Sad But True

This is one of those topics that usually turns nasty in a short period of time. I have written about this a few times in the past, but it is usually a subject I avoid. Why? Because nothing I write or say will sway those who feel strongly against it. I am talking about amateurs who complain about operators who participate in contests.

It never fails to see a few different threads spring up around the Internet bashing operators, the bogus exchanges or any number of other contest related items. Some operators might consider a contest a “waste of time” as I have seen posted before. When ANY contest springs to life over the course of a weekend, there is a good chance it will be wall to wall signals on the main bands. Depending on the contest mode (CW/RTTY/SSB) different portions of the bands will be used, so enthusiasts who don’t participate can use the remainder of the band.

Take for example this past weekend and the ARRL International DX Contest, there were signals on 20M throughout the entire band! But I did hear a few non-contest QSOs taking place, one which was a rather rude exchange between two operators who were allegedly being QRM’ed by a contest station calling CQ. Their answer was to key up their linear amplifier on the contester.

Sorry, but that should NEVER be the answer to any sort of problem, regardless of a contest weekend or not. Unfortunately not all operators are considerate and there seems to be some animosity between the contest and non-contest operators.

Many question the “mindless” exchange which usually includes a “59? signal report. I’ll admit that all of my contest QSOs have been 59(9) in every contest I have entered. But this past weekend I was able to pull out some “weak” (100w & 200w) signals with much louder stations around running a kilowatt plus. In my opinion I had to use skill in first finding the signal, tuning it and then making a valid exchange.

During a contest weekend there is ALWAYS a portion of every band available to use for those who are not participating. Many operators either dismiss the WARC bands or don’t want to break from their routine or a frequency/band they use daily, usually at a specific time.

I will admit there are some practicing poor operating habits during a contest. Mindlessly calling with their call sign when a DX station is looking for a specific region. I forgot what station it was, but they were looking for West Coast stations only, when suddenly W8 and W9 are calling. And yes, I did check QRZ and none of those stations were situated on the left coast of the USA. Then there are those that I eluded to earlier who tune up on a DX frequency for whatever reason.

Then there is the CW only contester who enjoys to join in on the bashing as well. Why, I don’t know. Contesting is contesting, the only thing that changes is the mode. The ’599? exchanges end up occurring in CW and RTTY just as they do for SSB. I see no reason why a SSB contest needs to be referred to as a “cesspool.”

As for myself I am not in a chase to be the top contester or win awards in every contest I enter. I do it because I enjoy chasing DX. Contests give you that opportunity to add some “new ones” to the list. Out of 71 QSOs this past weekend I had 54 that I had never worked before on phone. So while I had no goals set for this contest I saw this as a successful contest from my standpoint.

In conclusion, I don’t favor participating in EMCOMM, but I won’t be caught calling them derogatory names or bad mouthing their activities. I don’t participate in daily nets, but I don’t knock those individuals for their operating habits. Why? It does no good. Amateur radio is a extremely diverse hobby, there is room for everyone to participate and do what they enjoy. But to speak your mind on the Internet, which if I recall is NOT amateur radio, does nothing to promote what a great hobby we all participate in.

Unfortunately no matter how much I ramble about this topic it will continue to rear its ugly head prior to and after a contest.

CQ Bitch Fest CQ Bitch Fest

Being involved in online communities, I guess it comes as no surprise that regardless of what community you join there will ALWAYS be individuals who have nothing better to do than complain. The online gaming community I helped create and support was probably the worst, but I am beginning to see that dark and ugly underbelly of amateur radio come to life during contest weekends, online.

There is no love lost between the groups labeled as “contesters” and “non-contesters” and the arguments are always the same when they show up online. The contesters claim “its only a weekend” or “go work the WARC bands.” Non-contesters who want nothing to do claim the big amps and high towers fill up the bands and make any sort of ragchewing or operating nearly impossible. This after the week leading up to a contest, like many are usually fairly quiet, outside of a DXpedition.

Let’s not forget about the plethora of nets that meet on designated frequencies. While these nets do not “own” the frequency they lay claim to a frequency nearly 24/7. Take for example the Maritime Net on 14.300. I can understand non North American operators calling CQ on this frequency, but if a frequency is not in use, then it is free for anyone to use.

Another contention from the non contester is the false exchange of every QSO being “59.” This after it takes numerous calls to get the other station’s call sign correct. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not much for ragchewing. Sure there are times I get on a topic or subject with another amateur and we end up talking for 30-45 minutes. I don’t have any problems, but it’s not primary interest in amateur radio.

As for contesting, I am just a rookie, still wet behind the ears trying to improve my operating and scores every contest I entire. While I would love to be a full time participant at N6RO, the local “big gun” in Oakley, CA I am nowhere near the quality of some excellent operators who frequent that locale nearly every contest weekend. But, observing and getting my feet wet working some of the “slower” bands during a group effort is a way to improve myself.

So how do we appease everyone in the amateur radio community? You can’t. Contests will continue and the complaining from both sides will continue. Best thing I can do, not to visit these online communities during contest weekend because of all the negativity that emerges during the weekend. I will continue to do my best during these weekends to work as many stations as possible, not only to improve myself but to provide support and contribution to my contest club.

Contest Conflict

After WPX ended last weekend, I called my father, N6SV, as I usually do after each contest I participate in to tell him how I did, what new DXCC I confirmed and general thoughts about it. While he is no longer involved in amateur radio, he is excited to hear my experiences. I then brought up (the age old) complaints about contests and contesters from those hams who do not participate. As expected he said this is how it was when he was involved.

With the advent of the Internet hams having the ability to verbalize their thoughts about contesters commandeering the bands (not WARC) on contest weekend. Not a contest weekend goes by where a few new threads don’t pop up on QRZ to complain about the contest or the manners of some involved, or better yet calling on a frequency that is a “net” frequency.

As many level headed hams know, contesting is not going anywhere. On those weekend where a major contest is involved, if you are not planning on participating, then you might consider your options. First, get involved. Why not give out a few points. A contest weekend “promotes interest in Amateur Radio communications and experimentation” (from the ARRL web site). Second work the WARC bands, which are always contest free. Third, find a portion of band that is not included in the contest. If CW is the operation mode, then work SSB contests and vice versa. Some hams who might not respect contesting will exclaim, “Leave some room on the bands for those who don’t!”

Ham radio is such a diverse hobby there is always something to do when in the shack even if there is a contest going on, regardless of mode. Find out what those are. Experiment, that is another point made by the ARRL, which is part of what makes ham radio unique. If you still cannot find anything to do during a contest weekend, there is always that “honey do list.”