HF Contesting, Tips and Techniques
Introducing the ‘Tips and Techniques’ section..
There is always room at the top in the sport of HF Contesting, but there are many people who will be trying to get there. Along the path to your goal, two things make the most difference: Experience and Knowledge. This section helps you with the latter, by providing you with tips and techniques from some of the world’s top contesters.
Frequently Asked Questions about Contesting
This page is designed for the complete novice to contesting, and answers all those questions you were too embarrassed to ask on the email lists !
Q. What’s it all about ?
A. Licensed Radio Amateurs organize contests to improve their communications skills. These contests are open to all Amateurs who wish to take part as long as your license allows you to operate on the bands and in the modes being used.
Q. Do I have to pay to take part ?
A. No, there is no charge to enter.
Q. Do I have to register beforehand, or tell the organizers that I want to join in ?
A. No, you don’t have to tell anyone before you enter. Simply turn up and start operating. The only time you have to tell others beforehand is in a group Field Day contest, where the organizers want to know where your portable location is.
Q. How do I know what contests are taking place ?
A. Find a Contest Calendar. These are published in many of the Amateur magazines, or on the Internet. Check my Contesting Links page HERE for the major ones.
Q. What’s the first thing I need to do ?
A. Once you find a contest you like the sound of, the first thing to do is to get hold of a copy of the rules, from one of the sites mentioned above. Study them carefully, noting the date and time, the bands and modes in use, and the contest exchange.
Q. What’s the basic way to take part ?
A. This depends on the contest you’ve chosen, but generally, the idea is to contact as many people as possible in the countries or zones specified. Some contests are worldwide events, where you contact anybody and everybody, whereas others might be based on a particular country or area, and the idea is for stations outside that area to only contact those inside the area. The rules will tell you this.
Q. OK, so I’m ready to go. What do I send to the other station ?
A. The information sent is called the ‘Contest Exchange’, and the rules will tell you what this should be. There are generally two types – either you send the signal report and some local information, such as your CQ zone number, ITU zone number, age, etc., or you send the signal report and a serial number that starts with 001 and increments with each contact.
Q. How many digits is the serial number ?
A. You should stick with three digits, until your number of contacts exceeds 999. In a CW contest, people often send short-form numbers to save time. This can be a bit confusing at first, so be prepared for when it happens.
Q. What are Short-Form numbers ?
A. These are when only one dash per number is sent. So, a zero will be sent as a single dash. A nine will be sent as dash-dot, an eight will be sent as dash-dot-dot, and so on. They will only be used when the contest exchange doesn’t contain letters, so you won’t mix them up by mistake. Zero and nine are the most common ones you are likely to meet, and sometimes one.
Q. Is the signal report always 599 ?
A. Well, there’s no rule to say it has to be, but generally, everybody sticks to 599 in CW, or 59 on phone, even though the actual signals may be weaker or stronger. You can send a different report if you wish, but a lot of the contest logging programs fill in the report automatically, so its best not to upset people by making them change it.
Q. Is it best to start by calling CQ ?
A. This depends on your experience. Its probably better to begin with some Search & Pounce (S&P) first of all, by tuning up and down the band working stations as you find them. This will show you where all the action is taking place, give you an idea what signals are like, who’s taking part, as well as get you into the rhythm of call and reply. You’ll also know where a free frequency might be to do a bit of CQing on – in the big contests, clear CQing frequencies are difficult to find and jealously guarded against all-comers, though there are often spaces at the band-edges.
Q. Can I operate anywhere on the band ?
A. No, you should stick to the Contest-Preferred Segments. There are always other people who want to use the band during the contest, such as the SSTV, data, or beacon enthusiasts, as well as various well-established nets that have regular frequencies for their members to meet on. You can find some of the Contest Preferred Segments in a series of images drawn up by VK4EMM HERE, or check the contest rules, which often give recommended operating frequencies.
Q. Do I need a computer to take part ?
A. No, you don’t. However the computer does make life a lot easier, by checking for duplicate contacts, keeping the scores in order, sending CW from the keyboard, and a whole lot of other things as well, so its best to use one if you can.
Q. My computer’s pretty old – will it be OK ?
A. There are many different logging programs available – some are top-of-the-line and expensive, some are shareware, some are free. The newer ones run on Windows and need a faster computer, but there are plenty of DOS-based programs that are quite happy on an old 386 or 486 that you might otherwise have thrown away. We are not talking High Speed processing here !
Q. My station is pretty basic – is there much point taking part ?
A. Yes Yes Yes. To start with, it can be a lot of fun just taking part. Everyone will be glad you came along, as you will be increasing their scores when you make a contact with them. If you live in a rarer area, that will mean you count as a Multiplier, which will make them even more pleased to work you.
Q. And what’s in it for me ?
A. Don’t forget that a lot of rare DX stations operate in contests. Although they will have big pileups on them early on in the contest, they are often looking for weak stations later on, and you will find it easier to work them then than in a normal DX weekday pileup. In the bigger worldwide contests, many stations have made DXCC in a weekend. Even 5-band DXCC is possible with practice. At the same time, you will be learning about operating, about propagation, and testing to the full the capabilities of yourself, your station, and your antennas.
Q. But I’m not likely to win anything, am I ?
A. Yes you can. All contests have a number of different ‘sections’ for people to enter in, and whilst you need a very good station to win the ‘Assisted All Band World’ category, there will be other sections such as Low Power, Single Band or QRP where the entrants are fewer, and you could very well come up with a winning score. See my ‘Budget Contesting’ section for more on this.
Q. I’d like to take part, but I’ve only a few hours free..
A. There’s no rules to say you must operate for a minimum amount of time. Obviously, the more of the contest you take part in, the bigger score you are likely to get, and the more exotic DX you are likely to work, but even if you just make a few contacts, you will please those people very much. Some contests, such as the popular ‘Islands On The Air’ (IOTA) have separate entry classes for 12 and 24 hour operation. The Belgian 80m contests are only 4 hours each !
Q. I’ve made a few contacts. Do I have to send in my log ?
A. You are not obliged to send in a log, though the organizers hope you will. You can send it in as an actual entry, or just as a ‘check-log’, where it will be used to validate the contacts made by the other competitors.
Q. How do I send in my log ?
A. The rules will help you here, and tell you of any special conditions for that contest, but generally, you need to send in your log, in the format requested, and a Summary Sheet, that gives your claimed scores, equipment details, and a declaration that you have followed all the rules. Most contest logging programs will print these out in the format required, which is another good reason to use a computer, even if you just make a few contacts. Don’t forget to rename the log as ‘YourCallsign.log’ before you send it off.
Q. Can I email my log ?
A. Yes – this is the preferred method these days. Its quick, cheap, and easy. An added bonus is that you know its been received, as most organizers will acknowledge receipt automatically or manually. The log file (MYCALL.LOG) should be sent as an attachment to the email, not in the message-body itself. You can also mail your log if you prefer, on a 3.5″ floppy disc which you won’t get back. Hand-written logs below a certain size are also accepted, but not computer print-outs – they’d rather have the computer file itself.
Q. Is anything else required ?
A. This depends on the contest. Large-scoring entries may require ‘Dupe Sheets’ which are not, as you might think, lists of all duplicate contacts, but are instead lists of all contacts made, in alphabetical order by callsign. ‘Mult-Sheets’, which are lists of all the multipliers you are claiming, are sometimes requested too. However, most modern log-checking programs generate these automatically, so separate lists are rarely requested these days. Again, check with the rules, or if in doubt, contact the organizers. The last thing they want is a lot of wrongly formatted entries that need to be hand checked, so they will be pleased to explain just what is required.
Q. How do I calculate my score ?
A. Your logging-program will normally do this for you, but if you are logging things by hand, simply check how many points each QSO is worth, add up the total points, add up all the different multipliers, and multiply them by the points. For example, say you were contesting in the CQWW contest. QSOs are worth 1 point in your own continent, and 3 points for a different continent. Multipliers are based on different zones AND different countries contacted. Say you’d worked 50 European stations (1 point) and 25 other stations (3 points), with a total of 12 zones and 30 countries. That would give you a QSO points total of 50+75=125 and a multiplier total of 12+30=42. The final score would be 125*42=5250.
Q. When the results are published, my score is smaller than I claimed !
A. Even the most careful operators make mistakes, and a mis-heard callsign or a duplicate QSO not noticed will mean points are deducted from your score. Some of the big contests, such as CQWW, will let you know where mistakes have occurred in what are called ‘UBN and NIL Reports’. A guide to how to understand them is linked-to from my ‘Contest Links’ page HERE.
Q. I’ve made some duplicate QSOs. How is my score affected ?
A. Duplicate QSOs, or ‘Dupes’ should be clearly indicated in the log, and marked as ‘0 points’. If this is done, you will not be penalized in any way. However, un-marked Dupes are dealt with strictly, and if you have over a certain number (3-5, depending on contest), a percentage of your score will be deducted, or you might even be disqualified, so watch out !
Q. I worked a rare DX station. Can I ask for a QSL ?
A. Asking for QSL information during a high speed contest is rather bad form, and can lead to the DX station ‘losing his rythmn’ as well as QSOs. You would be better to wait until after the contest, or check the Internet, which often has these details on it. Likewise, don’t ask him what rig/power/antennas he is using, or finish the QSO with a long list of pleasantries.
Q. How can I improve my technique ?
A. Enter lots of contests. Listen to the style of top contest-operators. Enter lots of contests. Join a club or help a local contest-station. Enter lots of contests. Subscribe to useful magazines. Subscribe to the CQ Contest email reflector. And enter lots of contests.
