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Thoughts on the ARRL 10 Meter Contest

N6BZA (N6BZA) on May 25, 2000
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One of the things that Iíd like to see on is a set of articles on each of the major contests. Since the ARRL 10 meter contest is my favorite, Iíll start with that one. One caveat Ė while I am an avid and active contester I am not a big gun by any stretch of the imagination. These are my opinions Ė take them with a grain of saltÖ

Each of us enjoys contesting for different reasons. For me Ė high rate and good DX make my day. I enjoy domestic contests like Sweepstakes and CQP, but the rate isnít as high, and there is limited (or no) DX. I also love the Ďrealí DX contests (ARRL DX and CQ WW), but again the rate doesnít tend to be as good or as steady for U.S. stations. WPX is a great contest Ė but that will be the topic of another story.

The ARRL 10 meter contest has it all. It is an Ďeveryone works everyoneí contest Ė so the rates are great. Here from the Western U.S. we open the morning with runs into Europe, then settle down for a solid day of stateside contacts before ending with Japan and the rest of Asia. The rate never really drops from the time the band opens around 15:00 GMT until it closes around 03:00. I routinely run at between 150 and 250 per hour on phone, which really keeps the adrenaline flowing! A winning station in SS SSB will work around 2,000 QSOís. The SSB winners in the 10 meter contest work closer to 3,500. To top it off, U.S. stations can do as well as (or better than) DX stations. In part because DX stations have a longer exchange, the top U.S. stations usually make more QSOís than the top DX stations.

In addition to rate, the 10 meter contest has great DX. When the band is open (during good parts of the sunspot cycle), you can work around the world on 100 watts and a dipole. With everyone concentrating on one band, there are plenty of interesting stations on all the time. Working 10 meter DXCC during the contest is well within reach Ė 70 countries isnít even all that hard.

Finally, the 10 meter contest has two other major advantages.

It is a family-friendly contest. Because the band closes after dark, you can still have a late dinner with your kids and get a good nightís sleep without feeling guilty. You donít have to spend next week recovering from a 48 hour marathon like CQ WW. For those of us with youngsters, this is a huge benefit.

And last but not least, because it is only one band, you can be competitive with a relatively simple (and cheap) station. K6LL routinely places in the top ten with a tri-bander at forty something feet. You donít need two radios, stacked 20 meter yagiís and 1000í beverages to be in the running in the 10 meter contest. One good radio with decent IF filters, a basic amp (an SB-220 works fine), and one good antenna is enough to have lots of fun and do pretty well.

So all that said, here (in no particular order) are some thoughts on how to have a great time and put up a good score in this event. Most of this is from the perspective of a fairly small U.S. west coast station with a phone bias, perhaps others will add their own points of view.

  1. Donít miss the openings. Spend enough time on the band in the weeks before the contest to know when 10 is open to EU and JA from your QTH. Africa, South America and the South Pacific are nice Ė but the bulk of your QSOís and mults will come from W, EU and JA. Be especially sure not to sleep-in so late Saturday morning that you miss the early EUís Ė you may never hear those mults again. Good sources of information are the propagation charts in QST, and propagation pages on the web (e.g. ).
  2. If you donít have a beam, build one! A good 3 element direct 50 ohm feed yagi for 10 meters can be built in a day, mounted on a Radio Shack push-up mast, and turned with a TV rotor. L.B. Cebik has a site ( full of great ideas for 10 meter antennas. The W6SAI design for a direct feed 3 element yagi on a 12í boom is excellent bang for the buck. The difference between a vertical, G5RV or a dipole, and even a 2 or 3 element yagi is huge. It doesnít have to be that high to work well on 10 meters Ė 35 feet is probably high enough.
  3. If you already have a beam, build another one! (hi hi) The ability to beam in two directions at the same time is a major step up, and will lead to much higher scores. I built a small 3 element yagi to stack with my C-3E for the 10 meter contest in 1999 ( Ė that let me beam the U.S. with the low antenna and either EU or JA with the high one (using an Array Solutions Stack Match to split power). What a huge difference it made!
  4. While you donít need a band plan for this one, you do need a strategy. Map out the mults that you expect to work, and get a plan to work them. If you have a big enough signal to run, then let most of the mults come to you. Maybe sweep the band once every 2 hours or so. On Sunday morning, make sure you have all the easy EU mults before the band closes. Donít miss ON or CT because you didnít take the time to do a little S&P. The same goes for ZS and any other easy Africans from your QTH. Go looking for them Sunday late morning if you donít have them in the log. If you have a smaller station, remember that the big guns will be begging for QSOís on Sunday. Donít spend 30 minutes on Saturday morning in a pileup for WP2Z when you can work him in 5 minutes on Sunday.
  5. Be efficient. When 10 is open, there is no QRN. The band is wide enough that even during the height of the contest there is empty room above 28.500 on SSB. If you are going to run, find a good spot where you can hear well, and run. Donít repeat yourself. Be friendly, but donít waste time. The difference between:
  • N6BZA, QRZ?
  • Whiskey One America Whiskey
  • W1AW fifty nine cal
  • Thanks, fifty nine charlie tango
  • Thanks N6BZA QRZ?


