[CQ-Contest] Competitor Friendly Contesting

K4RO Kirk Pickering k4ro at k4ro.net
Wed Nov 16 11:15:34 EST 2005

Ed  N1UR  wrote:
> To me, CQ WW is like the Boston or New York (pick your local big city)
> Marathon.  Should I tell the organizers that they should open up a 5K,
> 40+ category of it just because I know I will never "go the distance"
> in a marathon?  No.  They would rightly say "Run in something matched
> up with your level of ability and determination".

Over the last few years I've been starting to see the light here, 
and am beginning to feel the same way about the big DX contests.
Just because I feel that I am competitive doesn't mean that I
somehow deserve a playing field more suited to my advantages.
If I want to win, I must either create those advantages myself,
or quit complaining that I don't have them.  It takes resources
and determination, whether building a superstation or paying for
a plane ticket to travel to one. It's taken me years to accept this.

I've been reading all of the NCJ's, starting from the beginning
(something I highly recommend to anyone interested in contesting.)
The resources necessary to compete at the top levels has always
been pretty high.  Twenty and even thirty years ago, folks were
complaining about super stations, guest ops, and the like.  Some
of the very ops who complained about "hired guns" back then are 
now hosting hired guns at their own super stations. What changed?

I suspect they figured out that this is how the game is played at 
the highest levels.  And like the big marathons, there is nothing 
inappropriate about the level of committment required to win.  
Like it or not, DX contests are won by great ops from great stations 
in great locations.  This would be case no matter how the rules or 
point definitions were defined. Isn't this how it should be?

There does seem to be a widening gap over the years between the
superstation / hired gun scores and the owner-operator scores.
Typical top ten listings appear to contain more of these pseudo
team efforts with each passing year, particularly in DX contests.
Even the SS, NAQP and Sprint Top Ten lists are more and more
dominated by guest-op efforts than in years past. That's fine
once that we accept that this is how contests are won. I am in
awe of the skills of the operators and station builders who
make these scores possible. Even more awe-inspiring to me are
the rare ones who single-op competitively from their own stations.
These are my contesting heroes.

The biggest "problem" if there is one, is staying in the game long 
enough to understand how the contesting game has evolved to this point.
Many folks get discouraged before they've had a chance to understand 
that the folks at the top typically climbed and scratched their way 
up there. They don't understand the amount of work involved perfecting 
SO2R techniques.  They don't know about the countless forgettable 
losing efforts that preceeded the big wins.  It might have been 
N5KO who essentially said (paraphrasing) "new folks can't understand 
or appreciate what the masters are doing or why."  I personally
became very disillusioned with contesting several years ago for
these very reasons.  It took me a while to understand that I enjoyed
the operating immensely regardless of the outcome.  I learned to choose 
my battles carefully. I now have a better understanding of what is 
possible from my station.  I'm a lot less frustrated and disappointed 
as a result. I've even found a contest or two that I can win from home.
I've traveled for contest DXpeditions and tasted the thrill of world-
class competing as a team. I'm hooked on contesting for life now.

Perhaps contesting is just as it should be.  If an operator is going to 
let a little discouragement stop them, well then they probably don't 
deserve to be winning contests, big or small. I wonder if there is a way 
to describe the contesting scene to newcomers so that they don't wind up
early on with a "what's the point" attitude?  Ultimately I guess it comes 
down to finding satisfaction in the pursuit itself, regarless of the score.
The point is, we get out of this game exactly what we put into it.  I don't
want to establish hanidcap systems (although I am a big fan of regional
score reporting.) I don't want to shorten the marathons (or DX contests) 
just because I am unwilling or unable to go the distance. Folks do it every 
year because they are able, willing, and determined.  They deserve to win.  
More power to them.


-Kirk  K4RO

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