Q. I haven’t got a license yet. Can I join in ?
A. This depends on the contest, but there certainly are contests that have sections for Short Wave Listeners (SWLs), and the leaders will be awarded certificates and plaques just like the other entrants.
If there are any more questions you feel should be included here, please email me. Details are on the ‘Contact’ page.
Another useful Beginner’s FAQ page is published by the RSGB and can be found Here
This page contains a variety of general Contesting Tips, collected from the Ham reflectors, from the Internet, from other Hams, and from my own experience. I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed, and apologise for not being able to mention all of the originators.
Want a really good station grounding system? Go to your local hardware store and buy a 12-14 inch width roll of aluminum — the type used to put around chimneys, or used in roofing. Now ground everything by mounting on the almunium (using it as a ground plane) or grounding to it. If your desk is made out of wood, you may use a lot of self-tapping screws, but the grounding will go easily and quickly. Ground everything to eliminate hum and interstation interference.
Keep several different pairs of headphones, to relieve pressure on the ears.
Tape a piece of paper or old QSL card behind the TUNE and LOAD controls on your amp and record the setting for each band and antenna so that you don’t have to do a major retune when you change bands.
When doing single op 2 radio, I use a second keyer on the second radio, so I eliminate having to throw an extra switch to change keyer/computer on main radio to 2nd radio.
Use a programmable keyboard to redefine keys so your hands don’t have to move as much. For example I use a keyboard with the regular function keys on the left and the shift function keys on the top. I redefine the top function keys as such ‘sf1’ is equal to ‘ctrl-enter’ to enter station on band map, ‘sf2’ is equal to clear key (f11). When I am tired and S&Ping I do the 1, 2 . In other words I type the call in, I notice if it is a dupe or not and then do the sf1, sf2. (known as the 1, 2 punch). I also redefine the tab key so it equals the ‘f1’ key. The +/= key to equal the ‘+’ , and ‘sf12’ (since it is to the right) and my 2 nd rig is to the right to equal ‘alt.’ which takes computer to the 2nd radio band.
Always have available a second antenna for a band. I used to use a 40 meter zepp with open wire feedline (which would load on all bands) for a secondary antenna. So when I was beaming Europe and S&Ping and came across a South American station I could work him on the zepp so I didn’t have to wait to rotate.
The most valuable piece of contesting gear I have added to my shack was the most recent addition. It is a selectable 0 thru 101 Db attenuator that I use on the receive input. It has been successful in reducing contest related fatigue in a big way. The 5/10/20 db attenauators on most rigs just don’t cut it. One selection is either too much or too little. I have used anywhere from 3db to 40 db depending upon the QRM levels and the band involved. It reduces noise, receiver overload, and other strong signal induced problems. I set the attenuation just enough to get the ambient band noise to the S0/S1 level and take it from there. I don’t know how I got along for so long without one!
Improve your station. Learn the truth about feedline matching, antenna loss, VSWR, directivity, and gain. That means read and study. That means experiment. That means cut and try. Shrug off the myths embraced by the mediocre. Don’t listen to people who tell you that 2:1 SWR is good enough because all the power goes somewhere eventually. Or that 9913 is lossless at HF. Or that a 1 dB difference in a signal is unnoticable at either end. Or that connector loss is negligable. All those statements are lies. Find out why. Work on your antennas. Nothing is perfect or stays that way. Put up new antennas. Try wires. Try loops. Try beverages. Try low-noise receive antennas. Try slopers. Try, try, try. All these antennas are relatively low-cost.
Learn your radio. All (well, most) of those knobs on your radio have a purpose. Find out what they do. Read and study the manual. Do you know where the manual is? If you can quickly set a split frequency, you might be the first to work a new station on 40m. If you learn how to use those 100+ memories efficiently, you can stack up big stations and throw your call in rapidly to 2, 5, or more stations simultaneously. Get all your filters in place. Get a voice keyer. Learn your DSP. Get a better mike. Tweak the audio until it sounds crystal clear and with all the punch of a buzz saw cutting through aluminum. Remember that setting for the contest, then turn it back to mushy so the boys on 80m don’t complain.
The following techniques have been recommended by experienced contesters writing to the CQ Contest Reflector. All credit goes to the writers of these articles.
From Fred, K3ZO
For many of us it’s good enough to get on and just have fun in the contest. This means that you get on when you want and operate as long as you want and quit when it stops being fun. For those who are seriously hoping to improve their scores, however, there is no substitute for careful planning.
After some of the post-contest stories I have written, I have received private e-mails from folks in propagationally-challenged areas saying, in essence: “What you’ve written is all fine and good, but out here where I live there is just no way I can run up a decent score.” I have replied with my stock first reply: “All right. Tell me what your operating plan was for the contest and I’ll try to help you work out a better one.” About half the respondents come back with: “WHAT operating plan?”
Ladies and gentlemen, the cardinal underlying principle for serious contest operating is: YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHY YOU’RE DOING EVERYTHING YOU DO.
I’m a little tired of reading on this reflector how the log checking has become too stringent; how the rules need to be changed “so that the contest is fair”; how one’s location is so hopeless that there is no hope of having any fun in the contest, etc. etc.
How many of the writers of messages which fall into the above categories have ever drawn up a complete plan for the contest in question before the contest starts? Yes, conditions can change suddenly and you may have to improvise, but you should have a plan for that too.
There are pieces on the contesting.com Web site by people such as Randy, K5ZD which lay aspects of contesting out in much more detail than I will here, but in general, before the contest starts you should ask yourself the following questions and have the answers in your head if not formally on paper: (Obviously these are questions a North American operator would ask. Some of the questions might be different for stations in other parts of the world.)
What band will I start on? Why?
What band shall I try next? Why?
How low should I allow my ten-minute rate to get before I decide to change bands?
About what time should I plan to hit each band and why?
How much time and when should I plan to take time off the first night so I am fresh for the European run Saturday morning?
What signs will tell me that propagation is deteriorating and what should I do about it?
How do I vary my pile-up technique depending on what the operator I’m calling is doing?
How many times should I call in a pile-up before going on to the next pile-up?
What signs tell me that it’s time to stop S&Ping and that instead it might be possible to get a run going?
At what times on each band should I look for multipliers in Africa? South America? Oceania?
When do I take time off on the second night?
If a particular antenna, rotor, or piece of gear fails, how do I work around it?
There is no set answer for any of the above questions, because the answer will be different depending on one’s category, antenna system, age and location. But if you’re serious about score, all of these questions should be asked and answered ahead of time to the best of your ability.
I’m sure others can suggest questions I haven’t put in here. I would offer only one suggestion. It pays to look carefully at the bands for about a week before the contest to help you plan your operating pattern. It’s much better to observe for yourself than to try to make IONCAP or VOACAP or George Jacobs’ column do the job for you. If you can’t be on certain hours because you’re at work or school, check out the packetcluster when you get home each day to see what people in your area were working at what times on what bands.
Good luck then! And no complaining later if you didn’t do any planning!
From Dave, K8CC
Fairly early in my contest career, I was somewhat surprised to learn that there were patterns to propagation and activity in DX contests. Up to that point, I had simply sat at the radio and worked whatever I was presented with. This is the difference between the casual contester, who simply sits down and operates, and the serious contester who has a plan to take maximum advantage likely conditions and activity.
The first question to answer for a given contest is whether you plan to operate full or part time. Even a part time effort can be “serious” if it is executed with a plan to maximize the score rather than simply spending a few hours in the operating chair. I’m not saying the latter can’t be fun or should not be undertaken, but you’ll like learn a lot more (and make more points) by preparing and operating to a plan.
In most contests other than a Sprint or NAQP, fatigue can or will become a factor. The point at which it does varies between individuals, and there are techniques to improve your physical conditioning or to better accomodate fatigue. The longer the contest, the more important it becomes to manage fatigue. You still may reach a point where you have to reach down inside and just “push through”, but this is a lot easier if you have a plan.
If you’re planning multi-op effort, there are more options for dealing with fatigue. The trick is to schedule a crew that has ENOUGH people so that nobody gets burned out, but you don’t want TOO MANY operators so that people are standing around with nothing to do. With a multi-op, the activity plan is simple – there is no excuse for not working everything. In the major DX contests (CQWW, ARRL) there are no off times so whenever the single-op is away from the radio its hurting the score – the key is to MINIMIZE THE DAMAGE.
For the single op, the key to planning your effort is to categorize the different forms of activity and band openings, and then attack the bands on the basis of priority. Do what is important, and DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. If you’re playing DXer on some band when there is rate to be had on another, you’re likely to be losing the contest. The key to single-op planning is to be ready to capitalize on the good times, and simply cope with the bad times.
The corollary to to “don’t sweat the small stuff” is DON’T MISS ANYTHING EASY. This means spending enough time on a band to work all of the “easy” multipliers, but don’t spend so much time that another (more important) activity is overlooked. Part of this is knowing who the “big” or “relatively local” stations are, and not missing them on any possible bands.
As an example, here is Michigan the single op typically must think like an East Coaster – that is, RUN EUROPE WHENEVER POSSIBLE. Our openings don’t last as long, and the signals aren’t as strong, but this still has proven to be the best strategy for us. Openings to Japan have to be anticipated, but the quality of the opening will determine whether this is more productive than pursuing Europe on a lower band. At all other times, the W8 single-op is playing DXer so activity patterns will be dictated by band conditions and the size of his or her station. In general, the slowest times are the middle of the afternoon and the middle of the night, so these are the best times (or to look at it another way, the least bad) times to take a break or get some sleep.