  • This is Nancy Six Bravo Zulu Alpha, QRZ contest?
  • Whiskey One America Whiskey
  • Whiskey One America Whiskey, thanks for the call OM, you are fifty nine in California from Nancy Six Bravo Zulu Alpha
  • Thanks, fifty nine charlie tango
  • Ok Whiskey One America Whiskey, I QSL your fifty nine Connecticut, thanks. QRZ contest from Nancy Six Bravo Zulu Alpha

Is the difference between a rate of 250 and a rate of 150 per hour.

  1. Have fun! The 10 meter contest is a great contest for first time contesters. You will work lots of folks who recently got their 10 meter HF privileges, or who just wandered into the contest. Be nice. Be friendly. If we make contests fun to participate in, more casual ops will work us Ė and that makes it a pleasure for everyone.

I hope that others will argue that SS or CQWW are the king of contests, but for me the ARRL 10 meter contest will always be my favorite. With a couple of more years of good propagation to come, we can all look forward to great fun in mid-December. Good luck, and Iíll see you on the air!

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
I agree , 10m test is the best other than...  
by WA0VHX on May 31, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I would say field day is the best and family friendliest (but is it a contest or exercise?).
I have done the 10m test on/off for 30 yrs, made the past 3 years since got up a TA33 on 44' crankup
tower and last year was the best replacing my 18 yr old ICOM730 with a 746, especially on
CW. I am NOT a high speed CW op but I enjoyed 100 contacts on 10m using just a paddle
and the 746 memories, a nit to serious CW ops but big to a 18wpm guy. Believe it or not I
also used a logging program for the first time -however- learned NOT to use freeware on an
aged intermittent 486 CPU (it hung up and I lost over 20 contacts that musta only been
memory cached plus had to re-enter 80 more from backup printout into log).
I also 'share' my antenna with my Tech Plus son KC0CJP, and credit both the 10m test
and field day for him getting his license (and likes to bug Dad that he won the MN top Novice
Tech Plus certificate in 98, he did not even have 100 contacts!).

My only critique is the timing of the event during a tremendously BUSY time of the year between
holidays. I have asked ARRL to reconsider a move to Nov (of course problem w/SS) or Jan, I can
never get more than 8 hrs/day Sat & Sun with all the Christmas programs, concerts, etc that
happen that time of the year. But despite no winning scores it rates very high on my favorites
for a test that a modest operator can enjoy! Dave WA0VHX Rochester MN
Great Article, Dan  
by KZ5MM on June 4, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I agree. The 10 Meter contest is one of the most fun contests. With everyone on the same band and many of the big Multi stations going in the single operatoe category, the competition can get pretty hairy!

During the last 10 Meter Contest, the stations were wall-to wall from 28,300 to well over 29,000 Mhz!

Aint no meters like ten meters!

Chuck, KZ5MM
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