had monobanders to go with the extra power. They were deemed to be DXers with country totals somewhere between 100 and 150. They had enough experience to ask the right questions, but never really understanding the answers. The Locals had the interest, energy and motivation. They wanted to know everything about DXing, and they were the ones who were always seeking the true meaning of DX IS, trying to understand the Mysteries of the Ages, the Inevitable Truths and the Eternal Enigmas of DXing.
The Old Timer knew everything about DX and DXing. He had everything worked, and had grown up with amateur radio. It was rumored he was there when the first DXCC QSO was made in 1945. He never tired of DXing and was always ready for the next new one. The old Timer had all the answers, but it was difficult to get him to share them with the QRPers. The Old Timer was both patient and impatient at the same time, realizing that in many cases if you had to ask the question, you wouldn't understand the answer! Sunspot Louie watched the solar flux and the Ap index. His cousin, Red-Eyed Louie, was forever spending long days and nights tuning the bands . . . he always knew where the DX was, when it was on, etc. His legendary red eyes came from scanning the dials looking for DX to report, and, more recently, from watching DX Cluster screens. There was the Legion of Handwringers, the malcontents who were forever finding something to worry and complain about. The Hero of Mafeking, a relative of Baden Powell, was always around prior to DXpeditions warning the Deserving DXers to "Be prepared!"
The Palos Verdes Sundancers were the ones who brought on the solar cycles . . . they first appeared near the bottom of Cycle 20 when QST was reporting the possibility of another Maunder Minimum. There was historical evidence that there was a time some hundreds of years ago when there were no sunspots for a period of about seventy years. This fact was discovered by someone named Maunder, hence the name. In order to prevent such a dire reoccurrence, the Palos Verdes Sundancers got out their grass skirts and the big bass bongo, Big DX, and danced up the sunspots every 11 years or so. The problem with the Sundancers was that after they got the flux up, they lost interest and stopped dancing This plunged us into another cycle minimum and they had to be coaxed into doing it all over again.
Terms such as The Great Days of DXing, Only The Deserving, Be a Believer, and of course DX IS! all came from the wit and wisdom of Hugh Cassidy and the WCDXB. We still hear these phrases today being used by seasoned DXers and newcomers alike, some perhaps not even aware of their origin. Nevertheless, they have become part of the DX experience, jargon exchanged by true-blue DXers in their quest for just one more new one!
In 1979, Hugh Cassidy decided to cease publication of the WCDXB. In his own words, "In simple truth, the bulletin was taking all our time every day of the week. There were times when I would work until two or three in the morning on the bulletin and then go right back to work when we arose in the morning." When Hugh ceased publication, there were other editors who claimed they were the successor to Cass. This is not entirely true. Again, in Hugh Cassidy's own words: "On the WCDXB, I was the only editor. I ran its course and knocked it on the head when I got to the point where I had to end it. If some say they are the successor, it is not quite true. One group wanted to buy the mailing list, I sold that. I never did sell the bulletin." Cass went on to be the DX Editor for CQ Magazine for 10 years.
WA6AUD was elected to the CQ Magazine DX Hall of Fame not a DXpeditioner, but because of his literary contributions to DXing. And this honor was well deserved. Absolutely.
We miss the WCDXB. WA6AUD's legacy lives on in the minds of the Deserving True-Blue DXers, who, for the most part, have come to understand the true meaning of DX IS! Cass made us laugh at ourselves. He made us think about DXers and DXing! He showed us our strengths and weaknesses, and most of all, he made us better DXers.
  • The State of DXing - a story by Cass from the 1979-05-23 issue of the West Coast DX Bulletin
  • DX Stories - written in Cass' style by Paul VE1DX
The Cass Award will be presented each March to the single-operator DXpedition that during the previous year worked the most unique callsigns.
  • To qualify as a DXpedition, the operation must take place in a single DXCC entity in which the operator does not reside or own property.
  • To qualify as a single-operator DXpedition, all QSOs must be have been made by one operator.
  • If a submitted log encompasses QSOs made over an interval longer than 4 weeks, only QSOs from the first 4 weeks will be counted unless a later starting date and time is specified.
  • Logs must be completely uploaded to Club Log before 0000Z on February 1st.
  • Logs will be checked against a list of known active callsigns; callsigns not found in this list for which positive confirmation cannot be obtained will not count toward this award.
Submit your DXpedition's log by exporting an ADIF file from your logging application and uploading it to the DXpedition's station callsign account in Club Log before 0000Z on February 1st. Each QSO record in this file must include the following fields:
  • CALL
  • BAND
  • MODE
Then send an email message declaring your participation to ; if your log encompasses QSOs made over an interval longer than 4 weeks and you wish to specify a start time other than that of the first QSO, specify this start time in the message.

Contributions to the Cass Award have been made by:
To add your name to this list, send an email message to .

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