[CQ-Contest] Too Much 'Assistance'?

Tony Brock-Fisher barockteer at aol.com
Thu Feb 20 04:18:38 EST 2014

In this weekend's CW contest, Skimmer and the telnet cluster were 
functioning at peak efficiency. I commend everyone who made it work – it 
is a tremendous technical achievement. Towards the end of the contest, I 
could watch my every dit and dah going out and being reported back to me 
on the cluster, from Europe, South Africa, and even India. What a rush!

==>> The important point here is that increased internet speed and 
geographical coverage have made it possible for a manual spot to be 
delivered to the 'spotee' in REAL TIME.

I realized early on in the contest that there was absolutely no reason 
for me to ever manually spot a station again. Skimmer would do it for me 
before I could click the 'spot' button in N1MM. N1MM also has this nice 
feature that shows you when you are spotted on the cluster as you run guys.

So I'm happily cruising along with my pileup, and I'm having trouble 
copying a station. It's probably because I never learned the code the 
right way, but I can also blame QRM and weak signals. The next thing I 

This sure sounds like a violation of the CQWW Rule that says:

8. All requests for contacts, responses to calls, and copying of call 
signs and contest
exchanges must be accomplished during the contest period using the mode 
and frequencies of the contest.

The situation for ARRL is more indirect, and some may claim that a 
loophole exists. See the General Rules:

3.2.All callsigns and exchange information must be sent, received, 
acknowledged and logged correctly by each station for a complete QSO.

3.10 The use of non-Amateur Radio means of communication (for example, 
Internet or telephone) to solicit a contact (or contacts) during the 
contest period is not permitted.
3.14. In contests where spotting nets are permissible, spotting your own 
station or requesting another station to spot you is not permitted.

Both rules were written before the internet speed and coverage made this 
new technique possible. Therefore they didn't anticipate this happening. 
The environment has changed - therefore it's time to either change the 
rules, or change the environment.

What was the original intent of the 'Assisted' Category – to allow 
operators to use outside assistance to find stations to work, with QSOs 
then to be completed in the traditional manner; or was it intended that 
the outside assistance aid them in completing the QSO as well, by 
providing callsign correction?

I would argue that manually spotting stations, as a means of assisting 
them in correctly copying your own callsign, is a violation of at least 
the spirit and intent of the above ARRL rules, if not the letter.

So we have a new genie which has been let out of the bottle!

1. No one needs to manually spot anything anymore.
2. Manual spots are passed to the other operator by some logging programs
3. Manually spotting a station provides them with YOUR correct callsign, 

In the old days, I would appreciate the manual spots, and I would think 
the spotting station is trying to do me a favor. Now I am not so sure. I 
don't want to accuse stations employing this practice of cheating. 
However, I will point out that over the 48 hour contest, K1KP was 
manually spotted about a dozen times. In EVERY CASE, IT WAS WITHIN A 
about to or had just worked the spotting station!

I see three ways to use manual spots to cheat:

1. K1KP is working a pileup and a PW station is trying to work me. They 
manually spot me before I hear them to let me know I should listen for 
them. (wink, wink). It's possible to work a station that spotted you 
without ever hearing their call in the pileup!
2. K1KP is in the process of working a station and badly busting the 
call. Instead of slowing down so I can count the dits, the other station 
spots me. I get the spot in under a second, and all of a sudden I can 
copy code again! (wink, wink).
3. K1KP copies the call wrong and logs it incorrectly, then moves on in 
the pile. The station worked spots me, I see the correct call, and go 
back and correct it in my log to avoid the penalty. [Yes, this actually 
happened, but no I did not correct my log. I copied the call wrong, and 
I deserve the penalty. I am not a cheater, so I will accept my 

Some will say:

-It's not really cheating.
-We've always been able to use spots to check callsigns
-There are always going to be cheaters. Get over it.
-We can't stop it and we don't really care. Its only a hobby.

I say we need to take a stand and at least make an effort to address 
this issue, to preserve the integrity of the sport.

The solutions can be very simple – here are some suggestions, there may 
be others:

1. Ban all manual spots during the contest.
2. Change manual spots so only the prefix or country of origin are 
shown, not the complete call.
3. Or the best solution, delay all manual spots by 5 minutes so the 
above practices become impractical.

The telnet cluster and internet backbone have become so efficient that a 
new means of 'obtaining unethical assistance' is possible. We need to 
stop this practice, either by changing the rules, or changing the way 
the telnet clusters work.


Let's have an internet-only contest. Any form of using radio to make a 
contact will be declared as cheating!

Respectfully wearing Nomex,

Tony, K1KP

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