An Enticement for Contest Newbies
Some of you have expressed an interest in CW and Contesting, and upcoming is a great weekend (for 2003 it’s Nov1 – Nov2 local) for US and Canadian hams to practice it. The annual ARRL CW Sweepstakes runs 1PM Saturday to 7PM Sunday PST (or 4PM Sat to 10PM Sun EST) on 80 through 10 meters (not on 30, 17, or 12-meters). While you might recoil in horror at the high code speeds, tune wayyyyyyy up in the bands and there will be some folks going nice and slow. The Novice bands on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters often have a number of slow-speed stations hanging out up there. Don’t be afraid to jump in there and give ’em a call. I *guarantee* your code speed will double with just a few hours at the key.

Here’s how it works…

1) You hear somebody calling “CQ SS CQ SS de N0AX”
2) Send your call ONCE – “W7VMI” – don’t send their call and don’t send yours twice or three times. If they don’t copy your call on the first try, they’ll send “AGN” or “?” or just CQ again. So call ’em again. If they’re going too fast, send “QRS W7VMI” and they’ll slow down.
3) If they hear you, they’ll send something like this – “W7VMI 107 A N0AX 53 CO” What the heck does that mean?
– W7VMI is your call to let you know they’re talking to you
– 107 is the number of the contact in the contest for them (their next contact will be 108, etc.)
– A is their entry class (low power) – there are A, B, M, Q, S, and U classes
– Then they send their call
– 53 is the last two digits of the first year they were licensed – it’s called a “check”
– CO means Colorado, their ARRL/RAC Section (there are 80 – some are states, others aren’t, all are two or three letters)
4) If you don’t get it all, it’s perfectly OK to send “QRS PSE, AGN” – which means “Slow down, send it again, please”
5) If you do get it – way to go! Here’s what you send…
– Their call
– The number this contact is in the contest for you – if it’s your first send “1” and pat yourself on the back
– Your class (QRP is Q, <150W is A, >150W is B, M is multioperator, S is a school club, and U is unlimited…don’t ask)
– Your call
– The last two digits of the first year you were licensed – if you got your license in 2001, it’s “01”, for example
– Your section, “WWA” for Western Washington, maybe, or “IL” for Illinois, or “PQ” for Province Quebec – ah, but oui!
6) If they don’t get it, they may say…with a question mark, maybe…
– “AGN” – send everything all over again
– “NR” – repeat just the number a couple of times
– “PREC” or just “PR” – repeat your class (power) letter, it’s called “precedence” for a number of reasons you don’t care about
– “CALL” – repeat your call (this is rare)
– “CK” – repeat the two digits of the year, your check
– “SEC” or “QTH” – repeat your section
7) They may ask YOU to QRS, you speed demon, so do it with a smile!
8) If they copy everything, they’ll say a short “TU” (for thanks) or “R” (for Roger) or “QSL” (for received OK) and then just send their CQ or maybe just their call and away you both may go.
9) Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out – QRM (interference) or QRN (static) or QSB (fading) or the cat could cough up a hairball on the rug requiring immediate action. Don’t take it personally; just go find somebody else to call. It’s a no-fault deal.
10) If you get tired of “Searching and Pouncing”, then tighten your belt, mop your brow, cock your hat at a jaunty angle and call CQ! It’s easy – don’t have a cow, man, just call “CQ SS CQ SS de W7VMI W7VMI” and listen, repeat if necessary. Soon you’ll get an answer. Just play back the above steps with you as the call-ee.

What’s the object? Make as many contacts as you can. Try to contact as many different sections (there’s usually some kind of trophy for making a “Clean Sweep”!) as you can. Try to spell your name from the last letters of the calls you work. Work your home state. Work your brother’s state. Nobody can stop at just one QSO…

It’s a lot of fun – the hours will fly by. Keep a simple paper log the first time out to make it easy – you can worry about entering it on a computer later. There are complete rules and instructions for operating and scoring and sending in the log on the ARRL Web site Come next spring, you can click on over to the contest results on the ARRL website (Click here for last year’s write-up)

and wonder-of-wonders, there your call will be with the mighty titans in the very same font size just a few lines away. Woo-hoo!!

Go for it!

Phone SweepstakesAdded by N2MG

There are a few obvious and not-so-obvious differences between the CW Sweepstakes and the Phone Sweepstakes.

First, quite obviously, is the Phone SS uses voice (say what?) and second, it is held on a different weekend…historically two weeks after the CW weekend. Like the CW weekend, it runs 1PM Saturday to 7PM Sunday PST (or 4PM Sat to 10PM Sun EST).

Many of us might say, “Gee, Phone SS must be easier to operate than CW.” Well, yes and no. Certainly it’s more natural to use one’s voice than the paddle, and the rules are the same, so Phone should be a snap, right, all other things being equal… but they are not. Phone operation has a distinct set of characteristics.

The phone bands are considerably more crowded than CW – first there’s the bandwidth issue – a phone QSO takes up more band than a CW QSO does. Also, there tends to be more casual (non-contest) phone operating (nets, rag chews, etc.) of which you need to be aware and coexist. Please be courteous to other band occupants – whether contesters or not.

Unlike CW, some folks seem to be enamoured with using “the last two” to call. Please use your entire callsign. Nine times out of ten, the other station will copy it right the first time. And use phonetics – NORMAL phonetics. (Willie Billie Five Willie Billie Willie might seem funny to your friends, but not here!)

Signal quality is much more of an issue on phone. Before the contest, have a friend check your signal at full power – is the audio clear and splatter-free? If not, take steps to make it so – you will make more contacts and have fewer problems on adjacent frequencies.

And a tip – having a noise blanker or preamp turned on will likely lead to severe intermodulation and overload problems in your receiver. Turn them off whenever possible – doing so may also work for a non-contester. In fact, cranking in some attenuation or turning down the RF Gain control will improve receiver performance dramatically under the strong-signal tractor-pull known as Phone Sweepstakes.

All that said, Phone SS can be a blast. Let’s rumble!