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Contests are sporting competitions between amateur stations on specific bands and modes according to simple published rules.
Why take part? Because competition is fun and encourages entrants to stretch themselves and their stations to the limit. Contests are all about efficient operation. You can often tell a contest operator on a band because he is the one working DX quickly, or persevering through difficult conditions. He doesn’t waffle, or give up entirely when things get difficult. His station is designed to cope well with both strong and weak signals and to be operated comfortably at speed, with controls, writing area and accessories all to hand (many of the best stations around were set up to compete in contests or other competitions – including DXing).
Contests are not only a great opportunity to sharpen your operating skills and your competitive edge, and meet many extra-class operators on the air. There are also many rare stations coming on air just before the contest to test their equipment and propagation. Those are the rare moment when you can work some esoteric DXCC entity using very modest HF setup and without big pile-ups.
Some contests are quite relaxed though – for example, the US state QSO parties, or RAC Canada Day event. Number of QSOs normally doesn’t really matter – what really matters is the fun of the hobby and meeting fellow comrades on the air. International and DX contests have a much higher pace – not much for talking – it’s all about efficiency. Shorter QSO means more contacts per hour rate and as a result a higher score!
You don’t have to be an avid contester with a solid contest station to have fun during contests. Contests are open for everybody – read the rules, listen carefully to what’s going on – e.g. what information is being exchanged by the parties, make a contact and pass required information. Make a note of your contact in the log and search for the next calling station. If you happen to find a free spot on the band (hi) where you won’t be making QRM – go ahead and call CQ TEST.
If you don’t like breaking pileups or you are a QRP enthusiast – hunting those rare stations closer to the lunch time or to the end of the contest usually helps as there are less callers left on air closer to the end of the event so your chances for a QSO are much higher. Also, sometime the big stations ask their callers to standby and give way to QRP and DX callers. If your county, prefix, or DXCC entity is a multiplier, then many contest stations will be more than happy to add you on their log as well.
When submitting your log, consider putting VA3CTA into the CLUB section of the Cabrillo log. More information about upcoming contests, calendars can be found at:
- ARRL contest calendar
- WA7BNM Contest Calendar
- ARRL Special Event Stations
- State & province QSO party calendar
Some useful logging software:
Please send your feedback and information about upcoming contests or special event stations to va3paw (at) gmail.com or post to CenTor facebook page! Thanks for reading and 73 from Paul VA3PAW.