I make no bones about it, I am still green when it comes to contesting, but that does not mean I cannot participate and have fun while I am on the air. Sure my work schedule and personal life seem to collide with nearly every (major) contest weekend, again I must remain flexible when it comes to operating time. Last year after participating late in the contest season, I was able to get a feel, both as a team participator and a single operator. While spending more time at N6RO with the experience that gathers for contests is only part of the equation. While operating solo, I get time on the radio, I get to work all the contacts, make the decisions (S&P or RUN), change bands and time off, just to name a few. While I don’t have all the antennas to get maximum output on all the HF contest bands, I have enough to get on the air and participate.
I feel that participating in a contest only helps to hone my skills as an operator. I don’t put much interest into signal reports at any time. Contests (and some non contesting QSOs) are notorious for always providing a ’59’ or 599′ report. So what? Don’t take away from the fact that I copied a call sign correctly or pulled a weak station out of the noise. Since this is the first year I will participate in all the major (ARRL & CQ) contests I am looking forward to better my attempts from the previous year and set goals for those contests I have never participated in.
The first contest I participated in was the CQWW CW Contest, the last weekend of November, 2008. And while there was nothing really spectacular about my score, it was the first time in a contest situation. CW of all modes. Later during the season I participated in RAC Winter Contest and the OK DX RTTY Contest. The RAC was interesting, because I spent time at N6RO participating as part of the team, before operating from my QTH.
January, 2009 was probably my busiest month, as I participated in both NAQP (CW & SSB), as well as RTTY RU, since there was a big push by the NCCC to have a good club showing. I also spent some time in the BARTG RTTY Sprint. In a way I have really taken to RTTY contesting the best. That takes nothing away operating either CW or SSB during a contest.
ARRL Sweepstakes will be the first time I have participated in this contest. It is an interesting exchange to say the least. It is not copy a call sign and 599 and move on. This contest seems to be the favorite of many amateurs, for a reason I have not yet experienced. The exchange is five parts:
[serial #] [precedence] [call sign] [check] [section]
The serial number is what contact that is in your log. The precedence is how you are operating; SOLP, SOHP, MO, Unlimited or school. Call sign is your call sign, while the check is the year you were licensed. Finally the section is your ARRL Section, for me, that is EB or East Bay. The other caveat of Sweepstakes, you can only work a station ONCE, regardless of band. Each of the 71 ARRL sections and the 9 Canadian sections are your multipliers.
So how will I do? I don’t have any idea. From all the talk with a few other other guys most will start on 20M, where should be a very high rate. For me, I doubt I will run a frequency, which means I will be search and pounce from the start. With the hex beam, I could probably squat on a frequency and run.
I am hoping to put in 9 hours straight at the beginning of the contest. Not sure if that something that will happen or not. Sunday is pretty much all lost to work, cannot call in sick on a Sunday. I will get home approximately 2300 and hopefully finish out the contest (4 hours). That would total 13 hours in the contest and in reality, lets make that a total of 12 hours since 1 hour will be lost to distractions. If I can do a total of 400 QSO, that is 30/hour. I would think that would make a good goal to shoot for, but it means that Q rate will need to be strong at the start of the contest. While I would also like to get a “clean sweep” the first time out, ’75’ is probably more realistic. Since each QSO is worth 2 points that would give us a total of 800 points multiplied by 75 for a total of 60,000 points.
While the goal is a lofty one, I am looking forward to a full afternoon and early evening operation. Hopefully 40/80M are worthwhile after the sun goes down. 15M and 20M (at least RTTY) has been very nice recently for me. I think most of that has to do with the hex beam. Anyway I look forward to Sweepstakes! See you after the contest.