[CQ-Contest] 1st of 3 brief Contesting Articles de NX4N, K2WLS and W4LT

Christopher Blake cqdenx4n at gmail.com
Mon Jun 8 10:25:22 EDT 2020

Hi Contesting Friends,
Below is an article that I wrote for ARRL West Central Florida newsletter
(WCF Presser) at the request of our Section Manager Darrell KT4WX.  I asked
fellow contesters Dawn K2WLS and Lu W4LT to contribute and in return they
wrote very nice Contesting Articles too that will be coming out in the July
and August WCF Presser editions, respectively.  I'll forward their articles
once they are published.  Dawn and Lu, thank you both!

With the ongoing stay at home orders and step-by-step reopenings, this is a
great time to do some new contester recruiting and give back with some good
old-fashion Elmering.  A Golden Opportunity really with many HF and VHF/UHF
contests coming soon.

Please feel free to forward this article to your own contesting community,
and of course you can change/taylor it as you think best; hope this gets
you started.

vy 73,
Chris, NX4N

*Joining in the Fun of Contesting – Three Perspectives by Chris NX4N, Dawn
K2WLS and Lu W4LT *

Hello Fellow Hams,

*So, what’s this contesting stuff all about?*

This article is intended to inspire and help you take your first steps into
the wonderful world of amateur radio contesting, also known as Radiosport.
 ‘Contesting’ is a blast!  I started to learn the basics of contesting at
our great US/Canadian annual operating event, the ARRL Field Day, in 1974
at the ripe old age of 13.   I watched the pace of the CQ’s, the quick
exchange of information and then onto the next contact (QSO) in just
seconds – *I was hooked!*

Like so many endeavors of life, contesting takes some practice and
patience.   But the journey as you start and then improve is very rewarding
and you will become a better operator in all your other ham activities
too.   You will have more confidence in your ability to do what hams strive
to do – set up and operate a radio more competently.

As a ham for 49 years, I have done many different and enjoyable ham
activities but I always gravitate back to contesting as the most fun for
me.   Curious? Ok, let’s get started down the path of contesting: *Warning
– it is addictive!*

There are contests for many different kinds of ham radio interests, but
they all involve maximizing your ability to make accurate and efficient
QSO’s with other contesters.   You can find contests for all modes – SSB,
CW, RTTY, FT8 (and more), AM, FM, QRP, Mobile/Portable, EME and more.
 Contesters can be heard across our entire spectrum from 160m to 10GHz and
up.   There are contests that include folks who build their own gear, who
own vintage gear, who like to try different antennas and even those who
operate from nearby islands (ex – Honeymoon or Sanibel), mountainous
summits, National Parks and so much more.

And you can do this casually, testing your skills to build and operate an
efficient radio/antenna setup, or you can compete seriously on the world
stage of amateur radio.   In fact, every 4 years there is a 24-hour long
amateur radio International Radiosport contest, Olympics style, that pits
the world’s best qualified operators in the same location using identical
antennas and rules.   There are even judges that monitor all their
contacts.   Like many competitive activities you can play in the casual
league, minor leagues or the major leagues.   It’s all tremendous fun and
your main competitor is usually… yourself!

So how do you get started in contesting?  If you are like many hams,
whether new or experienced, you have already started to like certain
activities.   This is a good place to start – turning what you enjoy
casually into a contesting challenge.

Like VHF/UHF? Set up a VHF/UHF station to operate during Field Day, the
June VHF contest, or July CQ VHF contest.   Read the rules, start making
plans and have fun!

Like to operate HF SSB?  Try it out at Field Day, or a State QSO Party
(there’s a different state QP just about every weekend and each would love
to have you join the fun!).

If CW or Digital are your modes, there is plenty of contest fun for you
too!  Give a few of these a try – Straight Key Night, ARRL Rookie Roundup,
CQ World Wide DX, CQ WPX or World Wide Digi DX Contest.  And be sure to
check out cwops.org – beginning to advanced CW ops can develop their skills
with online classes and weekly operating events that welcomes both members
and non-members alike.


#1.   Find a mentor (“Elmer”) who can guide and encourage you. Many of us
are around and very willing to help!

#2.   Make sure your station, big or small, works as it should for the
bands/modes you want to try contesting.

#3.   Read the contest rules – twice! Ask your Elmer about anything you
don’t understand.

#4.   Prepare for the contest – this can be as much fun as the contest
itself.   Perhaps setting up a mobile station, adding a new antenna or
discussing the best operating strategy with your Elmer.

#5.  Find a logging program that works for you and become familiar with
it.   N1MM+ is very powerful and is free.   SD Logger is another freebie.
 N3FJP logging software is not free but is easy to learn and well
supported.   Again, an Elmer may be able to help guide you to one that
meets your needs.

#6.   *Jump in and operate!*  Start by listening to other contest stations
and see how they exchange calls and their contest information ‘exchange’.
 This could be a signal report and state, their name, a serial number or
their CQ or ITU zone.   Notice that good operators don’t hesitate to ask
stations to slow down and repeat their info so they make sure to receive
and log the Exchange correctly.
Then just follow their lead – tune for a station calling CQ Contest (or CQ
test, CQ FQP, CQ FD, etc.) and answer with your call.   Listen and log his
Exchange and then give yours in return.   Voila- Your first Contest QSO!

*Are you nervous?*  *GOOD*!  That is the beginning of your adrenaline
kicking in for the contest.  It happens to all of us at the beginning of
every contest.

Then ‘Rinse and Repeat’ – find another Contest CQer to answer, or find an
open frequency and call CQ Contest yourself (always ask first if the
frequency is in use).  Go slow, work on accurate copy.

#7.   Mistakes are OK – repeat – OK.   Even world class operators make
mistakes, we all do.   If you don’t copy an operator’s call or exchange,
just ask them to repeat it.   Just slow down, go at your own pace and ask
the other operator to repeat their Exchange info or to slow down.   Most
contester need your contact and are very willing to slow down and repeat
info you need.

#8.   Be sure to log your contacts, either on paper or (hopefully) with
electronic logging software.   You’ll need that record to submit your
contest entry.   It really helps contest sponsors to have your log to
verify contacts on both ends, even if you’re in a contest casually and not
going for score.   And, who knows – you might earn a very nice
certificate.   One contest, the Washington State QSO Party ‘Salmon Run’
offers real Pacific smoked salmon to top entries!

#9.   Learning takes practice.   Just keep plugging away, have fun and work
on sending and receiving the calls and exchanges accurately.   Speed will
come later as you practice more.   Slow and accurate is much better than
fast and sloppy operating.   Sometimes it helps to imagine if this exchange
of information is as if it were Health and Welfare traffic – accuracy wins
the day, and your operating skills will improve.

#10.   Join the Florida Contest Group (FCG)!  We have more than 300 members
all across the state and a very active online Group that is a terrific
forum to ask questions regarding your station, antennas, operating
practices and so much more.  You will find an outstanding group of friendly
Elmers very happy to answer your questions, no matter how basic.  The only
dumb question is the one that is not asked! We have annual meetings at both
the Orlando HamCation and the Melbourne Hamfest.  Annual dues are a
whopping $5/year.  You can get started by emailing George K5KG at
K5KG at K5KG.com

Also, check out our website at https://floridaqsoparty.org/

Good Luck (GL) with your new adventures into Radiosport!

Vy 73 (Very Best Regards),

Chris, NX4N

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