Why did we do it?
I've wanted to do this for quite some time now.
There has been quite a bit of discussion the past few years about how
multioperator contesting has been somewhat tarnished by the introduction
and evolution of the extensive packet/internet spotting system. The
thrill of hunting down your own multipliers has been replaced by how many
clusters you can connect or telnet to over the weekend. I can remember a
discussion that K3EST, N2AA, K3LR and myself had about 4-5 years ago after
a MM effort at K3LR about how cool it would be if all the MMs agreed to
turn off packet for the weekend. There was some follow up discussion, but
things kind of fizzled out.
Then in November 2001, W4AN made the following post to CQ-Contest:
From: Bill Fisher W4AN <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I've already got my sites set on ARRL CW. A few of us bound for OH in
July are considering competing in the M/S category and not using
packet. K1DG ran the idea by me this week and the thought of doing a
multi-op without packet got me all excited about the contest!
So, I'm wondering if it would not be fun for all of the top multi-op
stations to turn off the cluster for just one weekend? After its over,
lets see if you don't all have more fun. I know I will.
Bill Fisher, W4AN
Renewed interest in multi-oping without packet! N2NT and I quickly agreed
that our M/2 operation from N2RM for ARRL CW would be packetless. We also
had several of the other serious M/2's to agree to do the same. About two
weeks before the contest, I found out that our competition had changed
their mind, mostly due to some staffing issues - not enough operators. I
still really wanted to operate without packet. I polled the rest of our
crew and we all agreed that we would still carry through with no packet
and see what happened. I was much more psyched about operating the
contest knowing that we would have to work extra hard to keep our
multiplier total up. Our crew hopes that some other multiops may take
interest in operating this way after our effort.
Some private correspondence I received from Greg, K8GL probably best
expresses why things are better without packet, "This gets us back to
operating and spotting as a team. Good stuff! LONG OVER DUE!" W4AN put
it somewhat less eloquently in his 3830 post "Packet stinks".
What did we do?
There are some capabilities that we have at N2RM that were very important
for our success this past weekend. Probably the most important is a short
beverage that is several hundred feet away from the main transmitting
antennas. We can effectively tune for mults on the same band that we are
running on with this RX antenna.
We set up four rigs for this effort, two "main" stations and two
"supplemental" stations. The first supplemental station could be
interlocked with either of the main stations and had transmit antennas for
40-10 meters. You could listen on either the transmit antenna or on the
short beverage. The other supplemental rig was RX only and used the short
beverage. We had four computers running CT and interfaced them to a stand
alone 386 computer running cluster software. This allowed us to
"internally spot" from the supplemental stations and load up the ANNOUNCE
window in CT. We could still "point and shoot" for mults. There may be
an easier way to implement this capability, but I wasn't smart enough to
figure it out before the contest.
So we had some important new chairs in the contest. The
"spotting" chairs. We pretty much had the third chair active for almost
the entire 48 hours. The fourth chair was active when we had the
operators available to staff them.
Some observations and conclusions
First of all, our entire crew agrees that the contest was much more fun
without packet. It is immensely more satisfying to "build your
own" multiplier total during the contest. It was also refreshing to have
to deal with so few packet pileups during the weekend. Believe it or not,
I think the actual number of packet pileups we ended up in over the
weekend was probably in the single digits.
This was the ARRL DX contest and is certainly not as multiplier rich of a
contest as CQWW. The closest thing to M/2 in CQWW is probably
multi-single. If we operated this way in CQWW as multi-single, I'm not so
sure we would be as successful in keeping up with the
"packetized" stations. We compared notes with K1AR on Saturday
morning. We were ahead in QSO's quite a bit, but way behind in mults. We
figured that with the somewhat limited pool of mults in ARRL DX, we would
be able to catch up by the end of the contest.
The somewhat unique capabilities we have at N2RM for same band receiving
were essential for our success. Would it be fair to other stations that
didn't have this capability to compete against us in the
(hypothetical) packetless multioperator categories? I don't know what the
answer is. Isn't this just part of building and improving your
station? If K1AR turned packet off this weekend, I doubt they would have
kept up with us in mults. They don't have the same band receiving
capability we have. Look at W3LPL. Frank has built a crew of several
people per band and can receive effectively while transmitting. Shouldn't
he be rewarded for having this capability instead of having it nullified
Would we do it again? Absolutely. Although I'm not sure how practical it
would be to implement no packet at the Multi Multi level. Seems like
there are enough problems staffing the major MMs without having to fill
additional spotting chairs. I'd love to see additional interest for MS
Who else is interested in joining us operating and spotting as a
team? I'm telling you - multiop contesting is much more fun and
satisfying without packet. We'll be doing this again in next year's ARRL
If I may quote N2AA after the contest, "This is one of the coolest things
I've done in my 40 years of contesting".
For the 2002 N2RM ARRL CW team
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