I didn't start hearing the satellite until it was 5 deg. above the horizon according to my tracking program. However, from there on the signal was quite strong. I had one big fade around 5 deg. above setting. But then, the signal continued even after the satellite should have passed behind my horizon! Obviously, the keplerian elements I used:
were a bit off, and the satellite is probably audible roughly horizon-to-horizon. Update 2009-12-20 Don't use these keps. They were off when I posted this, and they are really off now.
This is impressive because I have a very meager receiving system right now, just a 1/4 wave vertical made from house wiring attached directly to a N-connector. That, in turn, connects to a 3m length of LMR-400 coaxial cable, which attaches to a low-noise preamp. With this arrangement, I can hear all the CW beacons I want, even the 80mW ones from the cubesats. According to the AMSAT news service, the beacon of XW-1 is 200mW. The result was a signal that didn't necessarily seem stronger, but rather seemed less subject to fades.
In a situation like this, where we don't know exactly where the satellite is in the sky, an omni-directional antenna like my vertical is really quite a bit more fun than big yagis. A highly directional antenna might well be pointing only 20 deg. off from the bird and therefore receiving nothing. I've had that experience, where I'm trying to manually adjust the antenna array and the doppler-shifted frequency at the same time, looking for two needles in a haystack at the same time, as it were. With an omni, there's less hunting.
That said, the ideal to which I am aiming is to have omni-directional antennas and a highly directional array at the same time, with coaxial switching between them, providing the best of both worlds.