One tip for abbreviated sleeping is to always plan to sleep in multiples of 90 minutes. Some years ago this was written up in the YCCC newsletter that your body sleeps in 90 minute cycles, where it goes down into deep sleep then comes back up to shallow sleep. Its a lot easier to wake up from shallow sleep. The first time I tried this was at Dayton after a late night hospitality suite tour. It works!
Again, all of this requires a plan. Experienced DX contesters have this engrained into their brains – its called EXPERIENCE. Whether you’re going to do a 48 hour full gonzo effort, or 12 hours sandwiched in between family responsibilities, having a plan will likely result in more points per hour in the chair, and that’s what we’re all after.
73, Dave K8CC
This article, by Rob Hummel, WS1A, discusses ways to be really competitive in an HF Contest. He writes:
If you want to be competitive, you must be positive. Here are some suggestions.
Acquire as much knowledge as possible about the contest. First, learn the rules of the contest. That means knowing the exchange and the scoring. It also means understanding what strategy you should use to maximize your score. Figure out how long should you chase a multiplier and how many Qs do you need to be competitive. Figure out if a multiplier a 3-point qso is more valuable to you toward the end of the contest. Calculate how many mults you will need to be competitive.
Decide where to point your antenna and when. You must understand how propagation affects your area. Read the propagation forecasts and make sure you understand them. Know where your greyline goes. Know when 40m opens and 20m closes. Keep an extra antenna and radio tuned to popular 10m frequencies (you know them because you researched, right?) to check for band openings.
Study the local competition. Study the scores, multipliers, and prefixes worked by those in your area. Call them or write them and find out their strategies. (Of course, they may not want to tell you!) Ask for copies of their logs. Study where they pointed their antennas and when. Find out what bands they favored and why. Anyone who beats you is in a position to teach you something. Instead of reviling them, study them. Don’t forget the other end of the spectrum. Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned have come from low-power stations with wire antennas.
Know the field. Study the contest results from the past 2-3 years. You must know the calls that were active. You must know if any special DX stations be on. You should know who you’ll be listening for. You must know the frequencies that JAs can use on 80m. You should know the 40m allocation world-wide. You should know where VKs will be on the low bands. Instead of figuring out why the contest is unfair, learn how to work it.
Improve your station. Learn the truth about feedline matching, antenna loss, VSWR, directivity, and gain. That means read and study. That means experiment. That means cut and try. Shrug off the myths embraced by the mediocre. Don’t listen to people who tell you that 2:1 SWR is good enough because all the power goes somewhere eventually. Or that 9913 is lossless at HF. Or that a 1 dB difference in a signal is unnoticeable at either end. Or that connector loss is negligible. All those statements are lies. Find out why. Work on your antennas. Nothing is perfect or stays that way. Put up new antennas. Try wires. Try loops. Try beverages. Try low-noise receive antennas. Try slopers. Try, try, try. All these antennas are relatively low-cost.
Learn your radio. All (well, most) of those knobs on your radio have a purpose. Find out what they do. Read and study the manual. Do you know where the manual is? If you can quickly set a split frequency, you might be the first to work a new station of 40m. If you learn how to use those 100+ memories efficiently, you can stack up big stations and throw your call in rapidly to 2, 5, or more stations simultaneously. Get all your filters in place. Get a voice keyer. Learn your DSP. Get a better mike. Tweak the audio until it sounds crystal clear and with all the punch of a buzz saw cutting through aluminum. Remember that setting for the contest, then turn it back to mushy so the boys on 80m don’t complain.
WORK the contest. If you’re going to work a contest, then, by God, WORK IT. A 48-hour contest runs for 48 hours. If you want to be competitive, you will run for 48 hours too. Hey, if you can’t, then you can’t. But then don’t whine about not winning. The single biggest weapon that a small pistol has is persistence. I’ve heard lectures from big guns where they advocate switching bands when your QSO rate drops below 60/hour. That’s okay for a big gun, but here are some surprising statistics:
At a rate of 60 Qs/hour, you would work 2,880 stations in a 48-hour contest.
At 30/hour, you’d work 1,440 stations in a 48-hour contest.
Even a rate of 15/hour (only one QSO every 4 minutes!), you’d still work 720 stations in 48 hours!
How many Qs did you work in the last contest? I’ve WON contests where I didn’t make 720 total Qs. Cherry pickers don’t win. If you give up when the time between Qs stretches out to 4, 6, 10, or more minutes, you give up your competitiveness. A contesters’ mettle is measured in the dead of night when calling CQ endlessly on a seemingly dead band or when tuning 20m or 40m or any other band straining to pull that next new station out of the noise. (Hint: This is where 1 dB or less makes all the difference in the world.)
Have fun. Winning is fun. But so is competing. It’s great fun being a part of an overall event that’s larger than some petty self-centered concern about whether your QTH is “unfairly disadvantaged.” If you want to have fun in a contest, find people who are having fun and do what they’re doing. Don’t be poisoned by the facile argument that a contest where everyone isn’t a winner is unfair and unfair is no fun. Everything is fun if it involves amateur radio.
I love working SSB, CW, and RTTY contests — although my skill in each mode varies widely.
I love domestic contests. I don’t like the spate of non-SASE cards they generate, but I answer every one — I will NOT be responsible for discouraging a ham for a few bucks.
I love DX contests. Every time I hear GW4BLE or ON4UN or EA7USA it’s the same thrill.
Every time someone remembers my call I light up like a little kid. Gosh, they remember me!
I love working the all-Bulgaria QSO party and being the only USA entry — winning with 4 QSOs!
I highlight my name in every contest result that published. What a thrill! Any contest I miss I consider a failure. Every contest I make is a victory.
Conclusion(s). If you like contests or think you might, understand that there are hundreds and thousands of like-minded souls out there who want you to be the best you can be. We’ll help, encourage, and congratulate you for every QSO you make and every log you submit. Every DX station is looking for you. Every QSL you get is a thank you. Ignore the bitter, the miserable, and the perpetually dissatisfied. They’re not your competition; they’re QRM.
Rob Hummel (WS1A)
This page contains a variety of Contest Operating Tips, written by John H. Dorr, K1AR. Published monthly between 1993 and 1999, they are as useful today as they ever were.
01 A careful review of the previous year’s log before a contest can help you in a number of ways. In addition to revealing a scoring target to beat, it can be helpful to make a list of the Top 10-15 actions you could have taken to improve your score that year and place it in front of you as a reminder for this year’s contest.
02 Even though there seems to be a focus on the “band edges,” don’t be afraid to use the high end of the bands as well. In one hour during a run in the 1992 CQ WW SSB Contest, I had HS, 8Q7, 4S7, TL8, and 9K call me while operating on 14318 kHz!
03 Avoid the temptation of diving directly into a pileup after first hearing the frenzy. Take the time, especially when using a smaller station, to listen to the operating style of a needed multiplier before calling. Adding a planned delay of two or three QSOs to learn the DX STATION’S techniques will usually reduce the time needed to get him into YOUR log.
04 I’m sure you recall the technique entered during a contest when you are “looking for multipliers?” As you tune up and down the bands, don’t forget to call ANY needed station — even if he’s not a new multiplier. Maybe I’m the only guy who does this (although I doubt it), but it is easy to get into multiplier mode and skip calling the easily workable stations. The extra effort could mean an additional 20-30 QSOs in your log!
05 This may sound like common sense, but it’s worth a try. When calling in a big CW pileup, don’t be afraid to move your transmit frequency a little off the center of the chaos. If you put yourselves in the shoes of the DX station, it begins to make sense. Except from the biggest stations or rare propagation advantages, brute force calling almost never pays off!
06 How’s your Spanish? If you are like me, you know most of the numbers and can “fake” your callsign. With that knowledge, you can be amazingly effective at calling CQ with the beam South during slow hours and work an remarkable number of casual QSOs (and passable mults) to the South. Try it … as of late, it’s never been better!
07 Does the physical size of your QTH limit you from erecting 500+ foot beverages? I have discovered that there are times when existing antennas can enhance receiving quality on 80 and 160 Meters. For example, try using your 40 meter antenna on 80 or 160 as a receive array. If stations are loud enough, improved signal-to-noise ratios can more than compensate for reduced signal strength levels and heighten your ability to copy low-band signals – – without a beverage!
08 Here’s an idea for that 2nd VFO in your transceiver. When you’re in “search and pounce” mode, try searching with both VFOs. While waiting to work one station on VFO “A”, you can use that idle time to find another needed QSO with the second VFO. Try tuning up from the bottom with one and down from the top of the band with the other. If you are using a multi-band antenna, you can even try this technique across two different bands!
09 Improve your contest score by being aware of when you send unnecessary information during contest exchanges. CW examples include: Sending a leading “0 or T” in front of your single-digit CQ/ITU zone, ending a CQ with a “K”, starting an exchange with “UR” 59905. SSB examples include: “QSL…QRZ,” K1AR, “UR” 5905 “OVER,” etc. If you think these illustrations are insignificant, trying sending “UR” on CW 200 or more times and imagine working stations during that same time period.
10 You will often find that rare DX does not want to be passed to another band. A last resort is to make a schedule with the station. The secret is to make multiple schedules with as many stations as reasonable for the same time/frequency. With 10-15 schedules arranged, the odds are good that two or three will actually show up, making the effort worthwhile. Nothing beats having a mini-pileup of multipliers calling you!
11 Maybe this is an idea that David Letterman (U.S. TV talk show host) stole from me. For years, before every contest, I compile a “Top-10” list of strategies/events that I executed well and those that needed improvement based on the previous year’s contest. What’s different is that I have begun saving them, compiling a multi-year set of lists. The “well-executed” list can be a source of encouragement, while the areas needing improvement gives you something to shoot for each time you operate. This technique can only improve your score!
