[CQ-Contest] WPX & Activity (Was: Intended consequences)

Bob Shohet KQ2M kq2m at kq2m.com
Tue Jul 19 16:29:52 PDT 2011

Hi Chris,

To start, I need to correct something, I meant to write:

"Most people used up most of their operating time in the 
first 24 hours".  

I was referring to the most competitive Single Ops that were
trying to win or place high in the standings.  (I realize that I did
not make this clear - sorry about that).

The single ops who were already operating 30 hours when 30 hours
was the time limit, used most of their operating time in the first 24 hours,
because that is when the activity was typically at its greatest.  Why is that?

1) Because activity is usually highest in the beginning of the contest
2) Because of the huge "dead zones" on Sunday.

If you were trying to win your category as a single op, and you had a lot of  
operating time left on Sunday, you were in trouble.  You could endlessly cq
in the vast wasteland of Sunday morning and afternoon and have 1/2 or 1/3
the rate of the same time on Saturday. (And it wasn't because you already worked 
everyone, it was because almost everyone else was taking off-time too!) 

 When the single op time limit was
increased to 36 hours, activity DID EXPLODE and rates and activity stayed
at a much higher level on Sunday than before when the time limit was 30 hours.

Why do I say that activity exploded?  Very simple....

Let's say that I am a casual opr - "cannon fodder" as you put it....  I occasionally 
get on to give out a few q's in a contest that has little interest for me.  I intend to
operate for an hour or two - less than the 12-14 hours that you are talking about.

I hear almost no activity - instead I notice large swaths of empty frequencies.
I hear a few loud guys who are the "anchor stations" - the multi ops who are cqing away
all contest.  There are a few loud single ops too, but only a few, because they have to conserve their
18 hours of off-time for just the right moment to get on! I work them and turn off the rig disappointed.  
I won't be back - too many things to do and too little happening in the contest to hold my interest.
If condx are poor, then I am even less likely to stay on the radio, even in a contest that I like.

Now, all of a sudden, single ops can operate 36 hours.  What used to be a bunch of "holes"
in the band, now has another 20-30 stations operating at that time and the large "holes",
are now small ones and there only a few of them because the more serious ops (who usually have the 
better and louder stations), are now filling up the freq. spectrum.  I get on and now there are a LOT of 
stations to work.  It takes me longer to work them so I am on the radio longer.  With so much
more activity, I am now more interested in the contest and I am likely to start calling cq and trying 
to run - and I fill in another "hole", as does the next station that calls cq, and so on.

Now with the increased activity, the "cannon fodder" (aka "little guys") have a lot more stations
to work and so they stay on longer.  The bands now are experiencing a lot more stations on and
a lot more qso's are being made and activity is EXPLODING compared to what it was the year
before the rule change.

Plus, with those extra 6 hours of operating time that US + EU stations + JA's
+ South Americans and others have, there are more stations cqing on the bands all the time so when 
certain interesting dx paths open up, there are now stations to be heard and worked on those paths.

If 15 meters is open from the W1 to 9M6 at 05z on 15 meters but there is no 9M6 or W1
cqing because they have to preserve their offtime, how would an op know if the band was open?
Well with an extra 6 hours to listen around and cq, a lot of unusual openings are discovered
and worked that would otherwise have been completely missed!  I have found many reliable 
band openings this way!

Well, that exactly how it was in my contest logs.  More hours operated = more activity.
More hours operated = more q's made = more fun = more activity.  And, of course, the more stations
that are being worked, the longer other stations stay on the air to work them because there
is more activity and they are having more fun.  "And they tell two friends and so on and so on and so on"
(From a US TV commercial in the 1980's)

So the super casual op may now operate 2-4 hours instead of 1-2.  The "cannon fodder" maybe
operates for 14-20 hours instead of 12-14 and the serious single op stays on for 36 hours instead
of 30.  More activity?  YOU BET!  That's an explosion in activity and the number of q's made and the

Whether you define activity by the number of hours operated or the number of q's made, either
way the activity exploded when the dead zones were eliminated thanks to expanding the
single op time limit to 36 hours.  As someone who operated SOABHP for years when the time
limit was 30 hours and continued for many years after when the time limit was 36 hours, I can
still remember the enormous increase in activity when the rule was changed..  And then the
further boost in activity that occurred when the 1 point US qso rule was adopted.  More US stations
stayed on and operated longer than before and activity, qso's and scores increased
yet again.

Then you add in the EXPLOSION in EU activity that started in the late 80's, grew further
in the 90's and ramped up even more in the last 10 years, and again you have another 
explosion in activity.  (Yes, I completely agree that political and economical development in
emerging EU-countries and their comparatively young ham population also was
very significant - but that came AFTER the 30 - 36 hour rule change).

In the 80's - early 90's, I won SOABHP Unassisted WPXSSB several times with less than 3,000 q's. 
One sunspot cycle later I made 4,400 q's.  In 2011 I made almost 3100 q's on 15 meters alone!
and had a score that was 50% above several of my winning ALL Band scores pre-rule changes.

Activity has continued to explode in WPX over the past 25 years thanks to rule changes
that allowed more operating time, more qso points for US-US q's, better stations and equipment
and the amazing growth in the number EU contesters.  But the key was the the 30-36 hour
rule change that set it all in motion and made the contests a lot more fun and interesting to operate. 

We can agree or disagree on whether or not activity exploded and why it did so.  But that is not
important.  What IS important, is that WPX has grown to become an enormously popular
DX contest that is loved around the world by big guns, little guns and little guy (or gals), and I
am very pleased to say that I enjoy it as much in 2011 as I did the first time I operated it in 


Bob KQ2M

DL8MBS wrote:

I dare to oppose. When most people have worked each other then you cannot
blame an op-time limit. In WWDX with NO timelimit only ten percent and less
of the allband ops go for longer than 30 hours. The avaerage operator - the
canon fodder the bigguns need to maintain 130+rates - operates 12-14 hours.
That represents their available time budget so that any change in the
30+-hour region for them is completely irrelevant. When a car company has a
100 000 dollar model which most people cannot afford - the interest will not
rise if people were allowed to spend even more than 100 000 dollar.

I will not dig through the available op-time figures of WPX any more.
Figures seemingly don´t help arguing in this topic. Look at the second and
third pages of the results and see the dropping numbers of >30 hours if any
on page four or five. That percentage of ops cant be blamed for an
"explosion" of activity which in my - maybe not relevant smallpistol -
perspective has more to do with the political and economical development in
emerging EU-countries and their comparatively young ham population.

I give up arguing with figures as too many bigguns won´t read them with this
topic for their fear of possibly loosing only one qso - when in reality the
available canon fodder has quickly worked them and can´t work them again on
sunday. But it is not due to op-time when the overwhelming majority of ops
never even come close to the 30 hours. Again: The majority operates about
12-14 hours a weekend. That´s what they can spend regardless whether they
were allowed to operate longer. But we may talk on about the biggun fear
with time limits or talk whether a time limit may spur competetive operating
of smaller pistols other than reducing them to cannon fodder.

Flame suit on.
Best 73, Chris (DL8MBS)

KQ2M wrote:

Operating on Sunday in the late '80's in WPX used to feel like watching the
grass grow.  Most people
used up their operating time in the first 24 hours.

Bob Shohet, KQ2M

More information about the CQ-Contest mailing list