[CQ-Contest] Contesting tips?

Tom Haavisto kamham69 at gmail.com
Mon Oct 6 23:44:20 EDT 2008

Hi Rick

I am mentoring a new contester along, and I have a good idea of what
you are looking for.  Basically, it boils down to one thing -
experience.  Each of us had to start from zero, and work up from there
:-)  The more you operate, the better you get at it.

What I would suggest is that you make an effort to spend time with
your radio - learn all the features your radio has to offer.  Same
thing with your contesting software - spend time with it, and learn
its features.

As much as possible, take part in various QSO parties, and any
contests you can find.  There is some type of contest on most any
given weekend - jump in and makes a few QSOs!  This way, you can see
first hand what works for you, and what does not work well.

In the California QSO Party this past weekend for example, I
participated and found out I have a few issues with the station.  From
my perspective, it was better to find out now, rather than during the
CQWW that will happen in a few weeks time.  QSO parties are great for
working out issues in advance of a big contest.

I also attended a contest forum earlier this year, and one of the
speakers made a very good observation.  You need to market yourself.
So - how do you do this?  Well - by being very active, people will
start to recognize your call.  Promptly answer QSLs, and make sure you
answer all bureau cards.  You don't want the casual op thinking "That
cheap so-and-so.  I sent him a card and he never bothered to reply".
You want to leave everyone - both the big AND small guys with a good
impression of yourself.  You don't need to send everyone a QSL card -
just promptly reply when folks send you one.

When the band is open, try and run stations.  I hear the big EU
stations do this on a regular basis.  Why?  It puts them on the other
end of a pileup - then you can see first hand what works and what does
not.  Can you go for a DXpedition to somewhere close by (not a huge
cash outlay)?  Some places offer "rent-a-shack" accomodations.  Again
- it puts you on the other end of a pileup, but before you do that,
you want to make sure you have at least some pileup skills.  I am sure
you have heard some folks struggle with a pileup - try and learn what
they are doing wrong, and learn from their mistakes.

Listening to the radio is a great help.  You start to gain a feel for
how the band sounds, time-of-day conditions, who is active (makes
picking them out in a pileup easier), etc.

Last - but not least - smile, and have fun!  It shows, and it makes
ham radio the truly fun hobby it should be!

Tom - VE3CX

On Mon, Oct 6, 2008 at 8:51 PM, Rick Kiessig <kiessig at gmail.com> wrote:
> Does anyone know of a good source of tips for contesting strategies?  It's
> still new to me, so I'm trying to work my way up the learning curve (on the
> SSB side).
> I'm looking for things like details on how to best make use of a second VFO,
> strategies for switching between running and S&P, if/how/when to pick up
> QSOs for stations not participating in the contest (when allowed, of
> course), how to best leverage spots, when to submit a spot and when not to,
> pileup management (on both sides), radio management (transmit bandwidth,
> memories, voice recording, etc), and so on.
> Thanks,
> Rick, ZL2HAM

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