[CQ-Contest] How do you get better?

John Laney k4bai at worldnet.att.net
Fri Oct 31 11:24:14 EDT 2008

Robert Naumann wrote:
> Randy,
> One other thing that someone can do is observe how others who do well in
> contest (such as yourself and other HOF guys) conduct themselves when
> running a pileup or while S&Ping a band.
> Last weekend, as I tuned across VP2E, not only did I recognize Jeff's voice,
> I was reminded of how smooth and consistent an operator he still is - even
> after a few years of lost focus on bicycling. Not once did he end a QSO with
> QRZ? for example. Every qso ended with Victor Papa Two Echo. His results
> speak for themselves.
> Sometimes when doing as you recommend, "Start at the bottom of the band and
> see how fast you can search and pounce your way to the top", I find that
> someone else is hitting the same stations that I am. But it seems that he's
> getting to them faster than I am - why is that? What's he doing differently?
> Paying attention to someone who is "better" for a few minutes can teach some
> lessons. I might find out that he's not sending "NW CPY" at the beginning of
> each exchange which enables him to go faster. He also might not be repeating
> his exchange twice like I programmed into F2 and instead he is only sending
> it once. It seems the station he works copies it right the first time most
> often. That would save time too.
> Lastly, if there is a multi-op station in the area, getting to one of them
> and seeing how people actually operate is a great learning opportunity. I
> remember seeing W2RQ running stations on CW while carrying on a conversation
> in the shack at the same time without skipping a beat either way. Amazing.
> 73,
> Bob W5OV
> -----Original Message-----
> From: cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com
> [mailto:cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com] On Behalf Of Randy Thompson K5ZD
> Sent: Friday, October 31, 2008 7:25 AM
> To: cq-contest at contesting.com
> Subject: [CQ-Contest] How do you get better?
> "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" the guy asked his cab driver.  The reply,
> "Practice. Practice. Practice."
> I think we all can acknowledge that practice is an important part of
> learning and improving any skill.  Sports players practice, sometimes for
> years.  Kids learning musical instruments practice.  Very few people are a
> "natural" who can just pick something up and be instantly good at it.
> Why does no one ever talk about practice with regard to radio contests?
> I find the SS CW contest is the best single thing I can do to be ready for
> WW CW.  Why?  Because it lets me practice my SO2R techniques.  After doing
> SS CW, I find I can sit down in WW CW and immediately go into SO2R mode
> without much thought or effort.
> Other ways to practice in radio contests:
> - Start at the bottom of the band and see how fast you can search and pounce
> your way to the top.  Then go back to the bottom and do it again.  The first
> time is about knowing how to acquire the next signal and dump in your call
> (or decide to keep tuning).  The second pass is the valuable one.  It helps
> you practice call sign recognition, duping skills, and how to dig between
> the fast loud guys.
> - Work a QSO party or smaller DX contest that is focused on one area.  See
> if you can work every station you hear from that area. Again, this helps you
> practice recognizing signals from a target area and duping skills.
> - Work Field Day running high power.  No better simulation for practicing
> running skills.  :)
> - Work RTTY contests to learn SO2R skills.  In RTTY, the computer is doing
> the brain work and the QSOs have a fairly consistent timing and pattern.
> This frees you to practice the keyboarding skills of jumping between the two
> logging windows.  For even higher level of practice, try running on two
> bands at the same time (while never transmitting on two bands at once).  The
> goal is to do it so smoothly that no one listening can tell what you are
> doing!
> - Search and pounce in a contest using low power.  Almost everything I
> learned about busting pileups came from my early years in ham radio with 100
> watts and wires in trees.  You take a different approach when you are not
> the loudest guy in the pileup.  Learn that different approach and then be
> amazed when you apply it while running a KW!
> - W4AN used to do work in his shack with two radios turned on listening to
> two different stations.  He would practice copying both.  You probably won't
> be able to copy solid on both, but you will learn how to quickly shift focus
> back and forth.  The goal is to get this skill happening without thinking.
> - Get on the air between contests and make some QSOs.  Nothing helps your CW
> sending more than having to think and send at the same time.  :)
> Most of all, have fun!
> Randy, K5ZD
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A tried and proved suggestion when that repeatedly being beaten out by 
another station also moving up the band in the scenario that W5OV sets 
forth is to move to the top of activity and move down the band.  To do 
that, you may want to reverse the CW control on your rig so that you are 
receiving on the opposite sideband.  I much prefer to hear the high 
pitch first and tune toward the lower pitch and then into the zero, 
rather than vice versa.

I usually tune from the bottom up so that I don't accidentally call 
someone outside of the band or outside my band segment.  If you 
habitually tune from the top of the band down (like my former WRTC 
partner W4AN advocated), you can easily suddenly find that you have 
called someone too low in the band or out of the band.

Hope to work you all in the upcoming contest season, including from PJ4A 
with KU8E and W4OC in CQWW CW.  We should be QRV outside the contest 
with PJ4/homecalls Nov 26 to Dec 3.


John, K4BAI.

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