I wouldn't use the ZL9HR dxpedition as a guide to how well your antenna is receiving.
Just about everybody on eham had difficulty receiving them. Whenever their signal
broke out of the noise it was quite readable. I am using a hex beam at 25 feet and
have been able to work all but a couple of this years' dxpeditions with little problem
WHEN the noise allowed. So don't expect too much from small antennas, as the
guys with fantastic signals and can hear a flea bat it's eyes usually have fantastic
arrays at hundred or more feet.
I second this observation. This is a sample size = 1 and can't be inferred to be the norm. Additionally, solar flux fell fairly dramatically from the beginning of their operation to the last day, so their signals on 10, 12, and even 15 were much weaker toward the end of their operation. How did you do with some of the recent DXPeditions in the Caribbean or Africa?
Finally, what is your noise floor? If it is high, say ~-110db then you might want to investigate the possibility of excessive HF noise pollution in your vicinity. Even strong signals can be buried by high noise and make operation frustrating. There are lots of good posts in this Forum and on the Elmers Forum for ascertaining if you're victim of noise pollution - just do a simple search.
GL, 73, Rich, K3VAT