Friday, September 22, 2006

Contesting from your 100 pound DXpedition

Contesting season is right around the corner and one Friday night not long from now I'll be participating in one of these events that combines ham radio, computers, and a touch of insanity. I know lots of people are not contesters. Don't worry. I'm not here to convert you. What I would like to do, though, is remind you that the level of activity on the bands during a contest is quite intense. If you simply wanted to put a lot of QSOs in the log from your 100 pound DXpedition, then contest weekends are good weekends to operate.
I've packed up and operated in two contests this year, both of which have been described in this blog to some extent. The first was for the ARRL International DX Contest. I flew to St. John in the US Virgin Islands and operated as KP2/NE1RD. That's a big contest and I certainly didn't expect to win it (or come close!) but I did have some personal goals such as successfully deploying antennas for 80-10m and making 500 QSOs during the trip.
More recently I went to Georges Island in Boston Harbor for the 2006 IOTA Contest sponsored by the Radio Society of Great Britain. This contest had a 12 hour QRP SSB category and I thought, just maybe, I might win this. I had two significant handicaps, however: [1] I was not in Europe and European stations clearly do better in this contest, and [2] I could only operate about 6 of the 12 hours since that's all the ferry schedule allowed. Still, I had delusions of possibly winning this category.
Since then, logs have been slowly posted to the contest logs submission area and I see that I probably have some stiff competition from Petar Milicic (9A6A). Peter is President of the Croatian Radio Amateur Association and I suspect he is an excellent operator.
Contesters (and I claim to be one) hate to wait for official results and have devised their own area to compare notes (and claimed scores). The web site has an email reflector called the 3830 list. This nothing more than an email reflector that allows people to post their claimed scores immediately after the contest. There is nothing official about this; this is just a way for contesters to compare notes. You can see NE1RD/1's IOTA contest claimed score entry within the 3830 reflector's archive to get an idea of the kind of thing that gets posted.
I enjoy the excitement of having the bands light up during a contest. I know this isn't everybody's cup of tea, but it is fun for me. I think one of the extra benefits operating in a contest might afford a lightweight DXpeditioner is the contest gives you an excuse to reflect upon your trip. It is exciting to turn in your score, see other people turn in their score, compare notes, and even talk about where you were and what you did for the contest. Going to an island, the top of a mountain, or a cabin in the wilderness for a contest can be a lot of fun. And, I guarantee you will not be lonely on the bands during one of those big contest weekends!


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