12 Here’s one for the multi-ops! Have you tried every filter technology known to man and still have interference between stations? Try looking outside for the source of your troubles. A long-standing inter-station QRM problem was recently fixed at K1EA’s station by tightening the back stay hardware on one of Ken’s 20 Meter yagis. The S-8 interference it had previously generated on 15 Meters went completely away!
13 Do you recall the painful experience of having a beautiful QSO run disappear almost instantly? Many times it’s nothing more than the band changing. However, it can be often the result of a QRM caused by a station you can’t hear. An open frequency does not always mean it is QRM-free on the other end. Try asking the question: “How clear is my frequency on your side?”
14 Maybe you read the rules for many of the small contests in CQ each month (there are 12 different contests in this month’s calendar) but never try them out. Specialized contests (especially state QSO parties from your state) are an excellent way to hone your skills for the next big one. Try them out!
15 There are many factors to consider when trying to break a big pileup in a contest. One aspect sometimes forgotten is the way you call a station. If you sound like you really want to work someone (without getting carried away), you’re more likely to beat the majority of stations that call with a more “layed-back” approach. Give it a try!
16 Contest club newsletters are an excellent source for ideas and “what’s happening” in contest circles. Consider subscribing to a couple–especially if your are geographically isolated from a club near your area–to get the latest information on RFI protection, computers in the shack, operating tips, etc.
17 If you are a packet-assisted contester, always be sure to verify the callsign and exchange of the “spotted” station you are working. Many times a busted callsign has been spotted. Make the mistake appear on your screen — not in your log!
18 We often think about receiving antennas in terms of the 80 and 160 meter bands. Have you ever tried using a beverage (or similar antenna) on 40 meters? There have been countless times when a separate receiving antenna on 40 Meters has dramatically improved my signal-to-noise ratio, more than compensating for reduced signal strength levels. The bottom line is: improved copying ability. I’ve even heard of limited success on the higher bands. Give it a try!
19 Want to know something that can help your contest score nearly as much as a big signal? For me, it’s focus and utter concentration. Whether you’re trying to lift a heavy weight in a gym or push a few more QSOs out of your station, the key is diligence and unabated attention to the task at hand. Consider another pastime you enjoy that requires intense concentration. If you apply the same techniques to contesting that you do in your other endeavor, your scores will climb–and without a single db of added signal strength.
20 One of contesting’s most difficult strategic decisions is to know when to stop calling a station in a pileup that you cannot work. Fortunately, most modern logging programs tell you specifically how many QSOs a new multiplier is worth. In the future, if your goal is to achieve the highest score possible, try to avoid wasted time calling an unworkable multiplier: a) for that 40th Zone, b) to obtain a clean sweep in the ARRL SS, c) out of sheer stubbornness that may make a nice contest QSO but a lower final score!
21 Timing in big (or small) pileups is everything. By their very nature, the denser a pileup becomes, the harder it is to pull out callsigns–regardless of how good the operator is at the other end. A successful calling technique I use quite often is to wait a few seconds before calling with everyone else (SSB and CW). That slight delay and attentiveness to “sneaking-in” your call when others are catching their breath works time and time again! If only I had 25 cents for everytime a DX station has said to be in a pileup, “The Alpha Radio go ahead . . .” Using low-power in smaller contests to practice this technique will hone your calling skills even more for the big ones.
22 Have you ever thought much about your shack’s operating chair? I always found it odd that we could invest $10K+ in our equipment, yet use an abandoned $25 operating chair found at a yard sale. When you consider the time invested in contest operating, think about the advantages in score than can come from a comfortable seat. You can’t quantify it, but you can be sure your score will go up with comfort!
23 Try varying the phonetics you use in pileup calling. Sometimes a different word will help differentiate your call from the others. Sharp, piercing words are usually more effective. For example, GERMANY is probably better than GULF, or consider DENMARK instead of DELTA. As is so often the case in contesting, put yourself in the shoes of the operator you’re calling.
24 I’ve heard from so many people about sending speeds in CW contests that I thought it was worthy of mention in this month’s contest tip. If you’re an experienced CW contester, try taking the time to occasionally slow down. There may be a number of more casual participants who are waiting in the wings to call you. The key is they need to be able to copy your call sign. You may be doubly surprised to snag a rare multiplier once in a while too!
25 When does one QSY from a run frequency? This is one of the hardest operating strategies to learn in contesting. I tend to not overreact by moving too quickly. Think of it like the stock market–how many stocks have you sold at $20 per share in panic that eventually closed at $45 just 3 short months later? An extra 5-10 minutes of patience on a run frequency will often pay off in the long run.
26 With sunspots near a minimum, bands like 160 meters are even more important to maximized contest scores. With my relatively small 3/4 acre New York lot, I had pretty much dismissed any serious operation on that band. However, a 70′ oak tree and 130 feet of wire can support an Inverted L that has worked VP8SGP, T32J, and many others. Check out the Inverted L antenna . . . it’s an easy passport to 160M and higher contest scores.
27 Nothing looks better on the Saturday evening of a DX contest than a good night’s sleep. Here’s a few ideas to make sure you don’t sleep too well. Try using two alarm clocks set 5 minutes apart to ensure that you actually wake up when you want to. If you have a guest room, use that “less comfortable” bed instead of your own. Finally, learn how to set your alarm clock(s) before the contest. There’s nothing worse than trying to learn how to set an alarm clock (is it AM or PM?) on 2 hours sleep!
28 It may seem obvious, but labeling antennas and amplifier settings is a must for contest stations. In the excitement of Friday afternoon it may be more tempting to work guys than taking that final step towards efficiency. Paying attention to the details of preparation in the long run is what separates successful contest efforts from mediocre ones.
29 We say it every year. It’s late May and there’s over five months before the CQ WW SSB Contest. The next thing you know, it’s October 15th and your 3-el 40 Meter beam is still resting on saw horses. Be up to the challenge. Make this the summer that you get an early start on your outside antenna projects!
30 In keeping with this month’s theme of CQing, try varying your CQing style. Remember the most important information another station needs is your callsign, not the letters “CQ.” You may want to “call CQ” occasionally by just signing your call sign 2 or 3 times, especially on CW. Calling CQ with less information apart from your call is always better than more!
31 OK, so you’ve been hearing about all this talk of second radios and you’re gazing at your old beat up TS830 saying “but this doesn’t apply to me.” Although not nearly as efficient as a second radio, is the use of your second VFO on a single radio. Try calling CQ on one VFO and during periods of 5-10 second breaks tune with the other VFO. It may feel awkward at first, but it will allow you to call CQ more often and maybe put another 5-10 QSOs in your log per hour at peak times.
32 I don’t know about you, but identifying the former USSR republics by prefix has become a formidable challenge for me. While most of the common logging programs provide the answers to “real-time” operating questions like this, there’s nothing that can replace having it in your head. Studying current DXCC country charts and other sources to truly understand this week’s version of our planet’s prefix structure gives you one less thing to worry about when you’re operating.
33 Contest rules are always changing. Although we make our best effort to report them accurately, even we get them wrong sometimes. Although you may think you know the rules of a contest that you’ve operated for years, the fact is that rules change all the time. Make the effort to “re-read” the rules for any contest you plan to participate in and you may be surprised how a little knowledge can improve your score!
34 Log checkers will usually tell you that incorrectly copied call signs is the most common mistake in contest logs. When CQing and running other stations, always repeat the call sign of the other station you are working. Even though you may be absolutely certain that you copied the call sign correctly, a repeat of the call will allow the other station to correct any possible mistakes. It’s worth the time!
35 Even though winter’s fast approaching and the possibility of tower projects are fading, it’s never too late to consider a wire antenna project. You’d be amazed how quickly you can get a signal on 160 meters for the upcoming 160 contests with a simple inverted “L” hung from a tree and 4 or 5 radials. Take a look through some of the antenna books and check it out. All you need is a good pair of gloves and you’re well on your way!
36 What happens when you drink coffee? You have a hard time sleeping, right? Have you ever wondered why you have trouble getting a “quality” nap the afternoon before a 48 hour contest? For me it’s that morning coffee. After I stopped the Friday habit, I was able to physically prepare for the contest in a much improved way. Save the coffee for 0000Z that evening – – you’ll be amazed at the results!
37 I’m amazed at the number of top notch CW contesters who can’t copy conversational code. Sure, you can fire a call sign and exchange to them at 50 WPM, but don’t dare ask what antenna they’re using. In my book, code speed is more than ceremonial; it’s one of the many factors that separate champions from everyone else. Never give up on improving your ability to copy QRQ CW. Finally, there’s something that we learned from the 1980s that’s worth remembering: faster IS better!
38 It may seem obvious, but labeling items in your shack such as antennas, amplifier settings, relays, etc. is a must! If you haven’t taken the time, revisit this area of shack housekeeping. Many station owners also label their coax feeds, and/or rotator and control lines as well. It just may prevent a catastrophic failure when you get serious in this fall’s contest season.
39 Practice curing yourself of the bad habit of writing down callsigns/exchange information on scrap paper while operating. This adds unnecessary overhead to your operating style and has become especially pointless with the advent of computer logging. The best way to reduce your “paper-dependence” is to simply eliminate any access to note paper altogether. Remember: if you want to walk, you got to get rid of your crutch! (tnx K1ZX)
40 Take a standard mouse pad and punch or drill holes in the pad to correspond with the three feet of your keyer’s paddle. The paddle feet are now touching the table top, so the height of the plastic your fingers touch is correct. However, you now have a giant surface area of rubber designed not to slide, holding the paddle in place (tnx K1VR).
