[CQ-Contest] Contest Decisions

Bill Coleman aa4lr at arrl.net
Tue Aug 23 22:00:08 EDT 2005

On Aug 20, 2005, at 2:39 AM, KE5CTY Bob wrote:

> can I hear what you more
> experienced operators feel are the *really* important
> decisions and what criteria you use to make your judgment
> calls on them?

Well, I don't know if I count as one of the experienced, but "more"  
is relative....

Anyway, I've learned several important lessons from much more  
experienced contesters that revolve around judgement.

 From K5ZD, I learned that you really have to listen to the band. Not  
just if there are stations, but which stations are you hearing? From  
what part of the world / country? Who is answering CQs from your  
area? What do they sound like? Do they sound strong, weak, watery,  
lots of QSB, etc. From these small cues, you can often tell what  
propagation is doing.

Randy also suggested that when you are S & Ping, if you pass a  
reasonably clear frequency, try calling a few CQs. If you get  
answers, then keep running. If not, then you can resume S & P.

One thing I'm still working on is deciding exactly when to stop  
calling CQ and start S & Ping. Clearly you do it when the rate drops  
-- but what rate is low enough? That I haven't figured out yet.

 From W4AN, I learned many lessons. Bill always said not to worry  
about your score in the past hour of the contest - instead focus on  
what you can do *this* hour to improve your score. Don't give up.

Bill always felt that time in "the chair" was crucial to developing  
contest skills. Want to learn how to do SO2R? Then spend every day  
making contacts with one radio while listening on the other. Enter as  
many contests as you can, even if it is only for an hour.

Bill also taught me that there's a lot more skill to contesting than  
is readily apparent. Guys on this list may grouse about multiple  
kilobuck rigs, stacks of monobanders, remote bases and what not --  
but all the equipment in the world does you no good if you don't know  
how to use it. Challenge yourself to maximize your score with the  
equipment you do have. Trade up antennas and equipment as you can  
afford it - but don't obsess over it.

K3ZO taught me the secret to finding a clear frequency isn't how many  
times you send QRL? or ask "Is this frequency in use?" -- it's how  
much you listen to the frequency. Fred also demonstrated that the  
frequency you've been using for a while, even in a crowded band, may  
not be sacrosanct. It may be just as easy to find a new frequency  
than slug it out where you are. Let your rate meter help you judge.

Does this help? Or were there other topics you had in mind?

Bill Coleman, AA4LR, PP-ASEL        Mail: aa4lr at arrl.net
Quote: "Not within a thousand years will man ever fly!"
             -- Wilbur Wright, 1901

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