[CQ-Contest] The Skimmer Rule Challenge

Sandy Taylor ve4xt at mts.net
Fri Jun 13 09:03:48 EDT 2008

Hi Chris,

Interesting suggestion, though I suspect it has a flaw that you may not yet
have considered.

Not everybody who wishes to SO2R wishes to use 1kw or play in the same pond
as the QRO boys. Plenty of QRP ops do quite nicely, with a lot less
filtering, in SO2R. KG5U comes to mind. Similarly, not every operator with a
taller tower than you suggest wishes to use a kilowatt, either.

The net effect of lumping together unrelated technologies is to force SO2R
ops to use all the other technologies in the class or not and accept their

To me, the technological line is pretty clear, and fairly easily placed:
anything that helps the operator do what an operator does himself (logging,
etc.) is OK. Anything that does the core skills, in other words, the heavy
lifting (finding stations to work, be it from skimmer or from cluster) is
assistance (even if we are leaning toward deleting that term from our
lexicon, I can`t find a better one now).

So an operator who tunes however many radios himself, fights the QRM himself
and zeroes in on the intended station himself, is single-op unassisted.
Someone who receives and uses spots, either locally from skimmer or from a
cluster or spotting net, is not. Note, this doesn`t necessarily preclude
using decoders for CW, as I still believe a skilled CW op can out-operate a
decoder-using op any day. Particularly since if you're bad enough at or
incapable of copying CW that you must use a decoder, how will you know if
the station you think is calling really is?

As for the argument that Skimmer may bring new blood into CW contesting, I
tend to agree. But that does not make a convincing argument against
classifying it as assisted.

I think a rule regime that decides it's a choice between everything (high
power, bigger antennas, SO2R, Skimmer) or nothing (one radio, small, low
antennas, no power) isn't the best idea.

73, Kelly

-----Original Message-----
From: cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com
[mailto:cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com] On Behalf Of DL8MBS
Sent: June-12-08 11:55 AM
To: cq-contest at contesting.com
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] The Skimmer Rule Challenge

A general and abstract wording won´t work reliable for a longer time as 
it is with nearly every rule- and lawmaking. They react to things 
happening in the real world and new developments. General wording can´t 
protect from attempts to people push the envelop and interpret every 
syllabe. Otherwise we wouldn´t need courts to interpret "general" worded 
constitutional principles and we wouldn´t need that myriads of detailled 
laws. And those special laws are also in a permanent development to 
adapt to real life. 500 years ago tax laws were as detailled as they are 
today - but they stated how many spoons and forks per head were 
household goodies and every piece more an asset to be taxed - nowadays 
the laws deal with income by shares not known then. Criminal laws once 
dealt with street robbery while now adapting to internet fraud.

The niche of contesting can´t escape this, too, and the advent of 
skimmer makes IMHO a category-definition by the weaselword "assisted" 
senseless. Categories not only motivating for the special emotions of 
the biiig dogs but for the big crowd and the "new blood" should reflect 
substantial differences in the mostly hardware-determined capability of  
stations which comes IMHO from:

- Beam vs fixed single element antenna (for most contests a fixed single 
element antenna even with gain like an EDZ has less value than a rotable 
tribander espcially in a big form like i.e. KT36XA etc.)
- Power
- "Harvesting capability" as I would sum up SO2R, Cluster and Skimmer 
(for rules perhaps measured by bandchanges per hour with the weak point 
that it is no answer to inband-harvesting by working through a bandmap 
pre-filled by skimmer/cluster; frequency hopping in a given band only 
may be but need not to be a sign of using skimmer/cluster)

Combining those may result in three levels in a sense of Basic, Advanced 
and Unlimited (with the first two to be more positively named)
- Basic: 10 band changes per hour, declaration to use neither spots nor 
skimmer, no beam, only LP/qrp; possibly also an antenna height 
restriction with 45 ft.
 A category allowing competition for those with a more or less 
invariably given set of equipment with little importance on the 
stationbuilder comparison

- Advanced: no antenna restriction, 15 (?) band changes per hour; number 
of power categories up to the kind of contest and the sponsor.
A category with a still strong notion on operating skill but without 
antenna restriction opening the competition in this respect. It will not 
ban skimmer or SO2R completely in a rudimentary or testing form i.e. for 
beginners and those "playing around" to get their feet wet but block a 
full use of elaborated harvesting capabilities to still have the weight 
on the operating side (full blown SO2R of course needs a lot of skill 
but depends on a lot of hardware, too).

- Unlimited (basically only legal limits and only a high power category 
with everything else (like a ban of skimmer) to be explicitly stated to 
define the type and flavour of the contest

All of this are rough proposals to be adjusted by sponsors on their 
preferences as inconsistent as they seem sometimes already now (like 
dropping "unassisted" with the argument of being not enforceable - while 
still having less enforceable power categories...). But it is good to 
have different flavours with different contests. Each one can allow a 
different weighting for the different skills of operating and 
stationbuilding. Like said above I don´t think we come around detailed 
mentioning what should be allowed for a category and what is not. 
Writing rules for the next 50 years were like requiring the pilgrim 
fathers to write traffic-rules for motorvehicles.

Keeping record lists on existing categories should IMHO not be a big 
argument. They are something of value to a relatively small group and 
don´t do anything for the attractiveness of contesting for the big 
number of contest-interested hams and the so much needed "fresh blood". 
It is important to have more of them as COMPETITORS other than as 
participants. For them it is more important to have a chance to 
"compete" (which is the core of contesting) with their likes - the 
standards of records completely out of reach for them won´t influence 
their motivation for contesting.

Possibly a minority opinion from a little pistol viewpoint and not ready 
to be cast in stone but input was asked for to stimulate discussion. Btw 
I see no one insulted and harmed in the acutal discussion which at least 
for me seems very interesting in looking at the topic from very many 
interesting positions.

Best 73, Chris


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