41 Keep a few prepackaged CRT wipes handy during a contest. Looking at a dirty computer screen for 48 hours can be very distracting as well as creating unnecessary eyestrain. You’ll find them at K-Mart and most good office supply stores (tnx AA3JU).
42 The months of August and September are filled with great warm-up contests for the fall season. Check out the contest calendar and get involved. One way to add “db” to your signal is to get your callsign in the minds of others. How do you do that? Get radio active–today!
43 OK, not everyone has the circumstances that allow for 3 towers with stacked yagis on all bands at your station. There are more reasonable things that any contest station owner can do that don’t require megabucks. And, with the contest season rapidly approaching, now is the time to implement! Consider your station from an antenna switching, external noise filtering, band changing perspective. Pay attention to some of the construction/configuration ideas being promoted in sources such as CQ Contest, the NCJ, or the Contest Reflector. There are literally dozens of low-cost improvements that you can make to your station that will improve your scores. Be aggressive; check ‘em out!
44 Are you continuously frustrated by your paddle moving about your operating desk? Now, I don’t mean the kind of “virtual” movement that occurs after 48 hours of non-stop contesting, but the type that happens while you’re trying to send “Mississippi.” One friend recently suggested that you take a quality mouse pad and drill holes that align with the feet on your paddle. Not only will it provide a more comfortable operating position, it will hold that paddle exactly where it belongs!
45 It seems that country prefixes are constantly changing. I still don’t have all of the former Soviet republics completely figured out. Take a few minutes and review the latest country lists. It may direct your calling patterns in the next contest. Nothing is worse than calling a station for 10 minutes to eventually realize that it’s not a new country. The opposite scenario (a.k.a. “lost opportunity”) is even worse!
46 If you’re like me, there are probably dozens of little problems in your shack. Here’s a few examples: burned out lamps on your 930, Tailtwister control box, and amp, an intermittent coax switch position, torn headphone pads, a sticky “A” on your keyboard. Like most procrastinators, after you fix these things (usually in minutes), you say: “Why didn’t I do that 2 years ago?” Well, fixing the small problems in your contest shack won’t make you a better operator, but it will make your comfort level rise; and so will your scores. Get out that soldering gun. Are you up to the challenge?
47 Depressed that all you hear is noise on 9M2AX’s 80 meter frequency because you don’t have the 500 square miles needed for proper beverages? Don’t give up hope. I’ve found many times that using an antenna tuned for another band can often improve your receiver’s signal-to-noise ratio so that you can actually copy guys not otherwise possible. Try using your 40 meter antenna as a listening tool on 80. Different combinations may work for other bands, too!
48 Have you checked the direction of your antennas and compared them to what your rotator is telling you lately? During the last CQ WW contest, I spent most of the first day using a 3-el 40 meter beam that was 40 degrees off its proper alignment. A short walk out back can add dBs to your signal by deploying a little attention to detail. Forgetting the obvious will almost always lower your score!
49 Here’s an often overlooked “transaction” in building contest scores; share your contest operating plans with your significant other! While it may be risky to cross that chasm, the likelihood of arranging that “trip to Mom” may increase substantially, leaving you unencumbered to focus on your score, not making amends. After 20+ years of contesting (and nearly as many wedding anniversaries), I’ve learned that I’m still the only one in my family who knows what’s really happening during the last full weekend of October.
50 Are you struggling with a question about contesting and just don’t know where to turn? Most of the contest world’s leading contesters (at least the ones that I know) are more than willing to share their knowledge. Don’t be shy. Apply some elbow grease to your word processor and send a few letters to some of the guys you admire. I guarantee that not only will you be surprised with the rate of responses, but you may even discover a few answers to your questions BEFORE next year’s contest season starts!
51 Preventative maintenance is not in the vocabulary of most hams, but it is a critical success factor to contesters. Our sport doesn’t allow the clock to stand waiting during a contest while we solder a gamma match connection that really needed attention during the summer. Don’t waste an opportunity to solve problems before they happen. With summer temperatures at their peak, take the initiative to put that climbing belt on and ensure your scores are maximized this fall!
52 Having recently moved (finally!), I’ve been thinking about the luxury I’ll have to finally set-up that new ham station the right way. While most of you may not be moving, we’re always working on new antenna/equipment projects. You don’t have do be involved in major station renovations to take on that next project with perfection in mind. Attention to detail (and a little luck) is what separates winners from losers in contesting. Bear that fact in mind the next time you want to skip soldering the coax connection on a dipole or improperly weatherproof your next gamma match.
53 This month I offer more of a safety tip than operating advice for contesters, but take a minute to read on. Contest season creates situations that make contesters do crazy things. I’ve spent more time on icy towers or climbing in treacherous winds than I’d care to recall. Do yourself a favor and remember that a key to doing well at contesting is to stay safe and alive. Be enthusiast, but also be smart this contest season. We’d like to work you next year, too!
54 Do you suffer from a perpetual lack of organization? If so, you’re like most of us. A tip learned from one of my contesting mentors, Jim Lawson, W2PV, is to document your station. Do you know what size wrenches you need when you go up the tower next time? What are the resistance readings of your rotator between pins? How is that 4 over 4 relay box constructed? The list goes on, yet a little attention to administrivia will go a long way to make you a better contester (tnx W1WEF and YCCC Scuttlebutt).
55 Try to be more aggressive when a station calls you and you miss part of their call sign. Rather than saying “Alpha Radio, your call again?” take the high road and say “Alpha Radio you’re 59001…your call?” More often than not, you’ll eliminate an unnecessary round of transmissions, making your operating more efficient and productive.
56 Having considered the topic of packet this month, I thought it would be appropriate to suggest something radical–at least for the 1990s! Try operating for a week or so without the packet screen glaring at your face. With the advent of multipliers being “hand fed” to us these days, many of us have lost that treasured skill of “finding them on our own.” The art of sniffing out multipliers is a major differentiator in contest score making. Try looking for them the old-fashioned way—it’s great practice for your next single operator effort.
57 When tuning for multipliers, don’t forget to look way up the band. In last year’s CQ WW CW Contest, I worked several key multipliers on frequencies such as 14081, 7062, 3566, etc. The only limit to working CW stations in a contest is when the “beeps” stop. Add to your score with your VFO!
58 Have you checked out the Internet lately for contest information? There’s a wealth of information and key contacts that’s available for free! As an example, take a look at http://www.contesting.com. Spawned by the efforts of Bill Fisher, W4AN, (and others), this site stands out as one of the best sources of information that will help your contest efforts. And, as you might expect, there’s many, many, more Internet sources including clubs, publications, user groups, etc. Use your favorite Web site search engine to “gain the knowledge.”
59 Given the subject of this month’s column is rules. I thought I’d share a story and contest tip for you to consider. In 1998 ARRL DX Contest I forgot about the new multi-op rule change that eliminitated the 10 minute rule in lieu of six band changes per hour. If I had not had an improptu conversation with someone right before the contest. I would have operated incorrectly the entire weekend. Even old dogs should face a look at a contest’s rules – just to be sure!
60 Don’t ever get so intimidated by the size of a pileup that you simply tune by the station without calling. We all have a story or two about the time we broke trough a pileup without a clue how our station pulled it off. Here’s the answer: operating skill! There’s one guarantee when chasing rare contest multipliers: If you don’t at least try to call them, you absolutely won’t work them!
61 Have you taken a hard look at your station’s layout lately? Comfort is a controllable factor in contest operating. If you have to see your chiropractor after every time you change the bands, you probably need to pay attention to this month’s contest tip. Think “out of the box” when it comes to your station’s physical design. Ask your fellow contesters what they’re doing. You’ll be suprised how a few small changes can impact your operating enjoyment – and score!
62 Most of contesters finally get serious about their antenna work around this time of year as the contest season approaches. Often tower work is the major part of the task list. If you haven’t climbed your tower lately, take a few minutes to inspect your guyn wires. There’s nothing more frightening than climbing a tower to discover a large tree limb is hanging on one of the guys, or worse, discovering a major problem at one of the guy anchors – while you’re on the tower. An extra ten minutes work may mean thousands more QSOs in the future. Be careful this fall!
63 As we enter into this years’s fall contest season, do you know who’s planning on a contest expedition? A little research through the current magazine/newsletters and the Internet can help you build a list of probable multipliers that should be prominently displayed in front of your operating position for the upcoming fall contests. Always remember that extraordinary pre-contest preparation can dramatically improve your final standing and has little to do with signal strenght or location. To put it in ham terms – it’s free!
64 As I’ve been doing some recent maintenance work lately. I learned an old lesson yet again: label the cables. So much of success in contesting can be controlled by preparation that has nothing to do with the actual process of operating. Nothing is more frustrating than experiencing a malfunction during a contest and spending more time deciphering your cabling scheme than actually fixing the problem and getting back on the air. Remember, your contest score will only increase when you’re transmitting and not debugging. Take the time to anticipate malfunctions by clearly labeling everything in your shack. You’ll thank yourself later!
65 It’s 23:45Z on Friday night. You’ve just turned on your radio and you’re now right to go, right? Well, Probabily not. It is always a better aproach to check the bands at sunrise and sunset daily toward the end of the week to get a feel for the prevailing conditions before the contest. Here are some good questions to ask: Has the flux been failing or rising? When did 10 meters open to Europe yesterday and the day before? Has 15 meters been good to JA around 24:00Z (the start of the contest)? The moral of the story is check bands mid-to late-week. You’ll be glad you did, and your score will reflect the difference in the end! (Tnx YCCC)
66 When things break in your station, the next logical step is not to put your climbing belt on. Two events in my contest operating this past fall prove this point: 1) An intermitent in the 80 meter system turned out to be a bad barrel connector in the shack and 2) a seemingly faulty rotator turned out to be a connector that fell off the back of the control box. In both cases, I was ready to go outside and start climbing towers. In both cases, I didn’t even need to put my shoes on. When in the heat of battle, think about the ” easy stuff” first when you have stations problems. Contest operating takes enough out of you without climbing towers unnecessarily.
