[CQ-Contest] Fun With Rules [long, sorry]

Pete Smith n4zr at contesting.com
Thu Sep 15 15:02:03 EDT 2005

Unfortunately, CQWW has no monopoly on badly written rules.  How about this excerpt from the ARRL General Rules:

"3.3.An operator may not use more than one call sign from any given location during the contest period. 

3.4.The same station may be worked only once per band for contest credit. 

3.5.A transmitter used to contact one or more stations may not be subsequently used under any other call during the contest period, except for family stations where more than one call has been issued, and then only if the second call sign is used by a different operator. (The intent of this rule is to accommodate family members who must share a rig and to prohibit manufactured or artificial contacts.)"

Lest anyone think this is an academic exercise, in the current NCJ the NCCC explained how it took back the Sweepstakes gavel by exploiting Rule 3.5.  To quote: "...one key part of Rusty's plan was to create a team of contesters ... who would give up their hopes for individual glory and split their operation between two locations using two calls ... I used K6RB at my home station, using one of my two FT-1000 transceivers.  Then at 6 AM I drove 25 miles to K6XX's house, bringing an FT-990 transceiver with me and plugging it into his unused amp and antenna system.  There I used the call NZ6K -- a club call for the Surf City Contest Club.  At the same time Bob, K6XX drove 25 miles to my home station with an unused FT-1000MP...and operated with club call N6IP...Compared with the scores we each generated in previous years using one call for 24 hours, our total scores were about 25 to 30 percent higher."

Clever, right?  Because rule 3.5 uses the word "transmitter" rather than station, a flock of prearranged swaps like this can have a large effect on a club score.  Would NCCC have won the gavel without this?  I don't know.  I do think that the strategy violated the stated intent of rule 3.5, which I suspect was written long ago, before the day of transceivers and SO2R. 

By the same logic NCCC used, what would be wrong with turning every SO2R station in a club into two "stations", each op using a different callsign and a different "transmitter."  It's OK by the letter of the rule, right?  Or how about reconfiguring a multi-multi so that it could have 6 different callsigns and rack up 6 separate scores, so long as each operator used a separate "transmitter."

Badly written rules like this invite loophole exploitation and jailhouse lawyering.  For example, what constitutes a "station" in the meaning of rule 3.4?  You could argue that in a case where only the callsign and the transceiver are different (perhaps even the same make and model), but the location, amplifier and antenna system are the same, the "station" is the same, regardless of the callsign.  If that argument is accepted, then all the QSOs made after an NCCC-style swap, with the same stations worked from that "station" before the swap, would be invalidated under rule 3.4, as would any such QSOs from my hypothetical split SO2Rs or multi-multis.

I think ARRL needs to look hard at its rules, decide what it wants, and then rewrite the rules to suit, or at least issue an official interpretation (as CQ did with the CQWW Multi-Single).  I think it would be a shame to invalidate individual efforts like K8MR's, where he jumps from station to station operating SS under that station's call.  Maybe the proper argument is that we want to encourage "activity", and that the net result of NCC's ploy was to put more stations on the air amassing more total QSOs for everyone.  Or maybe we don't want to encourage the proliferation of this sort of maneuvering.

Let the discussion begin.

73, Pete N4ZR
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