[VHFcontesting] What? More comments on contest rules?

Curtis C. Roseman croseman at almaak.usc.edu
Wed Sep 4 11:08:29 EDT 2002

VHF Contesters:

This thread has been interesting [as were previous discussions over the
years on these same issues].  Here are a few of my reactions to some of
the recent comments.

Adding more entry categories would be a mistake.  In each of the three
ARRL contests we have six entry categories.  That is probably too many,
but they do cover a nice range of possibilities that allow almost anybody
to participate in a meaningful way.  They are clearly defined and simple.
Just twenty years ago we had but two.  We can't keep adding categories to
meet every individual desire. We must remember that, much more so than in
HF contests, the competition in VHF contests is regional.  The awarding of
plaques and the emphasis on national winners in the QST write-ups tends to
overshadow the fact that the vast majority of us are competing against
others in our region, and cannot realistically expect otherwise.  (I am
not against plaques or write-ups, by the way, and I am a co-sponsor of a
plaque.)  To their credit, the writers of contest summaries in QST over
the last several years have included a table of top scores by region
(Hopefully these will be retained in the abbreviated QST coverage).   With
six entry categories and about eighty ARRL sections (plus DX), we can
potentially have close to five hundred section winners in each contest!
That's more than half of the entrants.  As somebody said, it is like
giving a trophy to every kid who shows up to play (which apparently is
common these days).

Distance scoring is not a good idea for several reasons.  Here are two:
First, simplicity is important.  Working four-character grids and
multiplying them by QSO points is pure and simple.  Virtually any other
system will complicate matters and probably reduce activity.  Second, the
current system already does reward distance.  QSOs times geographic
coverage determines the score. Better stations and better operators work
more grids and thereby get higher scores.  The station that can work 400
miles on, say, 432 MHz will get more grids than the one that can work only
300 miles.  I don't know of any serious contest competitor who doesn't try
very hard to work distant grids, even repeatedly. The station that sits on
FM working locals, like shooting fish in a barrel, will not receive the
geographic rewards of working distant grids.   By the way, the proposed
system of adding points based on number of intervening grids is misguided.
At different latitudes, grids are of different sizes.  So another bias
(this time against more southerly stations) would be introduced.  We have
enough geographic biases to contend with already [in addition to the
regional bias], such as distance from major activity centers.

A lot of newcomers to VHF contesting complain that they are boring, or
have long periods of inactivity.  Welcome to VHF contesting.  This has
always been true in many locations and on many bands, and this is
something that distinguished HF from VHF contests in many areas. Part of
the challenge here is to make something happen even from isolated
locations, which takes skill and patience.  However, QSO totals remain
high, compared to years past, in all areas of the country.  This is partly
due to multiple contacts with rovers, compensating for fewer stations
being on the air. And it is true that day-by-day activity on some bands,
notably two meters, is down from the past.  The bands are pretty quiet. We
chat on the Internet, not on 2 meters.

A major change in operating styles over the last few decades has also
given the impression of inactivity in the contests.   Now it is very
common to contact somebody on one band, then "run the bands."  I have
heard complaints about this, because it can be easy to miss a station who
contacts just one station and then disappears to other bands. The old
style of CQing over and over on a given band is now largely limited to
multiop stations.  More people have more bands these days, and the
proportion of single-band entrants has declined.

I wont address issues related to rover rules, except to say that a lot of
rovers are having a lot of fun and they are contributing substantially to
other people's scores.

In my opinion, VHF contests are as exiting and challenging as ever.  If
you find them too boring, get a better station, go portable in a rare
grid, go roving, join a multiop group, get off FM, move to the Northeast,
or do HF contests.

Sorry, this got longer than I thought it would.

73, Curt Roseman k9aks

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