67 Speaking of technology, have you given any thought to given your equipment tune-up? Like a car, your station equipment needs preventative maintenance, too. Consider having a qualified technician (assuming that’s not you!) run your transceive (s) through its paces. Maybe you’ll learn that that weak Asian station on 10 meters (you know, the one everyone else could hear) was really a problem with your receiver. No matter how proficient at operating you may be, you’re only as good as your equipment.
68 Do you really study contest rules (especially the ones you participate in), or are you the type who breezes through the numbers and puts the magazine in the pile across the room? I’ve found over the years that contest reports can truly be revealing about your own results – both good and bad! Try reading the next contest summary with the idea of seeking out areas of improvement. With the summer coming, there’s no better time to begin thinking about antenna projects and getting those strategic juices flowing.
This page is a re-write of a group of emails collected by KE1FO, in response to a question by Rick, WZ2T about the best ways to Search and Pounce during a contest. Although many of the replies are to do with the American Sweepstakes (SS) contest, the techniques talked about apply to all other contests.
From: Brian ND3F
Use a computer program with a band map, and keep it updated.
Even if you don’t work a station on the first or second or third call, mark them in the band map, put a scratch pad memory on the freq, and come back later (but soon).
Never call a station that has just been put out on packet. Wait 6-10 minutes for the big guns to do it first.
Become an expert tailender. It really works, especially on CW.
Keep a second receiver on the local big gun/multiop–he will leave his CQ freq to find multipliers, and provide you with an occasional free ‘spot’, if you can track him.
Look in between the big guns for decent signal stations that you can work–slope tuning or very narrow filters required! Work on your timing–send your call sign during a pileup “null” (be first, last or just at the right time to be heard). When I had the newbies over for SS phone, this was their biggest problem – they couldn’t figure out why folks almost always came back to me on the first or at worst second call, but they had to call many times to get through – timing is crucial.
Don’t hang around one band too long if you are not calling CQ. I treat the whole spectrum as continuous when I’m doing S&P at home. Start at the lowest band and go to the highest or vice versa. Check the band one lower or higher than you might expect – if it sounds closed, call CQ for a minute or two – you might create your own opening. We had 60 QSOs on SS phone on 160M by going to an ‘empty’ band and calling CQ.
From: Charlie Morrison N1RR
Raising ur code speed: YEARS of PRACTICE / CONTESTING / Making Contacts / W1AW code Practice+Bulletins
Don’t practice with speeds you can copy at 100% accuracy, you would not be pushing yourself – Practice at speeds you can not copy completely!
S&P rates are dependent upon: UR TX PWR / UR ANT / PROP.
How many times do u have to call ? If no answer, do u push the “A=B” button and tune for the next guy?
Use a second radio! During EVERY transmission on the first radio (CQing Radio) and during some periods while RXing on the first radio, YOU CAN LISTEN AND LINE UP MORE QSOs ON THE SECOND RADIO. Remember to observe the following rule: Only one transmitted signal at a time!
From: Jim Kellaway G3RTE
One of the best bits of advice is to have a good memory when it comes to S & P. Not too hard when you are in a single operator section but not so easy when you take over from somebody else in a multi op section of a contest.
What I have tried to do when organising a multi op section is to have one operator who deals with an individual band. Though of course it doesn’t always work out so well.
As for the memory guess now I am over 50 I need to eat lots of fish which is supposed to be good for the old grey matter.
From: Jim K4OJ
Listen to everything you hear, sometime you don’t wait for the exchange to get to the point where you hear the guys call.
A seasoned contester can know to stop the dial or keep tuning by listening to everything sent. Example: if you hear a section of NWT being sent and you already have the mult – KEEP TUNING – odds are damned good it is the guy you already worked, and if it isn’t there will be a humongous pileup on him.
In a DX contest, listen to the zone being sent, if it is a new one you know you have to work the guy even if he hasn’t signed his call!
The more and more you contest the more familiar the calls will be and you will know that if you tune past a station sending …..PL it is W3LPL going to town.
The more you contest the better your mind will be at processing the thought “W3LPL” – you will know without typing it into your software that you have already worked them, etc.
Above all keep tuning – don’t get hooked on listening to a rare dx station – it is just a contact, the longer you dwell the fewer contacts you will make on that weekend…. keep moving.
The greatest success secret in contesting is the more you are on the air the better you will do because of it! A lot of guys recommend honing your operating skills by operating in every contest you can. This not only gets you tuned in to the rhythms of contesting, but makes your call known, too, so you become an easily recognized call!
Get plenty of sleep during the week before a contest, you have to use your head a lot during a contest, the fewer cobwebs the better. You will insert cobwebs merely by having to operate for long hours – best to start out without any pre-existing webs!
During your learning curve pick two times to operate in the smaller contests, ones where you have a favorable advantage – i.e. you know you do well on 20 but not 40, so maximize 20 meter operating to maximize your “fun”. The other times to operate are those where you are not familiar with band openings and propagation.
Just this past year I found an opening I never had before – it was at 7:00 AM local (12:00z) on 160 meters – to Japan!!!!!!! I could not get over how easy it was to work far away JA on top band, 5 QSOs in 5 minutes. You have to know two things though; it is only a few minute long opening, and they can only transmit above 1900. No wonder I never heard a JA on 160 before! It is things like this that you file away in your mental computer and when you start filling up that cerebral hard drive your score starts to rocket. The more you operate the more you know, the more you know the higher your score!
Contesting isn’t easy….but it is very rewarding!
From: Bill Coleman AA4LR
I’ll pass on some tips that Randy K5ZD gave me a few years ago. In SS, acheiving 50-60 Q/hr rates while S & P’ing is quite difficult, mainly because the exchange is quite long. But the long exchange can work in your favor.
Your first tip is to tune faster. Your first objective is to find a station who you haven’t contacted before. Once found, you have to call and then contact him. Don’t waste any time here listening to pig farmers or ragchewers.
Once you’ve found a station, it may be some time before he’s looking for another call. During that time, you can switch to your second VFO and tune around some more. (On my TS-430S, I hit the VFO A=B button, then continue tuning) With any luck, you’ll find another station you haven’t worked. Flip back and forth (My TS-430S has a rotary knob of this – eventually, it is going to wear out) and call the first station who is ready.
In this fashion, you spend more time tuning, and less time waiting for an opportunity to call, and it doesn’t require two radios. If you have one of those fancy receivers with dual receive, you can eliminate the flip-flop part.
The second problem is to call and get through. Early in SS, just about everyone is going to be a new contact, so you can skip the weaker stations and go for the stronger ones. If your antenna system is good enough, you should be able to get through on the first or second call. If not, keep tuning on the other VFO or try the other station.
The third tip is knowing when to give up. After two or three tries, you might as well move on. You’ll come back to them later. If someone CQs in my face, I give them one more try and then move on — I know I’m just too weak for them to work. Come back to them later when conditions are better. Don’t think about multipliers until you are about 12 hours into the contest.
Another tip is to remove redundant phrases in the exchange. Kick yourself every time you say “please copy….” Keep it simple.
The final tip is to try a CQ any time you find a clear frequency. You can acheive much higher rates calling CQ than you can S & P. I usually CQ for 1 minute, then move on if I get no responses. If I make a few contacts, I’ll CQ for 2 minutes before moving on.
There is definitely some skill involved in S&P and it can be learned through lots of practice. On CW, you have to be able to ‘guess’ if a station is new based on just getting part of his call. This is a combination of knowing he calls active in the contest and the ability to use the check partial feature of CT. On Phone, it helps to have an ear for recognizing different accents and voices.
The “secret” seems to be:a) knowing what to listen for – partial calls – accents – special sounds of propagation effects – pileups – unusual exchanges – hunting for common ops on needed bands b) knowing what to SKIP – Weak ones on a fast scan – Stuff that doesn’t “sound” like DX (in a DX test) – Stuff spotted on bandmap (if current) c) doing it all quickly – A=B switch – Trying not to S & P on the same band for more than 30 mins – Knowing what propagation should be to whereever
Since most of this involves listening, much of it should be practicable between contests. So the general solution is to spend a lot of time in the “chair”. Doing it fast and knowing what to skip certainly aren’t simple, but should come with experience.
From: Pete Soper KS4XG
Hook up rig control to your computer and use it with a logger that supports a band map. This will drastically reduce the time you waste recognizing the same set of folks you worked already. You can also easily evaluate where the gaps are. As a side effect, after the contest you can see the ratio of your S& P and running QSOs because the frequencies have been captured.
If you’ve got time, worked everybody, can’t find a run frequency, etc, visit the potential run frequencies a lot to see if you can jump in and also to find the new loud guys that have already jumped in. Monitor as many rag chews as you can. Calling “CQ” about 1 millisecond after the last rag chewer says his goodbyes and leaves a frequency usually works and for a short while there is a lot more elbow room than usual.
The loud stations will sometimes leave the high bands well before they close to jump on a lower band before it gets crowded. This can provide great opportunities for weaker stations to run. The rate will stink, but it may smell very sweet compared to the alternative on the other bands.
The following techniques have been recommended by experienced contesters writing to the CQ Contest Reflector. All credit goes to the writers of these articles.
From Randy, K5ZD
Yes, it is possible to operate for 48 hours without any sleep! But it is hard. Some suggestions:
– You must want to do it very badly. This is the only thing that will keep you going after 36 hours!
