Some observations -
I started the contest on 20 meters, but after an hour or so the band shut down entirely. After hearing several EU stations early about the only ones audible an hour later were some weak stations from the Caribbean and South America. I switched to 40.
40 was in pretty good shape on Friday night/Saturday morning, I thought. Lot's of EU - I guess they all moved from 20, too - and I worked several up until around midnight, when I took a glance at 80. Even 80 seemed to be in fine shape, but my luck getting through to Europe was hit or miss. Some stations heard me fine, others couldn't hear me at all. I knew 160 was out of the question with my vertical. That's something I need to remedy at some point.
Things slowed a great deal on 40 and 80, so I pulled the plug for some quick shuteye. Saturday morning around 7 am Eastern was one of the best times for me on 20 - I probably had my best S&P of the entire contest. The hex really did a fine job into EU and a little beyond. By 10 am, however, it seemed to be thinning out and I took another break. I kept checking 15 from time to time, worked a few, but nothing ever seemed to open up the entire contest from my location.
Saturday afternoon and night I camped on 40 after a brief period on 20 around 3 pm. The JA's were rolling in nicely on 20 and I managed to snag a few before it quieted. Saturday evening was probably the highlight of the contest for me, as I worked several new countries, mostly on 40 - let's just hope that they QSL via LOTW.
Sunday morning didn't prove as fruitful on 20, but I still was able to work many Europeans and keep the QSO total climbing. Late afternoon was spent on 40 and, again, a couple of new ones popped up for me before the contest ended.
Radios and Peripherals
Try as I may to force myself to use the FT1000 MP, I just keep coming back to the K2 every time. I only have the stock filters on the Yaesu, so that's probably a big factor why I find myself happier using the K2 for CW. But I also love the QSK of the K2 compared to the Yaesu - no clicking relays to distract me. Having the second receiver on the Yaesu is fantastic for DXing, but not so much for contesting - at least I'm not at the skill level yet where I can take advantage of it. I've got to make a decision soon. Do I add some filters to the Yaesu or put it on the market?
My WinKeyer USB continues to be problematic at times. The latest oddity was whenever I'd resort to the paddle to resend my call or state, or to send a little slower, it would often jump upwards in speed - from my usual 25/26 wpm setting to 35 wpm or more. Frustrating, very frustrating. Sorry to those I worked who must've thought I'd lost my marbles. I know a lot of people rave about it, but this is the second issue I've had with mine. I need to check if there's firmware updates or workarounds available. Of course, during the contest is NOT the time to think about that :) It'll go on my list of things to do.
Pardon me while I jump up and down for a few seconds about how well the hex performed on 20. Both mornings I mostly left it parked at 40 degrees towards Europe, only spinning it southward a few times to work South American or African stations having trouble hearing me. In the afternoons, I'd spin it westward to work JA's. I couldn't even hear the JA's on my vertical. A HUGE difference.
I continue to be amazed at how patient almost everyone is to dig out calls and make sure that the exchanges are right. Several stations took the time for me to repeat my call and I heard them doing it for everyone.
There was an ugly side, however. On Saturday afternoon I was working some stations on the upper part of 20 and a well-known station from the Southwest that has won several SSB contests decided to use brute force to make QSO's. Maybe this is the way some guys do it at the top, I don't know. But his actions were reprehensible. I got the feeling that he sat at his radio thinking, "Let me show these folks how it's done." Tromping over exchanges and sending his call 5 or 6 times repeatedly while the DX operator tried to get the calls of other stations. He was relentless and rude. Of course I won't go over the line and list the callsign of the LID but several stations were rather vocal in their displeasure of his actions. And, unfortunately, I had the misfortune of running into him 4 or 5 times.
But that was by far and away the exception. Otherwise, it was a really enjoyable contest for me and has become one of my favorites. I hope everyone had fun.