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[CQ-Contest] Level Playing Field

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Subject: [CQ-Contest] Level Playing Field
From: "w0uo" <w0uo@citbroadband.com>
Date: Mon, 4 Jul 2011 17:47:38 -0500
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I'm very surprised to see this thread last this long.  Not much new has been
said, the issues have been around since at least the 1970s (in my personal
experience) and probably much longer. 


Of all the comments made, I believe that following up on W8JI's suggestion
has some merit. On the one hand, he has pointed out what we don't know,
which is considerable.  On the other, he has pointed out that there are
multitudes of variables that need to be considered.  To list a few:  the
aurora zone is not uniform in its attenuation of signals; it is not constant
over time; it is not constant in shape; it has different effects depending
on the exact location of  the stations; and in some certain circumstances
can be used to advantage (pointing north from Minnesota and running Europe
and JA at the same time).  In the same way,  path attenuation from inland
vs. coastal locations depends on wave angles (density of the ionosphere) as
well as exact antenna patterns (including nulls).  In all of these areas,
good research questions, beginning with "What is not known is.."  could
result in multiple PhD level research for Engineers, Physicists, and
Statisticians and would, undoubtedly contribute to the communications art. 


I was quite surprised that no one mentioned that steps have been taken, at
least by the ARRL, to recognize good efforts from areas other than the east
coast (at least as far as DX contesting goes).  The Region boxes and
regional write-ups, although somewhat imperfect, do this, and are a great
start. One suggestion for improvement would be to divide the Regions in the
center of the country further between north and south to recognize the
difficulties introduced by the aurora.  Perhaps dividing the regions on a
basis other than ARRL Divisions would also enable more realistic


Since the 1970s, I have actively participated in contests from Minnesota (10
years and where I have seen the aurora go past the zenith), eastern Kansas
(1 year), Colorado (11 years), and north Texas (15 years).  I can assure you
that every move away from the aurora improved my results.  On the other
hand, moving from a tri-bander and wires to a tri-bander and 2 element 40,
and from that setup to monobanders from 40 up with gain on 80 also improved
my results. In the same fashion, moving from a TS830 to an IC761 and later
from an IC765 to a K-3 made a difference and who can quantify the value of
37 years experience.


It is my opinion that the means to establish a level playing field (barring
the research that Tom, W8JI, has suggested) do not exist.  There are ways,
however, to see that worthy efforts are recognized.  The answer lies in the
way contest results are reported.  The ARRL has started down that path,
other contest sponsors should follow their lead and, when possible, offer
improvements.  In reality, all competition is local.  The quickest way for
stations outside the east coast to improve their standing nationally is to
concentrate on improving their scores with respect to local competition
(this has been my experience). Recognition of these kinds of efforts by
contest sponsors will certainly help. 


That's my $.02 worth.


Jim Spaulding W0UO

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