– Get as much sleep as possible BEFORE the contest. I try to sleep extra hours each night for the 7 days before the contest.
– You must want to do it very badly.
– Exercise. Being in good shape will help.
– You must want to do it very badly.
– Eat well during the contest. There are many different diets. For me, low sugar and very little caffeine until day 2.
– You must want to do it very badly.
From Jim, K4OJ
I have always viewed this as the make or breaker for the winner of CQWW and the other big time contests….
In addition to having mastered one’s station and propagation to win, one must also master their body…pre contest training and close scrutinty of what you eat both before and after the contest are added to the superior operating abilities of the winners. Stories of what kind of food to eat to minize side effects of sleep ceprivation have been placed on this reflector before….the link to a newspaper article about how NATO pilots do it is I think was the most fasciniating stuff I have seen on this reflector!
I personally have never been able to do it – I have come close a few times but those times are getting to be longer and longer ago…
I think this is the final hurdle…if you have mastered propagation and know when to be where and you have sharpened your operating skills to both run and S & P effectively, well what is left…maximizing your on air time…to those who iron man it, I say well done – and congratulations. Your focus on the entire commitment to winning is clear – yes, lots of us are only able to operate “most” of the contest but this little difference as they say is what seperates da men from da boyz.
Note – you must have an employer who grants you the following Monday off form work to pull this one off! CRASH!!!!!!
From Bob, AA0CY
Because, according to the experts, the body’s sleep cycles come in 90-minute increments, you should take contest sleep breaks in the same ratios. I believe two increments should be the minimum, for a total of 3 hours. That seems to work very well for me, and I’m on the wrong side of 50; although I haven’t contested, seriously or otherwise, for the past three years.
There are some experts who say you can use “half-increments,” or 45-minute breaks or multiples thereof.
The effects of sleep deprivation and “jet lag” can be mitigated somewhat by what foods and drink are consumed, starting maybe a week before. Caffeine is one of the definite “no-no’s,” or at least should be used only toward the end.
From Mikael, SM3WMV
When laying down for a short rest, only lay down where there are a lot of lights on so it is easier to get up after 90 minute rest. Never put your alarm clock within reach. Force yourself to get out of bed to turn it off. Upon awakening, turn on all of the light possible in the operating room to help you wake up. While you sleep your competition is working people. Circadian rhythms dictate that for most people, if you can stay up past 5 a.m. you will be able to stay up well into the following evening. But beware, when it catches up with you during that evening you are likely to go quickly.
From John, K4BAI/8P9HT
The last time I did 48-hours straight was last CQWW CW at age 58. The next time I will try it will be this CQ WW CW at age 59 (both at 8P9Z).
I doubt that age has much to do with it. The first time I did 48 hours straight was in 1987 at age 45. It was suggested at a forum at the ARRL National Convention in Houston by Dick, N6AA. I had not seriously considered it before. The most I had previously done was in CQ WW CW in 1980 from PJ2CC which was about 46 hours. In 1985, I did CQ WW CW from 4V2C (Haiti) and slept only 20 minutes. Since that year, every year I have been in the Caribbean single op, I have done the whole 48 hours without sleep.
I find it almost impossible to sleep the daytime preceding the contest. The contest starts at 8 PM, so I am actually up about 60 hours straight. I do REST on the afternoon before the contest, but can’t seem to relax enought to actually sleep.
Actually, older age may be a positive factor rather than negative, as long as one is in good health. We seem to require less sleep as we get older and we are able to condition ourselves (or practice makes perfect). I used to have hallucinations similar to those described by others, but they have not been noticed in recent years.
Actually, I think a 2 hour nap during the wee hours of the second night would probably be beneficial to most operators, including myself. But, I am generally at a place totally alone, with only an alarm clock to wake me. My concern is that I might lie down for a quick nap and wake up 6 hours later as others have described doing (W2GD?).
This is not to say that I operate the 48 hours without a break except for a dash to the refrigerator and bathroom. I nearly always take a hot shower and some years shave during the wee hours of the second night. Last year, I had a rig failure just before that planned shower break and decided to skip it after taking too much time to get the backup equipment on line, but was almost out on my feet and actually took the shower break during the Caribbean morning Europe opening. After that break, I was good to go for the rest of the contest.
By the way, I have actually gone to sleep standing up operating CW with the headphones on. I fell onto the floor and woke up then. But that was at TG0AA in 1967, when I was 25 years old, hi.
So, what I am saying in a round about way is not to let age discourage you if you are in good health. And experience will probably lead to more success each year.
From John, P40A
I also have trouble sleeping before a contest. I usually spend Friday afternoon walking on the beach and having a few brews and if I’m lucky I can sleep for an hour or two. The few times I’ve tried to stay awake as long as possible, haven’t been able to make it through the Sunday morning hallucinations. There comes a point that I don’t know what I’m doing or why. Usually things are slow then anyway and I take a nap. I’m afraid of being in worse shape when the bands pick up again. Do the hallucinations stop and do you start to feel better when the sun comes out even with no sleep?
From Leigh, KR6X
48 hour DX contest operations are a reality for some. I was able to put in that kind of effort in my mid 20’s. The first 30 hours is a piece of cake if you get some sleep right before the contest begins. The last 18 hours of the contest I often experienced some of my worst delusionary or hallucinatory periods, but there were also some short moments of lucidity. Caffeine can help you keep awake, but one of my ARRL DX contest operations taught me to:
1) use caffeine lightly and only approximately in the last 18 hours, don’t start early.
2) don’t drive home from a guest operator position before sleeping.
And then my best suggestion is to get about 2 hours of sleep at around the 30 hour point. Any contacts lost by being off the air for a rest will be compensated more than adequately by improved operator efficiency in the last 16 hours.
From Stewart, GM4AFF/GM0F
My favourite subject! Here’s a repeat of the information I gathered a few years ago when we had a similar thread. It might be helpful to some. Apologies to those who have seen it before (I have modified it slightly)…
There is no doubt that the human metabolism will function better over a 48 hour period of little sleep, if attention is paid to fitness and diet. Diet seems to have the most obvious and immediate effect on the ability to last the 48 hour period.
1. It’s a proven medical fact that we should sleep in multiples of 90 minutes. Most sleep 90 mins on early Sunday morning, and some on Saturday morning too. In general, it seems like a good idea to get 3 hours in before the contest starts, which is easy in Europe, but difficult in West USA. Varied feelings about whether to get a’lie in’ on the Friday morning, but certainly not good to have a very late night on Thursday. ‘Adrenelin’ seems to be a big factor for some in keeping you going through the weekend. For others, the opposite is true – relaxed and laid-back gets them through. Whether you’re wired or tired, it makes little difference to the final result. It’s the ability to sustain concentration that matters.
2. Drink in moderation, but regularly. Drink to quench thirst. Do not drink caffeinated beverages. Caffeine will lower the blood sugar level thereby affecting the ability to concentrate. Coke, tea and coffee contain caffeine. Milk will make talking difficult – radio and TV news readers avoid milk. Unsweetened fruit juice, a little often, is good. It is far more difficult to waken up if you have managed to get to sleep with a high caffeine level.
3. When to eat? Stick to eating at regular intervals. Every 6 hours with a small snack at 3hr intervals is good. Normal eating times are also good. It’s what your body expects.
4. What to eat? The objective is to maintain a steady blood-glucose level of around 4-5 mmol throughout the weekend, with a slightly higher than normal intake of protein. In normal healthy individuals, high blood-glucose levels lead to poor concentration and drowsiness whilst low blood-glucose levels lead to iritability, short temper and loss of aptitude. 4-5 mmol, a moderately low level, will be achieved by avoiding anything containing simple carbohydrates like sugar or bleached pure white flour. So, good is wholemeal bread, bad is plain white bread. Good is potato skins, bad is creamed potato. Good is natural fruit juices, bad is sports drinks. Good is fruit, bad is sweets/candy. Whilst sports drinks will give the body a big hit of energy, this hit is followed by a very deep low in blood-glucose levels. Complex carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits and grains) are good, in that they take a long time to digest, help maintain a steady blood-glucose level and help avoid surges.
So what should we eat and drink?
sandwiches of wholemeal bread, with meat or cheese
fruit/grain/granola bars (but watch out for high sugar content)
pure orange juice
5. How much to eat? In general, it is best to eat less food than you would normally.
6. Avoid smoking.
7. Keep fit. This is really quite important. If you are fit your body will react less badly to poor sleep patterns.
8. Avoid alcohol.
9. Avoid working on ‘stuff’ right up to the wire. Prepare well for the contest and ‘know’ that you have. There is a hidden side to knowing that you are well prepared. This will help you relax prior to and during the event, which is one of the keys to making it through the full 48 hours. It feels good to feel loud, and believe that your signal is getting through – ‘I know what I’m doing’. Learn from the previous year. Immediately after a major contest write down what was wrong, what went wrong, what was good, and what was bad. That way, next year you will be a little more prepared, and a little more relaxed.
10. Smile when you talk. Sound happy. Even if you feel like death, don’t let the other guy know it! People like to call happy people. Not a lot of good on CW, of course.
Other points worth noting…
Vitimin B can help you feel less tired over a period of time, and may be beneficial. I would not take this as a recommendation to take vitimins though – see your doctor first!
Tablets/medication like ProPlus (in the UK) which are really just concentrated caffeine, will keep you awake but your ability to make even the simplest decision is diminished, and concentration is virtually impossible. Trouble is, I don’t think you are aware of this if you have taken them! Perhaps, useful in the last 12 hours.
Someone suggested avoiding salt, but this may not be recommended in hot climates, as lack of salt can lead to muscle cramps. It’s unlikely that the lack or even overdose of salt over such a short time frame would have that much effect anyway.
