Sunday, July 30, 2006

Quick contest primer

I just finished updating Cab-converter to support the RSGB contest. My claimed score was 6942 (which, in a sense, represents the highest score I could have as "not in log" or "exchange wrong" errors can only reduce it). Still, not a bad score for QRP!
For those of you who might be new to radio contesting, here's a snapshot of how it works: a contest sponsor, perhaps a magazine or radio club, announces a contest to the ham community along with the rules for that particular contest. All contests are roughly the same, get on the air and work as many people as you can within the rules, but the specifics for each particular contest are important.
For this contest, the RSGB IOTA contest, anybody can talk to anybody for points, but talking to an island gets you more points (15 versus 3 for a non-island station). Further, and this is key to most contests, there is a concept of multipliers. At the end of the contest, your score obtained by the QSOs you have made multiplied by another number based on your multipliers. In some contests, the multiplier number might be related to the number of states you've talked to, while other contests use the number of countries, or DXCC entities, or even the number of different callsign prefixes you worked.
The RSGB IOTA contest bases its multipliers on the number of IOTA-numbered islands you've talked to during the contest. So, talking to somebody on an island not only gets you more points for that QSO, but also increases your effort's multiplier number. My score this year was a result of 102 QSOs and 13 different islands. I talked to some islands more than once but you only get to count an island as a multiplier once per band/mode. As you can see, operating from an island makes you very popular in this contest!
The Radio Society of Great Britain has a wonderful web-based interface to confirm your contest log submission. The process goes something like this:
  1. Create a "Cabrillo" file to submit to the RSGB. I could talk for an hour about this "standard" but suffice it to say that the easiest way to create one of these specially formatted files is to take your computer logging program and any other appropriate tools and have it make this file for you. I use a Macintosh as my shack's computer and use MacLoggerDX as my logging software. I created Cab-converter to do the final conversion to Cabrillo so I can submit my logs to the contest sponsor's "robots".

  2. Submit your log to the contest sponsor. This usually means mailing it to a special email address set up to automatically read and process your log. The thing that does this magic is often called the "contest robot". The robot should tell you immediately via a return message if your entry was accepted or rejected. If rejected, it should tell you why.

  3. In the case of the RSGB, there is a further step which I find absolutely wonderful: the contest robot sends you an email message with a URL. When you click on that URL, it brings you to a page with all the details of your submission and asks you to confirm they are correct. Did you have 102 QSOs? Is this the mode and category in which you competed? Please verify all the details are correct. I found this very, very comforting. Instead of blindly dropping my log to an entity that gives me no feedback other than an email with the equivalent of ACK, I get a chance to see that the robot really did consume the entry correctly and no data was lost. I love it.

  4. You wait. Sometimes you wait a year (or more) to see how you did in the contest. I hate to wait.

We'll see how I did compared to others when the results are published. Of course I'll drop a note here when that happens.


Blogger Al said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 31, 2006 12:40 AM  
Blogger Al said...

Thanks for taking the time to help a newebie out. I will have to get involved in contesting. I also have a Mac, but I have a SDR 1000, have to get it working with MAC!

July 31, 2006 12:44 AM  

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