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What REALLY makes you good?

Subject: What REALLY makes you good?
From: De Syam <syam@Glue.umd.edu> (De Syam)
I have been wanting to get in on this thread but have been a little
tied up with correspondence and preparations for the ARRL Phone
Perhaps there aren't any secrets, in that contesters don't have any
magic formulas that they share with only a few like-minded friends. 
But there are techniques acquired over the years by experience that
are seldom verbalized because they become second nature to the
contester in question.  I served as Editor of the PVRC Newsletter
for a few years and in trying to come up with material to fill up
the columns of that publication I began to try to put into writing
some of the things I had always had in the back of my mind but had
never actually discussed consciously with anyone.
I agree with Doug, KR2Q, that you have to enjoy contesting to do
well consistently over the years.  I only enter contests I enjoy
(well, I could do without SS but it's a tradition with me over the
years so when I'm around I get in).  I don't like the Sprints or
the NAQP so I don't do them (except for VHF sprints).  I don't like
to move people to other bands so I don't.  Two radios sounds like
a lot of work to me and not fun so I don't do two radios.  My idea
is to do as well as I can doing the things I like to do.  That way
the contest stays fun for me.
If any of the following fits you, you probably really do not get
into contests because you enjoy them:
1) In a contest where serial numbers are given out, you hear that
the competition is well ahead of you, so you quit.
2) One of your antennas stops working, so you quit.
3) Your rig breaks down, so instead of trying to fix it and get
back on, you quit.
4) Conditions are lousy, so you quit.
In one ARRL phone DX contest years ago, two antennas of mine broke
(and I don't climb)  so I quit in disgust.  I was kicking myself
for the rest of the weekend because fun things were still happening
on bands I could use.  So at that point I told myself: "Never
Lots of times I didn't even realize that I had developed techniques
for handling certain situations until I hear someone else doing
something, say, in a pile-up, and I tell myself "He's never going
to get him that way."  Then, by going over the steps I would use to
get him, I have come up with the language to use in passing on some
So here are a few tips for operating CW contests:
1) When you hear a slow op, don't dump your call in once at 35 wpm
and expect him to come back.  Call him at his speed, and if that
doesn't work, use his call as well as yours.  (One reason I still
use my trusty MFJ Grandmaster to do all my keying instead of using
my contest program).
2) In your programmed CQ call for running, put your call in two or
three times.  Once is NOT enough for most casual ops -- they won't
get it all - especially WD8LLD (Hey Goose, when does the window
open for FCC form whatever-it-is?)
3) In these days of transceive operation, know EXACTLY where your
transmit frequency is.  It doesn't do any good to call a guy on his
frequency when he's listening 2 KHz. up.  But listen to any contest
pile-up and plenty still do (thank goodness, otherwise I would have
a lot more trouble getting through).  You don't want to exactly
zero-beat the last station he works -- too many people have the
same idea -- but be close.
4) Single ops. should waste no more time than necessary calling
multipliers.  My rule USUALLY is:  If I call him three times and he
doesn't come back, I mark the frequency and move on.  In the last
few hours of the contest I may modify this rule depending on
circumstances.  Of course if you're not out for blood and he is a
new country or prefix for you, you might have different priorities. 
I am talking here about maximizing contest score and all other
considerations are secondary.
5) When running, you should be getting the correct calls of 90% of
the stations that call you the first time, or you haven't arrived
yet.  I don't maintain a partial call database in my contest
program; but I do know in my head what calls are likely to be
issued in each country, and I know by heart a lot of calls of
frequent contesters (even though I can never remember their
names!), and this helps a lot.  
6) If your experience tells you that you will have a hard time
dragging a particular caller through, don't even try!  It will slow
down your rate and also endanger your posession of "your" run
frequency.  This was the hardest lesson for me to learn, because my
ego told me: "No matter how hard this guy is to copy, I WILL get
his call."  But that old pro W3GRF gave me this little piece of
advice, and I have seldom missed the U.S. top ten since  -- I was
seldom in it before.
Tips for SSB operation?  Puh-leeze.  QRX until AFTER the SSB
contest this weekend!  (HI) 
                                       Very 73,
                                      Fred Laun, K3ZO             

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