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Author Topic: The thrill of contesting?  (Read 23368 times)

Posts: 14

« on: January 26, 2013, 11:17:06 AM »

I must begin to say that I am not a contester. (Yet)?  Smiley

I was just listening around on HF bands and it was just boiling with stations calling ''cq test'' .
Haven't relay payed any attention on the test traffic before .
But after listening awhile I became curious about the signal reports that were given,
A lot of them are obvious not correct!
When a station have to ask again and again to get the callsign right and then give the report 5/9 Huh 

I have participated in some VHF test about 15 years ago and the reports were  always given correctly .

I've used to get relay annoyed on weekends when I turned the receiver on and heard CQ TEST . Then I would think oh no not another F***ing test.   
Well that isn't the case anymore. I have come to accept the fact that on weekends there are tests  Grin

Hope you guys here on the forum can shed some light on the thrill of contesting.
And maybe I will work you in a test in the near future!

If you can't beat  them , join them

Best 73:s Klas


Posts: 2101

« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2013, 02:25:07 PM »

standard contest report is 59 (or 599 for CW) regardless of signal strength.  Cheesy
not sure how long that has been going on -- but I would say at least 40 years.

technically for a QSO to be valid callsigns are the only real thing that need be exchanged.

now i am wondering about the history of contesting.  i doubt the first HF contest that included report exchanges were all 59's...

Posts: 40


« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2013, 02:37:08 PM »

Just yesterday while running QRP 80m, after 3 attempts the other station finally managed to copy my call and gave me "59 barely above the noise, but maybe the conditions may improve"; funny.

Posts: 568

« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2013, 03:58:56 PM »

I love contesting, try to play a little whenever I can.  The goal of a contest is to make as many points as possible and that's done by the number of stations/multipliers you can get.  The standard that my logging programs use is 59 or 599 and if you give or receive anything else, then you have to manally change the figures.  Too much time wasted!  Besides, if you play an RTTY contest, It's not just a matter of signal strength when you have multiple stations calling, it's a mess and you hope you can sort one out of the bunch.  I just play in contest to have fun and maybe get a great score and I don't get caught up in the formalities of whether he was a 549 or 599.  Have fun and enjoy the contests!

Posts: 300

« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2013, 04:02:02 PM »

Unless the two stations know each other's working conditions (power and antenna), real signal reports don't mean much. At the end of the contest, the number and location of the stations in your log will tell you how your station is getting out.

Dave, N6ORB

Posts: 393

« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2013, 08:33:05 AM »

.....receiver on and heard CQ TEST . Then I would think oh no not another F***ing test.  

After hamming for 53 years I have never gotten beyond that point!

I'm not really anti-contest, it's just the same gripes that most non-contesters have been saying as long as I can remember:

Why must the entire band(s) get trashed?  ----and----  how can guys that always try to exercise operating courtesy and have great sounding signals suddenly turn into these screaming, mindless, wild eyed 'contest monsters'?

Now before the 'contest people' keyboard spank me just think, I should be contesters favorite types; I hear that crap, mumble to myself and shut things down.  God help me but even week-end television is better.

Posts: 2243

« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2013, 04:28:41 PM »

.....receiver on and heard CQ TEST . Then I would
 think oh no not another F***ing test. 

I used to feel EXACTLY the same way.....until I tried it.
I guess it "got into my blood". I have several ARRL Section
Wins, and #1 in SOAB HP Africa in the 2000 CW WW DX RTTY.

But I am by no means a serious contester, far from it.
No legal limit amp or stacked monobanders. My antennas are a multiband
vertical and some dipoles. Plus my current job has me working
most weekends, so I don't get to play in as many contests as I'd like to.
Still, about %90 of my DX contacts come from contesting,
which makes me happy.

It seems there is always some pleasant surprise no
matter what the contest
. I enjoy digging out the "weak ones"!
Once in a RTTY contest, I heard a VERY weak station calling CQ TEST
between two monster signals, and no one was coming
back to him. After a lot of "digging" and listening I realized
that it was an SU (Egypt) station. That was the last
Zone I needed to work for WAZ! YIPPEE!
And I got him after the second call. 

THAT'S what I find exciting about contests.

I fully understand why a lot of hams find contests
offensive. I get that, I used to feel that way.
But maybe they can be open minded enough to at
least give it a try?

