[CQ-Contest] Speed and Contesting

K7bv at aol.com K7bv at aol.com
Mon Jun 21 16:41:07 EDT 1999

Ah...a subject near and dear to my heart!  My buddies are frequently jumping 
down my throat for using too high code speeds in contests and to a lesser 
extent, my DXpeditions (sometimes one in the same).

The truth is I do fire off my CW pretty fast because I think higher speeds of 
CW sound neat!  I always have enjoyed listening to a good op run their 
pileups or call-frequency at the highest possible "effective" speed.  
Effective is obviously the key word here.

I believe a lot of folks select 30 or 32 WPM and run the majority of a 
contest at that speed which is fine and it works great.  I prefer to opt for 
a higher speed and then adjust downward as conditions and individual calling 
operator needs dictate.  Having been a CW challenged op when I first got my 
license back in the early 60s, I am painfully aware of how hard it can be to 
master the art of CW.  But, I also am aware that with relentless practice, 
one can experience at great deal of satisfaction watching ones code speed 

People like me need a reason to do my homework.  Getting into contesting and 
having to learn to copy those callsigns being fired off by an efficient and 
high speed operator was a key motivator in my increased copying speed 
learning curve.

Today, some of my most enjoyable moments in life (Yes, life, although I do 
intend on getting a real life sometime in the future) include a relatively 
rare callsign, a 40 meter pileup 5 kHz wide and 3 deep, my CW controls set at 
40+ WPM and knocking off the gang at 250+/hr.  

Now, I know that a lot of guys in the pile cannot copy CW at these speeds for 
a sustained period of time.  But, post-contest / DXpedition QSL returns 
indicate that very few of the gang are being lost in the controlled chaos.  I 
suspect that both ends of the pileup are better off from this short thrill 
experience of learning to copy CW faster. 

I do keep my eye on the Alt F9 key though, and when it seems prudent, drop 
speed rapidly for someone I find in the pile calling me at a significantly 
slower speed.  If it turns out this person can copy CW at 50 WPM and was 
simply using this tactic to get my attention in the pileup, my 
congratulations are offered for his or her smarts!

Obviously, all the above is given much closer attention when I am in a 
contest like WPX where actual intelligent (?) non-reoccuring information is 
being exchanged.  Also, I have adopted the operating tactic used by so many 
of slowing the speed down measurable in the last several hours of the contest 
to try and lure in some of the participants who are intimidated by the higher 

As is always the case, my prime objective when on the air is to have as much 
fun as possible while including those sharing the moment with me in a manner 
that also puts warm puppy feeling inside them, too.

73 Dennis Motschenbacher K7BV

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