[CQ-Contest] Two-Radio Debate

Fred Laun K3ZO aalaun at ibm.net
Fri Jan 23 22:01:17 EST 1998

I have been somewhat troubled by a certain direction the debate on single
operator use of two radios has taken.  Some have argued that in order to
excel in contesting you have to push yourself to the limit, that by using
two radios you inflict the pain on yourself which is necessary if you are
to graduate to the highest level of contesting skills.

Wait a minute!  You're going to scare away the new guys who are pondering
whether they should get into contesting or not.  Who are we going to work
in the contests if there is no new blood entering?    

I don't know of anyone who is being paid to do this.  As far as I know we
all do contesting because it's fun.  Is inflicting pain on yourself fun?
Maybe if you're a masochist, yes.  But let me state for the record that I
have no plans to begin using two radios.  Let me qualify that slightly.
There is one contest in which I can see a slight possibility that I might
eventually drag out the old TS-830-S to use as a second radio -- in CWSS
when the rate drops below 25 an hour.  But in general, I don't look on the
time I use to call CQ wasted.  Rather, it is a necessary interval in which
I can relax and pace myself in order to stay in the contest for the long

Permit me to use the analogy of track and field sports, a sport in which I
engaged  long ago in my high school years.  Just like in contesting, in
track and field there are sprints and their are marathons.  You don't
expect the runner in a cross-country competition (that was my specialty) to
do his first 100 yards in the same time that a sprinter in the 100-yard
dash will do his.  If he did, he wouldn't ever get to the finish line in a
cross-country competition.  So while the two-radio concept may be a winning
strategy for the sprints, I don't feel it is the ticket for me in the long
haul.  As far as I am concerned, anyone who is planning on using two radios
throughout a 48-hour contest is asking for early burnout.  In 10 years,
he's likely to give up contesting.  I have been contesting for 45 years now
and I still love it.

Yes, where once I might have entered every contest that came down the pike,
I now pick and choose a little more.  I am writing this in the middle of
the 160 meter contest, for example.  But I still enjoy the ones I enter
immensely and still manage to put in 41 hours or so in the 48-hour
marathons.  No, I don't do sprints (except for VHF sprints) or NAQP.  I
don't generally enjoy contests where I am working the same people over and
over again to the exclusion of everyone else.  The thrill for me is to put
my call out there not knowing who is going to come back, or to tune the
bands not knowing what I am going to find there.  DX contests, the 10 meter
contest and VHF contests are special because the propagation varies so much
from year to year and contest to contest.  The romance of radio for me is
in the unpredictability of things.  

Contesting is many things to many people.  I don't expect everyone to enjoy
the same facets of it that I enjoy.  But let's not intimate that there is
only one goal in contesting -- greatness -- or that there is only one road
to success.  Let each operator make his own definition of success for
himself.  For me, I was successful in a contest if I enjoyed it, period!
Sure it added to the pleasure if I got a good score, but where I finished
wasn't the only measure of my satisfaction.

And you can increase your skill in many ways without waiting for a contest
to come along.  Just two examples from my own experience:

Most of us now have access to a packetcluster.  Every day for a few hours,
now that I am retired, I scour the bands for stations which I believe will
be needed by a fair number of DX'ers for one or another of the awards they
are working on, and endeavor to put out on the cluster as many rare or
semi-rare stations as possible.  My definition of what I choose to put out
is:  "If it were a new station for me, would I call it?"
This gives me a little contest in which I can participate any time I want
to, and it helps me to hone my S&P skills in a fun way for me.

I have never gone on DXpeditions, but during my working life I was
fortunate to be assigned to a number of DX locations where I was able to
get on the air.  On occasions when I got big pile-ups going, I would say to
myself: "I'm only going to work OK's (or SP's, or DL's) for the next 20
minutes, but I'm not going to tell the pile-up about it."  So I would pull
stations from only the target country out of the pile, even though the
others were all continuing to call.  They must have thought I had a
pipeline to that place!  Then after 20 minutes or so I would switch to
another country.  This helped me immensely in honing my pile-up skills, and
was a fun thing for me.

I don't say this with the expectation that these operating techniques would
be fun for everyone else.  The point is, there are many ways to measure
success, and there are many ways to get to that particular definition of
success.  My advice to the newcomer to contesting would be:

1) Make up your own mind about what turns you on.

2) Have fun!      

3) Have fun!

4) Enjoy!

73, Fred                           

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