"There is a principle which is a bar against all information,
which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail
to keep a man in everlasting ignorance:

that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

---British theologian William Paley
(Often mis-attributed to Herbert Spencer)

73, Ken  AD6KA/5R8GQ

Posts: 621


« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2013, 02:45:40 AM »

I caught the thrill of contesting early on - back in 1969 or so when I made a whopping 100 contacts or so over several days in the Novice Roundup. But it is not for everyone - I also enjoy ragchewing, DXing, portable operating etc. - each has a different thrill, which of course is the beauty of the hobby.

I think the main thrill in contesting is challenging yourself: can you receive CW faster, can you make a QSO just bit more efficiently, can you can a bit louder, can you learn propagation a bit better, can you come up with a new strategy that raises you score just a bit more?

For many, it is pure competition: can you win? But only a few will win - I've won very little in 30 years of contesting adn the times I've won haven't even been my favorite times.

The best way to dip your toes in the water is during the North American QSO parties in the winter and summer - you just missed the winter ones. Look here for info on those. A good place for lots of information about contesting is the Contesting Compendium wiki, another is the web site.

Field Day is not really a contest, but it is a great way to combine the thrill of contesting with a lot of the other thrills of our hobby. Check out Field Day with a local club.

Every aspect of the hobby ends up colliding with other aspects: nets that feel the "own" frequencies, DX stations that cause huge pilups, etc. Contesting definitely does cause QRM on certain modes during certain weekends. Most contesters will readily QSY if you inform them they are causing you QRM, but like everywhere else in life there will always be conflicts.

73 John K3TN

John K3TN

Posts: 5

« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2013, 08:17:36 AM »

The better  station you have, the more fun ( easier) it is to rack up high scores.  Rates of QSOs and  number of multipliers = Score.  Logging programs automatically fill in the  perfunctory RS/RST so thats not slowing things down  like it used to.  Ditto no more duplicate sheets to cross check to make sure you havent worked a station three times before.

Quiet bands  rarely tell you what propagation is capable of.  Crazy contests HIGHLIGHT  good openings you didnt know existed.

Are antennas or is power more important?  Which antenna works best? 

Watching the whole world come in is exciting.  Pulling out call signs from  waist deep piles of  stations is an art.  But having a good radio helps.  QRN  QRM  QSB complicate things.Each aspect is a challenge. Technical skills and art come together.

I started DXing in the  early 1970s.  I met a few hams at their homes. Guys like SM7BVR, SM7DML, PY8AZT, 5A1TV, ON5CJ  Ive met guys  at DAYTON and in my home, like KH6IJ, VK0HI, VK9NS.  I talked with JY1 a half dozen times.  Working  DXpeditions on various islands, rocks, in countries I knew nothing about always appealed.  Far away places appeal. Learning about them appeals. 

DXing  and contesting are intertwined, IMO.  But contesting also lets you do things like set up special event stations to honor a local hero, or special activity like Arbor Day.  Or trying to work all the state parks in a given  state ( like Ohio) during an 8 hour period, once a year, or over a 12 hr of 26 or 48 hr period. Or to work all the counties in a given state on a given day or weekend.  We set up stations  by lakes, and make 400 contacts in one day.  Or 1200 contacts in a weekend.  Or work a guy on a solar powered  radio while riding his bicycle down the coast of California during Field Day.

It brings people together to have fun.  Or to chase a common goal.  To improve emergency communications skills just in case they are needed - and that is one of the major reasons  we have ham radio in the US.  It helps prepare us for emergency traffic after tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.

Some like QSL card collecting. Postage stamp collecting.  It goes on and on.  But for some of us,  there are usually a hand full of things that  keep our interest piqued and keep us going.  For me,  its now 56 years  as an amateur radio operator.

I think you are starting to find some reasons to give contesting a try.  It's fun all alone, but its  IMO more fun in a group.

Good luck.

Posts: 14

« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2013, 11:55:59 AM »


And thanks for all great input on this subject!

It's been really inspiring and helpful to read all your thoughts and views about contesting.
I just might try to participate in one soon and see how I like it.

And if all turns out fine i may be hooked  Cool

73:s Klas


Posts: 4

« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2013, 06:45:10 PM »

 not had my licence that long( 04/12)so I'm still trying to get use to it all, standard QSO on SSB is now feeling good.
Heard contests on the bands and hope to join them, but at the moment I'm not even close to even give it a try.
Not great at figuring/working out  callsigns,it takes me a while or never to get callsigns written down I'm not used to the way some callsigns are said.but ill get there,i hope
I can get 59++ from some1 and still not get there callsigns correct for a while ,but in conversation i get every word.
there is 1 question about contests i was looking for but couldn't find answer,And that's because they are in contest is it OK for non contest hams to give them a shout(could be 1 that you never normally get)or is that a BIG no no (they give number i could give number back).or does it count against them if I'm not in tourney?


