yep.. I won 2 contests as a non-advantaged member. I may not have won that much, but I was always in the top 10 for the month. That to me is more of a personal goal than just winning a contest.
I too loved the challenge of getting the image at the start of the contest and tried to come up with something decent enough to post within a 2-3 hour window of said contest opening. And so long as it gets 20-30 votes I'm happy with the result. That usually means a 10 ten finish.
like others have said, so long as you submit it in the first day and not on the third
you have a pretty fair shot. Because really it is not when the image is posted that counts, its the quality of the images that matter.
(I have since learned after about a year of me saying sorry out of votes and getting told "hey stupid leave some for the late entries") I now only give out about a handful of votes at the very start on day 1 (to those who do pay to play). Then save the rest for day 2 & 3. I still end up with 5 votes at the very very end of the contest. I also start from the back, the recent option (for those who posted late) and work my way to the front on day 2 & 3 to make sure that I get to the people who didn't get that advantage of posting early.