Now that the CQWW SSB is just a little over a month away, the thought
occurred to me to write a few lines about planning.
For many of us it's good enough to get on and just have fun in the contest.
This means that you get on when you want and operate as long as you want
and quit when it stops being fun.
For those who are seriously hoping to improve their scores, however, there
is no substitute for careful planning.
After some of the post-contest stories I have written, I have received
private e-mails from folks in propagationally-challenged areas saying, in
essence: "What you've written is all fine and good, but out here where I
live there is just no way I can run up a decent score."
I have replied with my stock first reply: "All right. Tell me what your
operating plan was for the contest and I'll try to help you work out a
better one." About half the respondents come back with: "WHAT operating
Ladies and gentlemen, the cardinal underlying principle for serious contest
operating is: YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHY YOU'RE DOING EVERYTHING YOU DO.
I'm a little tired of reading on this reflector how the log checking has
become too stringent; how the rules need to be changed "so that the
contest is fair"; how one's location is so hopeless that there is no hope
of having any fun in the contest, etc. etc.
How many of the writers of messages which fall into the above categories
have ever drawn up a complete plan for the contest in question before the
contest starts? Yes, conditions can change suddenly and you may have to
improvise, but you should have a plan for that too.
There are pieces on the contesting.com Web site by people such as Randy,
K5ZD which lay aspects of contesting out in much more detail than I will
here, but in general, before the contest starts you should ask yourself the
following questions and have the answers in your head if not formally on
paper: (Obviously these are questions a North American operator would ask.
Some of the questions might be different for stations in other parts of
What band will I start on? Why?
What band shall I try next? Why?
How low should I allow my ten-minute rate to get before I decide to change
About what time should I plan to hit each band and why?
How much time and when should I plan to take time off the first night so I
am fresh for the European run Saturday morning?
What signs will tell me that propagation is deteriorating and what should I
do about it?
How do I vary my pile-up technique depending on what the operator I'm
calling is doing?
How many times should I call in a pile-up before going on to the next pile-up?
What signs tell me that it's time to stop S&Ping and that instead it might
to get a run going?
At what times on each band should I look for multipliers in Africa? South
When do I take time off on the second night?
If a particular antenna, rotor, or piece of gear fails, how do I work
There is no set answer for any of the above questions, because the answer
will be different depending on one's category, antenna system, age and
location. But if you're serious about score, all of these questions should
be asked and answered ahead of time to the best of your ability.
I'm sure others can suggest questions I haven't put in here.
I would offer only one suggestion. It pays to look carefully at the bands
for about a week before the contest to help you plan your operating
pattern. It's much better to observe for yourself than to try to make
IONCAP or VOACAP or George Jacobs' column do the job for you. If you can't
be on certain hours because you're at work or school, check out the
packetcluster when you get home each day to see what people in your area
were working at what times on what bands.
Good luck then! And no complaining later if you didn't do any planning!
73, Fred, K3ZO
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