Posts: 621


« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2013, 05:02:15 AM »

In almost all contests, you can give a QSO to the contester and he will gain points even if you don't send in a log. So, by all means - practice by answering CQs in contests even if you never intend to send in a log. Contesters depend on those QSOs - there are usually way more calls logged than logs sent in!

There are one or two Russian contests where this is not true, but for all the major contests where you hear loads of activity, there is no penalty.

John K3TN

Posts: 402

« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2013, 07:26:46 PM »

I do them strictly for fun.  I'm by no means a serious contester. I've never sat on a frequency and done a run, I just search and pounce. I always submit my log though no matter the score. Funny thing is I won my section one year in the ARRL ten meter contest. It wasn't any great score that did it either, I think there was one other guy in my category and state that turned in a log and I bested him by just a few points. I still have that certificate framed on my wall though!! Cheesy Cheesy

Posts: 64

« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2013, 04:13:08 AM »


It is not only acceptable for non-participants to give out contacts in a contest, it's actively solicited!   Grin 

You don't need to turn in a log, though it's really really easy to do that.  Just make a few contacts with different stations.  It's a good way to work new DX entities for QSLs and awards, and it's a lot of fun!

To address the signal report issue: Yes, it's true that signal reports are commonly "perfect".  Yes, it's true that contest logging software automatically enters perfect reports, and it's a PITA to change them to "real" reports.  However, non-contesters should know that it's not uncommon for a pileup to be on my frequency when I'm contesting.  I may hear you perfectly well - "59" or "599" - but need a few exchanges to properly record your call through the pileup din.  So before you disdainfully discard the "always perfect signal report", keep that in mind.  I'm not rare DX, but I am DX, and often I get a pileup of really strong signals I need to wade through to get the call right. Wink


Bob WP2XX (formerly NQ3X), St Croix, US Virgin Islands

Posts: 16

« Reply #14 on: February 04, 2013, 07:42:40 PM »

Contesting will definitely help you figure out what works and what doesn't in your equipment, antennas, shack layout, and technique.  Remember that MOST contesters don't have the giant stations you see in the magazines, and anybody can participate.  It's not interesting to  everybody, just like ragchewing, digital, nets, VHF, SSTV, etc. are not interesting to everybody (although I am guilty of all of the above).  But it can be a lot of fun, and you'll never know unless you give it a try.

To the ham that asked whether it's OK to call a contesting station if you are not 'in the contest' -  the answer is ABSOLUTELY!  Keep in mind that the contester is trying to make as many contacts as possible, and your contact is just as good as anybody else.  The best advice I can give you is:
1) listen to the contest for a bit to get the feel for the "exchange" - this is the info that each station gives to the other, and it varies from contest to contest.  It's usually something like your name and state, or your ARRL section, or a serial number, or something similar.  Knowing the expected exchange will make the contact smooth, and both of you will be happy.
2) If possible, take a look at the rules for the contest - you can find them on the Internet.  Search for 'contest calendar' and find the excellent WA7BNM site.  The "8-Day Contest Calendar" page will show you all the contests from yesterday through the next week, and you can click on a contest to find the details and a link to the rules.  This will help you understand what's going on.
3) If the exchange involves something that's not familiar to you (like your CQ Zone, for example), look it up and write it down.  Google is your friend.  I have a sheet posted on the wall of my shack with my Grid Square, my CQ Zone, my ITU Zone, my ITU Region, and my ARRL Section just for this purpose.  If the exchange includes a 'serial number', use 1 for your first contact, 2 for the next, and so on.
4) Listen for someone calling CQ Contest, and throw in your callsign.  When they come back to you, give them your exchange, and copy down the exchange they give you, along with the time and their callsign.  Find another station and do it again.  Boom!  You're contesting!

There is no requirement to send in your log, but it's always appreciated.  Instructions on how and where to send it will be in the contest rules. This is a LOT simpler if you use computer logging, and especially if you use logging software that's specifically intended for contests. There's lots of free contest logging software available.

Caution - once you get hooked, you will develop an irrational obsession with improving your station, hanging around home on weekends, speaking quickly, learning about propagation, adding antennas, etc.

Welcome to contesting!
73 de W0ZF
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