A number of ops mentioned feeling rough for the whole of the week following a contest. I didn’t after the CQ WW SSB, but did after the CW. And I haven’t felt bad like this before – I recover fairly quickly normally. I don’t know what this is all about.
Some ops mentioned a lack of aptitude – the inability to physically send certain complex CW codes. This is probably due to low blood-glucose levels and lack of sleep. The inability to receive more than 3 or 4 characters at a time seems to result from high blood-glucose levels and lack of sleep. What to do? Sleep, I guess!
I believe a shower and shave will work wonders on Sunday morning. [Put some clean clothes out beforehand – EI8IC]
I was told that pineapple juice is a lot better at refeshing you than orange. I tried this, and it seems to be true. It’s also less acidic I think, and orange juice can be a migraine trigger.
Essential oils may have a beneficial effect, but leave the shack smelling for weeks afterwards!
I don’t want to sound like an expert. I’m not a dietition. I’m not a top-flight operator. But I am diabetic (insulin dependent), and hence, have a requirement to keep my blood-glucose level under control. I made some fundamental mistakes in the last CQ WW CW Contest (1999), and I am passing on what I have learnt, both from personal experience and from the experience of others. I hope others can benefit from this.
This article was written by John Lindmeier, K3ZV.
The original can be found Here.
Low Profile DX Contesting
There are may of us out there who for whatever reason don’t have a really competitive station. In my case, I live in a row house in Philadelphia with a back yard 20 feet wide and about 50 feet deep. To my east is a row of 30 foot high brick houses. A tower is out of the question. So is running high power. I have had to make do with 100 watts and simple antennas.
My antennas consist of a R6000 vertical on the roof of the house for 20, 15, & 10, a shortened dipole on 40 up about 20 feet, and a centerfed 80 meter inverted L fed with ladder line up about 30 feet in a neighbor’s tree. As you can see, my antenna farm is quite limited.
Challenges This does present some challenges. I keep these in mind when I start planning for a DX contest. Some of these challenges are:
I’m 20Db below a Kilowatt & a TH-6
I’m 10Db below 100 Watts & a TH-6
With the vertical, most RF doesn’t go in a useful direction
Verticals pick up more noise than horizontal antennas
Propagation One of the things I do to prepare for a DX contest is to keep a close watch on solar activity. Knowing what propagation to expect helps me plan what bands to be on and when. I do look at last year’s results and learn what I can about rates on different bands. But I give more weight to current band conditions when planning my operating strategy. My results while running low power with marginal antennas are controlled more by propagation than anything else. This also plays a major role in the band on which I choose to start the contest.
Operating Strategy Getting off to a good start is always important. I like start the contest on 20 if it is open. Most people in this part of the world would probably start on 40 since it is usually open to Europe. I cannot get any kind of good rate competing against KWs and beams on 40 at the start of the contest. So, if 20 is open, I start there for the first hour and then go down to 40 after things have settled in for the evening. I usually pick up some nice Asiatic Russians on 20 from zones 18 and 19.
I don’t spend much time on 80, no more than 30 minutes at a time. I usually try and work all the strong stations as quickly as possible and then move to another band. I check 80 about once every hour or so on Friday and Saturday nights. Packet is a good tool checking 80. 160 is out of the question for me.
My most productive bands are 10 followed closely by 15. The R6000 vertical has separate half wave elements for these to bands and plays pretty well. The morning openings to Europe on these two bands can get the rate display as high as 100 QSOs per hour for short periods. The overall rate is around 40 per hour.
Packet I always enter the single op assisted category (except on RTTY where I don’t use packet). I use packet as a tool to spot new multipliers and stations, as well as an indication of propagation. Using packet requires discipline. I like to look at the station that sends the spot. If I see an isolated spot for a JA on 20, I’d probably ignore it. If I see lots of JA spots form several locals, I would probably check it out.
Its important to not only watch for spots, but also to watch who is sending them. It’s not important for me to know that 20 is open to JA in W6 land when 10 is open to Europe for me.
Other things to remember when running low power and simple antennas and using packet:
Never call a juicy multiplier right after it is spotted. Wait at least 5 minutes for the feeding frenzy to die down.
When Searching and Pouncing, send out spots for all stations worked. This helps everyone. If I cannot work a spot on the 3rd call, put it in memory and come back in a few minutes. Never leave a productive run frequency to work a spot. Remember, you are operating a contest and not DXing.
Searching and Pouncing VS Running I spend about 60 percent of my time doing S&P. This can be very productive time as far as the club score is concerned especially if you spot everything you work. I keep track of my rate when doing S&P. When the rate drops below 40 per hour, this is a signal for me that its time to try and run for a while. My S&P strategy is to start at the top of the band and work my way to the bottom. After the first pass, I go back to the top and work my way down again. While doing this I don’t really look at packet spots. After the second pass through the band, I work all the packet spots possible. After this is done I find as clear a frequency as I can and start calling CQ. I stay at this until the rate again drops below 40. I then work some more packet spots, and then change bands and again start my S&P procedure.
A lot of low profile contesters might be intimidated by calling CQ. There is an old saying that it is better to give than to receive. If this is true then it is also true that in order for people to give, there have to be people willing to receive. Don’t be afraid to call CQ. I have had a lot of multipliers come back to my CQs and this is always a lot of fun.
Conclusion Not every ham is blessed to live in a location with multiple towers and stacks of monobanders. Many of us live in areas where using a low profile installation is the best way to get on the air. It is the best way for me.
I know going in to every DX contest that I cannot win. I cannot make the top 10, or even the top 100. I know that the only way I can win is when the club wins. So, I do everything I can legally do to make points for the club.
Steve, W3BGN, preaches that in order to maximize your score you have to be in the chair operating. This is certainly true for the big guns and us pop guns as well. Remember, a big station that operates only a few hours will be beaten by a smaller station who operates the contest every time. With a little forethought and determination, us smaller stations can add many millions of points to the club score and have lots of fun in the process.
This article was written by Doug, K1DG, and originally posted to the CQ Contest reflector. It discusses the Very Important technique of knowing when best to sign your call during a contest.
Recently N6TJ said: ‘Nosey very effectively signed his call after EVERY contact, and this did THREE things:
I acknowledge the exchange and call you sent,
I am KH6IJ,
I think that guys running pileups go through three distinct levels of learning how to do it. The first-timers know that (1) and (3) are important. They do not realize that the operators calling them may have just tuned in and need to know who they are (item 2). You hear them on SSB completing QSOs literally with “QSL QRZ?” which is generally insufficient information and leads to a rate-slowing, frustrating-for-everyone chorus of “WHATZYERCALL?”
After a few years and maybe some friendly advice, they progress to the next stage, which is to sign the call after EVERY QSO. This technique is very effective. KH6IJ used it for years, and at the time of his career, it was probably the best going. I used to advocate this technique also, when it was the best I knew how to do.
I have now discovered the third level of skill. This involves knowing when it is possible to omit signing the call and save time. Some operators use a brute-force algorithm (e.g. “I sign my call after every third QSO”). That’s not bad, but it can be improved if the pileup is small. It’s unnecessary to sign your call if there is another station waiting who already knows it and will call you as soon as you sign enough to communicate number (1) above. (2) and (3) are not needed, because if the timing is right, the station waiting in the wings knows that the next thing you want after ACKing the first guy is a QSO, so there is no need for anything more than a “TU” or “R”. In an ideal world, pulling two full calls from every “QRZ?” allows you to do this VERY effectively. Even a partial of the second guy’s call is enough so you can call him and not invite QRM-causing newcomers to call. I was astounded this weekend to hear CN8WW, with their multiple-ears-with-different-antennas-and-receivers-on-the-pileup-technology and resources, pull 3 complete calls out of one CQ when I called them. They saved the time involved in signing their call superfluously three times, since all 3 of us knew who they were already.
I believe that the top ops are able to use their judgment intelligently for this adaptive method. As Neiger the Tiger says, knowing when NOT to sign your call is as important as knowing WHEN to sign it. To paraphrase Einstein: “You should sign your call as infrequently as possible, but not more infrequently.” The best example of this I heard last weekend was OX/N6ZZ’s run on 40 Sunday morning (funny how TJ used Phil’s callsign-challenged circumstance as an example of when NOT to ID too often). Phil had a small, skilled group calling, and seemed to know instinctively when to complete a QSO with “R” and when to sign the call. His speed was perfectly suited to the conditions (funny Zone-40 fading), and it was the smoothest run I have heard in a long time; he always answered a correct full call, and I did not hear a single “?” or “CL?” from a potential caller.
It is likely that there is another level of pileup management I have not discovered yet – one that guys like AR, ZD, the TJs, and such have mastered. (Note to self…check to see if N1TJ is available…something strangely Karmic about that suffix) I know those guys have figured out multiplier-finding better, so I still have lot to learn. Maybe someday I’ll get good enough at it that my good friend YT3T will also accuse *me* (in jest, of course) of being a packet-watcher. I guess that’s the ultimate compliment.
TJ the Elder also said: ‘It is IMPORTANT for all to remember, the DX station is in-charge, and dictates as to how he chooses to operate. Everyone else has the absolute freedom to call him, or not. But it’s HIS pileup. Let him run it the way he wants. If you think you’re better, than YOU go out and prove it!’
W6NL once said that you can’t educate an operator during a contest – from either end of the pileup. The 48-hour period is only for making QSOs as fast as possible under the circumstances – and that means working a certain percentage of less-skilled ops. You can only teach by example during the event. I’m glad we have a forum like CQ-Contest to provide the post-contest educational service.