A couple of days ago I had a reply to a CQ call from a German station, the signal was very strong but after many connect attempts all I saw was a callsign. The signal sounded distorted, probably due to over driving the radio. I couldn’t send him an email as he didn’t show one on qrz.com
I find that running 1/4 to 1/2 max power and little to no ALC seems to give the most reliable comms.
Working 10,000 to 11,000 mile paths to fairly ordinary antenna equipped stations (G to VK and ZL) seems reasonably easy with my modest doublet on 20m. No need to run QRO or “flat out”.