Thursday, October 05, 2006

Practice makes perfect

I'm always looking for a way to improve my operating skills. Accuracy, ability to work through QRM and bad conditions, and even endurance, are some of the aspects of my operating skills that I'm always looking to polish. In the event that I ever get to operate from a truly rare place, I'll need all that and more to be effective.
While contesting isn't everybody's cup of tea, it can be an excellent way to hone the skills you will need to operate in a high stress DX location. I had bursts of high QSO rates while on St. John during the ARRL DX contest that sounded very similar to those scenes you see on a typical DXpedition video. Though nervous, I was able to keep up and log accurately though those bursts largely because of all the practice I had gotten in previous contests.
Improvement needs to be a closed loop activity: you need to do something, assess your effort, make a plan to correct what you didn't do well, and then try again. Assessing your effort is pretty easy if you participate in one of the major contests run by the ARRL or CQ Magazine as they provide access to a UBN (Unique, Bad, Not-in-log) report. An article describing this Learning from Your Log Checking Report just won the ARRL QST Cover Plaque Award for September. The article is brief, but it provides some excellent advice such as record and listen to your on-air operation after the event to see what you missed. Use the log checking report to revisit those problem QSOs. See what went wrong. Did you miss that extra dit making an "h" into an "s"? Did you hear "J" and log "G" in that call sign?
To give you an idea of what is in one of these reports, I've included one of mine (so you can see all my goof-ups). I believe practice makes perfect but you also need to have an improvement plan that analyzes your shortcomings and tries to address them. And, like my little 100 pound DXpeditions, I have goals in these contests, too. For example, in the next major contest I would like to have no busted calls. We'll see how I do. In the mean time, here's the log from my QRP effort in last year's ARRL November Sweepstakes contest. By the way, this was SSB with my Elecraft K2, a low hung inverted-vee antenna, and a lot of grit. I may not have had the most competitive station for this contest, or indeed any contest, but doing your best with the working conditions you have is also excellent practice for lightweight DXpeditioning! OK. Here's the UBN report. I hope you, too, can learn from my mistakes. Enjoy.



There were no dupes found in your log.

0015-2124 = -1610
On time = -1610 minutes (max of 1440).

AG3G is a busted call. The correct call is AJ3G.

You had 1 calls in your log which were not found in the database of good
callsigns. All of these were judged to be busted calls and will be removed
from your score - along with an additional penalty of one QSO per busted
Unique percentage = 0.0

QSO #68 W4NTI : M 64 Al should be M 61 Al
QSO #119 K0HC : S 71 Ks should be S 97 Ks
QSO #147 W4QK : B 73 Ct should be A 62 Ga
QSO #160 WP2Z : M 58 WWa should be B 58 Vi

100.0% of your non dupe QSOs had their exchanges checked.

There were 4 exchange errors found. These QSOs will be removed from your
score with no penalties.


87.6% of your remaining good QSOs were cross checked.

There were no cross check errors found - congratulation!

List of 67 mults = Il Ga NLi Va ENy Wv Mdc Mar NNj Mi Nh Em Vt Ep WMa WPa WNy
Oh WWa Mn Mt Ks NFl Al Az Ar Mo Ia Vi WTx STx Sjv Org Wcf NTx Nd Scv Sv Sk Sd
Ew Ne Or Eb Wi Mb Ok SFl Ri On SNj Nc Sc Ct Ms Sf Lax Nv Wy In Tn Sdg De NNy
Pr La Co

Raw QSOs = 168
Time Expired = 0
Dupes = 2
Busted QSOs = 5
Valid QSOs = 161 0 80 26 29 25 0
Penalty QSOs = 1
QSO Points = 320
Multiplier = 67
Final score = 21440
Error rate = 3.0% (100 X (Busted QSOs / Duped QSO total))

The following information shows contacts you made that were removed from the
other station's log. These are not deducted from your score. They are listed
for your information only.

AD4EB: QSO #724 NE1RD : Q 40 Em should be Q 02 Em
K0GND: QSO #915: Received QSO# 5 should be 105 NE1RD
KE3WM: QSO #340 NE1RD : Q 02 Me should be Q 02 Em
KQ6MU: QSO #157 NE1RD : A 02 Em should be Q 02 Em
N4TP: QSO #364: Received QSO# 25 should be 65 NE1RD
NP2B: QSO #810 NE1RD : A 02 Em should be Q 02 Em
W1QK: QSO #286: Received QSO# 22 should be 147 NE1RD
W3GH: QSO #602: Received QSO# 189 should be 29 NE1RD
W5JJ: WE1RD is a busted call. The correct call is NE1RD.

Number busts found in other logs = 9 (5.6%)


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