I've read with interest and horror some of the opinions and statements that
have been put forth on the topic of the WPX and contests in general, how
they're scored, and how they're unfair.
I'm very concerned that new or prospective contesters will read this and get
the impression that the winners got what they got because they're privileged
somehow. That winners are, in essence, cheaters. Because if the winners
weren't cheating, they couldn't have beat all those virtuous losers. That,
in fact, any activity where someone loses is -- by definition -- unfair.
Contesting is competition -- plain and simple. There are no second-place
winners. The term for those who don't win is "loser." There is no shame in
losing. I have been a loser many times. Winning feels good, but losing
educates you. Ask my 6-year old daughter what being a loser means and she'll
tell you without hesitation: it means you have to try harder. No one ever
won a contest by whining.
If you want to be competitive, you must do everything within your power (and
the rules) to maximize your advantages and minimize your disadvantages.
Complaining that a contest is unfair accomplishes nothing except to brand
you as a bitter, dissatisfied, jaded, jealous naysayer.
Ignore advice or whining from folks who don't even participate in the
contest. What can they possibly tell you except how to be a bitter loser? If
you want to win, associate around winners.
If you want to be competitive, you must be positive. Here are some suggestions.
1. Aquire as much knowledge as possible about the contest.
First, learn the rules of the contest. That means knowing the exchange and
the scoring. It also means understanding what strategy you should use to
maximize your score. Figure out how long should you chase a multiplier and
how many Qs do you need to be competitive.
Figure out if a mult or a 3-point qso is more valuable to you toward the end
of the contest. Calculate how many mults you will need to be competitive.
2. Decide where to point your antenna and when.
You must understand how propagation affects your area. Read the propagation
forecasts and make sure you understand them. Know where your greyline goes.
Know when 40m opens and 20m closes. Keep an extra antenna and radio tuned to
popular 10m frequencies (you know them because you researched, right?) to
check for band openings.
3. Study the local competition.
Study the scores, mults, and prefixes worked by those in your area. Call
them or write them and find out their strategies. (Of course, they may not
want to tell you!) Ask for copies of their logs. Study where they pointed
their antennas and when. Find out what bands they favored and why.
Anyone who beats you is in a position to teach you something. Instead of
reviling them, study them. Don't forget the other end of the spectrum. Some
of the most valuable lessons I've learned have come from low-power stations
with wire antennas.
4. Know the field.
Study the contest results from the past 2-3 years. You must know the calls
that were active. You must know if any special DX stations be on. You should
know who you'll be listening for.
You must know the frequencies that JAs can use on 80m. You should know the
40m allocation world-wide. You should know where VKs will be on the low
bands. Instead of figuring out why the contest is unfair, learn how to work it.
5. Improve your station.
Learn the truth about feedline matching, antenna loss, VSWR, directivity,
and gain. That means read and study. That means experiment. That means cut
Shrug off the myths embraced by the mediocre. Don't listen to people who
tell you that 2:1 SWR is good enough because all the power goes somewhere
eventually. Or that 9913 is lossless at HF. Or that a 1 dB difference in a
signal is unnoticable at either end. Or that connector loss is negligable.
All those statements are lies. Find out why.
Work on your antennas. Nothing is perfect or stays that way. Put up new
antennas. Try wires. Try loops. Try beverages. Try low-noise receive
antennas. Try slopers. Try, try, try. All these antennas are relatively
6. Learn your radio.
All (well, most) of those knobs on your radio have a purpose. Find out what
they do. Read and study the manual. Do you know where the manual is?
If you can quickly set a split frequency, you might be the first to work a
new station of 40m. If you learn how to use those 100+ memories efficiently,
you can stack up big stations and throw your call in rapidly to 2, 5, or
more stations simultaneously.
Get all your filters in place. Get a voice keyer. Learn your DSP. Get a
better mike. Tweak the audio until it sounds crystal clear and with all the
punch of a buzz saw cutting through aluminum. Remember that setting for the
contest, then turn it back to mushy so the boys on 80m don't complain.
7. WORK the contest.
If you're going to work a contest, then, by God, WORK IT. A 48-hour contest
runs for 48 hours. If you want to be competitive, you will run for 48 hours
too. Hey, if you can't, then you can't. But then don't whine about not winning.
The single biggest weapon that a small pistol has is persistance. I've heard
lectures from big guns where they advocate switching bands when your QSO
rate drops below 60/hour. That's okay for a big gun, but here are some
* At a rate of 60 Qs/hour, you would work 2,880 stations in a 48-hour contest.
* At 30/hour, you'd work 1,440 stations in a 48-hour contest.
* Even a rate of 15/hour (only one QSO every 4 minutes!), you'd still work
720 stations in 48 hours!
How many Qs did you work in the last contest? I've WON contests where I
didn't make 720 total Qs.
Cherry pickers don't win. If you give up when the time between Qs stretches
out to 4, 6, 10, or more minutes, you give up your competitiveness. A
contesters mettle is measured in the dead of night when calling CQ endlessly
on a seemingly dead band or when tuning 20m or 40m or any other band
straining to pull that next new station out of the noise. (Hint: This is
where 1 dB or less makes all the difference in the world.)
8. Have fun.
Winning is fun. But so is competiting. It's great fun being a part of an
overall event that's larger than some petty self-centered concern about
whether your QTH is "unfairly disadvantaged." If you want to have fun in a
contest, find people who are having fun and do what they're doing. Don't be
poisoned by the facile argument that a contest where everyone isn't a winner
is unfair and unfair is no fun.
Everything is fun if it involves amateur radio.
* I love working SSB, CW, and RTTY contests -- although my skill in each
mode varies widely.
* I love domestic contests. I don't like the spate of non-SASE cards they
generate, but I answer every one -- I will NOT be responsible for
discouraging a ham for a few bucks.
* I love DX contests. Every time I hear GW4BLE or ON4UN or EA7USA it's the
* Everytime someone remembers my call I light up like a little kid. Gosh,
they remember me!
* I love working the all-Bulgaria QSO party and being the only USA entry --
winning with 4 QSOs!
* I highlight my name in every contest result that published. What a thrill!
Any contest I miss I consider a failure. Every contest I make is a victory.
If you like contests or think you might, understand that there are hundreds
and thousands of like-minded souls out there who want you to be the best you
can be. We'll help, encourage, and congratulate you for every QSO you make
and every log you submit. Every DX station is looking for you. Every QSL you
get is a thank you.
Ignore the bitter, the miserable, and the perpetually dissatisifed. They're
not your compeitition; they're QRM.
Rob Hummel (WS1A) <email@example.com>
CQ-Contest on WWW: http://www.contesting.com/_cq-contest/
Administrative requests: cq-contest-REQUEST@contesting.com